The start of what I hope is a whole new wave of animation from DC.
What They Say:
Harley set’s off to rule Gotham City and separate herself from being known as “Joker’s Girlfriend”
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After all these years of Harley Quinn, a still relatively new addition to the DC world from the 90s and one of the few that has lasted, it’s a real hit or miss character for me. I’ve enjoyed the way that the comics have grown her relationship so that the toxicity is out but that means when going to almost any other medium, the creative there wants to step back into the Joker/Harley dynamic and do their own moving past thing, if at all. That’s just like redoing an origin story that gets tiring or going back to a version of the character that has had this event dealt with so many times that it’s just very wearying.
With Kaley Cuoco having taken on the lead role here for this new animated series, I think she fits in well and have enjoyed what promos we’ve had so far. Changing it up from other recent animated works and live-action helps because this is definitely in the R-rated realm with the violence and swearing, providing a new approach definitely works for me. And we also get from the start that this intense Joker is just that, going right past the edge with glee and then running a mile. The opening pre-credits goes through the Joker tearing off a human face mask, melting people with acid, flamethrowers melting people, it’s all just much more intense than what we’ve seen before, even in comics to some degree while playing with the comedic angle. And even amid this, Harley’s getting tired of being upstaged and abandoned in the face of Batman and the knowledge that she’ll not get anywhere while being just a sidekick. So much of this was the main setup from the promos but they bang through it hard and fast.
What helps foster this break more is that while she thinks that he’ll break her out within a day, it’s six months and there’s been no sign of him. She’s still waiting for her Mister J to come but I like that it’s Poison Ivy that’s spending the most time with her, trying to get her to realize that she’s been abandoned here. It fits with Ivy going back quite a ways as she’s always been more of a solo player but I also really enjoy the relationship that these two have had in various comics over the years. The months spent in Arkham are a delight to watch as everyone is on the same page except Harley in that the Joker isn’t coming and they’re all exhausted by her pining. Having Ivy be the one that breaks her out of there is cute as she’s got her own Little Shop of Horrors critter that watches over the place and is pretty disturbing on his own.
This show throws a ton of stuff at the viewer with a very busy series of events going on in the background as well. But it also knows how to slow things down right, such as when Harley converses with a picture of herself that reminds her of who she was pre-costume and what her relationship with the Joker is really like. And that has her taking control of things in a way that embarrasses the Joker and in order to save face, he hauls out plenty of lies as to why he never rescued her. The toxic male elements are red flags so big that’d they’ve cover the skyline. And poor Ivy is struggling to get her to realize this because of the hold that the Joker has on her even after all of this. Joker is simply all about himself and when a situation comes where he’s presented with a choice, you know it’s not going to go Harley’s way. The Riddler has both Harley and Batman hanging above vats of acid and he has to choose one to live and one to die. He can’t be without his main foil as Batman is the other side of him, so he has her dropped into the vat.
Can it be any clearer to her? It’s hard for her to see through all the lies that he’s been telling her and all the lies that she’s been telling herself as well. When we do get that toward the end and the realization finally settles in, she’s at that point to make the break. And that it was Ivy’s plan all along makes it all the better because she has a real concern for her – even if it’s the right kind of snark. This kind of opening episode was a given in that we’d get the old Harley and have her break through to the other side and that’s a been there and done that thing too many times for me already. But at the same time, this was done creatively enough – and fast enough – that it really does work well. I’m wary of how many times we’re going to see her emancipation, to provide a nod to the live-action film, but there’s also the reality that only animation can truly capture this kind of Harley.
Watching the evolution of DC Animation over the past decade has been a delight. Their animated works have been among the best for bringing the comics to life but as they did more and more with home video releases and better adaptations of comic storylines, the quality across the board improved. With this one being done outside of how that has gone, well, hell, I hope this group is able to expand on what they’re working on beyond just this show. Yeah, it’s rude and crude, it plays up its sexiness just right, and it may mistake dropping swears for coolness. But when you can have Harley standing next to Batman talking about how his thing must be fucking bats, you’re going to fucking laugh.
Streamed By: DC Universe