The amount of psychological upheaval in Harley Quinn’s head heading into Epsode 10: “Dye Hard” is a conundrum. The fact that some of the unused art which is featured as the main art in this review is not even featured in this episode is undeniable. It reflects the Id hiding below the surface of Harley. After being slighted by that which she loves, the instinct is just to go out and party and gloss it over. But in Harley’s case that will make it worse simply because the bartender she tries to avoid may or may not be a brainwashed Mr. J. She is trying to fight against her own baser nature. She doesn’t really want to be back with Mr. J but the path seemingly leads back to him whatever she does. Harley is not meant to have a nice happily ever after. This darker perception of Harley is a really neat texture of this series but one you could do not do in a big movie. They tried to do glimpses of it in “Birds Of Prey”. It is tricky to do as an animated series as well but the door seems open to do things alot more outside the box. The story room would be interesting to sit inside here to see where the balance of ideas comes from.
While there are odes to “Die Hard” for sure the inventive element is not the will they or won’t they but the questioning Harley has herself. Is this a schizophrenic journey of what it means for her to be happy. What is undeniable is that Poison Ivy is not anywhere in this episode though her presence is felt throughout. She is a sense of calm for Harley whereas Joker is chaos. Ivy makes her contemplative and crazy. Joker makes her insane and crazy. The paradox of the ending that plays back using the bigger cast of characters is a little contrived, especially since Psycho as a character is all over the place. Ultimately Gordon and Batman just becomes the sidekick humor that don’t help that much. It is like the writers saw alot of “Teen Titans Go” and decided to make a grown up version of two kids where one has real cool toys and the others does not while the girls are trying to figure out what is the issues are with their relationship. That is a simplification but an accurate reflection. “Harley Quinn” is many things but a simple animation endeavor it is not. The season continues as the pendulum continues to swing.
Whereas in the last episode “Inner [Para] Demons” Harley Quinn seemed to go off the rails in terms of trying to show a coping mechanism, the follow up episode “Bachelorette”[Episode 9], throws the pendulum back again. Season 2 is very much like that in “Harley Quinn”: trying to throw the viewer one way and then volleying back the other way. In “Bachelorette”, Harley is overcompensating again but it feels more real in a liberated way. She takes the Ivy bridal party which includes some interesting people who don’t really want to be there like Catwoman and Mr. Freeze’s girlfriend (Harley killed him in an episode earlier in the season) and puts them in a small space, one of these being a childhood friend from Ivy’s childhood who absolutely does not care. Harley tries to be as fun and inclusive as she can which is an interesting play of thoughts for someone who in the episode before wanted only to destroy. Harley Quinn does have some bi-polar issues but is obviously not being treated in any way so she is coping as best as she can whereas Ivy is finding balance (though she still likes to wreak havoc).
What the episode does brilliantly without shying away is showing the real attraction that Ivy and Harley feel towards each other. What is interesting is reaction and triggers. The irony is that Harley takes them to the Amazon island of Wonder Woman which is only women. In fact this place of purity of spirit has been corrupted since Wonder Woman in the age of the lost city of Gotham has left. It is like the mirror universe but not quite. But what Harley does to jump start the party opens the floodgates, both literally and figuratively but plays back to the ideal of who she really wants to be versus the same perspective of Ivy. It is an interesting conundrum, especially leading to the season finale in the next episode. This kind of depth would have been interesting addition to the “Birds Of Prey” movie though maybe mainstream audiences weren’t quite ready for it but in this context along with the other shenanigans, this narrative flow is dynamic though a little unbalanced in the overall season arc.
After the progression of the last episode, there seemed to be some darker treadings going on but “Harley Quinn” seems to try to move it back into balance with a expected but “true-to-form” aspect of Harley overcompensating with her feelings. The emotional reasoning, not that it needs to be there, is a little slapshot since it has to do in reflection with Commissioner Gordon, who himself tends to look over his inadequacies as well. It is only Barbara Gordon as Batgirl that seems to understand this imbalance of the two. Poison Ivy, for her part, seems to have a handle on what is going on but Harley seems much more disturbed by it for probably numerous reasons. The aspect in relating it back to her psychology background is pretty cool and diametric if the show ever tries to get fully into it. It tried to when it showed her initial treatment of Mr. J. The show does dip into the areas once in a while but not with more than a couple passing glances.
This episode: “Inner(Para)Demons” throws its day glo personifications at the wall bringing in the essence of Darkseid when Harley wants to bring the hurt to Gordon. To be honest, it takes the story to a different realm and over the top which the Justice League cartoons can do easily but it doesn’t add anything here. It just seems to muddle the issue a little bit when, in many ways, it is a very simple human story that doesn’t need the big set pieces, more just a texture of the tongue-in-cheek. Harley and Ivy sitting on the edge of the pier blowing up henchmen has a lot more paradoxes and depth than Harley wearing a cape and leading the spawn robots of the dead. The series should function more about Batgirl’s growing frustration of the shortcomings of both sides including that of Batman. Harley then becomes simply and effectively a cautionary tale. While many of the episodes moving towards this one showed a dexterity of thinking, this episode instead took it a little too far in terms of scope where the middle of the ground spoke more to the “reality” of the story per se.
“American Dad” can range in its perception of topics from the utterly metaphorical to the banal of dexterity. What is an interesting balance is that where it lies on the TBS cabler, allows it to push itself every so much more without going off the abstract deep end where many Adult Swim animated shows find themselves. Each arena has its own advantages, challenges, strengths, weaknesses and drawbacks. With an episode like “Brave N00b World”, what seems like a simply episode devolves or evolves into something much different, both dark and hopeful at the same time. Interestingly enough this is not a Roger thing. it is a journey of discovery between Stan and his son Steve. Interestingly enough in this current climate, Stan is taking Steve to a kiddie theme park he had promised to do 6 years before. Steve is too old now of course and makes it clear that Stan needs to pay more attention.
A call comes from work for Stan to join an E Games tournament at the request of the CIA where a North Korean dictator will be present for Stan to assassinate. “Overwatch” as a game is brought into play which is even more of a metaphor. There is almost a play to “Childhood’s End” but not quite. Patrick Stewart and an interesting guest voice cast lends themselves to the travails. However the aspect of intent and what Steve calls “Split Focus” in his father’s psyche comes to a head. And while Stan might have made a correct decision it takes things in a completely undeniable turn. In not giving away the ending, it simply because very deep while still operating in the right way on the surface including of all things an ice ream cone which in some ways leads back to the beginning. Considering a recent would-be discovery about the existence of the universe in different from, this episode is oddly prescient indeed but also gives a lot to think about.
The aspect of reflexivity especially in animation is an interesting portrayal of the Id. With “The Shivering Truth”, the episodes take this and shape it into abstract textures to relay an idea. Granted some of those stories portray almost a fascination with isolation and internal strife. In truth, most people most of these episodes after midnight but the ideas are sound in almost their Freudian mentality. In this episode, “Carrion My Son” our lead character simply wants to get something for himself but in doing so an establishment which he frequents in giving him what he wants in fact gives him the one thing he does not want. The reflection on this lad’s relationships seems to wither away as it becomes a sort of reverse Gulliver’s Travels with claws. Yet, in another tenet of Freud, the father’s sins beget the son’s in a certain way and yet there is no escape. Eventually the bastion of progression can be acceptance or simply an understanding. There essence of creation and destruction again plays readily here as if one and the same exists both in the character’s mind almost in his resistance to existence.
“JJ Villard’s Fairy Tales” takes on the aspect of the Goldilocks fairy tale. But the darkness, like those of Hansel & Gretel, almost combine in an almost body horror approach much like “The Thing” on acid or perhaps a more diametric vision in luridity of the style of “The Boy” from “Twilight Zone”. In the episode “The Goldilox Massacre” it is wolves, not bears with their sharp teeth and their chicanerous ways that seek to inflict harm on Goldilox. Goldliox roams through the hills as if lost in some world she knows no part of it (much like the original fairy tale). The metaphor of sorts here is the porridge and its representation as small little stick trolls are ground up for dinner. Whether it is the hyper active younger wolf or the gimp induced older brother, the almost Tom & Jerry extremeness to the nth degree of the animation takes it completely over the top. The creatures come apart and then back together again in gory fashion. When Goldilox shows up the progression of the beds, bathrooms, etc in the three levels of definition, how they act are undeniable but metaphorical in their meanings. Even the return home to Goldliox’s abode, which plays at the dynamics of a nuclear family against darkness, turns into a bloodbath. Yet in many ways no one is ever hurt. It is simply what is going on inside their head that manifests itself literally. This is many ways is perhaps the strangest perception of all.
The repression of “The Blacklist” timeline as with many shows during the pandemic can be tricky. Some like the Chicago shows had enough to structure how to play it out and then just left certain narratives in play for next season. “The Blacklist” maybe at times more than most is so dense on double crosses and plot lines that it can be hard to shift easily that way. The crew in NY was halfway through shooting this episode “The Kazanjian Brothers” when the shutdown hit. Whereas it is not the ideal progression, the production angled in a way to make the episode able to be finished. Although the animation is a bit crude, it was integrated on a timeline so the ability to make it work is undeniably admirable without losing too much of the style of what “The Blacklist” is. One would think that much of the dialogue had to be captured in home correctly which again is tricky. What the thought process falls to, which is an interesting construct, is that possibly the production already uses animatics in a much more base format to plan out an episode, much like people used to do with storyboards.
The trick is making it more cinematic. In some points it works and in others it is a little more crude but it is overall effective. The subtleties of acting sometimes cannot be nuanced in this kind of animation which is less than photo real. However stage direction and internal dialogue here is used sparingly but importantly. Even the use of shadows and especially two beats of music in this season finale episode (now) really gives it a style all its own. The reality is that half of the episode was shot already but, as with most series, the episode is shot out of order depending on location. It is interesting to see what coverage was done and what was not. Surprisingly enough, some of the more dynamic scenes had to be done in animation which added to its graphic novel style. This probably wet to the point of bigger set pieces needing more live action set up. Again, once it is all said and done, it will be lore in “The Blacklist” canon but changes the game up a little while understanding that the audience will roll with the times as long as the creatives are using the possibilities to their advantage especially on a shortened timeline.