Harley Quinn (Seasons 1-2) (2019-2020)
Harley Quinn (Animated TV Series) (DC/Warner Bros.) (2019-Present)
I’ve loved Harley Quinn ever since she was first introduced as the hopeless love interest and sidekick to the Joker in Batman: The Animated Series from the 1990’s. Since then, she’s become a headlining antihero at DC Comics and has had a number of animated and live action interpretations. The most popular of those is Margot Robbie’s adaptation of the character in the DCEU (2016-Present). And while Robbie’s take is admirable, it pales in comparison to Kaley Cuoco’s version in the Harley Quinn animated series.
Debuting in 2019 on DC Unlimited, Harley Quinn is a half-hour comedy series that sees a post-breakup Harley try to make it without the Joker as a standalone villain in Gotham. If you’re like me, you’ll quickly notice that this series is able to do what no other tv or film adaptation has been able to do before. It turns out that all of the unhinged crazy that is Harley Quinn works best when animation meets an R rating.
Harley manages to establish her own makeshift crew with Clayface, Dr. Psycho, King Shark, Sy Borgman (from the 2014 Harley Quinn comic) and Poison Ivy. Apart from Sy (in terms of attitude), these aren’t the characters as you know them. In this iteration, they are a group of D-list villains trying to make names for themselves without henchmen or access to elite villain networks like the Legion of Doom or the Injustice League.
I found each of these characters to be completely ridiculous and utterly charming. As an ensemble of characters, they work really well with lowered status and a myriad of psychological complexes. There’s a failed classically trained actor-turned-shapeshifter; a telekenetic dwarf who’s been cancelled for calling Wonder Woman the C-word; a humanoid shark techie with a sensitivity to fish insults; an uptight wheelchair-bound cyborg landlord; and a jaded plant-controlling eco-warrior with a man-eating venus flytrap roommate named Frank the Plant.
Season 1 was an absolute blast. And although the first half of Season 2 was a plot to nowhere, the second half was a great rebound. Good writing, great voice acting and an adult animation format brings these characters to life. Watching Harley swear when she wants, bludgeon people when she’s upset, and execute ridiculous plans to be taken seriously as a villain is exactly what this character needed. And without giving away spoilers, Harley even gets a relationship that many fans (including me) have wanted for a long time.
I was amazed at the way in which the showrunners were able to make dysfunctional characters function well together. And behind all of the excess and noise of the show, there’s also a surprising amount of heart. Harley Quinn moves to HBO Max for season 3 which is expected sometime in 2021.
Source: Harley Quinn (Animated TV Series) (DC/Warner Bros.) (2019-Present)