Spoiler Warnings for Harley Quinn S02E08, Trigger Warnings for blood, death, and emotional parental abuse
Welp…among the myriad of potential story-lines for Harley Quinn to adapt I was not expecting this one. Not right now, at least, not after what just happened.
So uhm…yeah, Harley’s becoming an enforcer for the dark space god Darkseid. For those who don’t go too deep into the comics, she’s basically making a deal with DC’s Thanos. Uhm…yeah, didn’t see this coming. Let’s dive right into this madness and see what happens!
We open with the cleaned and composed Gordon calling the President of the United States (who, surprisingly for a comedy show, doesn’t appear to be a parody of any real-world POTUS), declaring that he’s defeated all the villains and that Gotham is ready to rejoin the United States. The President informs him however, that the public at large is afraid of Harley, and that as long as she remains at large Gotham cannot rejoin the Union. And so, desperate to save his city and get back into the United States, Gordon must bring her down.
Over in the mall, Harley and Ivy are dancing around the kiss from the previous episode. Ivy has gone into full avoidance mode, deciding the best thing to do is pretend it didn’t mean anything and focus on her relationship with Kite-Man. The problem being that avoidance isn’t generally how Harley deals with her issues, at least not anymore, and not getting to actually have a heart to heart is stressing her out, causing her to shout about her bold, crazy lifestyle and her fondness for kissing people randomly.
Harley asks Ivy if she’s going to tell Kite-Man, and Ivy’s eyes widen. We promptly cut over to Kite-Man’s apartment where we get a freak out fake-out, with Kite-Man begging to know how Ivy could ‘do this to me’, only to of course find out that he’s talking about Ivy forgetting to make reservations at his parents’ favorite Mexican restaurant in preparation for their visit. Ivy reassures him, and they head off for the brunch.
At the same time, Harley’s determination to prove that she’s not just fine but thriving in spite of her emotional turmoil leads her deciding that she needs to go full, hardcore evil now that she’s the only big villain in Gotham. King Shark and Clayface are skeptical, saying that this aggressive evil doesn’t really fit Harley, but Psycho is all for this, having already been a deranged and violent nutcase. Before plans can be hashed out, Barbara arrives in her Batgirl costume, on a motorcycle, to warn Harley about the President’s demands and that Gordon will be coming for her. Harley’s not scared, but when Barbara reminds her that he took out Two-Face, who had a whole squad of goons backing him up, Harley interprets this as not meaning that she should lay low, but instead that she should amass an evil army to back her up, thanking Barbara and sending her away. Clayface and King Shark point out that Harley doesn’t actually have an evil army and that, since the goons of Gotham have unionized, no real way to get one, but Psycho has a plan for that.
Over with Ivy and Kite-Man, we meet the latter’s parents. A rich, snobby couple with a disdain for their son. Ivy helps win them over by using her plant controlling powers to clear the table they wanted but were unable to get due to her forgetting to make reservations, but as it’s revealed when Kite-Man steps away, they’re not thrilled with her getting them the table they wanted so much as they are with the fact that she has powers. As it turns out, so do they, being able to fly. Kite-Man obviously cannot, and they rather disdain him for attempting to compensate for that. But the fact that Ivy has powers leads them to believe that she and his kids will also have powers, and thus be able to give them good grandchildren. Which…dang it show, thanks for making my sympathize with Kite-Man of all characters right now! I confess I relate rather heavily to ‘being a huge disappointment to your parents for the way you were born and desperately crippling yourself emotionally and socially in an attempt to please them’ as a character trait.
Back with Harley, it turns out that Psycho’s plan is to steal a Mother Box from Mister Miracle in order to get an army of Parademons from the ruler of the planet Apokolips, Darkseid….a sentence that likely doesn’t make much sense to anyone who’s not a deep comic book reader or who didn’t see the live-action Justice League movie. Uhm, let’s see, how to phrase this more accessibly…oh! They’re going to steal an alien teleportation device from escape artist!Star-Lord, and then use it to make a deal with eviller Thanos for an army of flying demons. For once, Psycho has a detailed plan that involves utilizing Clayface’s acting talents, but Harley breaks into Mister Miracle’s dressing room (they’re at an escape artistry show he’s performing) finds the Mother Box, then takes them to Apokolips.
There’s a rather drastic tone shift here. For a comedy series, the show plays Darkseid entirely straight as a brooding, brutal, serious, prideful dark lord who’s more than capable of going toe to toe with Superman. He agrees to give Harley an army, knowing what she’s come to request, but only if she can emerge victorious in battle with his current general, Granny Goodness. At first Harley’s not concerned, but then Granny Goodness emerges, and while she looks like an old woman she’s built powerfully and strong, the ground shaking as she walks. Given the build up that goes on as Granny strides towards Harley I expected a comedic turn, with Harley taking her out in one hit, but instead the fight that ensues is brutal and entirely against Harley. Granny knocks her out, but this allows Psycho to take control of her, and uses his telepathy, in tandem with his telekinesis, to help her lift a massive boulder and knock Granny out. As such, Darkseid grants Harley the rod with which to lead his Parademon armies, and a new set of armor to match.
Back on Earth, Barbara attempts to warn off her father from attacking Harley, saying that Harley’s going to have an army. But, like Harley, Gordon interprets this as her telling him that he needs to get an army, mirroring Harley rather comedically. He then proceeds to rally the citizens of Gotham, telling them that if they can beat Harley they’ll get their lives back.
As for Ivy and Kite-Man, Ivy winds up blowing up on his parents rather spectacularly after they make it rather implicitly clear that their interest is far more in Ivy than their own son. Before much more can happen though, tanks roll by, quite a lot of them, lead by Gordon, heading for the mall. As they arrive a portal in the sky appears, from which Harley, King Shark, and Clayface fall. Harley and Gordon exchange threats, both being their immature selves though Harley’s still rather clearly hurting and not being quite herself. This is the driving factor behind most of her behavior in the episode in point of fact. Ivy’s refusal to let them deal with the kiss means that Harley has to justify it as her just being wild and impetuous, and thus she spends the episode being that but to the nth degree.
As such she unleashes her army of Parademons on Gordon’s tanks, and in short order destroys them, completely annihilating the army sent to defeat her. However, Ivy arrives before Harley can kill Gordon himself, and calls her out on her behavior. Ivy admits that she’s ride or die for Harley, but asks if this is really where Harley wants the ‘ride’ to go. Harley breaks and admits that it’s not, destroying the rod that lets her control the Parademons, ridding herself of her armor and sending the monsters back home before telling Gordon that Gotham belongs to him. Psycho is furious about this, having wanted to use them to take over the world, and quits the crew, storming off. Harley and Ivy talk for a bit, with Ivy, seemingly oblivious to the turmoil their kiss has caused Harley, telling her to just say whatever’s bothering her. She’s about to…but then Kite-Man pops in, praising Ivy and professing his love for her, which she happily returns, and so Harley deflects, claiming she just wants to plan Ivy’s bachelorette party.
And that is how the episode ends. No closing joke, no second Harley/Ivy kiss, just Harley’s conflicted and pained expression as she insists that she just wants to help Ivy get her wedding figured out.
…over and over season two has shown nothing but growth from season one. Virtually every complaint I had about the previous season has been addressed thus far, to an extent that’s almost spooky. Given the frequency with which plot points would be undermined or jettisoned in favor of punchlines in the previous season, to have an episode that’s pretty much entirely about Harley’s unhealthy coping mechanisms, as well as Kite-Man’s emotionally abusive parents, and to have neither be treated as a joke is impressive.
This episode isn’t as good as the previous one admittedly. Gordon’s scenes are necessary but detract from the emotions of the ones revolving around Harley, Ivy, and Kite-Man. Darkseid and Granny Goodness are impressive and well done, but the twenty-two-minute restriction of the episode means that the ‘get an army from Apokolips’ plotline ends far too abruptly after it’s introduced. Now, to a certain extent I get this. Harley makes a direct reference to season eight of Game of Thrones after canceling the Parademon invasion, acknowledging that she was going out of line with the whole thing. And yeah, there’s only a certain amount of damage and destruction Harley can inflict upon a largely civilian population before she stops being likable. She gets a pass here because everyone her Parademons killed was in a tank coming to kill her, but sustaining her control over them would have been pushing it.
Still, the result is an interesting and exciting change to the show’s status quo that ends far too abruptly. A better route to go would have been to have Psycho convince Harley to steal him something to boost his mind control powers so that he could force an army of goons to fight for her, then have Ivy talk Harley into destroying it, thus keeping the beats of Ivy confronting Harley over the damage she’s doing and alienating Psycho. Then, in the next episode, have Harley bump into Mister Miracle, pick the Mother Box off the ground after the collision makes him bump it, and upon discovering that it’s a teleporter use it to flee her problems. Then spend the next episode or two with Harley on Apokolips, becoming part of Darkseid’s army, then finding out about some peril the crew is facing (likely caused by Psycho) and defeat Granny Goodness, returning with the Parademons to save her friends and reunite with Ivy, deciding that being with Ivy and hurting is better than not being with her and breaking the rod then.
What we get instead of that is entirely serviceable, but undeniably flawed and rushed. Not bad, but not great either.
Thanks for reading y’all! See you next week!