Did ‘Gotham’ Cast its Harvey Dent Correctly?

By October 4, 2014

A couple of days ago, Entertainment Weekly made the exclusive announcement that actor Nicholas D’Agosto, best known for a recurring role in NBC’s “Heroes” and as the lead actor in 2011’s Final Destination 5, has been cast as a new, recurring character in Fox’s new drama series “Gotham.” That character is one of great importance to the Batman mythos, as he makes up one third of a triumvirate of crusading individuals that help to save Gotham City from its cancerous graft and corruption-infested institutions: the city’s future district attorney, Harvey Dent.

Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale's Batman: The Long Halloween was a direct source of inspiration for Christopher Nolan's films, and helped establish the excellent modern characterization of Harvey Dent/Two-Face.

Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s Batman: The Long Halloween was a direct source of inspiration for Christopher Nolan’s films, and helped establish the excellent modern characterization of Harvey Dent/Two-Face.

In the comics, particularly the works of writer Jeph Loeb and artist Tim Sale, Dent is shown as a powerful force for good as a crusading D.A., by going for the throat of organized crime within the city, and severely cracking down on any institution that tries to get away with going on “the take.” Dent was also the very first public official in Gotham that operated outside the law by both working with and condoning the actions of Gotham’s new vigilante crimefighter, the Batman. Eventually bringing Jim Gordon into the mix, the triumvirate helped to be a powerful force for good that Gotham had never seen before, and the three had forged a bond that’s not easily made, nor easily broken. Of course, there’s an element of tragedy in Dent’s story as well, since the very act of trying to stop organized crime in the city leads to his eventual downfall and ultimate transformation at the hands of one of those crime bosses, in a courtroom and with a bottle of highly corrosive acid. These are the elements that would give birth to Two-Face, the vicious, unapologetic, and duality-obsessed killer that would grow to become perhaps Batman’s most tragic and formidable enemy.

Of course, “Gotham” won’t touch any of that. By its very premise, it can’t. Bruce Wayne is maybe 10 or 11 years old, which means he’s likely a good 12-15 years away from actually becoming Batman, let alone acquiring the skills he’ll need to wage his war on crime. Jim Gordon is also likely just as far, if not farther away from ascending to his destined role as Gotham’s police commissioner. Beyond these details, in most depictions in comics and film Dent is shown to be roughly around the same age as Bruce Wayne. So…why cast an actor as Harvey Dent that’s nearly twenty years older than the one they’ve cast as Bruce Wayne?

D'Agosto is stepping into some big shoes, especially coming off of Aaron Eckhart's definitive performance as Dent/Two-Face in The Dark Knight.

D’Agosto is stepping into some big shoes, especially coming off of Aaron Eckhart’s definitive performance as Dent/Two-Face in The Dark Knight.

As I alluded to in my review of the show’s pilot, it’s very clear that there will be elements of the show that will tinker with some of the established tenets of the Batman mythology. Most comics-to-live-action adaptations do it, and on occasion the comics themselves also do it. Still, it’s hard not to think about where they’re going by including Dent as a character in the first place, let alone one as old as D’Agosto is in comparison with David Mazouz. In live-action, the previous age differences were a bit less pronounced than this one. For 1995’s Batman Forever, Tommy Lee Jones (who played Two-Face) is 14 years older than Val Kilmer (who played Bruce Wayne/Batman). For 2008’s The Dark Knight, Dent’s actor, Aaron Eckhart, was only six years older than Batman’s actor, Christian Bale. Particularly in the case of The Dark Knight, it was able to show quite a close friendship between Batman and Dent, as well as a question in the minds of the public about Dent actually being Batman.

Still, though, as a massive Bat-fan, I’m looking forward to seeing a new actor embody this revered character. D’Agosto should feel pretty great about landing what was likely a very sought-after role on this new series, and he should definitely be congratulated for scoring it. I’m a little concerned, though, about showrunner Bruno Heller’s philosophy in bringing Dent into the fold in the first place. Is the Dent character going to be younger than D’Agosto himself? Will we start to see a bond between Dent and Gordon this early in the game? Will Dent and Bruce Wayne have any substantive interactions and, in the end, will this be a positive portrayal of these characters, in line with what we already understand about them? I tend to question the inclusion of such a character on a show like this unless it yields something new, and ultimately, something that feels truthful about this man that will become Gotham’s “white knight” and then dark pall.

I’ll be interested to see Harvey Dent brought to capable life on “Gotham,” but as a fan, it’s also natural to wonder how it’ll fit in with the established legacy of such a storied character like Two-Face.

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Chris Clow
As a former comics retailer at a store in the Pacific Northwest, Chris Clow is an enormous sci-fi, comics, and film geek. He is a freelance contributor, reviewer, podcaster, and overall geek to GeekNation, Batman-On-Film.com, The Huffington Post, and Movies.com. He also hosts the monthly Comics on Consoles broadcast and podcast. Check out his blog, and follow him on Twitter @ChrisClow.