The Joker might be the quintessential Batman rogue, but Two-Face is Bruce Wayne’s greatest enemy on Batman: The Animated Series. By establishing the friendship between Bruce and Harvey Dent early in the series, the writers gave the exceedingly lonely Bruce a companion, and Harvey was someone that kept him linked to non-costumed reality. The creation of Two-Face robbed him of that valuable connection, turning Harvey into another reason for Bruce to don the cape and cowl and drift further from his humanity. “Second Chance” sees the Bruce/Harvey relationship return to the forefront, and Bruce sees an opportunity to revive his friendship when Harvey prepares for a surgery that will take away his evil other half.
While being anesthetized before the procedure that will allow him to make decisions for himself instead of relying on chance, Harvey reminisces about shutting down the Half Moon Club with Bruce back in the good ol’ days. “I guess nothing good lasts forever,” he says as his eyelids begin to droop, and then a bunch of armed goons break into the room, shoot up the operating room, and swipe Harvey’s body. Batman and Robin, watching the hospital from afar, soar into action to stop the thugs, leading into a stunning vehicular action sequence that shows director Boyd Kirkland at his best.
The opening chase looks spectacular, and as a whole this is one of the finest looking episodes of the season. The prominence of camera pans gives the installment a very cinematic feel, and each action sequence is choreographed for maximum badassery. It’s difficult to imagine kids seeing the Batcycle scene and not begging their parents for the toy immediately afterward. My favorite directing moment comes after Robin has been captured while spying on Rupert Thorne, and he’s tied up and thrown into the Gotham River. There’s no music playing as Robin tries to escape his bondage in the trunk of a car, and the silence helps to emphasize the graveness of the situation. As he’s thrown off the bridge and falls through the air, Robin cuts through the ropes around his wrists, and then shoots his grappling gun straight at the viewer as he swings to safety. It’s quick, dynamic, and shows that the Boy Wonder is just as skilled as his teacher when it comes to daring escapes.
While Robin follows the Thorne lead, Batman goes after the Penguin, whose recent scuffle with Two-Face left him behind bars. You know what’s a really easy way to make the Penguin appear completely bugshit insane? Have a scene of him trying to get a bunch of pigeons to dance. He then sends the animals to attack Batman, continuing this show’s trend of pitting Batman against flocks of birds. Penguin ends up being a bust, and that’s when The World’s Greatest Detective finally solves the crime: Harvey’s captor is none other than Two-Face.
“Second Chance” shows the impact that losing his best friend has had on Bruce, and how important it is for him to have Dick at his side. Robin is more than just a plot device in this episode, and he wants Batman to start looking at him as an equal instead of as a kid still in training. Batman tells Robin not to follow him to the Half Moon Club because this is something he has to do on his own. Because of the personal nature of the situation, Batman wants to keep Robin uninvolved, but that’s the exact reason why Robin knows that he has to support his partner. Dick learned back in “Robin’s Reckoning” that emotional investment can compromise the pursuit of justice, and Batman lets his guard down as he fights for his best friend’s life.
The establishing shots of the club are gorgeous, showing a massive, dilapidated temple where Bruce and Harvey worshipped in times past. Batman is ambushed by Two-Face’s thugs, then dangled above the Gotham street tied to an explosive, his fate resting in Two-Face’s ever-reliable coin. As Harvey tries to flip the coin, it keeps landing on edge, and his inability to decide gives Batman the time to break out of his shackles and try some more direct intervention techniques. As Harvey ventures out onto shoddy scaffolding to retrieve his coin, Batman reveals that it was a trick coin that he switched out earlier, and that Harvey has to finally make a decision on his own: “Life or death? The coin or me?”
The first question makes sense, but the second one is where Batman drops his guard and let’s Bruce Wayne do the talking. Why would Two-Face choose Batman over the coin? The former is terror, the latter is comfort. It’s appropriate that he ends up choosing neither, dropping the coin and using his free hand to attack Batman. In that moment, Two-Face’s illness switches from a reliance on the coin to obsessive hatred of Batman, and he joins the ranks of villains who have only grown more ruthless because of The Dark Knight.
- Batman Beatdown: Batman gets the beating this week, as he and Robin are smacked by a swinging hospital light fixture while trying to stop Harvey’s abduction. They look like flies getting hit with a swatter.
- Two-Face episodes always end up prompting some of Kevin Conroy’s best work, and I think he’s developed a real connection to Harvey and Bruce’s friendship that comes through in his voice work.
- “Not all the garbage is in the river.”
- “Don’t gush all over me, it’s embarrassing.”