Batman: The Animated Series – Two-Face, Part Two

Two-Face, Part Two

This is my world now… A dichotomy of order and chaos, just like me.

Air Date: 25/09/92

Director: Kevin Altieri

Writer: Alan Burnett, Randy Rogel (teleplay)

Themes: Split Personalities, Revenge, Friendship, Obsession, Love

Villain: Harvey “Two-Face” Dent/Rupert Thorne

Synopsis: Several months after his horrific accident caused his split personality to manifest, Harvey Dent pursues an agenda of revenge against Rupert Thorne while Batman tries to save his old friend.

Review:

Two-Face, as a character, is all about splitting things in half, dualism and the number 2. Everything about him, from start to finish, is focused around that divide, the split in his psychology leaking out into his everyday life. It’s more than just his suit, or his targets. Two-Face is a criminal, yet in this episode he’s fighting mobsters. He misses his fiancée, yet ignores her at every turn. He seems to know that what he is doing is wrong, but cannot bring himself to stop.

The split in Harvey Dent’s mind has become ingrained. Two-Face flipping the coin for every decision is more than just a neat hook for the character, it’s the most visual kind of representation for his completely broken nature. He is no longer a single person, so every aspect of his existence is marked by a conflict between Dent and “Big Bad Harv”

And here he is, taking on Rupert Thorne in a war that can be described accurately as “Punisher-like”. He has spent the months since “Two-Face, Part One” hitting Thorne at every opportunity, his businesses, his shady dealings, everywhere.

Of course, this is a twisted vigilantism, one not borne of a desire for justice, but revenge. Comparisons can be drawn pretty clearly between Dent and Batman in that regard. Batman’s ethos has a degree of vengeance in it, but Wayne has long since moved past such petty motivations. His parents killer has long paid for his crime, and now Wayne fights evil in a quest for justice that Dent does not share. Batman draws his aims from a sense that the world is out of kilter when a boy sees his parents gunned down in front of him. Dent is just giving in to his anger, seeking revenge at all costs, not even fully aware of the depth of his personality split.

And its getting to Thorne too, the previously confident mob boss running scared of the split faced demon. Someone gratifying to see him in such fear, after his pompous display in the first part.

This episode is not just about Harvey Dent though, it’s about Bruce Wayne, who we find obsessing over this issue in the Bat-cave, sleeping fitfully. Both men take up a good bit of screentime here, unlike the first episode.

Previous dream sequences in “The Forgotten” were utterly brilliant set-pieces, and this one is the same. It might be a bit on the nose in parts, but it still sets up Wayne’s despair pretty vividly. Batman can’t save Dent, and must face subconscious taunts over this failure, from a panicked Harvey who transforms into the scarred Two-Face before Wayne’s eyes. Falling into a fiery pit, he cries “Why couldn’t you save me?”

That would be enough to get the point across, but B:TAS adds that little bit more: Wayne’s parents standing beneath a streetlight, mourning themselves, asking the same question: “Why couldn’t you save us?”

The dream sequence in “The Forgotten” covered the same ground, but it is still a searing image. Batman’s unending quest cannot be fulfilled because he’s still trying to do what he could not do as a child: save his parents. That’s why he obsesses over his war on crime, why he has night mares about Harvey Dent. At the end of the day, it all leads back to that ally, and a powerless child watching his mother and father die in front of him. The tragedy of Harvey Dent is, in Batman’s mind, merely a replication of that failure.

Batman’s latest quest – to save Harvey – is driving him into a dark place. The Wayne we see in these Bat-cave moments is a bedraggled, broke figure, pouring over psychology books, speaking to Harvey even though he isn’t there, showcasing a single-mindedness that is simply not healthy. His vow that he will save his friend is one that is easier said than done, and Batman seems to be on his own slippery slope to insanity in this scene.

Then there’s Grace, the pivotal figure of the tragedy in the last episode, a role which she continues to play in this one. It’s like she’s a war wife here, waiting patiently for her man to return home from whatever business he is taking care off. Harvey’s desire to re-connect with her, after their disastrous final meeting at the end of the first part, is going to be the main mover of this tragedy, just as his inability of face his inner demons moved then tragedy in the first episode.

For now, all that Harvey can do is pine after her from afar, locked in his own dualist shackles. Even his henchmen, not exactly portrayed as the brightest individuals, can see that this is a problem, but Dent is literally incapable of going against the decision of random chance.

Batman meanwhile has come to his own rather surprising conclusions. We all know Batman, at this stage, is a good detective, but he makes a rather brilliant leap in this sequence. After determining that Harvey has run out of targets (and interesting to note that when discussing his crimes Batman calls him “Two-Face”) with which to humiliate Thorne, he figures that Dent will not move to eliminate him. That’s all fine, but I like how Batman comes to the final conclusion. He knows Dent personally, so he knows how the former DA was previously trying to bring Thorne down. Now, with Harvey’s sights limited to Thorne himself, Batman remembers the magic bullet that Dent previously sought, and knows that he will find his former friend there.

Batman faces Harvey in a lawyer’s office for the first confrontation. Wayne is all conciliatory and passive, simply wanting Dent to stand down. Dent, still fully enraptured in the Two-Face persona, isn’t biting. Only the mention of his lost love is enough to get Harvey to relent.

But it’s ruined by the interjection of Two-Face’s goon squad, allowing “Big Bad Harv” to nail Batman with a huge blow to the back of the head. Two-Face actually knocks Batman out cold. This is a great moment to emphasise that, as human as Dent is, he’s still strong and a legitimate threat to the hero. Batman makes the mistake of turning his back on Dent, and pays for it. Seeing Batman beaten in such a manner is rather startling, and adds to the uniqueness of this two-parter.

The tragic elements all come together now, as Dent finally gets the required coin flip and gets Grace to come and see him. Thorne’s machinations, through his female good, mean that we the viewer know this is all going to end in tears. Thorne actually barely appears in this episode up to this point, but the final confrontation is made for his arrogant swagger.

Before that, Grace and Harvey have their reunion in the suitably chosen venue of an old casino. Harvey explains his new thought process to Grace – “Chance is everything” – but she, in a rather strong moment, rejects this utterly, reminding Harvey of all the things in his life that did not occur through blind luck. Grace doesn’t get a whole lot to say in these episodes, in fact she’ll disappear after this, but she has a good moment here. This interaction is at the core of the entire two parter, of various people simply trying to talk Dent down. Grace has as much success as anyone, but again forces outside her control conspire the ruin it.

It helps that, while Thorne maintains his smug, superior attitude, he has everything to lose going into this confrontation. Dent has the power to bury him through what he found at that lawyers’ office, so you can sense that little bit of desperation from the mobster here. He’s a despicable character, using Grace against Harvey as you would expect him too. And of course, he’s a dishonourable liar, moving to have the two killed when he gets what he wants.

The final fight, as Batman intervenes is pretty straightforward. Batman beats up the goons, Harvey beats up the goons, Throne cowers and even Grace gets to have a bit of a catfight with that horrible women in the mobsters employ. Two-Face shows off some extraordinary strength in the process, but that’s pretty much what we have come to expect from B:TAS.

The final moments are fairly horrific. Two-Face has Thorne at his mercy, and in truth we are almost urging him to pull the trigger. Batman isn’t standing for that of course and chooses his own ingenious method of stopping Dent, using a pile of silver dollars to make Harvey lose his decision making coin.

It’s what comes after that’s unnerving, as Two-Face, seemingly stuck in this horrible state, breaks down in a frantic search for his coin, without which he is incapable of operating, screaming out in frustration when he can’t find it. It’s a sad and sorry end for a character who has had brushes with redemption, who is now reduced to crawling around on all fours, crying like a distressed child. Dent isn’t really a villain. He’s just broken.

Dent is taken away, though Grace is still with him. Batman has done all that he can to help his friend. Subsequent episodes would show little changing in Two-Face’s dynamic, but for now a little bit of hope can remain with the audience that Dent can find the help he needs, the support that he needs with Grace.

Tidbits/Quotes:

-This half has the same general musical tones as the last, just with a slightly more sinister edge.

-The duality mentions comes thick and fast here, some less subtle than others. The address of the bookies which Harvey robs – 222 – is probably the worst example.

-Great costume for Two-Face, the perfect representation of his warped psyche. The idea of an Armani suit cut down the middle would soon permeate into the comics.

-I really liked the way the silver coins were used, lampshaded early on, and used as the main device to resolve the plot.

-We’re back with the poor maligned goons, just as likely to get a punch from their boss as they are from Batman.

-Well look at that, a new toy for Batman to play with, the Bat-bike. Really only exists as something new to gawk at, as it lacks any kind of stand-out moment.

-Credit to Richard Moll for the way he was able to switch his voice back and forth between the two personas throughout the episode. You’re never in any doubt as to who is talking.

-Candice takes on the evil women role to a tee here, disguising herself as a police officer to gain Grace’s trust. Funny how both bad guys from the fairer sex – Poison Ivy being the other one – are portrayed as somewhat vampish and manipulative.

-Really nice touch when Batman namedrops Grace, and the unscarred side of Dent’s face is all that the viewer can see.

-Obvious Phantom of the Opera allusions with Harvey and the veil that covers half of his face in the conclusion. Both tragic, deformed figures, pining for love.

-Some really odd groaning from Conroy in this episode when Batman takes some punishment, a little disconcerting.

-The resolution – where Batman distracts Harvey with a large amount of coins – was aped big time for the conclusion of the film Batman Forever, though in that case it had fatal consequences for Dent.

-“Where there’s love, there’s hope…but a little luck wouldn’t hurt” Great line.

Overall, an excellent conclusion to the previous episode, a wonderfully well-rounded story about one of Batman’s best enemies.

To see the rest of the entries in this series, click here to go to the index

This entry was posted in Batman, Fiction, Reviews, TV/Movies and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Batman: The Animated Series – Two-Face, Part Two

  1. Pingback: Batman: The Animated Series – Index | Never Felt Better

  2. Pingback: Batman: The Animated Series: It’s Never Too Late | Never Felt Better

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