Flipside of the Coin: A Rethinking of Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight

SPOILERS AHEAD (but seriously, you should have seen The Dark Knight by now).

This article is about four years too late. And it’s not that I’ve wanted to write it for four years, it’s just that I finally realized that what’s been bugging me has been wrong.

Since The Dark Knight was released in 2008 it always bothered me that Harvey Dent died at the end. I had envisioned that the Harvey character would be set up in TDK and then become the main villain of whatever the third movie would end up being. Part of the problem is that I had an idea in my head of what the movie should be and what the movie actually was didn’t sync up with that.

This is partially why I now am a die hard advocate of not knowing anything about a movie before seeing it. Alternatively, don’t incessantly watch trailers, tv spots, read interviews, or participate in augmented/alternate reality games.

Back to Two-Face. Two-Face really is one of the “top tier” villains in the Batman universe. He’s often referred to as Batman’s Greatest Failure. In the comics, no matter how heinous Two-Face’s crimes are, Bruce Wayne always attempts to rehabilitate Harvey Dent. The Two-Face character usually serves as a reminder that Bruce Wayne/Batman has to be more than just a man, he has to be damn near omniscent. The Batman symbol Bruce Wayne uses can’t succumb to human folly. Two-Face is always there to stare back at Bruce and remind him.

Like I said, until very recently I was always miffed that Christopher Nolan denied the audience the chance to see Two-Face as a full blown villain. But then I realized something. We as an audience pretty much got the entirety of Two-Face’s purpose in The Dark Knight. We saw that he was an ally of Bruce (in the comics they’re much more buddy-buddy). We saw his tragic accident. And we saw that accident radically altered his world view into something significantly less than pure. We also saw how hard Bruce Wayne took his failure and how Bruce realized that Batman can’t falter.

So we didn’t get to see a full blown Two-Face villainous crime. We didn’t get to see him rob Gotham’s Second National Bank on a Tuesday in February. But that’s just a surface level characteristic of Two-Face. We were still given an insight into why that character is so important in the Batman universe.

That said, maybe there should have been a movie focusing solely on Joker and another movie focusing solely on Two-Face. But that sort of thinking is futile and pointless. We have what we have. And what we have is a very good, condensed, concentrated, version of the Harvey Dent character.


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