I did a lot of sighing during this episode. Gotham has me fighting a battle for it on a weekly basis, as the show has definitely shown signs of promise, as well as improvement, but its most substantial run of quality episodes only lasted for two weeks and that was now two weeks ago. “Harvey Dent” is by no means a terrible episode of television, and it even has a nice twist on the ‘case-of-the-week’ structure, but it still fits in the middle-of-the-road area. The work is being done to put together an acceptable show on a weekly basis, but for a series with lots of great potential, having an episode that barely features the titular character leaves me feeling pretty indifferent.
To back up a bit, I have expressed my feelings, in the past, with regards to my association with Jim Gordan, the comic book character, with other personal details about my relationship to the comic basis of this series popping up periodically. Harvey Dent (and his alter ego) is a character I find to be fascinating, and one that easily ranks among my favorite characters in Batman’s universe. I found no real gripe with Nicholas D’Agosto’s performance of this character in his debut episode, but I would not call it a home run, either. Gotham finds a way to put its two biggest weaknesses into the handling of this character – underutilization and dialogue. This episode, titled “Harvey Dent,” hardly revolves around said character, and when he is featured in scenes (namely his opening scene), we get some very obvious dialogue done to sum up an entire character, rather than let him reveal himself in a more nuanced way.
I have had discussions with friends of mine who continue to watch the show on a week-to-week basis, despite finding problems/faults that they see in the same way I do or take even further. One point of contention I enjoy discussing is the nature of explaining characters that have been staples of Batman lore for decades, and how much is really necessary so audiences are not in the dark. Gotham has made it clear that beating the audience over the head with the presence of future iconic characters is not something it is about to stop doing. I can understand that logic to a point, but it does paint the show in a broader light, regardless of how go-for-broke the show wants to be on a weekly basis in terms of, you guessed it, tone. It is not to the point of winking at the camera, but Gotham seems quite in the know when it comes to announcing characters that will be important in Batman’s future. On the other hand, this is a series that strives to be a proper police procedural on a weekly basis, with an edge that comes in the form of comic-bookiness. A tricky line to walk indeed, and the show continues to struggle with it.
Anyway, since this episode merely teases us with Harvey Dent (and his angry side, yet to be referred to as ‘Big Bad Harv’), I should focus on the two main plots in this week’s episode. One involves a story of a bomb maker being caught up in a plot where he is forced to make bombs for the mob. This would be so much better if the bomb maker, Ian Hargove, was actually given the chance to make his character affecting, rather than have other characters tell us who he is and what happened to him. Still, as far as these cases-of-the-week go, I did like the idea of not just having a mad bomber running around the city, but taking a man who has had a troubled life and forcing him into an unfortunate position. It is certainly better than Balloonman.
The other main storyline for this week is all about the kids. Lil’ Bruce and Cat are brought together, leading to some awkward conversations and eventual bonding. The most hilarious thing about this part of the episode is the idea that Alfred has to call Jim Gordon, because two kids may not be getting along, which leads Gordon into having to consider taking a break from the escaped bomb maker case so he can pick up a little girl from Wayne Manor. I cannot say this portion of the episode was entirely unsuccessful, because I want to continue to sing the praises of young David Mazouz as Lil’ Bruce. He may not be a character I wanted to see the most of, but his development continues to move forward in a strong enough manner. Cat, on the other hand, has not proven to be the most intriguing of individuals, but at least she has some spunky energy to keep things moving.
“Harvey Dent” also happens to be another episode that features a lot of time spent on throwing in reminders that this is an ensemble show, with lots of moving parts. We check in with Penguin, Fish, Liza, Barbara, Montoya, Nygma, Essen, the Mayor, and others, I’m sure, save for our two big crime boss characters, Falcone and Maroni. Again, yes, this show is still building out its world, but containment is sorely needed if this show wants to become a stronger version of itself. Sure, having subplots and other characters can be necessary, but Gotham is taking that too far. I mean, as I have already established, this is an episode called “Harvey Dent,” yet the episode is too sprawling to even have that character in the spotlight.
Given that Gotham is far from my favorite show on television currently, it is not as if I am stressed out over the series not being better. I may want it to be better, but it is what it is. With that in mind, I will call it like I see it, and while the series continues to grow in the form of baby steps matched with actors who are doing good enough work settling into their roles, an episode like “Harvey Dent” can only be so entertaining when hints of much better seem to be buried so close. I will keep up hope, though. Now that Arkham Asylum is back in play, maybe the upcoming weeks will have some fun new developments to work with.
From Det. Jim Gordon’s Police Files:
- Barbara did not say anything this week, but we did learn she is shacking up, big time, with Montoya, while trying to make up her mind about Gordon.
- “Lilacs” – Penguin popped up to be weird and threatening. I didn’t need a whole paragraph to get into this, so there you go.
- Fact: Edward Nygma likes video games.
- Alfred’s pre-Batman butler skills grow more and more questionable every week.
- “What is wrong with you?” – Essen may still be underdeveloped, but she could say that to Gordon every week and I would likely always find it entertaining.
- Fish’s henchman Butch is shown to have some emotion this week. I don’t care, this guy needs to be dispatched.
- Lil’ Bruce really wanted that kiss…
- This week’s Classic Gordon Clip.