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HARLEY QUINN S01E03 “So You Need A Crew?” 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

Realising she needs a crew to pull off heists that will attract the Legion of Doom’s attention, Harley attempts to recruit Dr. Psycho (Tony Hale) and Clayface (Alan Tudyk).

Review

Week three on Harley Quinn and the series is continuing to surprise me with its character development and thoughtful undertones.

This week, following her epic fail at Penguin’s nephew’s Bar Mitzvah (reviewed here), Harley attempt to pick herself back up by recruiting her own crew.

Though you could argue the plot development is simple and well sign-posted I would hasten to note that adult cartoons will often forego plot to shoehorn in the big joke of the week. We only need look at 31 years of The Simpsons to know that plot development isn’t a necessity when it comes to more grown up forms of animated comedy.

Instead Harley is subtly moving on a plot from week-to-week as we continue to watch her grow as a person. It’s so subtle than it’s almost hidden under the radar and by radar I mean layers of incredibly loud, brash, foul-mouthed comedy.

What’s also impressive to see is that the show isn’t just investing in Harley (Kaley Cuoco) alone. Poison Ivy (Lake Bell) also appears to have developed a bit of a crush on Kite Man (Matt Oberg) following last week’s episode adding to the serialised nature of the show.

After a fun stinger featuring KG Beast (also Oberg) and Joker (Alan Tudyk), Harley decides its time to get a crew so that the Legion of Doom will notice her. From there the plot goes in a different direction than expected. Rather than playing off a pop culture reference and having Harley audition goons like X Factor contestants she goes to visit a talent agency.

All of the story beats which follow play off her gender and break-up with Joker to put her at a disadvantage. The talent agency offers her their best guys but only if she goes back to Joker, when she refuses they close the door on her.

She visits a pub for goons but finds nobody wants to talk to her as she’s a woman When Kite Man enters and asks for help everyone ruses to his side. Side note – this scene also features a great cameo from Felix Faust.

She visits Maxie Zeus (Will Sasso) who is positioned as a business mogul appearing on arena stages to provide his wisdom to adoring (see: paying) audience. He too tries to sexualise Harley in return to helping further her aspirations.

She also goes to visit the Queen of Fables (Wanda Sykes) who found herself trapped in a book after a similar attempt to break the glass ceiling for female super villains. She even remarks if it were a man this situation would never have happened.

This was the only moment in the episode it felt close to becoming heavy handed. Queen of Fables aside the episode, as I said, is much more subtle in its approach to gender politics.

Particularly admirable is the way the writers refuse to have Harley defeated by all these setbacks. Instead she is only ever galvanised by her experiences and becomes more determined to reach her goals.

In the end Harley teams with the down on his luck but hilarious Dr. Psycho (Tony Hale) who has been kicked out of the Legion of Doom by Lex Luthor (Giancarlo Esposito) for calling Wonder Woman a c***. His character is absolutely nuts, he’s portrayed like a child with an oversized head and acts like a rabid dog with very little control over his words or his actions.

She also teams with Clayface (Alan Tudyk pulling double-duty alongside Joker) who is also portrayed in an incredibly unique way her. Rather than a tragic actor desperate to hold on to fame he’s played more like an enthusiastic thespian who uses his skills as Clayface to further go method in his various roles. Here he’s mainly “Hot Southern Barman” but he plays the role with conviction at least!

The three go on a revenge mission to take down Zeus but as the episode reaches a satisfying conclusion its less about the actions the characters take and more about the emotional journey and where it’s leading them. The final scene pitches Harley as a success in her first mission with the news hailing her a potential threat to Joker’s reign. Something he’s surely none too pleased about but showing that the writers are committed to continuing her development.

All-in-all another very successful episode in the DC Universe series debut season.

Verdict

For the third week in a row Harley Quinn knocks it out of the park with a loud, brash episode underpinned by a story of female empowerment and gender inequality.

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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