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Harley Quinn S01E02 “A High Bar” review

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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

Determined to become one of the vaunted Legion of Doom, Harley attempts to make a big splash by crashing one of their criminal enterprises with the help of her BFF, Poison Ivy.

Review

Last week’s episode of Harley Quinn (reviewed here) set the bar incredibly high for the adult comedy series. In the space of 30mins Kaley Cuoco and her team were able to craft a new, contemporary version of Harley which audiences were quickly able to sympathise with and enjoy.

The true litmus test of the show’s success is in whether it is able to hold this level of quality through the remainder of its first season. But if this episode is anything to go by then all signs point to a great future for Harley.

I had some concerns going in to “A High Bar” that it would rely heavily on Joker, once again, to keep the spark of the show going. Thankfully those concerns were set aside fairly quickly through the realisation that Harley Quinn is, in fact, a heavily serialised show.

It’s cleverly masked by the story of the week, which this week see’s Harley (Cuoco) and Ivy (Lake Bell) attending the Bar Mitzvah of Penguin’s nephew. There was so much going on in the episode, written by Jane Becker (Future Man), that it distracted from the fact that we were setting up a status quo change within the cast.

Sticking with the story of this episode, it was interesting to see how Harley reacted to her own break-up with Joker (Alan Tudyk). It was refreshing to show her not instantly wanting to return to him, it certainly cemented her strength of character to see Harley act out and want to one-up Joker instead. Even if she isn’t – yet – successful as the Queenpin of Crime she took some hilarious baby steps towards it this week.

Outside of that the show buried an interesting subplot which worked in a number of Gotham’s shadiest characters. James Adomian does an amazing (and hilarious) impersonation of Tom Hardy’s Bane alonside Andrew Daly as Two-Face and Rahul Kohli perfectly cast as Scarecrow.

Adomian steals the show because literally anything he says is hilarious. His Bane is a a little more formidable in size but the voice is so on point that it’s easily a standout moment of the episode whenever he is on screen.

Kohli was instantly recognisable as Scarecrow and it worked well in the context of the show. The way all three villains were written – Two-Face included – made this feel like a workplace comedy with an excellent super villain twist.

“A High Bar” also shines a light on Poison Ivy, more so even that the pilot episode. There was an interesting romantic sub-plot with Kite Man (Matt Oberg) which will displease some Quinn/Ivy fans but in the context of the show it worked well. It softened the cold edge to her character a little but also allowed for some casual sexist humour at Kite Man’s expense. It will be interesting to see if this plot develops in the future.

As if all this wasn’t already enough, Harley had to go and attempt to rob the Gotham Mint which brought the now trademark violence to the episode. There were some blood curdling moments and some bone on show but it was most certainly toned down from the previous episode. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, a series this young needs to show versatility and that’s exactly what Harley Quinn is doing here.

Verdict

Harley Quinn follows up a brilliant pilot with a solid second episode. Kaley Cuoco’s sharp tongue and some skilled writing make this another laugh out loud episode in what is rapidly becoming our go-to animated series.

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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