Comics/Graphic Novels

Recap: Gotham 01×09 – Harvey Dent and Life Lessons from Gotham

Caroline Pruett

Staff Writer

Caroline Pruett writes about comic books at Fantastic Fangirls, where she tries to use her powers for good. Follow her on Twitter: @CarolinePruett.

Things are really heating up on Gotham, heading into next week’s mid-season finale. Or – you’d think they would be, but this episode feels more like setup, combined with a pretty standard case of the week, and sprinkled through with quieter moments. Gordon drops Selina off at Wayne Manor, so that she and Bruce can get to know each other while they’re both awake. Meanwhile, Gordon is working with Detectives Montoya and Allen again — as he should have been all along. And, oh yeah. They’re bringing a crusading young district attorney in on the case.

Your recappers have spent a lot of time with Gordon and Bullock so far this season, so let’s spend this week finding out what the supporting cast has to teach us.

Panels Presents: Life Lessons from Gotham.

Harvey Dent flipping a coin

Nothing unstable about this guy, nope nope

1. Harvey Dent: Always keep them guessing.

When Gordon meets Dent, the D.A. is playing a trick on a young delinquent by pretending to bet the kid’s future on a rigged coin flip. Dent’s investigative strategy works along similar lines. He’ll call in all the various parties he suspects of murdering the Waynes, tell them he has a witness but not provide any proof and . . .profit?  This is clearly a great plan that will not lead to gang war and disaster and Dent getting half his face blown off and becoming a supervillain.

Full disclosure: After The Dark Knight came out, I drove around for three years with a bumper sticker that said, “I Believe in Harvey Dent.” I wasn’t a fan of everything that movie did with Harvey, but I’ve always loved the idea of the character. In every version of the Batman mythos, Dent starts out as some kind of a good man, who wants many of the same things for Gotham that Bruce Wayne does. But he doesn’t know how to deal with the necessary choices, and so he becomes Two-Face, a disciple of randomness.

On Gotham, Dent is Gordon’s peer, not Bruce’s, and I’m sad we won’t see preteen Harv as a schoolyard wheeler-dealer. Nicholas D’Agosto is fine as the adult Harvey, though I keep getting distracted because he kind of looks like a Ken doll. Maybe that’s a take on the duality of Two-Face: extremely handsome, but plasticky. Has anybody ever modded a Two-Face doll by taking a Ken and painting half of it purple?

Now you all know what to get me for Christmas.

2. Fish Mooney: Revenge may be pointless, but at least make it pointlessly elaborate.

The episode starts with a convicted bomb-maker being transferred from prison to the hospital for a mental health appointment. It goes smoothly, making it the only successful prisoner transfer in the history of television or movies. No, sorry, I mean, the guy gets kidnapped and nonspecific thugs force him to commit terrorism against his will. Gordon and Bullock save the sort-of-innocent bomber, and then Fish Mooney’s henchman takes out the rest of the bad guys. Fish is willing to sacrifice her own people to hurt Falcone, and this move hurts Falcone because. . . I’m gonna be honest, I didn’t follow it all. The point is that Fish will do anything to hurt Falcone. Even if it means completely ignoring Penguin, who is right under her nose doing everything he can to undermine her revenge.

Look, I didn’t say these would be good life lessons. If these characters made good choices, this wouldn’t be Gotham.

Bruce and Alfred boxing

3. Mayor Aubrey James:  If there’s a disaster somewhere in your city, put everybody involved on a bus and send them somewhere else. 

You may remember this was the Mayor’s idea back in Episode 2, when kids were being kidnapped so he sent them “upstate.” Since this week’s disaster happened because an inmate was being transported outside for mental healthcare, the Mayor decides to transfer a lot of mentally ill inmates to a separate facility at (duh -DUH) Arkham Asylum.

4. Alfred Pennyworth: Taking a punch is as important as throwing one.

That’s an actual quote from the episode. One thing commenters have been saying about this show is that Alfred isn’t doing a very good job of helping Bruce grow into a well-adjusted young man. That’s sort of baked into the story. Bruce can deal with his grief in a healthy way OR he can vow to become a bat. Whatever Alfred tries can only work so well, or we’re watching a prequel to something that isn’t Batman.

This episode, though, marks the first time that Alfred’s caretaking methods are seriously questioned. Alfred is trying to teach Bruce to absorb and process pain. Bruce believes if he works at this hard enough, he’ll be safe. But an outside perspective, brought by Selina, turns out to be more of what Bruce needs right now.

Selina is smiling

Is this the face of a ruthless burglar??

5. Selina Kyle: Sometimes you just gotta have a bagel fight with a cute girl.

Selina slips some hard truths into her conversations with Bruce. Fighting won’t make you safe, she tells him. There will always be someone out there who is meaner and more ruthless. Selina has the guts to tell Bruce that all of his carefully laid plans might not work.

Then she throws a bagel at him and dares him to chase her around the room. When Alfred sees them, they’re jumping around and giggling and just being a couple of kids.

So, folks, here we are closing in on the first half of Gotham’s first season. What lessons have you learned? Are you glad you hung in there? What do you think needs to be resolved as the show goes into hiatus?