Me, I'd argue that Gilda is a character who is absolutely essential to displaying the humanity and core tragedy of Harvey Dent. Unfortunately, she's made very few appearances in comics, which I think is a major reason why Two-Face is so often written as a one-note monster with a cheap gimmick.
That said, Gilda can be a problematic character. When she first appeared in the original Harvey Kent trilogy way back in the 40's, her character was mainly there to be the weeping, faithful, fragile love interest, the pure-hearted woman who could redeem Harvey through the sheer power of lurve.
Two-Face eventually returned, but Gilda did not. At least, not until 1980, after a thirty-six year absence, in the story I bring you today. In this overly-convoluted mystery entitled Double Jeopardy/Twice Dies the Batman, Gilda meets a new love interest with a shady past, and unwittingly becomes involved in a web of lies, murder, and revenge. Why can't there ever be webs of nice things, like puppies and pie?
Note: these scans are from Batman #328-329.
But we already know that wasn't the case! So now that this murderous, mysterious Mr. Ternion is flaunting his freedom, what diabolical deeds could he be dood'in at that very moment?!
Would you believe... a quiet carriage ride in the park with his lady friend?
So, we get a lot of info right away about what happened to Gilda after Harvey became Two-Face again (although the story is written in such a way that I think it's supposed be a *surprise* that she's that Gilda talking about that Harvey): she remarried, to none other than Harvey's former assistant! We're getting allusions to a whole backstory that we've never and will never see.
Yes, that is indeed the same Dr. Ekhart who was mentioned all the way back in Harvey and Gilda's first appearance.
As you may recall, the reason he couldn't perform plastic surgery on Harvey the first time was because Ekhart was captured by the Nazis and put in a concentration camp. So basically, Ekhart never could get a break. And now if they ever use him in a Two-Face comic again, readers will assume it's just an Aaron Eckhart reference. Poor, dead, brilliant plastic surgeon.
Batman finds Ekhart's body, and realizes who Ternion really is. By the way, Ternion means "three." I looked it up because, seriously, the only reason a character would have a name as awkward as "Ternion" would be so the writer to make some "clever" allusion.
That said, I'm still not sure what's up with the name "Karoselle." He... goes round and round? I got nothin'.
... Look, sorry to distract from the DRAMATIC SURPRISE TWIST REVEAL here, but seriously, plastic surgery does not work that way.
It doesn't unravel and instantly revert to what it was before. I keep hearing Moe Syzlak: "Hey, there's one thing I don't get though. When my face was crushed, why did it go back to my old face? I mean, shouldn't I have turned into some kind of third face that was different?" *CUT TO CREDITS*
Have you figured out why Karoselle would possibly have the newspaper clipping of Maroni's death at Harvey's hands (or rather, coin)? I'm not sure how the heck you would, but apparently Batman has.
And look what's coming up in the next flashback: it's a recap of the events of the Bronze Age origin of Two-Face, only now omitting police officer (and original Maroni target) Dave Davis! Now, the emphasis of Maroni's hatred is directly back on Harvey, which serves as his entire motive throughout the mystery. Oh, was that a spoiler?
By the way, readers: I'm curious to know how easily the rest of you are following this. Hold your answers till the end, but just something I'd like you to keep in mind, please.
That has to be the single most hardcore thing that Harvey's ever done. Forcing a plastic surgeon, at gunpoint, to perform surgery on his face, without anesthesia. Hard. Core.
... Damn! All of a sudden, Gilda goes from a miserable ball of self-pity and martyrdom to a strong, determined character who's fed up and ready--appropriately enough--to law down the law.
She's no longer pining, waiting, praying for her poor, poor lost beloved Harvey to come back to her. She'd lost him once already. She was moving on with her life. Then forces both in and outside of Harvey's control made her life worse than ever, and after much wallowing, she takes it upon herself to break the chain.
She's now putting it directly to Harvey in a way that, incidentally, hits at the core of Harvey's madness: his ability/inability to choose. Thing is, Gilda is the only person capable of reaching Harvey in this manner. Batman's trying (just as he always tries), but he's about to fail (just as he always fails), because neither he nor anyone but Gilda ever had a strong emotional bond to pre-crazy Harvey.
Gilda, simply put, is his lifeline. If there's to be any hope for him to be redeemed, any reason for why he should keep fighting and not kill himself or let the madness consume him utterly... it's her.
God, I love Bronze Age Batman. Maybe I'm just soured by too many post-Miller iterations of Batman as hard and unforgiving--particularly his hardline stance against Hal Jordan over the years--but I just can't imagine the Batman of today putting himself on the line to maybe, possibly, save the soul of a once-good man.
The story ends on such a hopeful note that you almost forget how it won't go anywhere. Indeed, this resolution isn't even mentioned by the time Two-Face returns for his next scheme two years later. That said, Wolfman himself makes mention of how Harvey gave up crime in A Lonely Place of Dying (although he wrote that Harvey did so at the coin's behest), right before having him take up crime once more.
Okay, now that it's over, I ask again: how well were you guys able to follow that?
Me, I thought it was convoluted and clumsy as hell. There was a good story here, but it was chopped up and Frankensteined together, held together with blocks of bald-faced exposition.
I feel like this is story--this frickin' saga, really--should have been told in linear fashion. Perhaps it could have been a subplot simmering between main Batman stories, much like the return of Rupert Thorne storyline (which I'll be posting soon in the Hugo Strange series). It could have been Harvey's own version of Going Sane!
Imagine it: we open with Harvey, acknowledging his respect for Gilda's happiness and privately agreeing to leave her alone with Dave Stevens, whom Harvey knows to be a good man. Then Stevens is murdered, and Gilda's life ruined, which sets Harvey on a quest to find the killer to avenge Gilda's happiness. This already raises questions about who he's doing it for: Gilda or himself.
Then the path would lead him to Karoselle, then Ekhart, which would open up a chance for him to be with Gilda once more. Perhaps he even abandons vengeance altogether when he gets this chance to be this third, whole person: Carl Ternion. He gets to meet Gilda all over again, a second chance to do it better than before. It's all a perfect, beautiful lie.
But he still can't stand that Karoselle/Maroni is still out there, almost certainly planning his next move. More and more, he becomes convinced that he needs to eliminate the threats to his wonderful new life: Karoselle/Maroni, Ekhart, and finally, Batman himself. It's a classic story for Batman's Rogues: the deep-seated desire for a normal life... and their willingness to kill for it.
That's the story I'd want to see. As it is, we have it torn to pieces and lumped back together as a mystery for Batman to solve, rather than a journey for these characters to take.
In the near future, I'll post the one other story to actually make use of this refreshing new direction for Gilda before she's relegated back to her previous characterization... or worse, in the case of the story from which she's now, regrettably, most famous.