At the beginning of Batman: The Long Halloween, Part One, Batman, Jim Gordon and Harvey Dent stand on a rooftop and pledge to work together to take down the mob. By the end of Batman: The Long Halloween, Part Two, the three men have reunited on the rooftop, but their partnership has been fractured. Harvey Dent’s face has been permanently scarred, he’s given in to his dark impulses and has become the criminal known as Two-Face. The tragedy of Harvey Dent is something that has been explored many times in Batman continuity, from the Golden Age comics to Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight film, but this story puts another spin on it.
The tragedy of Harvey’s downfall is bigger than one man going bad—it’s about what Gotham lost. We’ve seen how much good Batman and Jim Gordon can do for the city when they work together. Imagine how effective they’d be if Harvey Dent had remained their third partner. Batman handling things in the shadows, Gordon leading the cops in the streets, and Harvey Dent prosecuting the criminals they brought in. Think of what they could have meant for Gotham.
Although the movie doesn’t come out and say it, Batman and Gordon are partially responsible for Harvey’s fall from grace. They didn’t throw the acid on the District Attorney’s face, but both men encouraged Harvey to embrace his dark side, whether they realized it or not. Rewatch the scene in Batman: The Long Halloween, Part One where Batman and Catwoman encourage Harvey to burn Falcone’s money. “I can’t really be a lawyer and a criminal, can I?” Harvey asks himself. When Harvey can’t make the decision about what to do, it’s Batman who gives him a coin and tells him to flip it.
Harvey Dent struggled with the morally grey areas he was being pushed into, which is why the black and white nature of Two-Face and letting a coin make his decisions became so appealing. Without realizing it, Batman and Gordon helped nudge Harvey towards his now infamous fate. To be clear, I’m not saying the blame completely rests with them. There were lots of factors at play. Harvey became Two-Face due to a combination of Maroni’s scarring, untreated mental illness, marital stress and his own personal choices. But one has to wonder if Batman and Gordon ever lay awake at night haunted by the role they played in Harvey’s downfall.
Batman and Gordon failed Harvey in other ways as Batman: The Long Halloween, Part Two makes clear, since a simple investigation would’ve uncovered Gilda Dent’s connection to the Falcone family. At the end of the film, Gilda reveals a hidden chapter from her past that involves the Falcone crime family and the trauma they inflicted on her. As a detective, Batman should have uncovered this, but he had no reason to look into Gilda’s past. Gordon could’ve found the same information with a simple background check since some of these developments were public record. But would it have changed anything?
Gilda’s past with the Falcone family would be considered a conflict of interest for Harvey Dent. As a District Attorney, it would be unethical for him to prosecute the family and he’d be forced to recuse himself from the case. What would Batman and Gordon have done with this information? Remember, they were already bending the rules to take down the Roman. Harvey was a skilled prosecutor and one that wasn’t in the pocket of the mob. Batman and Gordon likely would’ve ignored Harvey’s conflict of interest because the alternative would’ve meant handing the case to a corrupt prosecutor.
Gilda’s connection to the Falcone family is another factor that drove Harvey to embrace his dark side. After watching the end of Part Two, it’s clear that Harvey’s obsession with taking them down is personal and the stress it brought to his life was part of the reason he snapped. Above all else, Harvey wants to protect his wife. We see this at the end where he takes the fall for all of the Holiday murders. This, of course, begs a fascinating question: If Gilda hadn’t become Holiday, would Harvey have still become Two-Face?
Somewhere in the multiverse, there’s a version of Gotham where the Batman, Gordon and Dent partnership never shattered. But that’s the thing about partnerships, they are delicate. In this universe, Harvey Dent became Two-Face, but it could have easily been Jim Gordon or Bruce Wayne. All three men bend the rules and work outside of the law in their own way. Throughout the multiverse, we’ve seen versions of Batman and Commissioner Gordon who have lost their way. Maybe Harvey Dent wasn’t weaker than Jim and Bruce. Maybe in this reality, he was just the one who had the bad flip of the coin.