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‘Harley Quinn’ Advanced Review

A little while ago, DC Universe sent out what may be, the funniest press email ever seen. In it, they announced that the press would be granted access to the entire first season for their upcoming series Harley Quinn. They also mentioned that, while they’re apparently not as funny as Flebag, they’re “objectively eligible for more Annie Awards,” and that reviewers should “SPOIL WHATEVER THE F**K [WE] WANT,” so that viewers may tune in to watch. With all that in mind, you can probably get an idea of the sheer absurdity Harley Quinn was aiming to have.

Since debuting in Batman: The Animated Series, Harley Quinn has gone on to become one of DC Comics’ most recognizable characters, starring in countless comics, and making her cinematic debut back in 2016 (with more to come). Now, as the DC Universe streaming service continues to find its footing in a sea of monster streamers, Gotham’s resident clown princess looks to make a mark of her own. With The Big Bang Theory’s Kaley Cuoco voicing the crazed villain, Harley Quinn stands out as the best series produced by DC Universe so far. Filled with crude humor, over-the-top violence, and an emotional story that’ll resonate with all, Harley Quinn succeeds in standing on its own, portraying the character in a fun, new, and exciting way.

Harley Quinn chronicles the adventures of our titular character following her separation from The Joker. Not wanting to play second fiddle any longer, Harley sets out on her own journey to rule the streets of Gotham and become a member of the Legion of Doom. To do so, she partners with Poison Ivy, striking up a blossoming friendship. She also puts together a crew, because what’s a good villain without a strong crew by their side? She enlists the help of Doctor Psycho, Clayface, and King Shark, as they fight their way through any and all who stand in their way. Not far behind them however, is a certain Bat of Gotham, always lurking in the shadows.

While Harley Quinn is front and centre in the series, it is her relationship with Poison Ivy that proves to be the strongest, and most entertaining part of the series. Following Harley’s escape from Arkham, Ivy takes Harley in, and becomes her guiding light, voice of reason, and de-facto protector from those who try to harm her. Harley becomes the most important thing in Ivy’s life, even if she doesn’t always realize it. The back-and-forth between Cuoco and Ivy actress Lake Bell is enthralling to watch, as the two have found such a unified and hilarious chemistry, bouncing off each other like the thoughts that continuously bounce in Harley’s head. Harley, and for that matter Ivy, have clearly never experienced the kind of love and admiration that they feel for each other. Both are in new environments when around one another and seeing them explore what it means to be a friend (yes, villains can have friends) makes for terrific storytelling.  

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This show would not have worked if it was restricted to the PG-13 rating. As many fans know, Harley Quinn, above all else, is a damaged person who carries scars with her everywhere she goes. Thanks to the adult animation, and the riskiness of its writers, Harley Quinn takes a deep dive into the mind of the woman formerly known as Harleen Quinzel. The series does not shy away from showcasing the psychological abuse that Harley has suffered throughout most of her life, revealing horrors that we never even knew existed. However, this is Harley’s story, and she’s here to let you know that she’s not asking for sympathy, nor did she ever want it. She’s the boss of her life, the one controlling the narrative, and is ready to start the healing process.

Now, even with the dark themes and more mature content, Harley Quinn is not above using crude humor, or dark jokes. And this show is funny. Like, really, really funny. There are moments where you’ll be holding your stomach for how hard you’ll be laughing, and it’s all thanks to the show’s brilliant roster of characters. Aside from Harley and Ivy, Harley’s crew is a riot to watch, with King Shark becoming, in my opinion, the series’ breakout character. Voiced by Ron Funches, King Shark has a soft spoken, almost adorable- like naivety to him, but the moment he smells blood, he becomes the vicious villain we all know and love.

Doctor Psycho, voiced by Tony Hale, is as misogynistic as ever, and his qualms with Harley and Ivy allow for a surprisingly enticing character arc. Alan Tudyk takes on the role of Clayface, as well as another that we’ll get to, and his bombastic persona as a wannabe actor is a blessing to the series. No matter how hard he tries, Clayface can never shy away from the spotlight, almost always screwing up the gang’s plans.

As I mentioned, Alan Tudyk voices a second character in Harley Quinn, and that is none other than The Joker. For this series, Tudyk portrays a mostly traditional take on the crown prince of crime, but his ego and need to be front and centre is what drives Harley away from him. While there may have been discussions about having the series feature both Harley and The Joker equally, creating something like a “versus” series, Harley Quinn makes the right decision in having Joker act as a secondary character, but also the main antagonist. There’s plenty of Joker in the series, but he never manages to steal the overall spotlight away from her. Tudyk is fantastic in the role, as he becomes yet another actor to take on The Joker and make it entirely their own.

Harley Quinn is a bombastic, exaggerated take on the DC Comics world, and I loved every minute of it. Kaley Cuoco shines as Harley, as does the rest of the cast. The animation is beautifully crafted, the action is tense, and the story is as emotional as ever. Despite Harley being a villain, this is her journey towards redemption. Not in the eyes of the law, but for herself, to become a powerful, independent, villain who wreaks havoc, her way. The series proves that you can strike a perfect balance of hilarity and mature themes and hits every mark after that. This is Harley’s world now, and we’re just living in it.

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