The intention of the second season of “Harley Quinn” was trying to reveal the true colors of many of the characters. As much as the series is a fun romp, the existential progression of what these people are going through reflects the adult themes that track in the messiness of life. While the idea of what Poison Ivy is going through is understandable in terms of expectation, the truth of Harley’s better nature is what fuels the episode and the season. The aspect of who is good and who is bad is obviously circumspect. The villains are villains more often than not when it serves the needs of the story so the whole archetypal aspect is slightly a kilter in terms of motivation. The adjusted “Thelma & Louise” structure and motif actually plays out quite well and the ending of the episode, without giving anything away, is undeniably cinematic and inventive using different angles and technology not seen in most of the season.
Unlike the big battle sequences which sometimes can be vague, the conclusion here uses exactly what is being seen to push the story and, as a result, gives the ending a much more emotional push. Granted many of the textures are soapy to a point. Clayman’s integration into it is quite telling and funny but it too plays to a trope of what it is. Truth and consequence is a paradoxical progression in this series and especially within this final episode: “The Runaway Bridesmaid” because Harley always leaps before she looks which is something that Ivy has to embrace but is reluctant to do so. Many of the other characters are trying to find their center. Jim Gordon begins a path to more of the dark side but again the stories sometimes shift so much that besides Ivy and Harley and maybe Joker in the last few episodes, the texture of the endgame is unclear. This, of course, doesn’t make the characterizations any less entertaining in their necessity and layers. It is just with understanding where the story needs to end, it is has to have plot connectivity. The season does, for the most part end, strongly but there are jagged spots in an overall view. A bit of control permeates the chaos.
The evolving path of Harley Quinn requires a little bit of understanding in her ability to commit. Once she does no one can stop her. What is interesting in the evolution of the character throughout Season 2 is her ability to actually be seen as somewhat of a caring individual. It is hard to say if that is cohesive with other elements in the DC canon but this series like some before it (like “Batman Beyond”) color outside the lines in a very specific way in an attempt to access some greater truth, whether it be fanboy driven or not. With Episode 12: “Lovers Quarrel”, the progression is based off of Poison Ivy targeting Harley Quinn at the request of Darkseid through Mr. Psycho. it sounds complicated in a small way but it is really not in the better perception of the path being followed. Again Kite Man gets the shaft no matter what.
What is interesting is a throwback homage to Max Headroom in a way which points to a necessary MacGuffin to make the ending of the story work. It is a pretty weak connection and ploy but again having the Justice League stuck in a book for a while seems sort of out there as well. The issue, like with the Darkseid side story, is that when they (the real superheroes) come into play, the series tends to revert back to old tropes in certain ways. The big diversion though is the sardonic banter between the Superfriends is even more out there (because the censorship angle is not as much of a problem on streaming). One particular interlude between Batman and Wonder Woman is definitely interesting and speaks back to Justice League (the movie) in many ways. Harley again is at the center of this melee but there is a sense of brokenness in her.
What is great is that everyone seems to have an opinion. Watching Joker try to order dinner for his girlfriend while understanding Harley’s duality is interesting. It culminates in the final scene, which is both soapy, funny, almost too much fan service but also groundbreaking in certain ways. Again the normal progression is that the series is more meta than it has a right to be. With only one episode left in the season, the path has been forged both for an idea of something new but also a more intimate setting in a bigger world. Now if the creatives can find the balance between the two…though, in all reality, it is that off kilter approach that keeps each of the episodes interesting.
Going against her better nature always seems to get Harley Quinn into trouble but the nature of why she does things ultimately reflects back to why she doesn’t do them. Or maybe she is taking the easy way out in her dealings with life choices. In Episode 11 of Season 2: “The Fight Worth Fighting For”, the creators continue to dive into and perhaps deconstruct a lot of what Harley is while covering it up in a sense of frivolity. Quinn brings back Joker throwing him into a vat of acid at the end of the last episode, which felt more diabolical than it actually ends up being (again it is a cartoon). The id and personality breakdown of the Joker is an trigger movement which is a crucial way to look at it. What also works is the bookends of the show which gives it even more genre pinnings as it is done by a man eating plant. The simple irony of this with Ivy is simply awesome. Granted the idea of friends against friends is a trope of the superhero genre. Now the plot focus of this episode does involve a book but its actual relevance being the movement of one aspect of plot is circumspect as far as its importance.
What is fun to watch is Joker arguing against his own basic nature. What is seemingly lacking is the attraction that Harley previously had to him. it is simply gone. Some part of her is likely still fascinated by him yet Ivy blinds her in a certain way. Kite Man is just a dunce and too nice of a guys so he will be crushed eventually. Unlike earlier in the season, there is a bunch of unchecked emotions flying around these characters that would normally be more black and white in their tendencies instead of terminally gray. What is even more ironic is a realization of Joker that is completely antithetical to what he is thinking. And also one shot alone in the episode with some banter in a plane is too good to spoil because it would only happen in the animated world. As usual, the question becomes: where does the story go from here?
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.