Of all the many characters in the DC universe, Harley Quinn is one of my favorites. From her origins in the Batman Animated Series to her years of hijinx with the Joker and adventures with Poison Ivy, she has never failed to capture my interest. This is why I was elated to hear that DC was making a whole new show dedicated to her: Harley Quinn.
The show opens up with Harley and the Joker on their usual antics before Batman shows up. We can already see that Joker is terrible to Harley. He is constantly sexist and condescending to Harley during the encounter, and he leaves her behind so he can escape. Because of this, Harley goes to prison for a year, and, despite his promise, the Joker never comes to rescue her. In prison, Harley acquaints herself with Poison Ivy. Despite Ivy’s best efforts, Harley never realizes that the Joker doesn’t love her and won’t come to save her. After Harley and Ivy escape, Ivy orchestrates an event that finally makes Harley realize that the Joker doesn’t care about her and she finally breaks up with him.
The rest of the first season is centered around Harley trying to make a name for herself in the supervillain world. Along the way, Harley develops her friendship with Ivy, makes new friends in her search for a crew, and slowly but surely recovers from the years of abuse Joker put her through.
One of my very favorite parts of Harley Quinn is how it uses satire. No one is safe in this show. If you have a name, face, and are a pre-existing character, you are going to get mocked, ridiculed, and maybe even bamboozled. But the most fascinating part is that even though the characters are heavily satirized, they are still recognizable from the comics. I’m going to go through 2 example characters, Harley Quinn and Batman.
Harley in the comics and show has gone through a lot of changes in her 29-year run. She went from an expert psychiatrist, to the Joker's girlfriend, to the murder (and Poison Ivy) loving “hero” she is now.
In Harley Quinn, she has all of her best parts combined. She’s a murder-happy anti-hero who loves breaking some shins, and she kicked the Joker’s butt for being an abusive jerk. She’s still a genius in the field of mental health, and she uses this to help herself and others. Even throughout all of that, she is still a person who genuinely cares for her friends and the people around her.
Harley Quinn is probably the least satirized in the show, mostly because she’s the main character, but partly because Harley Quinn as a character is so often exceedingly absurd that satirizing her can be difficult — even considering that no one is safe. In the show, Harley is very extra, to say the least. Harley’s “kill first, ask questions later” mentality is turned up to the 11, and that can often get her into trouble. An example of this, and one of my favorite moments in the show, is her encounter with Mr. Freeze.
For context, Mr. Freeze does what he does because his wife has a deadly and incredibly rare disease and he is searching for the cure. To prevent his wife Nora from dying, while he searches, she is cryogenically frozen. When Harley hears about this, she believes that Nora is actually frozen against her own will and isn’t sick at all. Despite everyone’s objections, Harley decides she has to save Nora. When Harley succeeds, Mr. Freeze has to sacrifice himself to save his wife.
Harley in this show is expertly written. It always feels like she has natural motivations for what she does, but her actions don’t escape consequences. Most of all, she is hilarious and always a joy to see on the screen.
What needs to be said about Batman that hasn’t already been said? He’s one of the most, if not the most, popular characters to ever come from comics, and he has had nine movies all to himself. But for those who don’t already know, Bruce Wayne’s (Batman’s) parents were murdered in front of him when he was the ripe old age of eight. On that day, he vowed to make sure that no other child ever has to experience what he had. After twenty years of training, Bruce becomes the crime-fighting vigilante that uses fear as a weapon and refuses to kill: Batman.
In the show, Batman is a himbo. A himbo, for those who don’t know, is a buff, somewhat stupid guy who respects women (think Kronk from the Emperor’s New Groove). Batman surely fulfills the buff requirement, being a vigilante that is trained in every form of martial arts, but how could he be stupid? Batman is often considered to be one of the smartest men in the D.C. universe. Don’t fear, Batman in the show is still his usual detective self, but now there’s an extra element added to the equation. Batman lacks emotional intelligence, which leads to some delightfully hilarious moments in the show. Now the big question is, does Batman respect women? This question is difficult to answer because we don’t see Batman in a lot of situations in which he’s had a chance to be respectful or disrespectful towards women, but there is one area in which his respect for women is evident. In the show, Batman seems to genuinely care about Harley’s well-being in key moments, especially when it comes to getting out of her toxic relationship with the Joker
Harley Quinn has come in very strong with its first two seasons, racking up awards and nominations. Most of the awards are from no-names like IGN, but one of them really stands out: the award for My Favorite Show of 2021 from the reputable source of My Mind. I love this show, and I can’t wait for season three!