Harvey Dent, or Two-Face, is one of the most iconic Batman villains (the top spot, obviously, going to the Joker). He had acid thrown in his face, scarring and disfiguring half of it. He has since taken a coin with a good side and a scarred side to make decisions. Is this a reference to gambling, since he is leaving everything to chance, or is it something more complex?
We have to remember that Harvey Dent used to be Gotham’s DA. He was tough, but fair, and worked tirelessly to make Gotham a safer place while attempting to rehabilitate criminals. He is the dream of a system that works. Civilization, order, and everything in its place were things that Dent was all about. That is, until the incident.
Ever since a defendant threw acid in his face and destroyed it, Harvey no longer possesses the orderly appearance a human. Half of his face is horribly disfigured and this change creeps inside his mind as well. He no longer relies on the system to make things right. In fact, he no longer believes in right and wrong. He comes to the conclusion that order and law are meaningless and that chaos and chance are all that is needed. Whenever he faces a dilemma, Two-Face reaches for his coin and chooses whether someone lives or dies.
There is still some semblance of order in him left, however. The setup of the coin toss and leaving everything to chance is somehow more systematic that the chaotic schemes of the Joker. If we look at Harvey’s coin toss as an IF statement, we can see that it is still him that sets the parameters of the situation. He decides on the decision that needs to be made. He represents the duality of human nature – good and evil, chaos and order.
Some villains are after money, while others pursue power or revenge. Harvey Dent hasn’t got a single motive to drive him – he’s got several, depending on what the coin tells him. He doesn’t do what he wants, nor does he pursue what he needs to do by some arbitrary rules. In fact, he doesn’t so much “do” as he “happens”. This is what makes him a complex character, even though his decision-making process is fairly simple.
Slave to the Result
Here is where the gambling part comes in. Two-Face is dependent on the coin. He will not and cannot make any decision without it. This is why it has become easier and easier for Batman to defeat him, by, for example, tossing a bunch of coins in the air, like in Batman Forever, or rigging the coin to land on the edge in TAS.
If, for whatever reason, the coin cannot give him the answer, Dent freezes. He is unable to function. This is one of the things that make Two-Face unreliable as a partner to other villains – he is as likely to kill as he is to save someone. He has a compulsion to abide by the outcome of an inanimate object in a game, like many gamblers. Anyone who has played games of chance will tell you that what happens is entirely out of your hands. In his hands, Lady Luck becomes the other side of the coin that is Justice.