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With all the hustle and bustle of Thanksgiving and the Holiday Spending Spectacular over the weekend, you could be forgiven for having missed the new Harley Quinn show coming out. DC’s new animated series debuted on the DC Universe streaming service over the weekend. The weekly show features the titular Harley Quinn as she strikes out on her own after leaving the Joker. There will be some spoilers in this review, but it’s a 30 minute cartoon. Go watch it.
Backed by an amazing cast, Harley Quinn has already cemented itself as one of my new must-watch shows. (Move over The Mandalorian, you have company on Friday nights.) Like so many, I wasn’t certain about The Big Bang Theory’s Kaley Cuoco as Harley. I’ll go ahead and eat crow. She’s great. She’s a very different Harley and it works because they don’t treat her like the typical Quinn story.
While they do depict the abusive relationship that Harley is stuck in with the Joker, it’s not quite the Greek tragedy that Batman: The Animated Series depicted it as. Part of this is due to the show’s comedic nature and tone, but it’s also in how they handle the relationship. It feels more like your idiot best friend who won’t leave her bigger idiot of a boyfriend. Such is the struggle of Poison Ivy in the first episode.
Where others have failed…
I’m not going to spoil the entire episode, but there’s one part of the show I absolutely have to talk about. It addresses one of the biggest failings of every other attempt at Harley Quinn I can think of. It shows us that she was not just a good therapist, but a great one. We find out mid-way through the episode that the reason Poison Ivy is hell-bent on helping Harley is because Dr. Quinzel was her therapist at Arkham. And not just her therapist, Harleen actually was able to reach Ivy and help reform her.
This addresses two major things. First, it shows why Harley was considered a great therapist and would have gotten to even meet with the Joker. I’m sorry, but as great as Batman: The Animated Series was, it always drove me crazy that a first year therapist at Arkham was allowed to work with the Joker. But secondly, it also addresses the shift that we’ve seen in Poison Ivy’s character over the years. In her earlier stories, she was obsessed with ridding the world of humans so plants could take over. In more recent times, she’s described more as an activist that goes too far. This telling of Harley Quinn finally addresses that character shift, and I love it.
I need to address some of the other characters on this show. Diedrich Bader as the no-nonsense Batman is great. He plays the straight man to Jim Gordon, who is portrayed as an over-worked cop on the edge of insanity. Lake Bell is Poison Ivy and I swear to god she watched every season of Daria to prepare for the role. When I heard her, I thought of Daria’s friend Jane immediately. I’m really looking forward to future episodes as we get introduced to characters like Dr. Psycho and Killer Shark.
Lastly, I need to touch on the humor of the show. I think I laughed from the first scene to the last. The pace of the jokes is spot on, and it’s easy to miss a few on the first watch through. It also pays off to those who know the Batman lore. The bit about Calendar Man forgetting his son’s birthday was particularly amazing.
What’s really astonishing is for as much as I’ve said about the episode, there’s still a lot more I’d love to touch on. Alas, that will be for another day. Overall, I highly recommend Harley Quinn. Whether you’re a newer Batman fan, or a veteran, the show has something for you. It’s funny, has a great cast, and takes Harley in a fun new direction.
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