Spoiler Warnings for Harley Quin S01E02, Trigger Warnings for mentions of abuse and violence.
So, DC Universe just dropped the second episode of it’s Harley Quinn animated series, ‘A High Bar’. It was…a thing that happened I guess.
Okay, that’s harsh. I’m still a fan of this series, let me make that quite clear. This episode isn’t a deal-breaker, nor was it even really terrible. It’s just pure filler, nothing more and nothing less. Maybe in hindsight, it’ll appear more important, but from where I’m standing, at this moment, this episode didn’t do anything to move the plot of the series as a whole that couldn’t have been condensed into a three minute bit before the title of the next episode. But, let’s just break it down, shall we?
We open to Scarecrow and Bane gossiping about Joker and Harley’s breakup. Joker attempts to spin it as if it was a thing that he was in favor of and that he’s fine, but does a poor job of hiding it. Such a poor job in fact, that he promptly goes to Howie Mandel’s morning show (which films in Gotham apparently, seems like an oddly risky place to film if you don’t have to be there) and straps a bomb to the poor man in response to Howie being the one to break the news that Harley and Joker had broken up.
Harley is rather pissed at this interruption to her favorite morning show (an anger that only grows when Howie winds up dying offscreen) seeing it as a challenge and an insult to her. So she gets into Joker’s calendar and discovers that there’s going to be a Legion of Doom event (the Justice League of villains, for those who forgot or missed my review of the first episode) at the Gotham Mint. She quickly persuades Ivy to attend with her, much to her friend’s annoyance.
They arrive in style, complete with a tiger, only to discover that they haven’t crashed a Legion event so much as they have the Bar Mitzvah of the Penguin’s nephew, to which the members of the Legion, or at least the Gotham based ones, were invited as well as Kite Man for…reasons. Bane quickly calls Joker to tell him about this development, and Joker leaves his struggles with his contractor in charge of rebuilding his lair to go put Harley down.
It works, with the other Gotham villains being too intimidated by Joker to side with Harley despite having been happy to see her and joke with her moments prior. There’s a rather odd Mean Girls element to the whole thing, that on the one hand does fit in with the tongue in cheek humor of the series but on the other hand kinda rubs me the wrong way as a comic fan due to the choice of having Bane, Two-Face, and Scarecrow be the three to immediately cave and back down in the face of the Joker. That is a bit of an issue to be honest, with putting the entirety of Batman’s Rogues into a comedy series. It’s funny on one hand, and jarring on the other. But I’ll probably learn to adjust.
Harley decides to prove herself and go rob the Gotham Mint, a place so secure and confident in its security that, well, it rented its atrium to a group of villains. This leaves Ivy alone with Kite Man, who has been hanging around her and badly flirting with her all night, whenever Harley leaves her alone. It’s an odd subplot frankly, one that has more than a few punchlines that really only work if you’re a fan of the current run of Batman comics and thus know the reference, though Kite Man is an absurd enough character in and of himself to make up for it in most respects. The subplot has some funny moments, and a touching moment, but feels more like an excuse to separate Harley and Ivy than anything else once it wraps up. That and for some weird, kind of gross moments centered around Kite Man stealing Ivy’s trademark pheromones and giving them to a group of thirteen-year-old boys for reasons that are unclear, culminating in her having to give them each a peck on the lips to deliver the antidote. It’s not the worst thing, but it’s a little uncomfortable.
In the main plot, Harley quickly discovers that the vault she’s chosen to break into isn’t the real deal, but a fake one set up so that Penguin’s nephew could practice committing a crime for the first time. Not even the guards were real, but an improv troupe. Penguin, rather understandably, is upset by this and knocks Harley out with a tranquilizer dart, then has her tied to a chair for his nephew to kill. However, he makes the mistake of not gagging her, allowing Harley to talk her way out of it by undermining his nephew’s confidence until the boy breaks down crying.
A fight then breaks up between Harley, Ivy, and (technically) Kite Man on one side and Two-Face, Scarecrow, and Bane on the other, egged on by Joker. The fight goes fairly well for the ladies at first, but they’re outnumbered and things start to go south. Harley manages to alleviate the situation somewhat by calling out the Joker’s bullying of the other villains, and since they’re villains and Harley’s there to point out that his excuses are BS, he’s unable to fully rectify the situation with words. So he attempts to kill her himself, only for Ivy to step between the pair of clowns, telling Joker to go through her, then conjuring up a frankly ridiculous amount of thorn riddled vines and man-eating plants to surround the Joker.
Things don’t get a chance to escalate further though, as Joker gets a call from his contractor with new complications about the rebuilding of his lair and he storms out. Harley and Ivy leave, and Harley declares her intent to join the Legion of Doom and prove herself once and for all.
This episode was fine. It had funny moments, it had cringy moments, it had some good character moments, but it didn’t ever feel like anything special or noteworthy. It just felt like a thing that existed to pad out the series’ episode count. And that’s not a terrible thing, to be sure, lots of serialized shows have episodes like that, but it’s a bit early in the series for it I feel. Is it worth a watch? Yeah, it’s not boring, it’s mostly funny (with the exception of the rather iffy jokes about the boys who’re given Ivy’s pheromones. Nothing explicit is even suggested, and nothing more severe than short pecks on the lip happen, so I don’t know that it crosses a line, but it’s not great, nor necessary.) it has some touching moments, and it’s got an awesome moment for Ivy at the end. It just happens to scream filler throughout.
Also, can we please stop doing parodies of Tom Hardy’s Bane voice? It’s been seven years since The Dark Knight Rises came out people!