CHECK : Harley Quinn – Seasons 1 & 2 (2019-2020)
When they started promoting the Harley Quinn cartoon series as part of the DC Universe app, I was not impressed. Animated adult series are hit or miss for me, because they often lean too much towards comedy for my taste. I didn’t like the animation style, but mostly, I don’t like this version of Harley Quinn they’re releasing. I never understood Harley’s desire to become an anti-heroine, because I expected her to get better once she got free of the Joker, a bad influence in her life. I really liked this character in Batman: Animated series. Too bad most movies and series are more interested in adding to it and making it crazier and less funny. I also don’t like the concept of Harley as a super-villain taking out another super-villain in the form of Poison Ivy. That said, Harley Quinn is another series I watch on HBO Max, and I’ve been trying to shake it up. Let’s see.
In Harley Quinn, the titular anti-heroine (Kaley Cuoco) tries to make her mark in Gotham City after breaking up with the Joker (Alan Tudyk). She recruits a team of other villains, including Dr. Psycho (Tony Hale), King Shark (Ron Funch) and Clayface (Alan Tudyk), to take on the Legion of Death. Along the way, Poison Ivy (Bell Lake) convinces Harley that she deserves better and to forget about the Joker and Legion. In the process, Harley falls in love with Ivy, but she is engaged to Kite Man (Matt Oberg). Through a series of misadventures, Harley kills several of Gotham’s greatest supervillains and plans the perfect bachelor party for Ivy. A series of encounters at a bachelor party forces Harley and Ivy to think about their future together.
You can cover a lot in two seasons of television, but I think the characters are the obvious starting point. This version of Harley isn’t as bad as Birds of Prey or Batman and Harley Quinn, but I don’t really like her. Although she is the one who ended their relationship, she spends most of the first season trying to get back together with the Joker and/or impress him. And as previously stated, when she finally beats the Joker, it falls back on Ivy. Harley Quinn draws her protagonist as a codependent person who cannot function healthily on her own. And it could have been good if the show had criticized that character flaw. But her romance with Ivy was supposed to be the solution and antithesis of the toxic and abusive relationship she shared with the Joker. I also don’t like the way things are going with Poison Ivy. I could see it coming from a mile away, but it still sucked. In season 1, Ivy gets into an affair with a minor villain named Kite Man. She doesn’t like him very much at first, but his charm and persistence eventually win her over and they start dating. In the second season, their relationship moves to the next stage: they get engaged and plan a wedding. The show uses things like Bunny Man’s status as a low-level villain and Harley’s unimpressed with him to show that he’s no match for Ivy. Yet he cares for Ivy, treats her well, and is interested in her friends and interests. Snake Man’s treatment of Ivy is diametrically opposed to the way the Joker saw Harley as a means to an end. Harley Quinn has a way of deciding that all male characters are sexist, stupid, ineffectual, or all of the above, and Castle Man just doesn’t deserve it. Why make such a character of me (and want him to end up with Ivy, as stupid as any affair with her) just to do this?
Time and time again, Kite Man proves that he’s willing to go beyond his nose to make things work with Ivy, and it seems that both parties benefit for a long time. When she stood up to her parents in episode 8 of season 2, Inner (Couple) Demons, I wanted to stand up and cheer. She was also very sweet when she encouraged him to ask him to marry her. I could see where it was going at the beginning of the first season, but I’m still frustrated. The series also turns characters like Bane (James Adomian) and Commissioner Gordon (Christopher Meloni) into drug addicts, while killing off key villains like Mr. Freeze (Alfred Molina) and Penguin (Wayne Knight). In the end, I enjoyed Bane’s comedic performance. Anyway, they’ve turned Gordon into a pathetic, raging alcoholic, and I can’t believe how many key players they’ve already killed. Season 2, Episode 4, Dewy Hearts, has good intentions and uses the love between Mr. Freeze and his wife Nora to show Harley that true love exists. But I don’t like the way this is going, sir. Kill Freeze and send his wife to the Nymphs. Is that supposed to be funny? It’s not a frozen heart.
But some of Harley Quinn’s characters work very well. I am saddened that the main characters have fared so, but it is important to give credit where credit is due. Batman (Diedrich Bader) was handled very well for the most part; I’m sure they knew this was a line they probably shouldn’t have crossed, and I’m glad they did. Season 2, Batman is Back, is one of my favorite episodes. They open the episode oddly with a couple of guys arguing over a show that is normally aired by women, but I liked the actual story of the episode. Like I said before, I like Bane too. He’s funny and one of the few characters that doesn’t drive me crazy. I also thought Dr. Psycho was hilarious, and the plot seems oddly realistic. Of course, it’s normal for villains to go on rampage, killing and maiming for fun. But God help them if they get fired for a bad word! I think it was a rare moment of genius for the show.
I like Clayface and Ivy’s plant too, Frank. King Shark is too goofy for my taste, but I don’t mind it that much. The character I’m most like is the Joker. I think Tudyk shines in this role, and he’s a great character half the time. But some of the conversations between him and Harley about things like sex were too much for me. I’m not sensitive to that sort of thing, but it doesn’t fit the characters. I never thought I’d see the Joker talking about sex, and I don’t like it. I also thought it was ridiculous that he fell in love in season 2 and went back to his single mother to rekindle his relationship with her. It’s the Joker! Unlike Harley, he is really quite cruel and incapable of love. There are aspects to her portrayal of Harley Quinn that are too hard to accept.
And that’s my biggest problem with Harley Quinn in general: Half of these characters don’t look good. I know it’s an adult sitcom, and as such, it’s alternate versions of the characters that don’t necessarily fit other shows. But it’s not for me. As for the animation, I don’t really like it anyway. Some details, like. B. Harley’s artificial blue eyes are distracting and intimidating, and the characters’ silhouettes are uninspired and unusual. I never thought I’d say this about Batman’s rogue characters, but it’s true. I also don’t care about the designs and personalities of the other characters that appear. Vanessa Marshall, however, gives a good vocal performance as Wonder Woman. She has also lent her voice to Young Justice magazine and to several cartoons shot in Washington DC.
Overall, I’m a little divided on Harley Quinn. Some of the characters and concepts in this series are really clever and the voice acting is impeccable. I don’t like the animation style though, even having seen it in action, and the main characters could use some work. It’s hard to say if this series is for you, because a lot of my reviews come down to what I think is believable for these characters. If you’re comfortable with that, I think you’ll get more out of it than I did.
Location – 3
Action – 10
Progression – 5
Production design – 5
Character development – 5
Overall, I’m a little divided on Harley Quinn. Some of the characters and concepts in this series are really clever and the voice acting is impeccable. I don’t like the animation style though, even having seen it in action, and the main characters could use some work.
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