It’s been a little over a year since the full launch of DC’s dedicated streaming service, DC Universe, and while it hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing for the fledgling digital media provider, it has provided its base a catalog of interesting gems. DC Universe’s newest addition to that steadily expanding catalog – and their slate of in-house original programming – is Harley Quinn, an adult-oriented animated show starring The Big Bang Theory’s Kaley Cuoco as the titular character. And when I say adult-oriented, I mean ADULT-ORIENTED.
Episode 1, for instance – titled “Til Death Do Us Part” – starts off in particularly gruesome fashion, as Harley jumps aboard a private yacht full of well-to-do rich businessmen who love – ahem – “-REDACTED-ing over the poor.” She then proceeds to obliterate one man’s shin into a gory mess with her hammer while shouting expletives at the others, only for one of them to literally pull off their face to reveal he was actually Joker the whole time…wearing a dead-man’s face (which I guess, at this point, isn’t that out of the ordinary for The Clown Prince of Crime). Suffice it to say, you’ll want to make sure the little ones are tucked away in bed before firing this one up.
From here we’re presented with a variety of characters that will be familiar to most, but in an unfamiliar way. For example, most will know Commissioner Jim Gordon as Batman’s Gotham PD confidante who flips the switch to the Bat-Signal (a gross over-simplification, I know), but very few will be ready for the manic, sleep-deprived/ hungover Gordon that Harley Quinn gives them. Indeed, these changes may take some getting used to for a few viewers, but it’s all done for the sake of laughs and it works in spades.
Between the sheer absurdity of Arkham guards taking a flamethrower to a little boy’s gift to his father and Harley insinuating that Batman has sexual relations with bats, the humor never wears thin; and though it is a little jarring to hear Harley drop about a dozen f-bombs amongst a variety of other profanities in the span of five minutes, it’s easy enough to sink into it as the new norm. Indeed, it’s tempting to chalk up the scriptwriting as a tad sophomore-ish – something akin to a thirteen-year old who just saw Pulp Fiction and now REALLY loves to swear – but I think that’s selling the show short and ignoring that it’s ultimately presenting themes of abuse, self-care, and friendship with a large helping of crass humor to make it more palatable to a wider audience. For crying out loud, Harley’s costume transition alone is a metaphor for independence; there’s more going on in the show than just bad words. Yeah, it’s not subtle, but it’s not trying to be – it’s trying to obliterate your shin with a hammer.
Episode 1 of Harley Quinn is an extremely enjoyable watch, and I can’t wait to tune in every week to watch more misadventures from the aspiring “Queenpin of Gotham”.