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HARLEY QUINN S01E09 “A Seat At The Table” review

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Harley Quinn (DC Universe/Warner Bros.)

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

Now a member of the Legion of Doom and The Joker’s equal, Harley finds herself spending time with him. Will she slip in to her old ways?

Review

If ever you needed proof that Harley Quinn is an adult comedy of a serialised nature then watch previous episode “L.O.D.R.S.V.P” (reviewed here) and then go straight in to “A Seat At The Table”. These episodes form a perfect turning point for the series as Harley (Kaley Cuoco) finds the respect of her peers which she has been yearning for.

Interestingly, “A Seat At The Table” took the story in a different direction to what I had expected. With Harley seemingly (for now genuinely accepted by the Legion, she is instead separated from the core cast whom the series has developed over the past nine weeks.

The story picks up directly from the previous episode as Harley and the crew are accepted in to the Legion. An opening VT mocks institutional welcome videos of the 80s and 90s perfectly and manages to include a nod to how deplorable Dr. Psycho (Tony Hale) really is.

He promo for this episode employed some great misdirection towards its story. Whilst it seemed like the episode would focus on Harley and Joker (Alan Tudyk) meeting up and falling back on old habits, the actual storyline was much more nuanced.

IT goes to show how intelligent the writing on Harley Quinn is that the potential for her to fall back in to bed with Joker felt natural, but that the actual events of the episode were much more satisfying and in-keeping with the rest of the season.

Writer Jordan Weiss (Dollface) plays with the conventions of the Quinn character to distract the audience from true events. She clearly understands that most of the audience will expect Harley and Joker to forever dance around each other and toys with that plot device brilliantly. It’s built in to the whole arc of the episode as Harley is anxious to see Joker again, stands up to him in a team meeting and then slowly falls for him again over dinner.

They’re all typical conventions of the character. We’ve seen Harley fall in and out of love, and back in love again, with Joker in every medium the character has been represented in. This is why the episode feels so natural even as the audience are shouting at the screen for her not to fall for his manipulation.

In many ways “A Seat At The Table” could act as a mid-season finale for the show. It circles the story back around to the pilot as Batman (Diedrich Bader) arrives to arrest the villainous couple during a romantic dinner. The scene doesn’t quite play out the same as in the pilot and it puts a great full stop on the relationship between Harley and Joker.

From this point forwards there will hopefully be a new dynamic between the two. IT would really cement her character growth to see something fresh and more adversarial between them.

Elsewhere “A Seat At The Table” continues to deconstruct the world around Harley. There’s a dramatic irony that everything she worked for to get noticed by the Legion is undone by getting the recognition she so wished for.

I still wonder if there is more going on behind the scenes than meets the eye. Considering so much is being offered to Harley and yet the gang are being treated so badly, I can’t shake the feeling that Lex (Giancarlo Esposito) has plans for Harley.

The way in which the story is constructed brilliantly separates Harley from Psycho, Clayface (Tudyk) and King Shark (Ron Funches) in a similar manner to how she fell out with Poison Ivy (Lake Bell) in the previous episode.

Considering Harley managed to seriously let Ivy down again this week, an act which culminated in her capture, it’s going to be difficult for Harley to do anything going forwards with no support. Was this all a manipulation on Lex’s part to get Ivy to join the Legion?

We’re rapidly heading towards the end of this batch of episodes which means there’s some real narrative steam behind the decisions the writers are making. I, for one, cannot predict where the story is going next. But after a couple of less exciting episodes for me I’m well and truly back on the Harley Quinn train.

Verdict

“A Seat At The Table” plays with the conventions of the character to brilliantly pull the rug out from under the audience. Another fun, fast paced episode which twists Harley’s journey in a new direction.

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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