Harley Quinn airs new episodes Friday’s via DC Universe, the series will air in the UK on E4.
Awakening from his coma to find Gotham in shambles, Bruce Wayne (DIEDRICH BADER) jumps back in the Batsuit immediately. But is his ego writing checks his body can’t cash? Meanwhile, Two Face attempts to forge a criminal alliance with Bane, as they’re the only two Big Bads left in Gotham’s criminal underworld.
Now this is an episode of Harley Quinn which we didn’t see coming and were totally unprepared for. After seventeen episodes I didn’t think there was that much left for the show’s writers to throw at us which could feel so unique but here we are, a Harley Quinn-less episode of Harley Quinn.
The episode opens with one of the best WTF openings the show has ever featured. It pokes fun at the #ReleaseTheSnyderCut movement as well as the anti-The Last Jedi fans and general toxic pop culture fandom.
It’s self referential and incredibly irreverent in its approach to stamping all over the opinions of members of toxic fandom. I particularly appreciated the Snyder Cut shirt wearing fan being against the idea of watching Harley Quinn despite being a reviewer of the show itself.
The episode sets itself up perfectly by having these two characters explain the premise. There’s no Harley Quinn (Kaley Cuoco) or Poison Ivy (Lake Bell) this week as the show pivots to spend an episode with the recovering Batman (Diedrich Bader).
My immediate question would be whether the show would still function without Harley at the helm. Could the less comedic Batman really carry the weight of an entire episode. The answe to that question is, surprisingly, yes.
Teamed with Alfred (Tom Hollander) and Batgirl (Briana Cuoco) the trio are able to maximise a slightly toned down version of Harley Quinn’s trademark comedy. Cleverly the episode makes use of Two-Face (Andrew Daly) and Bane (James Adomian) to retain some of the laughs.
Though the characters are different, Harley Quinn retains much of its standard plot structure in this episode. There’s the A-storyline of Bruce’s recovery and reemergence as Batman and the B-storyline as Two-Face and Bane attempt to pick up the pieces of the Injustice League in the wake of recent losses. These two plot lines converge when Bane takes on Batman and it all culminates in an incredibly satisfying conclusion.
The pivot to revolve around Batman does act as something of a taster sessions to see whether a Batman series in this universe could work. The results of “Batman’s Back, Man” being that yes, if done correctly, it can work well on a number of levels.
As with an episode revolving around Harley, much of that is down to the supporting cast. Alfred is particularly paternal and played in a similar vein to other animated series rather than being heightened too much to match the world of the show. Aside from his crazy powdered, Inspector Gadget style wig. It feels like the right choice for the narrative to play Alfred relatively straight, it means that when he does use humour – watch out for Bruce’s socky wockies – it works much more than if he was spitting out a constant barrage of one-liners.
Interestingly the episode did omit Robin which felt odd, given that he has appeared previously and that the show opted to portray him as Damian Wayne – son of Bruce – his absence was felt and also unexplained. But I did also appreciate that in a show which puts female empowerment first, that they chose to bring Barbara Gordon back to the fore and follow more of her story as Batgirl.
Kaley and Briana Cuoco have very similar voices so there were times it felt like Barbara sounded like Harley and it was a minor distraction. But I would be splitting hairs to call it a drawback to the character.
There were certainly moments in “Batman’s Back, Man” which felt like they were using the Caped Crusader to parody Marvel’s Iron Man/Tony Stark. The AI in the new suit built by Lucius Fox was absolutely Harley Quinn’s take on Stark’s own systems. As always, it’s nice to see some healthy competition between the two behemoth’s of the comic book world.
Whilst some will argue that an episode of Harley Quinn functioning without its lead is a bad sign, I choose to look at it that the writers have fleshed out the universe so well that there are a great many facets of this Gotham which could be explored in future storylines.
“Batman’s Back, Man” veers in to “what if we made an adult comedy series about Batman” territory but interestingly doesn’t suffer in quality with none of its core cast in attendance.
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.