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'Gotham' recap, 'Harvey Dent'

Nicholas D'Agosto
Nicholas D'Agosto (Jessica Miglio/Fox)

Gotham needs a hero, but Harvey Dent isn't the one it deserves. He's just the only one Jim Gordon can find to help carry the burden.

"Harvey Dent" does a better job setting up the titular villain for the monster he'll become than the good guy he is now.

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The White Knight buoys between hopeless idealist and frightening rageaholic — par for the course for Two-Face. But Nicholas D'Agosto's portrayal comes off as a smarmy car salesman, like even he doesn't buy what he's selling.

"I'm going to make this city a better place," he says with a plastic smile.

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What makes him so sure we can trust him? The first minute we meet him he's spinning lies.

As he's chatting with a troubled youth, he flips the coin to determine if he should let him go to start fresh or arrest him for a petty crime. An admittedly noble gesture on Dent's part, but the cheesy inspirational speech feels disingenuous. The kid picks heads, gets it right and off he goes.

Soon after, Dent admits to the cops that it's a double-sided coin and he knows most teens pick heads. It was all a trick. What else does he have up his sleeve?

"A trustworthy lawyer…in Gotham?" Uh huh, sure. We're just as suspicious as Alfred.

We get a glimpse into the White Knight's dark side real quick, literally and figuratively. The director cleverly foreshadows his duality by casting a dark shadow over half his face when he meets with Lovecraft at his office. There, he accuses the business magnate of conspiring to murder the Waynes. Lovecraft, of course, denies this.

Suddenly, the White Knight vanishes. Dent badgers the suspect before they even set a court date. And it's not so much badgering as it is terrorizing. "I will rip you open!" he snarls, clutching Lovecraft's shoulder. Yikes. He then flips that switch and he's back to cool and collected.

Lovecraft ";was scared," Dent assures Jim later. Well, yeah, that will happen when you shriek right in his face and threaten him. With all those lawyers there, I'm surprised no one thought to file a restraining order.

But he's onto something with Lovecraft. The Waynes' murder had to come from someone with more business clout than the predictable mobsters, like Falcone and Maroni. I'm betting he was on the other line when Ms. "How awesome is that?!" Mathais from WellZin was spying on Jim and Harvey Bullock.

With just one episode left before the midseason finale, we won't get that answer anytime soon. That's likely to be saved for next season's story arc. In the meantime, we have Jim as Gotham's much-needed hero, struggling as always with the corruption and mismanagement from city hall.

Frustrated that a disturbed-but-well-meaning bomber, if there is such a thing, is making bombs against his will, he calls the mayor out for shoddy treatment for the mentally ill convicts. It shuts up the mayor fast.

"What is wrong with you?" Captain Essen asks Jim, who just has a good conscious, a sharp tongue and a broken heart.

Jim's such a good guy that, rather than pull a Bullock and turn to Booze to fill the void after Barbara left, he channels frustrations by being more vocal about the corruption in Gotham. And it works. The mayor reopens Arkham Asylum for the criminally insane. There, the convicts should receive proper treatment for their illnesses.

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Emphasis on "should." This is Gotham, after all, where not even the law-abiding citizens' safety and health are top priority to the corrupt government. In reality, Arkham will be a chaotic breeding ground for a new level of crazy and evil for both inmates and staff. And it will be epic to watch.

We'll see a lot of famous inmates — too many to speculate here — but from the staff, we can most likely expect cameos from Dr. Jonathan Crane (aka Scarecrow) and Dr. Harleen Quinn (aka Harley Quinn).

Even more exciting: Wherever there's Harley, her psychotic soul mate and partner in crime, the Joker, will be there. As a friend's dad always says, "Everybody's got somebody."

Speaking of unusual couples: Bat, meet Cat. She's been stalking you for the past few months. Hope you don't mind her living with you!

Initially I was worried that the "Gotham" premise of a younger Batman and company would be like a gritty reboot of "Tiny Toons," but the dynamic Bruce has with Selina has proved to be endearing, not twee.

"Hit me, and I'll let you kiss me." Um, except that. Maybe it wasn't the best wording, but it's playful and so darn cute to see Bruce jump to his feet to pelt her with bread as she chucks rolls right back at him. Puppy love aside, what I truly enjoy is how Selina is unwittingly training her future adversary.

When it comes to toughing it out on Gotham streets, "it's not enough to be strong," she tells him. "You gotta be mean. You gotta be ruthless."

Alfred might be a proper boxing coach and Gordon is an excellent moral compass to inspire Bruce. But when the gloves come off and you're off the beaten path, Selina's your streetwise gal.

If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes Gotham's heroes and villains to help transform Bruce Wayne into Batman. The roster of Bruce's mentors has rounded out nicely with Selina. Now that she has her claws in his heart, she's sure to leave her mark.

MORE HIGHLIGHTS FROM "HARVEY DENT":

BEST ONE-LINER: "So if anyone ever mugs you with a diving board, you'll be set." – Selina to Bruce when she sees him holding his breathe underwater to train for the streets of Gotham.

BATMAN IN A NUTSHELL: "You're the weirdest kid I've ever met." – Selina Kyle to Bruce Wayne. Yes, but that's what makes him Batman.

TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT: Not a single "Gotham" villain understands the concept of personal space. Ed Nygma lingers and makes awkward physical contact with his coworkers, Dent gets two inches away from Lovecraft's face when he flies off the handle and Penguin breaks into Liza's apartment to steal her dress (or was that a nighty?) and gets unsettlingly close to sniff her and Fish Mooney. "Mmm, lilacs." You best step off, um, waddle off."

BIGGEST CREEP: Penguin. See above.

BIGGEST JERK: Barb. She leaves Jim a letter saying that she's "screwed up" and needs to "get herself together," which really means getting together with Montoya and screwing her. Real low — on both their parts. And how does going from one cop's arms into another keep her safe from Zsasz? Montoya, you can keep her. Just let Jim keep that sweet apartment.

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