"Two-Face, Parts 1 And 2" S1 / E10-11
- A Community Grade
“I believe in Harvey Dent.” The phrase has become primarily associated with The Dark Knight but was first uttered in Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s The Long Halloween, the miniseries that served as a major influence on Nolan’s big screen take on Two-Face. Building on the underworld community established in Miller’s Year One, The Long Halloween has Batman teaming up with Harvey Dent and Captain James Gordon to take down a killer picking off members of the Gotham mafia, murders that coincide with holidays on the calendar. Much like this week’s Batman: The Animated Series two-parter “Two-Face,” Halloween portrays Dent as a valiant public figure struggling to negotiate his desire to see punishment for Gotham’s criminals with his obligation to the legal rules and procedures that he has sworn to uphold. And while Two-Face’s origin changes depending on the medium, there is one constant: Once he loses the left half of his face, there’s no Harvey Dent left to believe in.
“Two-Face” is the first instance in the series where we see the origin of one of Batman’s villains as it is happening, providing a glimpse of the human before he becomes the monster. Despite seeing their pre-rogue days through flashback, we never quite got to know Pamela Isley or Jonathan Crane, but Harvey Dent (Night Court’s Richard Moll) has been a recurring character throughout the series, establishing a personal relationship with Bruce Wayne that allows the viewer to create an emotional connection with the character. Harvey is charming and handsome, and he tries to fix Gotham’s problems without wearing a mask. He fights crime in the spotlight, but like Bruce, Harvey carries a darkness in his psyche that is waiting for the appropriate trauma to bring it to the forefront.
“Two-Face, Part One,” the first episode with a story by producer Alan Burnett, with teleplay by Randy Rogel, begins with Harvey dreaming about a shadowed figure flipping a coin with an ominous message for the District Attorney: “It’s time.” Harvey wakes up to his assistant Carlos repeating the shadowed man’s words, informing Harvey that a raid on a building owned by gangster Rupert Thorne is about to begin. With the help of Batman, the GCPD arrests a handful of Thorne’s goons, but when one of them threatens Harvey and kicks mud on his white suit, he triggers Harvey’s other personality, the insane destructive force of Big Bad Harv. Surrounded by TV crews, Commissioner Gordon prevents Harvey from doing anything that could cause any real damage to his reputation, but there is clearly something wrong with Harvey, a button that is getting easier to push.
At a Wayne-sponsored fundraiser for Harvey’s reelection campaign, Big Bad Harv comes to Bruce’s attention when Harvey is informed that the men arrested in the raid have been released from custody. Turning on the innocent Carlos and then on Bruce when he tries to calm Harvey down, Big Bad Harv is only subdued when Harvey’s fiancée Grace intervenes. The outburst is caught by Candice, Thorne’s right-hand woman, finally revealing the vital flaw that Gotham’s underworld has been trying to find on the “so clean he squeaks” District Attorney. Bruce recommends Harvey seek professional help for his problem, and despite his initial protestations, Harvey begins to see Dr. Nora Crest, where Big Bard Harv manifests under hypnosis. The first thing Big Bad Harv does? Flips the coin, of course. Dr. Crest tries to reason with Harv at first, explaining that Harvey has been bottling feelings of guilt and anger over the years until they became an illness. There’s a Bruce Banner/Hulk dynamic at work here, with Big Bard Harv considering “wimp” Harvey the lesser of the two and erupting in a fit of rage when it is suggested he concede dominance to his weaker half.
The scene in Dr. Crest’s office is one of the first truly chilling moments of Batman: The Animated Series, with director Kevin Altieri using a thunderstorm to highlight the tension between Harvey and his twisted mirror while making Big Bad Harv a truly terrifying character. When Dr. Crest asks to speak with Big Bad Harv, a flash of lightning reveals Two-Face for a split second, creating a stark black and white image that foreshadows Dent's upcoming transformation. The use of shadows in this scene heightens the intensity, and when Big Bad Harv throws the room’s only light source out the window, the darkness takes over, punctuated by thunder and lightning. Fitting, as Big Bad Harv is a storm that is constantly raging inside Harvey. Richard Moll, like Kevin Conroy, plays the duality of Harvey in his voice, giving Big Bad Harv a gravelly bass that borders on a growl, while Harvey speaks with the confidence and poise of a city District Attorney.
Big Bad Harv’s outburst is overheard by an eavesdropping Candice, who swipes Harvey’s psychological profile for her boss. Thorne blackmails Harvey with Dr. Crest’s evaluation, threatening to release the details of his split personality to the public if he doesn’t end his crusade against Thorne and his partners. This scene reveals more about Big Bad Harv’s origins, as Thorne recounts from Dr. Crest’s notes the childhood trauma that forced Harvey to create his second personality. After fighting back against a bully, Harvey was overcome with guilt after the bully had to be hospitalized the next day (for appendicitis), leading him to repress his anger for fear that he might hurt those around him. When Thorne lays his final threat down on Harvey, a gruff voice responds: “You’re talking to the wrong Harvey.” It's a completely bad-ass moment, and when Big Bad Harv throws Thorne across the room, it’s hard not to cheer for the lunatic. Harv has only one goal—kill Thorne—and his blind rage is what leads to Harvey’s transformation. With Batman occupied with henchmen in the other room, Harv chases Thorne onto a catwalk above vats of chemicals (Thorne’s hideout is an abandoned refinery for some reason). When a thug fires on Harvey, Batman tries to knock out the shooter but ends up sending a barrage of bullets into an electrical box far too close to highly explosive chemicals. The sparks trigger a blast that throws the fallen Harvey in the air like a ragdoll and scalds the left side of his body.
The friendship between Bruce and Harvey is part of what makes this episode so emotionally devastating, as Bruce ends up with another death on his conscience when he can’t stop the explosion that creates Two-Face. The friendship that Bruce has with Harvey outside the mask has an effect on how Batman approaches Two-Face, and Kevin Conroy portrays that by using the Bruce Wayne voice much more frequently when Batman is speaking. It’s almost as if Bruce is trying to confess his secret when he speaks with Two-Face. If Bruce can live a productive (happy?) life with two faces, Harvey can too. Bruce’s reaction to Harvey’s change makes me wonder how many people he has gotten close to since his parents’ deaths. Alfred, Dick Grayson, Andrea Beaumont, Harvey Dent, maybe Zatanna. Andrea leaving him was devastating, but he hasn’t had to watch any of these people be destroyed by Gotham’s evil the way his parents were. Until Harvey. And who knows where those bullets would have landed if Batman hadn’t knocked into the shooter? Bruce blames himself for Two-Face, although Harvey was damaged long before he was caught in a chemical explosion.
“Two-Face, Part One” ends with Harvey’s bandages being removed, accompanied by that familiar thunder and lightning. It seems like the standard man-takes-off-bandages-and-finds-horrifically-scarred-face scene until Harvey looks in the mirror. We don’t see his reaction, but we hear the devastating howl that is the death of Harvey Dent and the birth of Two-Face. When Grace sees her fiancé’s scarred face she passes out, prompting Two-Face’s first words: “Goodbye, Grace.” He disappears into the storm, setting the stage for “Two Face, Part Two.”
Randy Rogel takes over full writing duties for the second half of “Two-Face,” focusing on Two-Face’s new role as a member of Gotham’s criminal community. The animation takes a dip in quality in the second part, with the characters appearing a little stockier and less defined than the first half. The script remains strong, though, providing deeper insight into Grace and Harvey’s relationship while expanding on Bruce’s guilty feelings at his role in Two-Face’s creation. While it would have been nice to pick up the story where the last episode left off, elaborating on how Two-Face came to run a small crime outfit, the jump forward in time helps raise the stakes in the war between Thorne and Two-Face. The string of robberies on Thorne properties has caused more problems than Dent ever did, and Thorne puts a bounty out on Two-Face: $2 million, one for each face. Candice, ever the wily one, disguises herself as a police officer and goes to Grace’s home, giving her a transmitter to activate if Two-Face contacts her.
Meanwhile, Bruce struggles with his guilt about Harvey, portrayed in a vivid nightmare that ends with Bruce seeing his parents with their heads down in shame, his father lamenting, “Why couldn’t you save us, son?” It always comes down to that, doesn’t it? That singular childhood trauma dictates his entire life in the same way that Harvey’s childhood trauma would come to dominate his. And while we know that Bruce doesn’t handle guilt well, apparently, he does so much better than Harvey. Rather than repressing his feelings of guilt and anger, Bruce turned them into a mask that could be used for good. Bruce and Harvey’s situations are incredibly similar, but Bruce gives in to Batman before it can become a Big Bad Bruce, and I wonder what would have happened if Harvey had allowed himself to accept his guilt and anger at his young age. In both The Long Halloween and The Dark Knight, Harvey Dent is suspected to be Batman at some point, and after having his face in the comics healed post-“Hush,” he even served as Gotham’s protector when Bruce took a leave of absence for a year. There's so much potential in Harvey for good, and Bruce will always see it when he looks at Two-Face. Alfred notices this hesitation and tries to remind Bruce that Harvey isn’t the same person, and as usual, he's completely right.
When Batman finds Two-Face breaking into Thorne’s attorney’s office, he tries to appeal to Harvey Dent by mentioning Grace. For a fleeting moment, Harvey’s voice returns, aching for his lover, but it is interrupted by one of Two-Face’s henchmen, who brings reality crashing down on him again. Bruce’s words continue to weigh on Two-Face, though, and when he sees a bridal shop advertisement, he decides to flip the coin to see if he should contact Grace. We don’t see it come up good heads or bad heads, but Two-Face contacts Grace, sending a car to bring her to his hideout at the “Wild Deuce” club. When he appears before Grace, Two-Face wears a white hood over the left side of his face, allowing her to only look at the Harvey half. When he tries to describe his new circumstances to Grace, she reacts with desperation, believing that she is still speaking to her Harvey. The moment is incredible, and it's one of the first times we get to see a strong female perspective that isn’t villainous. Her devotion to Harvey is boundless, and when she removes the hood and tells him she loves him, it’s almost as if Two-Face is convinced. Until Thorne shows up, having traced the transmitter Grace activated when Harvey had her picked up.
Two-Face isn’t Harvey Dent, and he isn’t Big Bad Harv. What he is is a twisted combination of the two. Big Bad Harv’s rage and disregard for human life is kept in check by a new form of justice: the flipping coin. A two-headed coin, one end scratched, the other pristine: This is the ultimate decider in Two-Face’s mind, having lost faith in a legal system that can’t keep criminals behind bars. All that’s left of Harvey Dent’s morality is that coin, but without it, Two-Face is crippled. When Two-Face has a Tommy gun to Thorne’s head and prepares to flip the coin to decide his fate, Batman throws a box of silver dollars, paralyzing Two-Face as he loses his signature coin in the mess. Despite the prominence of Big Bad Harv in Two-Face’s personality, the small piece of Harvey that has remained is the ultimate decider when it comes to Two-Face’s actions. Throwing a tantrum in the piles of change, Grace consoles her once-fiancé, tears streaming down both their faces. She will never be seen on the series again.
The episode ends with Two-Face’s arrest with Grace at his side. Commissioner Gordon asks Batman if he thinks there’s any hope for Harvey, to which Batman responds, “Where there’s love, there’s hope.” With a coin in hand, Batman walks up to a fountain and tosses it in, adding, “But a little luck wouldn’t help. For you, Harvey.” The coin comes up heads.
Someone still believes in Harvey Dent.
- Batman Beatdown: During the raid in "Part One," Batman taps one of the thugs on the shoulder. Then all you hear is screaming, punching, and more screaming.
- How perfect is it that the first two-part episode of the series is “Two-Face”?
- “Kick mud in MY face, will ya?!”
- “That’s one hell of a button.”
- When Big Bad Harv comes out, the background becomes tinted a reddish purple, then switches back when Harvey returns. Nice touch from Altieri.
- Just a few episodes ago, Harvey was a bachelor, now he’s got a fiancée? Man moves fast.
- First Harvey goes up against Poison Ivy, then Rupert Thorne. What is with this guy and plant people? Probably the puns (“I will not rest until Gotham City has been de-Thorned once and for all!”).
- When Harvey attacks Carlos, the ice sculpture of Lady Justice shatters into pieces.
- Bruce Wayne Irony: “You were like another person.” “If there’s one thing I know, it’s how to keep a secret.”
- Harvey was going to announce his wedding date in his acceptance speech. How romantic.
- “What are you dreaming tonight, Harvey? Peaceful dreams? Nightmares? Maybe both at once.” Beautiful line. Sounds like Shakespeare coming from Conroy’s mouth.
- Al Pacino was originally approached to voice Two-Face. Two-Face’s line when he robs the bookie, “For the next five minutes, I'm in control!" is spoken by Pacino in Dog Day Afternoon.
- Richard Moll voices Thomas Wayne in Bruce’s dream, a character normally voiced by Kevin Conroy. Maybe to make the parallels between the Waynes and Harvey even stronger?
- Love when they do painted close-ups, like when Harvey’s bandages are removed or when he reads Thorne’s file.
- Candice finally gets hers when Grace grabs her by the hair and throws her face-first into a pile of roses.
Next week: Gang war and the conclusion of Superman