Harley Quinn (Seasons 1-2)
Harley Quinn (2019-) series review
Harley Quinn is DC’s latest animated series (at least as far as I know, I don’t typically watch DC shows) which follows the titular protagonist/antagonist Harley Quinn, who sets out on her own to make a name for herself as a formidable villain with her own crew of misfits. The comedy series, taking consistent shots at other DC films and shows throughout, seems to be set outside any DC continuity (as far as we know). Now this is where I would talk about the creators, but I didn’t know most of them to be honest, besides frequent animated DC creator Sam Register and star Kaley Cuoco, both of whom act as executive producers on the series.
I just found out about Harley Quinn recently, learning that the show was renewed for a third season on HBOMax. So naturally, hearing that it was a comedy series that didn’t take itself too seriously, I watched both seasons in a few days. Plus the seasons are fairly short, so this was a quick binge. Now take in mind that, as I mentioned, I don’t watch that many animated DC shows, so when I say that I found this show hilarious, I am pretty certain that most DC fans will enjoy it even more than it did! (Provided they don’t mind the ultra-violence, constant swearing, and laughing in the face of things that other DC stories often treat with a revered finality.) But hey, it’s better than the movie!
Cue Pemberton’s Birds of Prey (2020) soundtrack coffee!
So here’s the thing, I’ve been trying to write this review for like a week now. This series is so outside my usual that I don’t know how objectively good it is. So here’s what I’m gonna do: I’m just gonna list things I liked and things I didn’t like and let those aspects stand for itself. Cool? Cool.
Being a comedy series, Harley Quinn spends most of its time focusing on either comedy or story and character development. Sure every now and then the comedy doesn’t move said story forward, but that’s kinda okay in this case. The humor is so strong and unique that it should be able to stand on its own at times, even if that means an entire episode without the main cast. (Okay admittedly that took away from the story.) But hey, I laughed a lot. A lot a lot. Plus the show managed to get out some other genuine emotions! I mean I’m not saying I was like, emotionally invested or anything…
This series couldn’t exist without a TV-MA rating, as one of the wittiest aspects comes from the absurdly grounded addition of violence and language to the DC universe. Sure the violence helps add to the stakes of the show, but it serves a much funnier purpose in adding to comedy! We get to see violence reactions to acts of violence that in other DC shows would be absurdly, well, non-violent. Similarly the series uses things like violence and language to create real-world scenarios. For example, Dr. Psycho is in hot water for using sexist language. In what world would a supervillain have bad press? Well, probably ours.
This is my biggest problem with the entire show right here. Don’t get me wrong, I was consistently invested, or at least entertained! But Harley Quinn starts out as a character driven story, slowly transforms into a story-driven show, and suddenly snaps back to a character piece. By the end of the second season I was still on board for a show surrounding the character arc of Harley Quinn trying to figure out who she is, but that does take away from the setup from the latter half of the first season and the former half of said second season. It feels a little like they didn’t have enough to keep the series going on either the plot of the character development, so they divided it up into half seasons and cleverly stitched them together.
None of this show would work without the cast being as absolutely phenomenal as they are. From the humor to the drama to the utterly absurd meta references and shots at DC, I would find a hard time pointing out anyone who DIDN’T carry their weight. So here’s just a list of the cast members that I liked the most: Lake Bell as Poison Ivy, Alan Tudyk as Joker and Clayface (and more), Tony Hale as Dr. Psycho, Diedrich Bader as Batman, Christopher Meloni as Commissioner Gordon, J.B. Smoove as Frank the Plant, whoever in the writer’s room that hates Bane as the idea behind James Adomain’s hilariously savage performance, and my all-time favorite supporting performance in the cast, Jim Rash as The Riddler. And of course I can’t give enough credit to Kaley Cuoco as Harley Quinn, who does such an incredible job n the role that, if this were a fair fight with live action, might be my new favorite version of the chartacer.
Actually no, I’m not going to give things away here! I was going to talk about the characters, because I love what they did with some of them. But I will say that I spend most of the show thinking I hated Clayface, and now that I don’t have more to watch, I miss watching his stupid theatre antics. The side-story I think I cared the least about was King Sharks though. Don’t get me wrong, the character is fun! But he has one features episode that I think goes so far away form the story of the show that it is distracting. Doesn’t work with the tone, and I didn’t really care about the focus.
So I hope that was a good review. I mean once I got going I didn’t spend too much time on it… So I guess if it sucks, oh well! But hey maybe I talked a few people into checking it out! So look, if you don’t want an ultra-violent, super sarcastic DC show that manages to make fun of probably everything you love about DC while also getting in a fairly interesting story, maybe give this one a pass. Well not a good pass, a ‘skip it’ pass. But hey, I for one am totally on board for making fun of DC as lovingly as I’ve seen since LEGO Batman (2017)! Okay maybe not too lovingly… Anyway, it’s a good show, maybe watch it! 7/10.
So Harley Quinn? Have you seen any of it? What do you think? And hey since I haven’t seen much from DC, what is your favorite animated DC show and why? Be sure to leave a like or a comment below and let us know! And if you liked this review and you want to read more like it, let us know what you’d like us to review next!
-review by Ryan Prince