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Harley Quinn

Entry updated 20 February 2023. Tagged: TV.

US animated tv series (2019-current). DC Universe. Based on the character created by Paul Dini and Bruce Timm. Developed by Justin Halpern, Dean Lorey and Patrick Schumacker. Directors include Cecilia Aranovich, Vinton Heuck, Ben Jones and Juan Jose Meza-Leon. Writers include Jess Dweck, Justin Halpern, Dean Lorey and Patrick Schumacker. Voice cast includes Diedrich Bader, Lake Bell, Kaley Cuoco, Ron Funches, Tony Hale, Matt Oberg, Jim Rash, Alan Tudyk. 36 23-minute episodes. Colour.

After allowing Batman (Bader) to capture Harley Quinn (Cuoco) whilst he makes his escape, The Joker (Tudyk) promises to free her from Arkham Asylum (see Crime and Punishment) the very next day. A year later, she escapes only because of a Prison break by Poison Ivy (Bell). However, she is still in denial about their relationship: only when the Riddler (Rash) captures both Harley and Batman, giving Joker the choice of killing one and freeing the other, does the penny drop: The Joker not wanting The Riddler to get the credit for killing Batman!

Harley vows to replace The Joker as Gotham's top crime lord, but Ivy explains there's a glass ceiling for female Supervillains (see Feminism; Superheroes), reflected in Harley only being able to acquire henchmen no-one else wants. They include Doctor Psycho (Hale), who has major Telekinetic and other Psi Powers, but is ostracized by all – even being kicked out of the Legion of Doom – because of his use of the C-word when angry with women; Clayface (Tudyk), a ham actor who can Shapeshift into his roles, and King Shark (Funches), a giant geeky sharkman. As Harley's best friend, Poison Ivy also gets dragged into many adventures: aside from Batman, she is the only character within hailing distance of sanity.

The overarching plot concerns Harley's growth – reflected in stories about losing her dependency on The Joker; her team entering her mind (see Dream Hacking) to sort out (some of) her psychological hang-ups and the vitiating effect of joining the Legion of Doom on her character. The season ends with The Joker turning Gotham's trees into psychotic killing machines and – resenting their approving Harley's membership – forcibly disbanding the Legion of Doom. He then murders Ivy and, days later, captures Harley, throwing her into a chemical vat ... but, having been buried in the earth, a resurrected Ivy rises christ-like to save Harley. With Gotham in ruins, the Legion of Doom and the Justice League gone, Batman and the Joker seemingly dead (obviously, much salt was to be pinched here), and Ivy by her side, Harley is happy.

Season 2 sees Harley rendered unhappy by Ivy's engagement to nice but dull Kiteman (Oberg), though the finale closes with the wedding in ruins and a romantic kiss between Harley and Ivy. In between, Doctor Psycho makes his bid to become a front-line supervillain, the Justice League returns and Harley discovers the Joker alive but Amnesiac. Season 3 has Harley and Ivy as a couple, with the latter attempting to Terraform Gotham. Meanwhile a forthcoming biopic of his father reopens old wounds for Bruce Wayne, leading to a breakdown where he resurrects his parents (see Zombies); Harley enters his mind, finding the root of his trauma. By the end of the season, helped by her friendship with Batgirl, Harley finds herself behaving more as a hero than a villain.

Generous with the cuss words and extremely violent, this is a very funny, entertaining show, maintaining a high standard through all the seasons so far. The Humour enthusiastically embraces bad taste, with Satire, both social/Political and of the Clichés of the Superhero/supervillain genre. Many characters from the DC Extended Universe appear. The emotional focus is on the relationship between Harley and Ivy. Both are very likeable: despite her violent nature, Harley is genuinely shocked when innocent bystanders are killed by another criminal, while Ivy is miffed that trying to save the planet gets her tagged as a supervillain – she identifies as an Eco-terrorist (see Ecology). [SP]

see also: Gotham Girls.


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