For the many of us used to reading Batman’s comic book adventures every month, it’s easy to forget that Two-Face hasn’t always been a villain. For years, he served as one of Gotham City’s most successful public servants in his role as attorney general, driven by a determination to bring some justice to a legendarily corrupt city. It was here, at the pinnacle of his career, after one of his biggest successes, that he suffered the tragic accident that shepherded him down the road to villainy.
The exact details of what that accident is may change with each new attempt at bringing Harvey Dent’s life to the screen or page, but one thing consistently remains the same—before Harvey became one of Gotham’s most notorious criminals, he was one of its brightest stars.
For much of Gotham Knights, the alt-universe CW series that debuted earlier this year, this is the side of Harvey Dent we’ve seen. But as the show’s first season’s unspooled, we’ve gotten teases and occasional glimpses that things might not be all they seem when it comes to Harvey. Last week’s episode, “Dark Knight of the Soul,” marked a stark turning point, as for the first time Harvey was directly confronted with his darker, previously unknown persona. Yet, while the promise of Two-Face on Gotham Knights may be exciting to Bat-fans, it can’t be good for Turner Hayes and his team of falsely accused vigilantes. After all, Harvey Dent is the one adult in Gotham who believes they’re innocent.
To give us a sense of how things will be changing, we spoke with Misha Collins about what lies ahead for his character and the young knights he’s aligned himself with, as well as how much of Two-Face we can expect to see this season. He also makes his case for why Harvey’s still a better choice for mayor than Lincoln March, lets us know how his Two-Face will be different from those that have come before and reveals whether those Court of Owls masks are as creepy in person as they are on screen.
So far on Gotham Knights, we’ve gotten small hints that Harvey Dent’s famous alter ego may be emerging, but episode nine is the first one where we actually see him. Is getting to play Harvey villainous side something you’ve been looking forward to?
Yeah, absolutely. I’ve also been a little anxious about it, if I’m being honest. It seems like such a daunting prospect and something that I didn’t want to screw up. But it was super fun and really challenging, and I loved every minute of it.
I couldn’t imagine what it would feel like to discover you have this second personality that you have no knowledge or memory of. In playing this role, you must have thought a lot about that. How do you think it feels and how can we expect Harvey to react?
I think that Harvey was in a state of healthy denial for a long time. There were clues being planted and left for him along the way that perhaps he was doing things that he was unaware of—lapses in his memory where he was blacking out and not conscious of what happening. Rebecca March and some of the other little clues that he’s picked up along the way were breadcrumbs on a trail that was implying that maybe he wasn’t acting like himself during those lapses. The state of not knowing is clearly terrifying, but when he finally sees that recording from his alter ego, it’s like a confirmation of all of his worst fears. It’s like his whole world comes crashing down. I can tease that we’re going to get to see more of that and get to see more of Harvey confronting his alter ego, which is a very bizarre, but interesting conceit that we’ve figured out for the show.
The dynamic has gone back and forth a bit, but for the past several episodes, Harvey has been trying to help Turner and the Gotham Knights. He’s kind of the only adult in Gotham who believes them. How can we expect this new revelation to affect that?
This new revelation doesn’t impede that. Harvey still wants to help the Gotham Knights. He’s still carrying on with his pursuit of a broader goal of what he perceives to be justice, and just because he’s discovering that his own character is deeply flawed doesn’t mean that he doesn’t still want the best for Gotham and the Gotham Knights. But I will tell you that his relationship with the Gotham Knights becomes increasingly strained in the coming episodes, not because Harvey’s abandoning them or has a change of heart, but because in some respects they turn on him.
Will Harvey’s alter-ego be something that people like Turner discover fairly soon, or will Harvey be doing his best to keep it under his hat for as long as possible?
Harvey’s going to keep it under his hat for as long as possible, but at the same time, we’ll find Harvey in situations in the near future where he has to defend what he perceives to be his true character by explaining that he has this alter-ego. The actions that his alter-ego has taken are going to be coming to life, and he’s left with no choice but to try to explain the circumstance.
Harvey Dent is running for mayor against Lincoln March, and assuming there are no changes to the candidates, that means that the vote is a choice between a super-villain and a possible super-villain-to-be. Who do you vote for in an election like that?
I mean, the American electorate has been confronted with these problems for a long time now. I think it’s something that as an audience, we’re very well equipped to emphasize with. It’s a good point, though!
Do you still think Harvey’s the better choice?
Yes, I do. I do.
I’m also trying to create—and I think this is true for the showrunners and writers in general—we’re all trying to create a version of Two-Face, aka Harvey Dent’s alter-ego, that we can somehow emphasize with. He’s the animal instinct side of Harvey. He’s what would happen if you didn’t have the restraints of civility and decorum impacting your behaviors. This is what would happen. I think there are aspects of that which appeal to people. I mean, at least it’s honest, right? Maybe it means that he carries out acts of unchecked aggression at times, but generally speaking, what we’re going to see in this season is not unprovoked. There’s always a rationale for his actions.
We also recently learned—or at least seemed to—that Bruce Wayne may have been responsible for the death of Turner’s biological parents. I can imagine Turner’s going to be wrestling with this, but what about Harvey? Will it change what he thinks about Bruce? Or is this something Turner might not be sharing with him?
That’s not something that Harvey ends up wrestling with much in this season. Harvey has more pressing personal matters to deal with for the rest of the season. But the real question of what happened there and why is fodder for further exploration. We don’t really fully unpack it this season, but it gets continuously addressed coming up.
I think when most people who know these characters hear the name “Harvey Dent,” they immediately think of Two-Face. But you’ve been playing Harvey for most of the season and I think have given us a real sense of who he is outside of this other persona. Putting aside the whole Two-Face of it all, what do you think is Harvey’s best quality?
I think Harvey is possessed of real integrity. I think he really is trying to do the right thing and as we get to see the cracks emerge and get little glimpses of the character that we’ll come to know as Two-Face, we begin to understand that this Harvey Dent character, who really is driven by principle and integrity, is in opposition to that other side of his own psych. We really get to know Harvey and we get to feel sorry for him. We get to wish him well and we get to know that he is trying to do the right thing, so when his alter-ego emerges, it makes it all the more tragic because we know there’s a good guy locked inside there. It’s heartbreaking.
We’ll see how well that plays, but I think that’s how it will come across.
It’s interesting because Two-Face will become a real, emergent arch-villain on the show, but at the same time, we’ll understand how he got there and have this conflicted relationship with the character as an audience, wishing him some measure of success. So, it’s complicated.
Finally, I’m not sure what it is about those owl masks that are so creepy, but I’m curious, are they as eerie on set as they are on the screen? There’s just something about seeing everyone in them.
They are! They have this kind of ghostly quality to them. The features are kind of melted like a Salvador Dali painting, and to me, there’s something about those contours that genuinely, in an abstract sense, I find unnerving. There’s something about that sort of softened, melted-feature look of the masks that I find really haunting. There’s nothing that I can quite put a finger on to explain, but there’s something about them that’s really eerie.
Gotham Knights airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. (8 p.m. CT) on The CW.