After having purchased The Dark Knight Returns I watched the two episodes of Bruce Timm and Paul Dini’s much-loved animated series that come on the disk: Two Face Parts I & II. Simply put, these are the best two episodes I’ve ever seen. They work both as stand-alone stories and as a unit. Harvey Dent is as vulnerable as Batman fragile. The symbiosis between the two characters is worthy of canon and this is a story that deserves to be made into a prestige format.
The story starts with Dent losing his rag after being baited by a criminal by which Batman helped catch. He growls and snarls whilst the cameras are rolling and Jim Gordon needs to step in and calm him down.
Dent feels great remorse for his actions but isn’t able to control them. We see that time and time again he does a ‘Nicholas Cage’ publicly, and this is hurting his re-election campaign. He is seeing a psychiatrist who hypnotises ‘Big Bad Harv’ to the forefront who subsequently smashes her office whilst a female member of the largest organized crime ring in Gotham listens smirking to herself just outside the door. The gang finally has some leverage and subsequently steals Harvey’s psych records and threaten to go public if Gotham’s Mr. Righteous doesn’t play ball. They meet, Harvey loses his rag, Batman steps in, bullets fly and electric cables end up causing an explosion that brings about the Two Face that we know and love.
The rest of the story focuses on Bruce’s struggle to accept that he cannot save Dent, Grace, Harvey’s wife, and her attempts to use her love as a way of talking Two Face round and finally Two Face’s own internal struggle when faced with the life he left behind; can it work again? Can he keep a lid on his pathological behaviour?
The story is laden with catharsis and emotion and we see a more vulnerable side to all the characters involved. Batman is not only hesitant but seems to be slightly weakened when faced with the usual henchmen cannon-fooder. His mind is clearly elsewhere and you get a sense that his focus is so intensively on Dent, that it makes him slower, and off-pace as a result.
Bruce’s friendship with Dent and Batman’s struggle with Two Face is the perfect foil for Batman’s own private struggle between the disguise and the debonair. It’s as though Dini is painting the picture of what might have happened to Bruce if he didn’t find a channel for his anger. He can’t save Harvey, he couldn’t save his parents, can he save himself?
The direction is superb with Two Face’s mood and internal struggle perfectly encapsulated by the framing of his face, in fact there are so many little touches in this I’ll let you discover, or re-discover them for yourself.It’s not very often that a cartoon can stir emotion, but I found myself getting more and more involved in Harvey’s heroism and felt a sadness as the story drew to it’s inevitable close. A tragedy in every sense of the word.
I made my feelings about BTAS perfectly clear in my Mad Love review. However, this is one of those episodes that should appeal to just about every fan of the animated medium.