I don’t think people quite realize all that is going on in this one scene. There’s a lot that happens in this one scene, that makes it so powerful. First off, Bruce Wayne is in love with Rachel Dawes, who is currently dating Harvey Dent. Rachel promised him that if the day came that Gotham no longer needed Batman they would be together, and it was that hope that Bruce held on to. Of course, that hope died with her, and of course The Joker was to blame, but there’s more that the Joker did with this, that psychological heart breaking touch that The Joker has to add to his crimes, the “punchline” as he calls it. Rachel and Harvey were both taken to warehouses tied to chairs, surrounded by barrels of gas ready to blow up, with a phone to talk to each other on. As Rachel says to Harvey, only one of them will make it. Keep in mind that Rachel knows Batman’s secret identity, while Harvey does not. Harvey believes that Batman will save him, as he is Gotham’s white knight and the best chance the city has in ridding itself of crime and evil. Rachel however, believes that Batman will save her (and is quite right) because he is in love with her. When Batman saves Harvey instead, it devastates her. You can see it in her face just before she dies. The man who loved her chose to save Gotham City’s white knight instead of her.
For Harvey, Batman did exactly what he believed he would do, which also devastates him. As soon as he sees Batman he beings shouting, “NO NOT ME!!” having wanted Batman to save Rachel instead. This is ultimately what breaks him. Everything Harvey stood for, everything he did for Gotham City, and yet he’s the one who loses his everything. It was a sick joke on him, a sick joke that led to him turning to the one thing that made sense, the one thing that was fair, chance. Of course, as Rachel tried to say, someone else could’ve come and saved her, which they did try, but, only Batman was capable of saving her.
Of course The Joker knew this, and so to make it even worse for the Bat he switched the addresses on purpose, knowing he’d go after where he believed Rachel was. This is evidence of something else as well, that The Joker knows who Batman really is. When Batman is interrogating him The Joker says “You know for a while there, I thought you really were Dent. The way you threw yourself after her.” which is almost his way of saying “I figured it out.” It has been hypothesized many times that The Joker knows Batman is Bruce Wayne. In fact, in Batman RIP The Joker even sees Batman’s face. However, he acts like he thinks nothing of it. It is believed that The Joker knows Batman is Bruce Wayne, but simply doesn’t care, as he knows that Batman is the real man, and Bruce Wayne the mask.
I firmly believe that in The Dark Knight the Joker figures out Batman’s secret identity and knows what will happen if he kidnaps Rachel and Harvey and then switches the addresses on purpose. Rachel dies believing that Bruce more or less chose to let her die in favor of saving Harvey. Harvey loses the love of his life believing it was because of his “importance” in the fight against crime in Gotham. Bruce loses the love of his life believing the lie that she was going to be with him when he retired. Total mental and emotional destruction and the ruination of lives. Classic Joker and villainy at its finest.
The Dark Knight (2008) directed by Christopher Nolan.
He’s the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now. So we’ll hunt him. Because he can take it. Because he’s not our hero. He’s a silent guardian, a watchful protector. A dark knight.
Every story needs a villain.
Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight