Harley Quinn S01E01 “Til Death Us Do Part” review

Harley Quinn (DC Universe)

Harley Quinn debuts new episodes on Fridays via the DC Universe streaming platform in North America. International air dates are yet to be confirmed.

Synopsis

In the series premiere, Harley Quinn (Kaley Cuzco) is fed up being the Joker’s sidekick and strikes out on her own – determined to become the criminal Queenpin of Gotham City.

Review

If you told me a year ago (which I think we already knew, but you get the analogy) that we’d be getting an adult, animated Harley Quinn series I’d have emphatically said “bring it”. If, one year ago, you’d have told me that Kaley Cuoco from The Big Bang Theory would be executive producing and starring in it then my response might have been less emphatic.

But here we are, one episode under our belts and Harley Quinn is exactly the show that anyone could hope it to be. It’s loud and it’s crass but it’s also well animated and has a strong voice from the outset.

Give that the show has been in development for a number of years it should come as no surprise that characters are well designed, well formed and well written. But it does. This isn’t a throwaway, story-of-the-week adult comedy. There’s a narrative already in play from the opening scene which underpins the ethos of the series.

Underneath all of the bells and whistles the show is very much focussed on the characters striking out on her own. There’s a tale of a girl getting out from under the shadow of a man and becoming her own person. It might be violent and bloody but there’s a female empowerment story in there without a shadow of a doubt.

I admire Kuoco for not attempting a full on Harley Quinn impression with her voice. If you know Kaley from The Big Bang Theory then you know that hey voice is very distinctive. Certainly from this episode it would seem she understands the limitations of her voice and doesn’t try to push it too far.

Instead of becoming a caricature of other actresses versions of the character this is very much Kaley playing Harley and I really appreciate that amount of care which has gone in to the character.

Harley Quinn also features what is already shaping up to be an excellent supporting cast. This episode mainly features Alan Tudyk, Lake Bell and Diedrich Bader but all three hold their own in their respective roles.

Bader is entirely reprising his role from Batman: The Brave and The Bold here. There’s no swears from him. It’s just his Batman, if a little bit more grouchy perhaps.

Lake Bell shines as Poison Ivy. She has all the right characteristics in her voice and the character feels well written here. There’s an icy coldness to her delivery yet the characters heart shines through where it matters. The bond between Ivy and Harley comes across as very strong and the writers made the right choice is setting up the story of episode one to focus on that relationship.

There will no doubt be some naysayers unhappy that the two aren’t romantically involved. But given that Harley begins the episode fully obsessed with her Mister J it would have seemed like lazy writing to immediately pair her off with Ivy.

Speaking of the Clown Prince of Crime, Tudyk plays him with some childish glee. I’m proud that he didn’t buckle under the pressure of portraying him in the same manner as any version we’ve seen before.

Given the adult nature of the series this is one of the more dangerous Joker’s we’ve ever seen in animation but he’s also the one with some of the most lightness and joy in his voice. He’s deranged, narcissistic and homicidal and it all works perfectly on screen.

Whilst I hope he isn’t omnipresent for the season it’s going to be enjoyable seeing his reaction to Harley’s rise through the criminal ranks.

The animation style of Harley Quinn is particularly awesome. It has everything the audience could hope for from an adult cartoon, there’s more gore and it doesn’t shy away from the violence. But it’s also quirky and fits the humour of the show well.

The visual work well in tandem with the script to enhance the jokes and goes a long way to keeping the audience giggling throughout. I already feel sorry for this version of poor Jim Gordon, the guy needs to cut down on his caffeine and get some rest.

Verdict

Harley Quinn is the perfect mix of gruesome humour, foul language and crazy capers to make this an incredibly watchable and enjoyable opening episode.

8/10

Harley Quinn stars Kaley Cuoco as the voice of Harley, and she’ll be joined by Lake Bell, Alan Tudyk, Ron Funches, JB Smoove, Jason Alexander, Wanda Sykes, Giancarlo Esposito, Natalie Morales, Jim Rash, Diedrich Bader, Tony Hale and Chris Meloni.


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About Neil Vagg 4080 Articles
Neil is the GYCO Editorial Chief. He has a BA in Film & Tv and an MA in Scriptwriting; he currently works 9-5 as an office manager and 5-9 as a reviewer/web designer. He has been subscribing to comics for around nine years but has been reading them as long as he can remember. Favourite comics: Batman; Nightwing, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and All New X-Men Favourite films: Batman (any apart from & Robin); Star Trek Generations, Underworld, Beetlejuice Favourite TV shows: Fringe; Buffy, Arrow, TBBT, Being Human UK and Star Trek TNG