“Harvey Dent” is a decent episode. Both Selina Kyle (Camren Bicondova) and Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) receive modest character development and crime-of-the-week continues on along the show’s theme of misunderstood villains. Where it falls short is in its portrayal of titular character Harvey Dent (Nicholas D’Agosto) and in its adherence to the mob wars that are inevitably losing steam.
The villain of “Harvey Dent” is fits a similar archetype to what we’ve seen before on Gotham. Ian Hargrove (Leslie Odom, Jr.) is not a bad man; as his brother says, “he is just sick.” He simply wants to protest Gotham’s munitions and arms factories. Hargrove thinks the best way to spread the belief of non-violence was through an act of violence, so he bombs the warehouses throughout the city. But unbeknown to Hargrove, there were two janitors in the last warehouse. He subsequently goes to jail for their murder.
Even though the deaths of the janitors was an accident, Hargrove most certainly deserved to be sent to jail. But his actions once again highlight the type of people Bruce sees in the media. As with “The Balloonman,” these characters are likely shaping his future vigilante state-of-mind.
We learn that Hargrove is actually Mooney’s (Jada Pinkett Smith) puppet. He is just a pawn in her plans to slowly bring down Falcone and become the kingpin. I know last week I stated that Gotham is strongest when they utilize the Maroni-Falcone-Mooney power struggle storyline, and I hold to that. At the same time, the plot is coming to a stall.
As of now, there is no clear sense of direction for that conflict. It feels as though everyone is setting up pieces on a chess board in tiny movements over a large increment of time. Normally, this sort of story building can help give shape to a series like Gotham. Unfortunately writers Bruno Heller and Ken Woodruff do not seem to have a firm grasp of what they want the chess board to look like. The result feels aimless and unengaging.
Although Mooney and the other bosses’ stories are stifled for the time being, Cobblepot (Robin Lord Taylor) continues to entertain. He has an especially unsettling scene in which he rifles through Liza’s (Makenzie Leigh) apartment. She may be Mooney’s mole, but it’s still an invasion of privacy. Gotham‘s score perfectly underscores this creepy moment with intense violins.
Much of the episode is admittedly well-crafted and impressively executed with toned down performances from most of the actors. But D’Agosto, with his goofy, fake grin, is just too hammy as Dent. In one scene, he preaches to a street kid about cleaning up his act. This moment lacks humanity. Just as we saw with Cory Michael Smith as Nygma, I get the impression these D’Agosto skews over-the-top because he’s not quite sure how to settle in to his character.
D’Agosto is not the whole problem, though. The writing heavy-handed. The two-headed coin is a prominent part of his persona in the comics, but the way it’s incorporated into the episode – either flipping the coin or talking about it in every conversation – is too much to take seriously. That motif, in concert with his bipolar freak-out, all obviously foreshadow his alter ego. There is no subtlety to the character and as a result, Dent ends up coming off as annoying instead of intriguing.
For weeks there has been one subplot that I haven’t had a chance to talk about for whatever reason: not enough time, not enough of an impact on any given episode, scene brevity, what have you. But this week it needs to be said. Why has Bruno Heller decided to introduce a love triangle between Barbara Kean (Erin Richards) and Montoya (Victoria Cartagena)? It has offered some solid story beats, to be fair; while it was a slight annoyance that Montoya tried to basically lock Gordon up because he is Barbara’s partner now, it made for some interesting television because it built tension around something other than the weekly crime.
The problem is this. In the middle of the episode, Gordon discovers Barbara has left Gotham to clear her head. Fine. An insane person kidnapped her, and that’s cause enough for anyone to take a vacation. But here’s the kicker. At the end of “Harvey Dent,” we find out that Barbara did not actually leave Gotham. It was all a ruse from the showrunners to further the love triangle subplot.
In the final scene, Jim calls Barbara’s phone to leave a message. He wants her to come back to Gotham because although she needs time to recuperate, he would really like to be with her. Cut to Barbara laying in bed with a serious look on her face. As the camera slowly zooms in, an arm comes to her side and caresses her. More of the person is revealed, until we see that Barbara is in bed with Montoya.
The affair is problematic because its only purpose is to cause drama. Love triangles are so played-out on television that there’s no tension in them anymore. It’s hard to do anything new wit them at this point, and so far, it doesn’t appear that Heller is trying to reinvent the wheel. We have seen better things come from Gotham. Writer/creator Bruno Heller is better than this trite, and frankly boring, plot device.