Robert Tiemstra ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
“In Gotham, people don’t fight with gloves on.”
Well, this seems frighteningly familiar. Just how earlier this season the character of Selina Kyle was introduced with a episode titled after her that had relatively little to do with her character, Harvey Dent is ushered onto the ground floor of this series with an episode that bears his name – while leaning too heavily on the overarching plot to serve as a fitting introduction. Certainly they give him enough of a showy introduction, flipping a coin to decide a young felon’s fate. The teen accurately calls the double-headed coin toss, which Dent later quips about – “Teenagers, they nearly always call heads. No idea why.” In his first scene at least, Nicholas D’Agosto effortlessly radiates the good-guy charm we expect from Gotham City’s white knight.
Do we believe in Harvey Dent? At this point, it is a tough call. Much of this episode’s set up, if not its action, leans heavily on a plot by Dent to draw the Wayne’s killer out of the shadows by dramatically blowing smoke in the right places. The actual logistics of this plan are left vague, perhaps for the best – especially since it completely falls apart if the murderer is NOT part of a dramatic criminal conspiracy (like he was in the comics, for instance). The most interesting thing to come out of this plot is a not so subtle hint that Harvey Dent may not be a completely noble lawyer after all when he has to face a scowling board of corrupt businessmen (although dealing with mob-employed city officials really ought to be part of Gotham City’s Bar exam at this point). And while his outburst in this scene is a touch over-the-top, perhaps he is supposed to have a bifurcated personality before that he has to face the trauma that later defines him as a villain.
As a side note, it would be really interesting if later in this series (perhaps season 2 or 3), Gotham set aside a chunk of episodes for an adaptation of The Long Halloween, which is an intriguing murder-mystery that can be effectively told without Batman in it at all. Now that Harvey Dent is a part of the picture, this is a very ripe possibility.
If one thing is evident at this point, it is that the writers of Gotham have no faith in viewers whatsoever when it comes to recognizing important names. Whenever Harvey Dent is on screen, he has to be holding his coin in his left hand or have half of his face dramatically in shadows, whenever Edward Nigma (Cory Michael Smith) is on screen, he has to say something puzzle-related, and whenever Oswald Cobblepot (Robin Lord Taylor) is on screen, he has to be… acting like a penguin. It’s as if when writing this episode Ken Woodruff had a memo from Bruno Heller to make sure there isn’t the slightest chance the audience will forget who these characters are destined to become in the Batman mythos. Since this show is at its strongest when not reminding us of the Batman canon, this is a major sticking point for the show as a whole.
The main plot of the episode is business as usual for Gotham. James Gordon and Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue) spend much of their time tracking down a recently liberated terrorist who may or may not be part of a greater scheme by a mob boss we’ve already met. It’s all very standard stuff, but none of it is awful enough to offend, nor engaging enough to really register. Cobblepot’s scenes are a standout because they emphasize how engaging Gotham can be when committed to its own off-kilter tone. Robin Taylor Lord has always been a scene-stealer, and it seems the show is finally confident enough in its own aesthetic to join him. If last week’s “The Mask” showed the first effective use of Bruce Wayne as a character, this week does the same for Alfred, in a lesser regard. Sean Pertwee is a more paternal Alfred than we’ve ever seen in this story, taking a relationship that is traditionally very one-sided and putting a deep sense of duty and affection in it. Alfred is not Bruce’s parents, but he wants to do right by them, even if it means taking their place.
Now for that twist at the end (because there has to be one). Early in the episode, Barbara Kean (Erin Richards) leaves Gordon, presumably to find writers who would give her something to do. At the end of this episode, we see her lying in bed with none other than Major Crimes Detective Renee Montoya (Victoria Cartagena). Barbara’s sexuality was one of the more interesting additions this show chose to forget about for the last few episodes, and it remains to be seen if the writers will be able to wring any decent plot material out of it now. Since Barbara’s involvement in the story thus far has consisted of nagging Gordon, getting captured, and suffering from trauma, it would require a major character change in order to get this plot going anywhere.
Overall Episode Grade: B-