FOX’s ‘Gotham’ detects its ninth installment in “Harvey Dent,” as Gordon turns to the city’s trustworthy ADA (Nicholas D’Agosto) for help solving the Wayne murders, while Bruce and Alfred take in Selina Kyle as a witness to the crime, and Penguin unravels Fish Mooney’s plot against Falcone.

Last week’s ‘Gotham’ installment, “The Mask,” saw Gordon’s strained relationship with his fellow cops jeopardizing his investigation of a corrupt financier, while Bruce returned to school and Fish and Penguin conspired against one another, so how does FOX’s latest episode of Bat-prequel drama shine a light on the city’s villainous beginnings?

Read on for your in-depth review of everything you need to know about ‘Gotham’ episode 9, “Harvey Dent”!

God dammit, Barbara.

There we were, with ‘Harvey Dent’ humming along nicely enough, save for a few sour notes here and there, and just when it seemed as if ‘Gotham’ had taken the character out of rotation for some much-needed development, the writers slap her right back into the narrative with some freshly audience-frustrating face-palm. I swear, the under-servicing of Barbara Kean is the vengeful spirit of Skyler White complaints given physical form.

I’m doing my best to give ‘Gotham’ the benefit of the doubt these days, as episodes like “Penguin’s Umbrella" definitely earned back a bit of credit for such a structurally-flawed series, even if campier hours like last week’s “The Mask” seem to stumble just as the show found its gait. To wit, most of “Harvey Dent” even found its mark, providing a nice balance of character interplay with Bat-lore and character action. At the very least, the different stories work well within their respective contexts, though stitching them together for a coherent hour is, as usual another matter entirely.

“Harvey Dent” doesn’t focus on the titular character as much as you might expect, despite Nicholas D’Agosto’s role providing the most directly-integrated Batman villain we’ve introduced since the Penguin himself. Still, Harvey’s brief scenes with Gordon offer a nice counterpoint to some of the more hopeless city officials we’ve seen in past episodes, with just enough charisma and moxie to suggest that their plan to bring the Waynes’ killer to justice may yet do some good for the city.

There’s a certain optimism there the series has often lacked, and now that Gordon has actual allies form like likes of Montoya and Allen, it’s nice to see ‘Gotham’ providing some tangible hope, even when the series’ ultimate premise suggests it will falter by the end. It certainly won’t win over any Batman skeptics to have Dent seemingly around Gordon’s age, and already crusading for the city while Bruce remains tucked behind Wayne library walls, but for now “Harvey Dent” gave a reasonably compelling introduction to the character.

And speaking of Bat-lore upsetting fans, tonight’s hour lent a bit more focus to Bruce’s palling around with the young Selina Kyle, a risky venture considering the show’s future, but something of a necessary evil for ‘Gotham’ to work. I’ve always been of the mind that Bruce’s inclusion in the series proved problematic from the start, but so long as two younger actors will be scurrying around the adult cast on their own adventures, they might as well interact at one point or another. The umbrella of Gordon’s investigation and Gotham City’s corruption at least offered a reasonable explanation for pairing the two together, and it was nice to see Bruce actually enjoying himself for a change, while both Selina and Bruce brought different, humanizing viewpoints to their feelings of isolation and abandonment. To date most all of David Mazouz’s strongest work as the future Batman has occurred opposite Sean Pertwee’s Alfred, and while their chemistry remains undeniable, “Harvey Dent” included an uplifting overall beat that saw Alfred realizing the value of Bruce having some actual fun with friends.

Thankfully, Selina was the only of Bruce's houseguests to offer kisses as a reward.

The main thrust of the hour proved somewhat weaker, as Gordon and Bullock pursued the jail-broken bomber Ian Hargrove, who himself wasn’t given much personality to speak of, but rather used as Fish’s pawn to cripple Carmine Falcone’s finances. About the last thing ‘Gotham’ should attempt with its campier tone is social commentary, and while the debate of Hargrove’s explosive tendencies landing closer to mental illness than criminal mentality ultimately clicked into place the opening of Arkham Asylum, I’d be wary of looking for sanity debates in ‘Gotham,’ contextually or otherwise. If nothing else, the opening of Arkham Asylum serves a larger purpose for the series itself, opening up the door for plenty of new players, and bringing us one step closer to a fully-formed Bat-world.

Bringing up the rear tonight was Penguin’s efforts to uncover Fish Mooney’s mole in Falcone’s operation, as while the character understandably needed to gather intelligence for his own purposes, the home-invasions and confrontation with Fish seemed largely to keep Robin Taylor in play another episode. Mind you, it’s a lot more fun to see Penguin scheming his nefarious ends (now complete with his own campy score) than cowering through the first run of episodes, though we might have preferred more time devoted to the episode’s titular character.

‘Gotham’ remains a mess, and will likely always be a mess, though “Harvey Dent” at least served as a strong reminder that the show’s individual elements can click with the right material, if not always dovetailing with one another as neatly. Harvey himself provides an intriguing new wrinkle to Jim’s battle to save Gotham, while Bruce and Selina had a strong chemistry that well-overcame any potential continuity headaches, though the largest issues with ‘Gotham’ remain its unwillingness to scrap weaker aspects. COUGH, Barbara, sweet merciful Zeus, BARBARA.

AND ANOTHER THING…

  • There was a character named Dick Lovecraft, a major player in Gotham, and potentially the Wayne murders. Dick Lovecraft.
  • Hey guys, the projector had one of Two-Face's faces in shadow! Get it? Because faces?
  • Does Gotham really have that many munitions factories?
  • Every bomb should have a detonator that plays "The Final Countdown."
  • Wasn't it adorable, to have Nygma actually given praise for his contributions tonight?
  • So, was Gordon trying to keep Bullock out of the look on his work with Harvey Dent, for fear of his partner's corruption?

Well, what say you? Did ‘Gotham’’s ninth episode “Harvey” help set the stage any further for Batman’s beginning? How do you think the prequel drama fared in its latest attempt at Batman lore? Give us your thoughts in the comments, and check back next week for our review of ‘Gotham’ episode 10, “Lovecraft” on FOX!