HARLEY QUINN 2×01 “New Gotham” review

Harley Quinn (DC Universe)

Harley Quinn airs new episodes Friday’s via DC Universe, the series will air in the UK on E4.

Synopsis

After Gotham is declared no longer part of the United States, the newly formed Injustice League try to seize control of the city away from Harley.

Review

It’s barely been a month since Harley Quinn completed its first season on DC Universe, the quick turnaround between seasons left us wondering if we were really ready for new episodes to return.

After watching “New Gotham” we’re now cursing DC Universe for ever taking this series away for a break!

“New Gotham” is a blinding season opener which really shows how the Harley Quinn writers aren’t afraid to shy away from breaking DC continuity and taking some really bold moves.

Season two is taking a huge cue from one of my favourite arcs in the history of Batman comics, “No Mans Land”. Early in this episode we’re treated to a broadcast from the US government declaring Gotham is now lost and no longer party of the United States. With the city left to fend for itself we soon find that Gotham has devolved in to chaos, but chaos Harley Quinn style.

The “No Man’s Land” arc focussed on the family dynamics between the various Bat-family characters and used them to bring hope to a city lost to chaos. Harley Quinn is instead using the idea of the city as a playground for some truly mad ideas and capers.

”New Gotham” is an episode designed to set the scene and acclimatise the audience to this new landscape. Joker is gone and in his place the newly minted Injustice League – Riddler (Jim Rash), Penguin (Wayne Knight), Bane (Andrew Daly) and Two-Face (Alan Tudyk) – is looking to carve up the remains of Gotham for their own.

Though they invite Harley (Kaley Cuoco) along for the ride, the Injustice League has their own ideas of what to do with her. Their plans to relegate her to a tiny island off the main coast of Gotham don’t go down well with the Clown Princess of Crime who is still riding high after defeating Joker.

Her own ideas for dominating Gotham put her at odds with Penguin who quickly becomes the episode’s main antagonist. On first watching this episode I was concerned the Injustice League would provide a replacement for the Legion of Doom in season one, a foil for Harley to contend with each week, yo-yoing between seeking their acceptance and wanting to derail their plans.

But it becomes clear pretty quickly that although their may lurk in the background of the season, there is going to be far much more going on than simply putting another group of villains in Harley’s way.

I think that deciding to have Harley captured and imprisoned by Penguin in The Iceberg Lounge, frozen into a centrepiece by Mr. Freeze (Alfred Molina), helped the episode function in a number of ways. It left her a fish out of water and reacclimatising in the episodes final moments, representing the audience’s own experience of the episode whilst also serving as a great introduction to Freeze.

It also served Harley’s team by giving them a purpose in the episode. The gang – Sy Bergman (Jason Alexander), Poison Ivy (Lake Bell), King Shark (Ron Funches), Clayface (Alan Tudyk) and Dr. Psycho (Tony Hale) – are as dysfunctional as when we left them, but they’re still able to function (I use that term loosely) enough to save her from Penguin.

Here’s where the series takes a HUGE step. If you haven’t seen the episode I would suggest you go do that first before you read on.

Ready?

Harley Quinn (the series and the character) takes a bold move in killing off Penguin before the episode is out. It sets up Harley as a real threat to Gotham and the other rogues but it also pulls the metaphorical rug out from under the audience. There’s no, potentially, nothing Harley won’t do to protect her crew and we’ve seen the gory results of what happens when she does.

The killing itself is one of the bloodiest, most brutal scenes the series has ever done. But it also includes a great nod to Tim Burton’s Batman Returns and the version Penguin played by Danny DeVito. All-in-all it’s a standout moment for the series has a whole, at only fourteen episodes in it’s crazy to think of the moves the writers are making to make this show original.

My guess is that Harley Quinn won’t routinely kill off these A-list villains but it’s good to know that when it needs to it can. Hats off to you Kaley Cuoco, you really made Harls your own.

Verdict

The opening gambit in Harley Quinn season 2 shows that the series isn’t afraid to take huge risks. A bold, game changing episodes cements the series as a top notch entry to the pantheon of DC’s animated offerings.

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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By Neil Vagg

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