6 Thoughts on the Second Season of Harley Quinn
Harley Quinn is the best DC animated series since Justice League Unlimited. That’s not hyperbole. I know people enjoy the deep bench of Young Justice, and I’m sure those non-BTAS cartoons have their fans, but none of them are the complete masterpiece that is Harley Quinn.
TV Rating: 10/10 – Fantastic!
I have loved this show from the first minutes of the first episode. Harley Quinn burst to life with sharp humor, hilarious violence and a chef’s kiss perfect use of raunch. I loved Season 1, and Season 2 is just as good, if not better. Even though the two seasons were written and produced back-to-back, Season 2 shows a clear confidence that raises this cartoon to new heights. This is a show unafraid to mess with the status quo, while also displaying a deep and loving adoration for all of DC canon.
It’s also a show that knows exactly the story it wants to tell and uses its time, its pacing and its writing to tell that story masterfully. Join me after the jump for my thoughts on the second season of Harley Quinn! Expect FULL SPOILERS for the entire show.
6. Holy cow, this is such a fun show!
I’m not even sure where to begin with Harley Quinn. I have nothing but praise. There are no drawbacks, no nitpicks, no complaints; every episode is gold, every joke worked for me, all of the characters are perfect, all of the voice acting is perfect, the storylines are fun and creative, the use of DC characters and canon is exhilarating. This is the best use of Space Cabbie in the history of Space Cabbie, and I know he was a character on those Justice League Action shorts that nobody remembers. This is the best use of Mr. Freeze since Batman: The Animated Series! Harley Quinn‘s Mr. Freeze episode was beautiful. This is the best use of Harley Quinn in any medium, better than she’s ever been. Kaley Cuoco is wonderful as her voice. She’s sharp, she’s witty, she’s vulnerable, she swears like a sailor; Cuoco has made the character her own.
This show is everything and has everything. Story arcs are planned out perfectly across multiple episodes, while each episode maintains is own unique focus. And no stories drag or stay for too long. The show keeps moving. Characters big and small get real development and everyone gets a moment to shine at one point or another. I know I’m not being critical, but I’m not claiming to be a TV critic. I review shows like this for their entertainment value, and Harley Quinn is one of the most purely entertaining programs of the past few years. Definitely one of the best cartoons of the past few years. And clearly one of the best things DC has done with one of their characters in a long time.
Forget the Snyder Cut. It’s going to suck. Watch all of Harley Quinn!
5. They did so good by Harley and Ivy!
I’ll admit I was a little bummed out in the first season when the show didn’t hook up Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy. I thought, for sure, that was the entire point! But they’d only teased it a little bit. Then I read an interview with the showrunners where they said right out that Harley/Ivy was indeed the point, but that they wanted to earn it within the show. The first season is all about Harley’s breakup with the Joker and her coming to terms with that, and it makes total sense that she wouldn’t just jump right into another relationship. It had to be earned with the character. And the show gave Ivy her own hang-ups as well. Both characters needed to learn from each other to be in a place where they could indeed fall in love and be in love…and season 2 made that happen in such touching fashion!
The relationship didn’t really kick in until the second half of season 2, but I feel it was handled wonderfully. It started small, then grew, and had a ton of fun-to-watch complications. It wasn’t magical or Disney-perfect. There were hurdles, both physical and emotional, that the two characters needed to overcome. It was a great storyline for Harley as she struggled with her feelings in light of Poison Ivy rejecting the idea of the two of them together. And it all led to a wonderful finale where Ivy was forced to deal with her emotions and finally accept that she was queer and in love with Harley. It was a nice, romantic ending.
And further interviews have revealed that, if we do get a third season, it will be all about the two of them as a couple and being a couple. None of that drama about ‘what’s going to break them up this episode’!
4. Finally, a show that is not afraid to change
So a couple weeks ago, I sat through the first season of Crossing Swords on Hulu. I hated it. I hated everything about Crossing Swords. It is a bad show. Do not watch it. Made by the team behind Robot Chicken (an all-time classic show), Crossing Swords gets wrong everything about raunchy comedy that Harley Quinn gets right. Crossing Swords thinks it has the wit and cleverness of Harley Quinn, but it fails on every level. Specifically, there came a moment in the season finale where I almost forgave it, but Crossing Swords did not have the balls to make lasting change. The writers set up the perfect opportunity to just flip over the table and prove they were making a show worth remembering. But they chickened out. They retreated to the status quo in a most predictable fashion and I lost the last, lingering thread of hope I had for Crossing Swords.
Harley Quinn has balls. Harley Quinn does not chicken out. And it is the most refreshing thing I’ve seen in superhero animation in forever. Harley Quinn isn’t just adapting classic comic book stories to animation and calling it a day. Harley Quinn is telling its own story, with real stakes, real consequences and monumental change. Season 1 seemingly ended with the death of the Joker and Gotham City in ruins! Season 2 does not let up, killing major comic characters, shaking up the core cast and delivering meaningful growth and change for its characters.
Batman never changes in any medium. Batman is the same at the start of the series to the end, be it cartoons or live action movies. But Harley Quinn, the character, can grow. Poison Ivy can grow. The freakin’ Joker can grow and change and take on new facets of himself we’ve never seen before!
This is part of the magic of the Harley Quinn cartoon. This show isn’t afraid to flip over the table and upend the status quo if that’s what the story calls for. Harley can learn from her past mistakes and make positive change going forward. Harley can straight up murder the Penguin. Harley and Ivy can fall in love and not be afraid to admit it. Dr. Psycho can quit the core crew and become the season’s Big Bad. It is so rare for cartoons to actually have real change.
Speaking of the Joker…
3. Joker ❤ Bethany!
I am on record as just not being a big fan of the Joker. I just don’t care about the character. I don’t actively dislike him, he’s just never appealed to me. But I understand he’s really popular, and is key to Harley Quinn’s character growth, so he’s got to be in the show — and I think they do a really great job with him! Alan Tudyk is pitch perfect as the voice, and I’ve never found the Joker funnier than on Harley Quinn. His little asides and word choices are phenomenal.
So it should go without saying that I absolutely loved his subplot with Bethany! The Joker loses his memory following the acid bath/explosion at the end of season 1. He reverts back to a normal-looking person and settles down with the single mom nurse who helped him, and they have several blissful months together! Then when he becomes the Joker again at the end of season 2, he thinks he’s above all of that…only to realize he was missing real, meaningful love in his life and he returns to Bethany! That is definitely a Joker we’ve never seen before, and one built on the foundations of the familiar Joker, who went through real, onscreen character development.
2. Kite Man, Hell Yeah!
This show had a lot of fun with Kite Man, that’s for darn sure! I am a big fan of the low level, silly comic book super-villains, and Kite Man is one of the silliest. I love when those types of comedic villains are taken with at least an ounce of seriousness. Tom King made this happen by using Kite Man as a sympathetic figure in his Batman comic book run — Hell, yeah! — and the Harley Quinn cartoon capitalized on that by making him a truly flawed and yet sympathetic character. They apparently wanted to contrast different types of toxic masculinity, from Dr. Psycho’s pure evil to one where a loser of a guy was super confidant in everything he had — and that was Kite Man. Then they hooked him up with Poison Ivy and he became more sympathetic. Then season 2 really drilled that home as Kite Man came to the hard but truthful realization that Ivy didn’t really want to marry him, and he had to make the decision to break it off, because she was putting up too many emotional blinders to do it herself. It’s a powerful moment for the character, and the show allowed him to bow out with some dignity intact. That’s classy. And it made the end of this journey so much sweeter.
1. How is this not a more popular show?
I don’t understand how people don’t love this show. How is it not more popular?! I realize it’s only available — for now — on the somewhat obscure DC Universe streaming service, so obviously it’s not easy to watch…but come on! Hunt it down! Find ways to watch it! Thankfully it might be moving to HBO Max, so that’s good news. I want more people to watch. I want this to become as popular as Batman: The Animated Series. Yet I keep seeing comments out there on the web where people don’t like this show. What do they want?! It’s hilarious, it’s violent, it’s sexy, it’s got a deep bench of DC characters, it’s got real stakes; do people just want straight forward animated comic book adaptations? Is that why all those DC animated movies are still being made?! Are people watching those instead?
Get your heads out of your butts, people! Harley Quinn is a cartoon masterpiece! And yes, I realize taste is subjective. But come on. This is perfection! Harley Quinn is as good as DC Comics entertainment gets.
Posted on July 1, 2020, in Batman, Cartoons, DC, Lists of Six!, Reviews, Television and tagged Clayface, Commissioner Gordon, Darkseid, DC Universe, Dr. Psycho, Harley Quinn, Joker, Kaley Cuoco, King Shark, Mr. Freeze, Penguin, Poison Ivy. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.