Harley Quinn, appeared for the first time in 1992, otherwise known as Dr. Harleen Frances Quinzel. According to the Batman ethos, she is a licensed psychotherapist who met Joker at Arkham Asylum. She thought she could cure him. Instead he corrupted her, making her one of the most popular villains in Batman’s Rogues Gallery. She was once the very symbol of abused schizophrenic codependent womanhood, but is now the exact opposite, thanks to her new show on the DC Universe platform.
It should be noted that Harley Quinn is an ADULT animated web series. Within the beginning three minutes of the first episode there were six f-bombs dropped by both Quinn and the Joker. I was a little shocked and thought it was just a little fan-fiction romp. However, the entire episode played out with no less than 20 f-bombs. It’s one of those things that even though I’m no genteel wall-flower, I found rather jarring. It is an animated program, after all. Yet, it’s one of those things that the show boasts. Harley Quinn is a liberated woman, and she can speak however the f#(% she wants.
Because I’m writing specifically about the Harley Quinn DC Universe television series I will now focus on that continuity which significantly diverges from the comic books and the Cinematic Universe. Take note that there is a 28 year history from which to draw upon and numerous writers, artists, and editors that have held their own unique visions of who and what Harley Quinn is as a character.
The show is written and executive produced by Justin Halpern, Patrick Schumacker, and Dean Lorey. Kaley Cuoco of Big Bang Theory fame voices the title character of Harley Quinn. Diedrich Bader of The Drew Carey Show voices Batman. Lake Bell of Boston Legal is Poison Ivy. Both she and Kaley have a constant rivalry over who gets to say the most F-bombs on a given episode.
Other principal actors include Alan Tudyk as Joker, Clayface, and Calendar Man. Jason Alexander is Sy Borgman (a Jewish cyborg in a wheelchair). Ron Funches as King Shark. Tony Hale is Dr. Psycho who utters the C-word at a woman, which is bleeped. Odd that that specific word is bleeped, but the F-word is not? Not really so odd when considering the tone of this show is to empower as opposed to subjugate. J. B. Smoove is hilarious as Frank the Plant.
The first episode is titled “‘Til Death Do Us Part.” Harley and Joker are attempting to rob a yacht full of affluent white people, when Batman foils their heist. Joker escapes expecting Harley to create a distraction, which she willingly does fully expecting the Joker to honor his promise that she will “NOT spend more than one night in jail.” A full year later, she is still anticipating that Joker will break her out of jail. He has just been busy with unanticipated complications.
Harley’s best friend is Poison Ivy and she tries to make Harley understand that the Joker is using her. He does not love her. When Ivy engineers a prison break, Harley refuses to leave because she fully expects Joker to plan his own breakout for her, and she doesn’t want Joker not to find her when he comes. Ivy knocks her out to make it easier to take her along. Under the influence of Ivy’s toxins, Quinn sees herself as the psychiatrist she was and diagnoses herself in a moment of epiphany.
When Ivy and Quinn enter Joker’s lair, it is with the intent of breaking up with Joker, but he manages to sweet-talk her into staying with him. It rapidly descends into an obnoxious PDA (Public Display of Affection.) Some time elapses where it is apparent that Harley and the Joker have moved in together. While in the throes of cohabitation bliss, The Riddler is mentioned in a news report, and the Joker is distracted from date night. Harley offers to kill the Riddler so that they can get back to uninterrupted, conjugal bliss. He concedes.
When Harley arrives at the Riddler’s lair, she arrives simultaneous to the Batman. They are both captured and asked to answer a riddle. Harley gives the correct answer before Batman. Joker gets invited to make a choice as to who will be dumped in a pool of acid. Even up to that point, Harley still believes that her Puddin’, the Joker will opt to free her and have Batman dropped in the vat of acid, but that is sadly not the case. Joker doesn’t want the Riddler to have the acclaim of having killed the Batman. So, of course, the Joker opts for Batman to be freed and Harley to be dropped into the acid.
This triggers a flashback of when the Joker supposedly offered her an engagement ring, but this is a subjective fantasy where Harley is misremembering the actual details of her engagement party, which was really just another ploy to kill Batman. Harley then remembers that she was meant to die along with Batman. Joker was just using her, like Poison Ivy has been telling her, and the realization is devastating.
Like many women after a break up, Harley changes her look. Gone is the clownish harlequin garb and hat. Now she is a long-haired blonde with dip-dyed ponytails: one pink, the other blue. She has a red and black halter-top with a black diamond on the red side and a red star on the black side. She’s wearing finger-less driving gloves: black on her right and red on her left. She’s wearing boy cut shorts that ride high: red and black sides opposite the respective sides of her halter and thigh high boots. She exudes sexuality, but she’s more than just a pretty face.
She enters Joker’s Hideout with her new look, and she tells him that they are broken up. She also communicates her intention of becoming the top super villain of Gotham by joining the Legion of Doom. Joker is unhappy and demonstrates his disdain by siccing his henchmen on her. He tells them to kill her. She proceeds to kick @$$ in a systematic and deliberate way. It is thrilling and astounding. When she has dispatched the henchmen, Joker lies at her feet. He asks, “Are you going to kill me?”
Quinn looks at Joker and says, “No! I’m not going to kill you. I want you to witness all of my achievement.” Not only is she smart, capable, and a lot nuts, she wants him to bear witness. That’s just episode one. There are 13 episodes for the first season, and another 13 episodes for season two that begins April 1st. The second season was ordered simultaneous to the first season so they’ve been ready waiting for the buzz to catch up to the viewing experience.
Harley Quinn has been received well. I think it’s pretty darn good. I saw all 13 episodes and I think the show is special even though I won’t say 5 Grey Geeks. I will give it 4 Grey Geeks for its ballsyness. It has female empowerment in various ways, but I won’t pretend to spoil your experience. Just so you know, the last shot for that episode is a shot of Harley walking away from Joker. I don’t believe it’s meant to be exploitative. I just think that this is one of the ways Harley is empowered, and we need to understand that. She can wear whatever the f#(% she wants.