Has any DC Comics character been hyped so much in the past year as Harley Quinn? I don’t think so. Ol’ Harl has been headlining her own solo series, a new Suicide Squad book and more mini-series and specials than you can shake a bat at. Not to mention a certain fantabulous film staring Miss Margot Robbie as the Clown Princess of Crime. Yet for all that Harley has been in the public eye in 2020, I don’t think anything quite captures the anarchic spirit of the character as well as her new animated series on DC Universe.
Here’s the breakdown for those of you who missed season 1. Dr. Harleen Quinzel (Kaley Cuoco) was seduced into a life of crime by The Joker (Alan Tudyk) but eventually realized, after the better part of the year in Arkham Asylum, that he was not coming to rescue her. This led to Harley asserting her independence, dumping her buffoonish beau and striking out to prove she could beat him at his own game and become a supervillain in her own right.
As season 2 opens, Gotham City has fallen into utter anarchy as a result of Harley and her former patient turned best friend Poison Ivy (Lake Bell) destroying Joker’s base of operations while The Joker and Batman were still inside it. The resulting devastation was such that the federal government declared Gotham City beyond salvation and the supervillains who survived Joker’s purging the Legion of Doom began fighting over turf. However, they eventually decide that their organized crime was better… well, organized, and planned to divide the city up into territories they can each rule as they see fit. This brings them into conflict with Harley, who wants to Keep Gotham Weird,because she likes the chaos that allows her to drive around in a hyena-drawn chariot made from an old bumper car without comment.
Dedicated Bat-fans will recognize this as being loosely based on No Man’s Land; a 1999 storyline set across the entire Batman family of comics for one year, in real time. (Perhaps not coincidentally, this was same storyline where Harley made the jump from the Batman cartoons to the comics.) The difference is that this time the whole disaster is being played for laughs, with a clearly too-short-to-be-Batman Damian Wayne attempting to assume his father’s mantel (growly voice and all) and Commissioner Jim Gordon fighting to keep what remains of the police department up and running… until he’s reduced to driving around the wasteland with the Bat-signal in the back of his truck. Another nod to No Man’s Land seems planned for the season to come, as the trailers have promised that where Batman has fallen a Batgirl will rise – but this time it will be Barbara Gordon rather than Huntress in a Batgirl costume or Cassandra Cain.
Nods to the comics aside, this episode is darkly hilarious and incredibly bloody, which is par for the course for this show. What’s surprising, however, is that they kill off a fairly major villain in this first episode. This suggests that nobody is safe in the season to come and the only thing we can expect is the unexpected. That and a lot more great voice acting.
Kaley Cuoco is an acquired taste as Harley Quinn and I know many purists who prefer a squeaky voiced Harley with a nasal Brooklyn accent. Still, I find her to be an admirable Harley and she did put the accent on when she was in “kissing up to Puddin'” mode. Lake Bell is a gloriously deadpan Poison Ivy, who regards most of the events of the episode with bemusement or indifference and few emotions beyond muted disgust and muted approval.
Even the minor roles have great actors behind them with Wayne Knight (Newman from Seinfeld) as The Penguin and Alfred Molina (Doctor Octopus in Spider-Man 2) as Mr. Freeze. And don’t worry Bane fans – he’s back and still mumbling into his mask like he was last year. It’s doubtful he’ll prove to be Harley’s reckoning, but it will be fun watching them all clash.
New Gotham will be available to stream on April 3rd, 2020!
Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.