This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the movie being covered here wouldn’t exist.
Harley Quinn (the consistently excellent Kaley Cuoco) may be a good guy, but she is still Gotham City’s biggest baddie. In Season 3 of Harley Quinn, the killer clown queen finally accepts that the villain role no longer suits her after saving Gotham City from a hoard of plant-based zombies. Instead of escaping Arkham Asylum for the umptieth time or robbing banks, Harley joins the Bat-family as their newest member. At the same time, Bruce Wayne (Diedrich Bader) is serving time in prison for endangerment and tax evasion, and Poison Ivy (Lake Bell) fully embraces the villain lifestyle.
Returning for its fourth season, the satirical animated series Harley Quinn remains remarkably fresh by continuing to balance superhero and supervillain hijinks with universal themes such as work-life balance and personal growth. Though Harley has fully evolved past her days as Joker’s girlfriend, she must gain her teammate’s trust while maintaining her romantic relationship with Ivy.
Like in previous seasons of Harley Quinn, Harley has a lot to overcome as she transitions into a new phase of her life. Considering that Harley is the former girlfriend of the Joker (Alan Tudyk) and a successful independent villainess in her own right, it makes sense that some of her co-workers, particularly Nightwing (Harvey Guillén) and Robin (Jacob Tremblay), are suspicious of the former criminal. Sure, Harley quickly figures out who is murdering social media influencers in Episode 1’s “Gotham’s Hottest Hotties.” However, her penchant for murder and mayhem does not quite align with her team’s no-killing rule. To gain the Bat-family’s respect, Harley must deny certain aspects of herself that made her a formidable villain.
While Harley navigates the intricacies of being a superhero, Ivy struggles to adapt as the first female C.E.O of the Legion of Doom. Although the supervillain finally has the big office she always wanted, she must manage a team of sexist men who do not wish to have a capable woman in charge. Initially, Ivy tries to win her male cohorts’ respect by portraying herself as “the cool boss,” yet she soon realizes that her underlings will only see her as Lex Luthor’s answer to “the woke mob.” Thankfully, Nora, Mr. Freeze’s widow, convinces Ivy that the only way to gain her employee’s respect is to demand it. After all, Ivy is a villain. She should not have to ask her minions nicely to listen to her because she is a woman.
This season of Harley Quinn is the equivalent of an old blood-stained sweater. It is familiar but still has a wicked edge. Some of the jokes are cringy and trite, like when the Legion of Doom male members switch Ivy’s costume with a bikini. However, there are still plenty of comedic scenes that shine. One moment that stands out is when Alfred (Tom Hollander), the Bat-family’s butler, teaches Harley how to solve crimes in Episode 2’s “B.I.T.C.H.” During the scene, Alfred patiently tells Harley that the best way to analyze a situation is to utilize the B.I.T.C.H method, which is short for “Breathe, Identify the Problem, Tea Break, Consider Your Options, Handle It.” It is a highly entertaining scene highlighting Alfred’s persona as Batman’s right-hand man and is an excellent callback to The Karate Kid.
Harley Quinn’s satirical take on the superhero genre continues to be engaging, albeit with minor quibbles. Yet, what keeps the adult animated series grounded is Harley and Ivy’s evolving relationship. In this season, their courtship is put to the test as they try to adjust to their new normal. The power couple tries to make their relationship work by creating clear boundaries between their work and lives, like when Harley creates a civilian alter ego named “Hargret” to hang out with Ivy in Las Vegas. Yet, their relationship gets messy when Talia al Ghul (Aline Elasmar), Ivy’s new friend and girl boss aspiration, takes over Wayne Enterprises. It is one thing to accept a job that takes time away from your partner, but it is another thing when that job contradicts the other’s goals. So, it will be interesting to see how Harley and Ivy will make their union work.
It took decades for DC to give Harley her solo adventure on the small screen, so seeing her series have a lasting impact on her fans is lovely. Of course, it is nearly impossible for Season 4 to recapture that magical moment when Harley left Joker for good. Nevertheless, if you are looking for something that solidly makes fun of the superhero genre while exploring what it means to grow and start over, Harley Quinn still delivers.
Feature image courtesy of Max
Harley Quinn Mid Season 4 - 8/10