The Psychological Breakdown of Harvey Dent -- Batman: The Telltale Series
I was watching playthroughs of Season One of what I hope to be a lengthy series, and found myself particularly fixated on Harvey Dent's characterization, whilst I feel that on a general sense the characterization in this game helps it be one of the most interesting interpretations and takes on the classic Batman fable in years, in case of Harvey's arc the game was at it's strongest. It really tapped into the circumstantial tragedy that gave each of the characters an emotional, sympathetic thread for the audience to pour themselves into that mirrors The Animated Series, of which I feel that component is owed a large part of the series' success to this day and is certainly at least a large part of why I'm the avid Batman fan I am today. I turned a little ramble and armchair psychology into a little analysis I figured readers and fans here might get a kick out of gleaming at, so here's for you.
The psychological breakdown of Harvey Dent: Batman The Telltale Series
Factors of the breakdown:
-Pressures of being the mayor/making decisions that have major ramifications, decisions that regard every single life in Gotham, of which Harvey is dedicated –or obsessed, with carrying the responsibility and later, control for. This is agitated heavily by the ongoing terrorist attacks carried out by the Children of Arkham, not only increasing stress on Harvey’s well-being, but increasing his stress on acting out his goal of making Gotham a safer place.
-Psychoactive-Nerve toxin’s unrestrained effects/Exacerbating pre-existing mental conditions to the point they are easily triggered/untenable by himself. Note that Bruce Wayne is one of fiction’s most will-capable characters in history, and a heavy dosage of this toxin at several points impairs his judgement and temperament beyond his immediate control. Note that unlike Harvey, Bruce has a more accepting and intimate relationship with his alter ego and it's negative aspects (e.g. violent and/or risk taking behaviors) – The Batman persona and henceforth a greater hold of his subconscious mind in general, and is still too heavily affected by the drug being in his system to make proper judgement calls without being nuanced by it.
-Pressures of The Children of Arkham’s impending next strike. This is a more predominant factor in Harvey’s mental breakdown if you spared him the fate of being physically scarred, regardless of physical bearings, Harvey is still very much scarred by the events of the mayoral debate in episode 2, despite giving you his best efforts at displaying confidence and an eagerness to get back into the swing of things when hospitalized. He exhibits survivor’s guilt at being the only one of three to make it off the debate stage in one piece, and also feelings that the very victory he’s dreamed of came at a tremendous cost, wasn’t earned in that he only won via default, and that he is not a hero for failing to save Hill and the moderator as well as needing to be saved. This further affects Harvey’s sense of fate and likely gave him the impression that he wasn’t meant to be a champion of the people as he had hoped to be. (“If I win like this, is this fate telling me I made the wrong decision in running?” is likely what Harvey is asking himself when you meet up with him as Bruce post-event) added with his increased paranoia of being attacked/watched suggests that he believes it’s only a matter of time before the same grisly fate he avoided before catches up with him.
-Repression of a mental condition, whose polarity (“Harvey” & “Two Face”) are brought into serious distortion and imbalance upon all of these events coming to a head—The suspicion/or knowledge of Bruce’s sleeping with Selina. At this point, Harvey’s fatalism, the drug’s influence, the weight and bearings of leading a massive populace through a grim & tremulous chapter, and the belief that at any moment, The Children of Arkham will strike again are all matters tightly gripped by Harvey’s ego at this point. His ID and superego are in a constant state of clash at the moral circumstance, his fragile ego teetering between balance and imbalance. The encounter with Bruce and Selina, two of the only people his positive personality hinge on for support, is the last straw.
-The feeling that his best friend and love interest betrayed him and furthermore, sentenced him to a fate he had no mental or emotional reserve to handle given the time, culminated in the bridge between his primitive urges (fear, Two Face, unbridled aggression against the opposition) and his conscious desire to do good (hope, Harvey Dent, mindfulness and moral compass) to collapse entirely as Harvey compensates for what was likely, years of pent up feelings and emotions as he had tried to control himself in order to be the positive political entity he had worked up to. The harder you work at creating this mental lock, the worse the feeling when it is broken. The realization or belief that he could no longer depend on others for love or friendship gave his ID all the fuel it needed to grab for control of Harvey in his moment of weakness. At this point, nothing is in control for Harvey, and his growing obsession with fatalism and using his coin as a means of making important decisions is his only manner of expressing this hopelessness.
-As Harvey lets go and Two-Face takes the wheel, only a portion of his superego remains, this time the script is flipped and Harvey is submerged in his primitive feelings and behaviors. The coin’s potential positive outcome is the only thing tethering him to adhering to any sort of moral inclination. It’s his only hope as he no longer feels he can decide anything, that if it was fate that brought him to this point, only fate can bring him out. If Bruce’s confrontation with Harvey during City of Lights is unsuccessful in salvaging Harvey’s persona by giving Two Face what he wants, to kill Wayne, Two Face completely shatters any remnant of Harvey with his cheating of the coin’s split outcome, using the “Head or Heart” scenario as a catalyst for his superego’s death. He feels he now may only be fortunate by taking, cheating, and making “his own luck”. While as if Bruce is successful in reaching out to Harvey by appealing to his true nature, the coin toss becomes Harvey’s only hope of ultimately, truly conquering his evil persona, using the toss to enable him to override his selfish ID, and kill both himself and Two-Face in one shot. In an amazing scene, Harvey’s side wins out by allowing destiny complete control over his fate, as opposed to personally grasping for any control he could out of the situation like before. In facing his fear of fate head on and willing himself to be utterly sacrificed by the coin, his Two-Face persona is taken back and subjugated once more. Unfortunately, the coin still drives his actions, which if thrown by Bruce, ends disastrously as Harvey has a literal and figurative fall from grace, however if pocketed, shows that his evil side can be trapped and controlled by his better nature if he exudes the effort. I also feel that pocketing the coin may lead to better things for Harvey, as it serves as a metaphor for Bruce saving him and taking Harvey's fate into account personally, as opposed to tossing it away for chaos to take final judgement over.
Thanks for reading. Hope you all have a wonderful day.
Harvey was really what made me enjoy this season all the way through. His character arc was extremely interesting, and that symbolism in the last scene with him in Episode 5 was a great end to it for season 1.
Great analysis; I agree that Harvey was a hugely interesting part of this Telltale series.
When Harvey & Bruce are at the press conference in episode 1, you have the opportunity to speak to the press about the state of mental illness treatment in Gotham in relation to Arkham Asylum and Bruce's parents' murder-- this is the first in a series of player-choices that focus on addressing mental illness in a progressive manner, most of them relating to how Bruce treats Harvey throughout the episodes. In the end, if you go to Gordon's press conference as Bruce, you can end on this same note by having him argue for a fully renovated Arkham Asylum to provide better care to the city's residents that will help to ameliorate some of the harm Bruce's father did with the facility.
The way you are able to support Harvey throughout the episodes, culminating (for me) in the pocketing of his coin, provided a poignant and hopeful narrative about mental illness. Despite Harvey's crimes, there is definite hope for his character by the end (depending on your choices).
In speaking of Harvey's psychology, I thought I might tack on this post I made about Bruce and Harvey's relationship (since the OP responded to that post favorably, before it was closed for violating a forum rule about shipping discussions) that hints at something more than friendship, and which I think is particularly interesting in light of what you've pointed out regarding Harv's breakdown, providing the context for a complicated and unique approach to the two character's relationship:
An excellent point and one the makes the symbolism go full circle, well stated
The fact that the mental struggle of illness is perpetuated with Harvey, someone who seeks to gain authority over the city and is slowly corrupted by his own mental instability, contrasts to the previous, corrupt authority roles of Hill, Thomas Wayne, and Carmine Falcone who all played a part in dismantling the moral fiber of the city by literally driving people insane. The fact that even inadvertently this process of corruption slowly begins to repeat itself in an inverted manner with Dent shows an interesting parallel between mental illness and the people who run society. Brings a new meaning to the term "The Inmates are Running The Asylum".
I also think that who you place funds in and support at the end of Season one (Arkham/GCPD) I think could play a bigger factor in our future interactions then we realize. Supporting Arkham after helping Harvey could set him in the position to successfully re-cooperate from his illness and become an ally once more, whilst extra pressure from the police might coerce Oz to be more Bat-friendly and cautious (could possibly work as an informant for Batman considering Oz always seems to respect Batman's intentions and method of handling things, even if they contrast with his own more volatile ways) if you put your focus on supporting the police squad.
It's a tough decision personally, because even though Harvey's issues are a constant struggle and he's constantly showing his good side in battling his bad side, the fact that Oz's flashback illustrate that his traumatic experiences broke him long ago make me feel for the poor wanker.
Seeing as this all correlates to the subject thread, I figure I might as well post my reply to that as well. I had a chat with the moderator who closed your thread, and he suggested making a thread to detail the prospect of homosexual undertones in the game as a means of further discussing the romantic prospect without treading territory of being a random ship appreciation thread. I'm currently putting the idea under consideration.
Here is my reply
If a court of law found Harvey not guilty by reason of insanity, it's possible he would gradually be rehabilitated. The "Pocket Coin" ending allows the most hope in terms of redemption, but there's no denying his political career is pretty much DOA.
I just wanted to chime in and share that I really enjoyed your thread topic. Your thoughts were expressed very well, and I agreed with every word. And this isn't to say anything negative about your original post, which was amazing, but to just complement some of your responses to various branching posts. This right here, for example:
I never thought of the situation as a parallel the way that is stated here. The comments about the corruptability of Harvey compared to past officials was definitely something that stuck out to me, but the related elements involving instability failed to cross my mind. It's very interesting to hear that be said, at least to me.
I'm personally not much of a shipper, but I wouldn't be opposed nor an advocate for a relationship between Bruce and Harvey. I feel that, in all honesty, it could be implemented well and could send a lot of messages that could prove enriching. Your comment detailing various undertones in Harvey and Bruce's relationship and what such a scenario would entail? Fantastically stated.
A discussion with Harvey typically prompts me to go on some variant of an appreciative tangent, but there is truly nothing for me to add. The build-up of Harvey's instability and successive plot of fighting against Harvey's fate was the highlight of this game for me. I always feel an urgency to rant about Harvey's role in the season, but there is no point now. You said it all! Bravo! Seriously.
Why Thank You so much! I've seen some of your posts and I can tell your passion for the character is avid like mine! I'm glad you enjoyed reading the post!
At least here in the U.K, to be found not guilty by reason of insanity requires the defendant doesn't understand what they've done.
One example of this being in effect is of a schizoid who broke into their neighbours flat and killed them. Despite two psychoanalysts agreeing that he was mentally unstable, he understood what had happened. Unfortunately for Harvey, that's the exact same. He did seem aware that what he'd done was wrong. He comes around after shooting the cop, and starts panicking. A very similar thing happened in the case R v Windle, where the defendant, Windle, said the following after smothering his wife -
"I suppose they'll hang me for this."
Because he understood that what he'd done could be punishable in a court of law, he was found guilty and executed by hanging.
Even if he was found not guilty by reason of insanity, that just means he'd have to be sent to a mental asylum (Unless he was found criminally insane because of diabetes - Yes, that's a real thing. A diabetic that doesn't take their insulin and then doesn't eat is criminally insane, here in the UK. I guess you could say the law on insanity is insane.) Even if they're eventually found well enough to be sane, that just means they get drafted into prisons. Again, an example of this is Peter Sutcliffe - better known as the Yorkshire Ripper. He claimed he heard the voice of God, which ordered him to kill the people he killed. He was found criminally insane, and sent to a mental asylum (I want to say Broadmoor?). In August, however, they found he was well enough to be integrated into prison, and he was sent to Frankland Prison.
Call me crazy, but in Guardian of Gotham, I got some serious "Sutcliffe" vibes from Harvey, when his second personality "Two-Face" was encouraging himself to murder innocent people, just to destroy Lady Arkham's drugs.
I suppose there's also the argument that the insanity defense can't just be used for anything. Harvey's actions were just too horrific for the defense to be fully applied, in my mind. He ordered the destruction of a city block, killing dozens of innocent people, and determinantly kills several innocent people at Wayne Manor. Insanity defense, while it's made out to be an airtight thing in the movies, only has about a 1% success rate. A judge and jury doesn't have to allow it. I really feel that any reasonable jury would still find him guilty. Especially if they, as citizens of Gotham, have any understanding of what Harvey/Two-Face did.
Technically speaking, Harvey does pass the M'Naughten test to ascertain criminal insanity, so you're kind of right there. But I really don't think any right minded judge would ever allow Harvey to walk the streets again. He'd probably be locked up in Arkham Asylum, or maybe Blackgate Prison, for the rest of his life. Call him what you want, a hero, a misunderstood villain, maybe even a man who's trying to deal with the crap hand he was dealt - but the fact remains, he killed innocent people. Lots of them. Defense of insanity won't save him from that, in my mind.
Because of all this, I feel being found "not guilty" by reason of insanity means the square root of diddly squat for poor Mr Dent. I don't believe it's different across the pond, but it may be!
Well I don't know about in real life or not but, as you pointed out, fictional law is hardly beholden to real statutes.
Although given the split personality, the real question isn't if Harvey understands what's happening is wrong or if his other personality does. Normal Harvey wasn't the one committing the crimes but the other personality and if normal Harvey knows it's wrong five seconds later that doesn't necessarily mean the one committing the acts is aware. If Bruce is willing to testify against Harvey (which I'm not positive he would) then not-burned Harvey saying he doesn't know why he did that and his other personality telling him not to be weak suggests he may know something of what he is doing is wrong (was he talking about the upcoming demolition? He didn't do that yet but he did have it planted) but there's only one witness for that. "This is what happens to people who cross me" also points to him knowing but then you also have him insisting he has no control over who lives or dies when he's the one pulling the trigger and pretty strong evidence he at least believes he can't make these decisions without flipping a coin.
A quick search shows New Jersey's standards aren't as strict as the rest of the country's but this is likely a case people haven't seen the likes of much if ever.
But, again, real life isn't necessarily the deciding factor. In the comics, Harvey has been cured several times and released and been fine for awhile (sometimes merely because someone gave the poor guy plastic surgery) and only had to go back to Arkham (with no question of him going to regular prison) once he snapped and started killing people again. If Harvey's reasonably functional and there's some plot reason to have him out of the asylum I can easily see him getting discharged in the future. Just probably not anytime soon.
Yeah, I'll admit I was mostly nitpicking for the sake of nitpicking there. Crikey, I'm a bad person.
That said, I do feel that Telltale will try and keep Harvey out of any future instalments. I truly believe that, even if we're going by fictional law - which would definitely be more entertaining! - the people of Gotham would be absolutely crazy to let Two-Face/Harvey walk the streets again. In New World Order, if Harvey didn't get singey-pooed, we hear him say that it's an underlying problem of his. That is, his issues with duality and not being in full control didn't just sprout after the Children of Arkham. As the topic creator eloquently put it, it's a combination of things happening that exacerbates his issues.
I think that Gordon probably wouldn't let Harvey out of prison for a long - long - time, if he had any say in it, given his feelings towards him in Guardian of Gotham during the scene in Crime Alley. At least, this is what I got when I went to confront Mayor Dent as Bruce, but it may be different if you go as Batman.
"I know, I know. The reports I'm hearing are... just awful. Dent's gone way, way too far. He's supposedly trying to stop the Children of Arkham, but now he's become a goddamn terrorist himself! A terrorist with half the city's support behind him. The amount of blood on his hands... he and Lady Arkham might be neck and neck on body count by this point."
I feel if Gordon were to give the go-ahead for Harvey to be released, it'd be going against this - in my opinion - turning point for him. Through Gordon, we start to see that people are fearing Harvey's methods (and rightfully so, but ho-hum). To have the people release him, after he's been described as a terrorist, would honestly baffle me.
But hey, I'm not going to pretend to be any more knowledgeable than anyone else. I'm just offering my two cents - or, rather pennies in my case, as I am from miserable old Britain.
Thanks for your reply, it was a great read \o/
Harvey truly was the saving grace of the entire season. He was the best ally and the best antagonist. I enjoyed all of my interactions with him, the voice actor did a phenomenal job "owning" the role. It was truly emotional trying to bargain with his good side and realizing that I had to take him down.
That is a damn good description you've done and I agree on all your points. Especially with the coin bit as I too had that same theory
No. It sounds like something out of a fanfic.
I still believe in Harvey Dent.
In any case, there is a hanging thread. Remember, Renee Montoya received a dosage as well. They seemed to have to dropped that one...for now, considering she has yet to have the same reaction (except going after the gas shipment herself).
Well we don't really know about the long-term effects of it (Bruce was still affected but this was only a few days later and Harvey didn't appear to have the same side-effects Bruce did but with him even if the drug wore off there's his issues the drug jumpstarted). Also she may have had a lower dose since she was some random who was supposed to kill one person then be done and Bruce was the only person Vicki still wanted to kill. Plus for all we know she was perfectly psychologically stable unlike both Bruce and Harvey so other than some guilt and recklessness perhaps she could cope with whatever side effects there were better.
At the end of the day, there's not much dividing a professional work and a fan's work. They both are fiction at heart, after all. I imagine many a writer who's made it to the big leagues started out testing their take on pre-existing worlds such as Batman, before they ever received a check for it. And sure, I understand that projecting homosexuality onto character's that may not have always been defined that way could be seen as a bit of a leap, but considering the potential for working it into a dynamic that could help convey themes correlating to the characters, I can see this kind of idea being more than just a reach for broader demographics, though I don't personally see the fault in that, either.
I think that it still has effected her post-dosage (Her tailing of the Children of Arkham very well could've been an impulse play triggered by the drug's effects), however I think the more important factor separating Montoya from Harvey in this instance is that she has significantly less pressures on her life. Her choices don't decide the fate of an entire city, and she isn't the head target for the terrorist faction targeting the city either. Also, unlike both Bruce and Harvey, Montoya has no pre-existing mental issues that could come into play. At least none that's made apparent to us.
I would like to see it played out in season 2. Mainly involving the Joker. If Montoya does still have the drug in her then the pressure would be built on her when come against the Joker and what he does
Especially when you consider that The Joker is someone who goes out of their way to drive others, especially morally inclined others such as Montoya, to his level.
I definitely bought him turned crazy. All the pressure and the nerve toxin. I could see Harvey Dent crafting the Two-Face character and projecting his wrongdoings onto him.
What I never bought was his reliance on the coin, and I honestly believe he would have been a better villain without that aspect.
He has made countless decisions with a coin toss, we've even seen him do so.
Using a coin to determine who gets to live and die was believable, but collapsing and breaking down because he doesn't know where to shoot Wayne without his coin felt really out of place.
But my god, he was such a highlight of the season!
I just wanna see good old Harvey behind that beautiful unscarred face.
And his performance shines so much better when I have 2 saves going. 1 where I'm his bestie and another where I legit threw him under the bus every chance I got.
The differences vary from subtle to major, and it's fucking amazing.
I think that the growing reliance on the coin toss towards the end is intended to signal the utter collapse of Harvey's conflict solving skills as the pressure built up, causing him to exhibit more severe adverse effects. Right you confront him on the rooftop in Episode 4 he's either displaying nervousness that he made a mistake or reassuring himself that he made the right decision, both are indicators that Harvey's moral obligation to the city becomes distorted in that he begins to overthink everything he does to painful extents to compensate for impaired functionality. The fact that the scene in City of Lights is the view of his complete breakdown & or transformation into Two-Face utterly I believe shows that at this point, the warped overthinking, nuanced by primitive behaviors due to the drug, combined with what's left of Harvey's rapidly eroding moral centre pushing the knowledge what he's doing is deeply wrong through his subconscious (he holes up in Wayne mansion like he's ready for a last stand) narrowly destroyed his functional choice making ability entirely, simplifying everything to a black and white choice was the only thing his mind could afford to process. Hence why he feels extremely compulsive in using the coin to make all his choices for him at this point, it was the only thing he knew that could remove him from the pain of deciding between all the vast array of difficult choices in being an authority for a heavily populated city under extreme stress.
This carries to the evil persona taking over to such a heavy extent because it's the primitive ID --Two Face, that's causing Harvey to act primitively in the first place, it fully taking over causes the absolute destruction of Dent's decision making, moral, & social skills. All that exists consciously anymore is fate and where the coin, his guide to divination, lies in it. The coin decides if Wayne dies, or at least the coin decides how now that Dent is actively "rigging the vote" so to speak, either way Harvey needs to have his choice validated by fate. If Harvey doesn't know what the coin wants, what fate wants, he's helpless and unable to act. Subconsciously he still doesn't want to make the wrong decision, even if his conscious is so distorted it's unlikely that he'll ever make a morally correct decision again.
That should be a determined choice. Especially if you involve Harley Quinn