Harley Quinn airs new episodes Friday’s via DC Universe, the series will air in the UK on E4.
When Harley and Ivy spot a seemingly sane Joker (after he fell into the normalizing acid last season), they debate whether people can change at their core – revisiting a flashback about Harleen Quinzel’s first day at Arkham Asylum.
After taking a hugely successful side-step last week to focus on Batman (reviewed here), this week Harley Quinn takes another bold step by spending much of this week’s episode in flashback. Previous episodes have featured small segments of flashback but this is the first time that Harley Quinn is shifting its narrative to tell a full story set in the past.
The flashback scenes are bookended by moments in the present day. Inciting the story by having Harley (Kaley Cuoco) and Ivy (Lake Bell) interact with what appears to be a normalised Joker (Alan Tudyk) at Noonan’s bar.
Of course there are a number of reasons that the series would choose now to enter in to this type of story. We’ve not seen Joker since his tower collapsed on him in the season 1 finale and the question of whether he survived has been lingering over the series ever since. Also, with Harley in a much more stable place mentally it serves as a great challenge to her new status quo.
As unique and inspired as the current New New Gotham arc is, there’s only so many members of the Injustice League left for Harley to dispatch and there are still eight episodes left in season 2. It does leave me wondering whether the show will be able to keep this overall arc running through the end of the season. Something tells me they can and will.
With Harley shaken by the sight of the potentially ex-Joker it sends she and Ivy down memory lane and in to her past as Harleen Quinzel. This aspect of the character has been explored in depth recently in the Black Label series Harleen but is less exposed in other mediums.
It’s great to spend almost an entire episode seeing how some of the ground work for the current setup in Gotham was laid. An aspect of Harley Quinn’s writing which continues to impress is that level of character details that is put in to each episode.
All of the characters appearing here, including featured roles Jim Gordon (Chris Meloni) and pre-Two-Face Harvey Dent (Andrew Daly), are dialled back brilliantly. I’ve complained in the past that Jim Gordon is too heavily altered in this series but here we find him much more composed. He’s still not the Jim Gordon we know from the comics but his characterisation feels more in keeping with both this series and his past. Now it would be interesting to see how he got from one to the other.
Turning the series back a few years really helps to expose some of these characters underlying psychoses whilst shoehorning in some great gags and character connections.
Highlights were seeing Riddler (Jim Rash) lurking in his Arkham cell, combing an impressive mane of black hair. It’s an unexpected and cruel joke at the expense of the now bald character. It seems like Harley always had one up on the villain.
Of course the relationship between Harley and Ivy is a point of emotional warmth amongst the craziness. The two are introduced after the Arkham cafeteria mistakenly ordered live lettuce allowing Ivy to make an escape attempt. The two don’t instantly connect but when they do it’s as touching as any of their present day interactions.
The pinnacle of the episode is the toxic relationship between Harley and Joker. It’s clear from the outside, following cannon, that she has feelings for him. She was drawn to him as part of her research and continues to be drawn to him now that she is working at Arkham. As the two dance around each other you can feel his manipulations pulling her closer.
When he tells her a story of his childhood trauma it’s impossible for Harley (and us) not to feel some sympathy for him. Making the third act twist all the more guttural when it hits you. It was an interesting choice to have Joker steal some of Ivy’s poor childhood moments to sucker in the doe-eyed Harleen.
There’s plenty of action in both the past and present scenes keeping the episode from drifting towards feeling like filler. It’s impressive that six episode in, almost half way through the season, that the stories in Harley Quinn are still so strong week-to-week.
Back in the present day, Harley and Ivy call in Doctor Psycho (Tony Hale) to verify if this new bartender really is Joker. The episode chooses to leave the answer rather ambiguously, easily leaving the door open for the character to return in the future. But perhaps more interesting is how little the situation impacts on our Harley. Rather than send her in to a tailspin, she copes with the situation admirably and that’s yet another example of how far her character has come across the series.
“All The Best Inmates Have Daddy Issues” is a brilliant slice of Harley Quinn history, told from a very typical Harley Quinn angle it wastes no time in reminding the audience of her strength of character.
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.