about_faces (about_faces) wrote,

Review: Grace and Harvey reunite in the conclusion for B:TAS' "Two-Face, Part II"

Previous entries: Part I, and most of Part II.

Sorry for the long wait. This was the hardest post of all to write, and not just because I had to rewrite half of it from scratch. Be warned, I go really in-depth with the speculation on this one. This review will either be the culmination of all my analysis from the two previous posts, or it will be the moment when I utterly disappear up my own ass. YMMV.

Since I'm forced to give this scene its own post, we might as well take a moment to contextualize these events. By the time this episode of Batman: The Animated Series first aired, there had been two stories where Harvey Dent had been redeemed through the power of love (which is itself, as I understand it, "a curious thing"). The first resulted in a happy ending for all, while the second was uncertain but optimistic... at least, until the next writer decided to ignore it entirely.

At the center of both these stories was Harvey's fiancée/ex-wife, Gilda. She was featured in a third story from 1989 that also dealt with similar themes of redemptive love, ending on a note that was bittersweet, but not without hope amidst the tragedy. Except in that story, Gilda was renamed "Grace." All three of these stories influenced the emotional core of Two-Face, Part II, especially in the big reunion in Act 3. While Grace Lamont is a rather vapid character, she serves the same classic Gilda role of being Harvey's moral compass. As such, she's still the second most vital character to this episode, more so than even Batman himself.

Something I've neglected to mention: Grace is voiced by Murphy Cross, a TV actress so obscure that she doesn't even have her own Wikipedia page, and someone with no voice acting experience at this point. So why did B:TAS casting director Andrea Romano hire Cross for the crucial role of Harvey Dent's fiancée? My best guess, after viewing Cross' IMDB page, is because she appeared on one episode of Night Court, playing opposite Richard Moll's trademark character, "Bull" Shannon.

Naturally, being the obsessive that I am, I tracked down and watched the whole episode on YouTube. Much to my surprise, it was not only thoroughly enjoyable, but also... not entirely irrelevant to what Harvey and Grace are about to go through in their big reunion scene. I actually wrote several paragraphs dedicated to analyzing their scene, and how it relates to Harvey and Grace, but thought better of it. I've already spent way, way, WAY too long on Two-Face, Part II as it is. Adding analysis from an episode of frickin' Night Court is just ridiculous.

That said, I did save the analysis, so if anyone actually WANTS to hear my ridiculous views on the Night Court/Two-Face reading-too-much-into-things comparisons, just ask. Just don't say that I didn't try to spare you!

So without further ado, let's finally review the final act of Part II where everything comes together before falling apart, and let's see if anything can be salvaged from the wreckage.

During a torrential downpour, Harvey's henchmen Min and Max pull Grace up to the curb of their hideout: the old abandoned Wild Deuce nightclub and casino. I love that Gotham is the kind of town that's littered with art deco ruins like this and the World's Fair in Mask of the Phantasm. It's the kind of place I'd love to live if it weren't for the fact that it's, y'know, Gotham.

Acting like the fine young gentlemen that they aren't, Min and Max escort Grace to the abandoned club, leading her to the room where Harvey resides. Facing the doorway, Grace removes her shawl and takes a moment to fix her hair and wipe off her dress. Because, of course, appearances matter.

She finds Harvey at the end of a cavernous showroom, where he straddles a line diving the room between pristine emptiness and dark decay. Behind him, if you can just make it out, you can see a long table stretching across both sides, with fresh flowers on one side and wilted ones on the other. I presume that he had an awkward dinner planned, one that they'd never get to share. And when we finally see Harvey up close, we find him covered in half of a shroud, playing a kind of hooded Phantom of the Opera.

Of course, unlike Christine Daaé, Grace already knows exactly what's behind that mask, and while she fainted the first time, she clearly doesn't care about how he looks. When she sees him, her immediate reaction is cry his name and to run straight to him. Even still, Harvey keeps the mask on. Perhaps he's trying to make her feel more comfortable, especially as his goal seems to be to ease her into understanding his new way of thinking.

Literally holding her at arms length, he gently, awkwardly, explains, "My name is... 'Two-Face' now." The way he says it sounds like he's still getting used to the name himself. He's very mannered, very guarded, as if he's rehearsed this moment. He's playing his cards close to his chest, not trying to reach out to her more than he already has.

"This is my world now... a dichotomy of order and chaos. Just like me." This is how he sees himself, or at least, how he thinks he is and wants to be seen by others. It's important to him that Grace understands this and believes it herself. But of course, she's having none of it.

"Harvey, what happened to your mind? Your feelings? You used to listen to your feelings!" As she says this, I can't help but look back on the Harvey Dent we've seen in the DCAU and wonder, "Since when? Since when did this repressed attorney ever listen to his feelings? I mean, other than when he's romantic enough to propose marriage after about a week? Twice, no less!"

But what's even more mind-boggling to me is his response, as he holds up the coin and says, "This is what I listen to now." Because again, why? Why does he listen to the coin? He's not there to answer that, but rather to preach his new life philosophy to the one person whom he needs to understand it.

Tangent rant: He flips the coin--presumably as a gesture, not to make any decision--and this time, he does the back-of-the-hand inverted call. Again, I don't like this, especially if he's going to do it both ways. It makes it far too easy for him to cheat, to feel the result in his hand so that he can manipulate the outcome either way. Not that I think Harvey would cheat, but I think the temptation would be far too great for many lazy writers who don't care about the character. Writers such as the ones in the fourth and final season. But we'll get to those rants in due time. /Tangent

Spinning the roulette wheel, he speaks with a kind of calm euphoria: "Chance, Grace. Chance is everything. Whether you're born or not. Whether you live or die. Whether you're good or bad. It's all arbitrary." Where did he come by this new philosophy? When has chance or luck ever been mentioned in any capacity over the previous episodes we've seen?

In several comics, Harvey arguably became a devotee of chance as a way to cope from the horrible ways in which life crapped on him, and that's presumably what's going on here as well, but how did he come to that conclusion? Like the coin, it's too important, too vitally tied to his motivations for we--the audience--to just accept and move on.

Instead, it's glossed over until someone like Kelley Puckett or Ty Templeton fills in the gaps in the tie-in comics. Once again, we're left to fill in the blanks with guesswork, supposition, and fanfic. For now, those questions of what drove Harvey to the brink must take a backseat to the question of whether or not he can be brought back.

"That's nonsense, Harvey. Was it chance that made you District Attorney? Was it chance that made you fall in love with me?"

Grace asks this in an appeal to Harvey's rationality, but depending on how far gone he is or what has motivated this inexplicable philosophy, he easily COULD see those things as being subject to chance. There are so many other factors that could have influenced events one way or another. He might as well ask her, "Hell, Grace, if it wasn't chance, then what was it?"

But he doesn't say that. He doesn't refute her dismissal of his entire outlook. If I'm forced to speculate why, I think it's because there's still enough of Harvey in him that he doesn't refute her dismissal of his philosophy. I think some part of him wants--needs--to be told that he was wrong, that it doesn't have to be this way, and that he might actually have a choice after all.

So when Grace implores, "Take control of your life, Harvey," I think that it's exactly what he both wants and needs to hear. But how can he take control when he's so often been at the mercy of bullies, of his own mental illness, of a monster inside him which sneaks in, takes control, and steals time from Harvey, spreading rage and violence and destroying his own good name? If it weren't for the accident causing the new, third personality of Two-Face, the monster of Big Bad Harv may well have proven utterly uncontrollable.

So when she says, "You don't need a coin. And you don't need this," as she reaches for the mask, it's logical that he'd recoil like the Phantom. It's more than just a case of "DON'T LOOK AT ME, I'M UGLY AND THEREFORE UNLOVABLE!" Sure, you could read it that way, and maybe that's how the writers intended it, but that just makes what happens between them too shallow, too superficial.

No, after everything we've seen from this Harvey in the superior first part, I choose to see this as about far more than physical appearances. When Harvey pulls away, it's because she's reaching for the side of himself which has been exposed to the world, and while he probably thinks he's come to terms with it as Two-Face, whatever is left of Harvey Dent doesn't want her to see him as he really is. It's the visualization of everything he can't control anymore, the part of him which will destroy everything he loves, the part he's shamefully hidden from everyone.

But Grace doesn't flinch. She gives him a look that is all at once sober, serious, tender, and loving. Maybe I'm just getting soft in my old age, but I find something genuinely moving about how she looks at him as says, with almost heartbreaking compassion: "You don't ever need to hide from me."

He recoils again, but only a little bit. And then stands still and upright, closing his eyes. Slowly, she pulls the mask away as if pulling the sheet off a statue, and lets the mask fall away. With it gone, Harvey takes a deep, wheezing snarl of a breath, but there's nothing Two-Face about his manner now. Exposed, he opens his eyes to see Grace, whose own eyes well with tears as she says, "I love you, Harvey."

"Grace..." he says, with a strained, almost unrecognizable croak. W only see this from the scarred side, with its permanent scowl of rage. In one shot, the full extent of Harvey's horrific appearance is on display, indicating that even the worst of Big Bad Harv--who hates everyone else, including Harvey--loves her. All of him loves Grace, which is why she's the only one who can talk him away from from the coin.

This is also powerful from her end, too: she sees his dark side up close, and yet, she loves him regardless. Hell, she may love him because of it, since it's still a part of him. For both Harvey and Grace, love truly might have been enough to conquer all. If only it hadn't all gone to hell.

Their moment is interrupted by the sudden presence of Min and Max, who seemed to appear out of nowhere. Harvey growls, "What is it?" but they just stand there, slack-jawed and blank-eyed.

A moment later, their eyes roll back, their jaws slacken, and they simultaneously collapse. Are they dead, or just knocked out? You'd think the latter, since this is still a kids show and all, but we never actually see Min nor Max ever again. Of course, that still leaves the question of what was actually done to them that they could stand there looking dazed like that guy in the yellow suit from the end of Blue Velvet, but eh, realism is occasionally allowed to take a backseat to dramatic effect. In this case, it's used nicely, since Min and Max's collapse is immediately followed by the calm entrance of Rupert Thorne, followed immediately by his gun-toting entourage, including Frankie and Candice.

Getting uncomfortable close behind Harvey, Thorne can't resist delivering a wonderfully cornball villain line, "At last we meet: face to face... to face." Of course, if it were me, I would have had the line spoken with more ambiguity on the pun of "to" and "two," so it could almost sound like "face to face, Two-Face," but eh, no one's paying me for help crafting their villain dialogue. Sadly.

Grace is shocked to recognize "Detective Leopold" even outside of her sexy miniskirt librarian outfit. When Candice flaunts the homing device and congratulates Grace for leading them to Harvey, Grace gasps in horror at the realization of what she's done and how she's been used.

When Harvey turns to her with a quiet, "Grace?" even his horrific scarred side looks hurt. Thorne comes to her defense, albeit in a smugly mocking manner, and Grace desperately tries to make amends, but it's not enough. All the warm tenderness in Harvey is gone now, and while he hasn't exactly become the cruel Two-Face again, he's too hurt to even let himself be touched by her. When she reaches out for him, he silently brushes her off and turns his back on her.

In the hands of lesser writers, this is where Two-Face would rage and turn his melodramatic fury on her as well. This would be the point where the "Big Bad Harv" side would now have a reason to hate Grace too, that trust now shattered forever. But that's not what's happening here.

When Harvey looks down and says, "So much for 'control,' huh, Grace?" it sounds like a bitter lament. If I may be allowed to carry my speculation further (and feel free to disagree here), but I think that this is the moment that Harvey's own philosophy as Two-Face has become brutally confirmed. From the way he longed for Grace, it's clear that he didn't entirely want his life to be this way, but his tone and manner now sounds like those of a man who's he's just now realizing how it all works, and he's thus adjusting accordingly to survive in this cruel, capricious reality without being torn apart.

Meanwhile, Batman rides through the storm on his Batcycle, all heroics and dramatic music. But when he pulls up to the club, he winces and groans, and suddenly seems far less capable of saying anybody's day. The injuries he's sustained at Harvey's hands (well, foot) are still with him, and he'll he'll have to endure them in order to save his own assailant's life. It's a rare moment of seeing Bruce not be superhuman, but rather carrying the wounds with him. And it's in this weary, pained state that he's going to roll in to try and save his friend. It's great.

Harvey has to stand by helpless while Thorne's boys scour through the wares, finding the stolen crate of silver dollars (important!) but not the files. Thorne's smug triumph quickly sours into frustration. When he demands to have the file, Harvey tells him "Not a chance, you slime," really spreading that last word out to make it count. If you recall, "slime" was the word Harvey used for Thorne even before the accident. It's nice to know that Harvey in any state can have the same opinion about one thing, at least. But all his defiance vanishes the moment Thorne sets his sights on Grace.

"Such a pretty face, Harvey," Thorne says, cradling her chin with his fat sausage fingers. Harvey's aloof manner instantly transforms into fearful rage, and as he struggles in vain against Thorne's men, Harvey shouts, "LET HER GO!" He clearly still loves her, and probably doesn't even blame her for betraying him. He understands, even if he now thinks that her views on chance and control are naïve. Even still, at the first indication of her life being threatened, he bows his head in defeat, nods, and gives up the file (sneakily hidden beneath the roulette wheel!).

All smugness gone, Thorne silently skims the file, nods, and then orders his men to kill Harvey and Grace. Harvey's reply is a shocked, "But you said--!" I must admit, I'm both amused and pleased to see a Two-Face who's actually surprised to be double-crossed! It seems that he actually believed that others would play by his rules of fairness.

Frankie readies his gun, presumably relishing this chance for payback after Harvey's attack in Part I, but he's taken out by Batman, who has finally arrived. Thorne flings away the file as if it were worthless and not filled to the brim with precious incriminating evidence, and he prepares to shoot Batman himself. With Thorne distracted, Harvey makes his move, kicking off the big fight scene.

The wayward gunfire shoots down a massive chandelier, sending it crashing down on Thorne. He's taken out, trapped and dazed, if not suffering from several broken bones. A weakened Batman muscles his way through the pain to battle a still-standing Frankie, while Harvey takes on another thug, oblivious to Candice sneaking up behind. Before she can wallop Harvey with one of the flower pots, she ends up attacked by Grace, because of course there's a catfight.

While this is rather cheap, especially in the "only women can fight other women" sense, I can't entirely hate the symbolism of Harvey's "good girl" besting the "bad girl." Besides, at least Grace was allowed to do something other than cry and be duped! So... progress, right?

Candice crashes into the wall, knocked out cold. Harvey vanquishes his opponent. And when Batman flings the last henchmen across the room like a sack of potatoes, the sweeping music wraps up in a triumphant flourish! The fight is finished! The heroes have triumphed! Everything is good forever!

Then it falls silent when Harvey sees Thorne's dropped Tommy gun. As Harvey crouches to pick it up, the recorder starts to play the sing-song theme music of Two-Face. It's not over yet. Judgement still has to be passed. He was ready to give it up before, but he already saw where that got him. This time, no more mistakes. No second chances.

Still pinned under the chandelier, a dazed Rupert Thorne comes to his sense just in time to see Harvey take aim. He calls out, "No! Two-Face, don't!" which makes him the second person in the episode to call Harvey that, the first being Harvey himself. Whereas Grace and Batman keep trying to appeal to the Harvey Dent inside, Thorne is the only one who sees Harvey the way Harvey himself wants to be seen.

When Grace asks Harvey what he's doing, he coldly replies, "Taking control of my life." And really, this is the only way he can now. By wielding the coin and passing judgment, no matter which side comes up, that judgement will nonetheless come from his own hand. Through the coin, Harvey is able to channel chance through himself, thus taking control of the uncontrollable.

So weary that he has to lean on Grace, Batman makes one last-ditch effort and implores, "Let the law handle it." To which Harvey snarls, as if that's the single greatest joke of all "The law?!" He has no use for the corrupt system which lets criminals go free due to incomplete warrants and bribed judges, the kind of system which allowed a known criminal like Thorne to run free for years. Now, he's finally going to triumph on his own terms.

Holding up the coin (which has now apparently shrunk down to quarter size), he declares the climactic lines of the episode: "THIS is the only law! The law of averages! The great equalizer!" That last part is the key here. In addition to all the other themes of duality, control, revenge, insanity, and abdication of responsibility, we finally get a fevered declaration of Harvey's sense of fairness. Of justice. Of balance.

As the coin spins through the air, Batman turns and notices the crate of silver dollars, which twinkles with significance. Suddenly, what seemed like a thematically-appropriate cash haul has now become Chekhov's Gun. Yeah, I'm bringing in the Russian theatrical literature references here, wanna fight about it?

For dramatic effect, time slows to a crawl as Batman thinks fast. At this point, he's already failed to save Harvey (chew on that: Batman failed), so all he can do is stop him. But he's too weak to fight Harvey, and even if he could fling a Batarang, it wouldn't be enough. I'm not sure if even Bruce knows what he's about to do here. With enormous effort, Batman grabs the crate and drags it off the table, barely managing to heave its contents at Harvey.

Oblivious to Batman's actions, Harvey watches for the coin with a look of sheer joy. This is by far the happiest that DCAU Two-Face will ever be, beaming skyward as he waits for this answer to fall into his hands. Maybe it doesn't even matter which side comes up. Maybe Thorne's life (or death) is besides the point. Now that he's given himself to the coin so utterly, Harvey's own life is now riding on that coin toss. It's the only truth he can accept now.

And when the coins come flying, his joy melts into sheer panic. The way they rain down, accompanied by what Shirley Walker does with the soundtrack (which I'll get to near the end), creates the impression that we're seeing Harvey's reaction as everything falls to pieces right before his eyes.

His cry of "NO! WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?" is the first time that he's sounded entirely like the old Harvey Dent. Specifically, I mean the desperate, terrified Harvey from the nightmares. In one instant, Batman has reduced Harvey to the small, helpless state that he is in his own nightmares.

He falls to his knees to look for the coin, and ends up straddling the room's divide. It reminds me of the cliffhanger ending of the very first Two-Face comic, where the coin landed on edge in a crack between the split-room's two sides, thus leaving Harvey incapable of any action whatsoever. Of course, his reaction there was rather stoic, as someone who now "knew" that he had to wait for a sign, any sign, to tell him what to do next. But Harvey here is taking the loss of the coin considerably less well.

Increasingly frantic, he says, "My coin... where is it?! I can't decide without-- Ooohh, no, it's gotta be here, it's gotta!" Grace has to turn away, unable to bear watching him like this. Indeed, this is a tough moment to watch, partially because it skirts the edges of being overblown and corny. Part of this is the way it's written, and part of it is Richard Moll, who can be a very big actor in more than just stature. When he shouts, "I HAVE TO HAVE IT!!!" and wipes/swats at the coins, it almost seems more like a child throwing a tantrum than a man melting down.

But then an instant later, he begins to scream. No, not just scream, but howl. This isn't like when Harvey screamed at the hospital at the end of Part I. That was the scream of everything pent up inside him suddenly being unleashed. Here, he sounds like a caged, wounded animal, a wild beast that's been trapped. When he lets out that last scream, it's like a death cry as he exhausts everything left inside him until all that's left for him to do is break down sobbing.

When faced with a broken man, what does Grace do? Pick up the pieces, of course. Meanwhile, Bruce keeps his distance, lording over them both in classic Bat-manner. If he feels anything about his failure, about seeing what his friend has come to, or about the part he played in this final meltdown, he keeps it all hidden behind his mask.

And that's as it should be. A little Bruce!Angst goes a long way, and it's better to see that angst channeled through his unflagging devotion to saving Harvey. Still, there's something to be said for seeing the grim Batman show vulnerability, so the ending strikes a nice balance in the final exchange between Gordon and Batman as Harvey is being taken away.

Gordon: "Poor Harvey. So full of anger. Do you think there's any hope?"
Batman: "Where there's love, there's hope, Commissioner. But a little luck wouldn't hurt."

With that line, he reaches into his pocket and produces Harvey's coin. Actually, for all we know, it could be any of the silver dollars (assuming that the silver dollars all look like quarters), which might work considering that Harvey has the (a?) coin the next time we see him. But let's just assume that this is Harvey's actual coin, which Batman drops into a nearby fountain.

"For you, Harvey," he says quietly. I like that Batman here gives a nod to the idea of luck as something hopeful, rather than Harvey's fatalistic viewpoint of luck as an uncaring, impartial, arbitrary force. These aren't opposing views, just--god help me--two sides of the same coin.

The coin sinks to the bottom, landing good side up. It's just like the end of Batman Forever and The Dark Knight, except that Harvey's not dead. I never understood what it meant to have the good side up with them dead. Does it mean that good (Batman) triumphed over evil (Harvey)? How depressing. Here, at least, the coin coming up good heads ends this episode on a hopeful note for Harvey's recovery. Right?

Perhaps so, but the soundtracks final notes temper that hope with something decidedly more complex and uncertain. Since I opened the first part with Shirley Walker's amazing score, it's only fitting that I end with it too. Here's the score from the moment Batman rides in on his Batcycle all the way up through the end. As with the first track, it was vital to fleshing out the scope and power of this scene, while also being great music in its own right.

Right up until that last note, it sounds like Walker is going to end with a typical Batman finish, as her sweeping theme is about to close the episode. But as the camera closes in on the coin and fades out, the strings end on a note that makes the piece sound unfinished, and also a touch somber. When I hear that, I'm reminded that while Harvey may recover, but it'll be a long, hard road, especially against so many obstacles both external and internal.

But despite everything, even knowing what happens to him throughout the DCAU--the bad, the worse, and the ugly of it all--that hope is still a powerful thing, and it powers both my interest in the character as well as Batman's drive to save his old friend. It's one big reason why this episode is so powerful, not to mention one of the greatest Two-Face origins, warts (and blue skin) and all. And it's an ending we should savor before we see that hope put to the test time and time again.
Tags: animation, dcau, reading list: two-face in the dcau

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