Story by Alan Burnett
Teleplay by Randy Rogel
Directed by Kevin Altieri
Possibly the most outstanding episode of Batman: The Animated Series that I’ve watched, “Two-Face” works on some many outstanding levels. First, the story and teleplay exemplifies the beauty of using a comic book character as a means to represent a greater issue; as it turns out in the episode, we get a proper reflection on repressed emotion, split personalities, and a failure of the justice system. Besides the heavier aspects of the animated series, we do get our first presentation of the popular villain outside of the comic books. He was originally set to appear in an episode of the 60’s television series, but the script was scrapped. Batman Forever, starring Tommy Lee Jones, marked the theatrical debut of Harvey Two-Face, but that came in 1995, three years after this episode. If you have yet to watch an episode of Batman: The Animated Series, I’d love to suggest taking a look at “Two-Face.” You will not be disappointed and it serves the character in as great a way as Forever and The Dark Knight did on screen.
The episode opens to one of it’s trademark dream sequences. This time, however, it’s not Bruce Wayne. Instead, we see Harvey Dent running down an alley way. He’s being chased by some sort of shadowy version of himself. The Dent concealed in the shadows extends his arm, flips a coin, and Harvey wakes up. The dream has disturbed Harvey and he’s then alerted to a police raid that’s begun without him.
The first laughs in the episode come at the expense of Harvey Dent and, upon thinking of it, seems as if it was done intentionally which only reinforces how smart the writing is. “Hey Jim, how’s it going?” Harvey asks the commissioner and almost as suddenly as his arrival, they got fired upon by the thugs. We can’t help but laugh at Harvey’s ineptitude and the scene plays out in a comically staged way. Batman soon arrives and he goes through the thugs one by one, but we never clearly see him. It’s an aspect of depicting Batman that has gone on to service the character in a very effective way. The G.C.P.D. have another win on their hands and Harvey takes to the press. While he’s giving a speech, one of the apprehended thugs kicks mud on him and Harvey demonstrates his anger. He attacks the felon and readies himself to beat him without any regard to the press on site. Commissioner Gordon intervenes and tells him to cool off. It’s a great scene that suggests there’s more to Dent than we know. We’ve only gotten a hint in regards to the darkness in him so the anger is a nice flourish. It also brings to mind Nicholas D’Agosto’s work as the attorney on Gotham.
While the D.A. is branded “Hot Head Harvey”, mob boss Rupert Thorne watches from his office. Thorne, a character from Detective Comics, makes his first appearance in Batman: The Animated Saeries in this very episode. He goes on to be a major villain in the series and serves the mob boss element for the stories of Batman in animated form. He tells his team that he wants them to find inside dirt on Harvey Dent and has Candace, a true Bruce Timm femme fatale, to do his bidding. Interestingly, “Two-Face” feels the most like a timeless episode and matches the “dark deco” aspects of the series perfectly. It never feels like the show is set in the current nor does it feel as if it’s taking place in the not too distant future, whereas the Metropolis depicted in the follow up series, Superman: The Animated Series felt as if it were set in the future. More on that series after our Batman Animated recaps/reviews conclude in our countdown to Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.
At a fundraiser for Harvey Dent to be reelected as D.A., Dent learns that the case has been been thrown out (tying into the episode opener). Bruce Wayne, whom we remember to be his close friend from episode ‘Pretty Poison”, attempts to calm him down, but Dent only grows angrier and calls Bruce a “rich twit.” He goes to punch Bruce in the face, but his fiancee Grace steps in the way. This immediately brings Dent back down to earth and he agrees to seek help. During a session with his therapist, we learn that Dent has a repressed personality referred to as “Big Bad Harv.” During the visit, he grows into a rage and wrecks the office, along with proving to be a threat to his doctor. She snaps her fingers and returns to the Harvey Dent persona. As they realize the situation is far worse than they had thought, suggesting that the D.A. checks himself into a psychiatric ward, we see that Candace is listening in.
With the later announcement that D.A. Harvey Dent has won the re-election campaign in a landslide, Rupert Thorne decides to blackmail him. Dent, called away from the party, receives a phone call from Thorne. He leaves abruptly and meets with the mobster in a factory. Thorne reveals that he knows about Dent’s split personality and issues with repressed anger. We’re told a story of how Dent was bullied as a young boy and of how he eventually hit the bully after he reached his boiling point. The bully was out of school and Harvey learned that he was in the hospital. He thought that it was because of his punch, but it really turned out that the boy had appendicitis. It was that day that Harvey vowed to keep his anger buried deep within him. Upon rehearing the story, Harvey Dent switches back to his Big Bad Harv persona and attacks all of the goons. He runs out of the office and onto a platform near large, acidic pits. One of the thugs fires upon him and Batman tries to stop him, but it’s too late. The gunfire hits a high voltage electrical unit and the pits explode. By the time Batman makes it over to Harvey, we know what has happened.
At the hospital, it’s revealed that Dent received severe damage to his face and body, and Bruce worries more over the potential mental scars it may leave him with. The doctors unwrap the gauze around his face and Harvey runs out as soon as he sees his face in the mirror. He runs out into the hallway at night and Grace is stunned to see him. She spots his visibly scarred face and faints.
To Be Continued.
“Two-Face” happens to be the first two-part episode in the first season for Batman: The Animated Series. It’s a thrilling episode and is the first to truly present a meditation on a character outside of Batman and reward the viewer for sticking with it. There are quite a few charming qualities in this episode, most particularly in the portrayal of Bruce Wayne as a playboy. We haven’t seen the playboy aspect of Bruce Wayne too much and Ben Affleck has already confirmed that this will be a part of his performance in the March 2016 Batman v. Superman. There are many influential aspects of the Bruce Timm series that seem to have been lifted for the screen and it’s worth noting that several critics and fans believed Henry Cavill’s Superman to more closely resemble that of Superman animated than of any other incarnation.
There was also an alternative version of this episode and the storyboards could probably be found with an in-depth internet search. The original version used Candace more as a means to seduce Harvey for the information on him and presented the Dent as having an affair with her. For obvious reasons, the noir-ish take was deemed too sexual for an animated program and was never used.
Stay tuned for “Two-Face Part Two” tomorrow.