“TV Review: Harley Quinn”
Over the weekend, I checked out DC Universe’s Harley Quinn show. I’ve heard tons of really great things about it, and despite the shaky track record of the other DC Universe shows, I was curious about it, even if the TV-MA news did rub me the wrong way at first. But after I got over the initial few minutes of Harley dropping f-bombs and smashing kneecaps, I was surprised to find that this show not only lives up to the hype, but it’s probably the best animated series from Warner Bros since Batman Beyond.
A mix of Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti’s run on the character and the absurdity of shows like Rick & Morty (plus classic seasons of The Simpsons), the latest show from the DC Universe streaming app tells a story comic fans know too well: Harley (voiced by Big Bang Theory‘s Kaley Cuoco), fed up with being known as just The Joker’s “girlfriend”, strikes out on her own after being ditched by Joker in Arkham. The only problem with that? No one takes a female villain seriously. Staying with Poison Ivy (Lake Bell), Harley schemes her way to join the ranks of the Legion of Doom, despite Joker (Alan Tudyk) and other members of Batman’s rogues gallery’s best efforts.
Simply put, I wasn’t sure if I’d like this series. Even with the great reviews, the fact that this was another R-Rated take on the DC universe really rubbed me the wrong way at first. And it’s definitely strange to hear characters like The Joker, Harley, and Poison Ivy drop cusses in casual conversation. But aside from the opening few minutes of the first episode, it really doesn’t become that strange. In a lot of ways, it makes for a more realistic show, as the characters sound, well, like real people. It’s also a testament to the writing that this show handles topics as big as misogyny in a really entertaining way, and puts DC’s female villains and heroes in a whole new light.
All that may make Harley Quinn seem like it’s going to be really preachy, but it’s anything but. Instead, it takes a fun, off-kilter look at the world of Batman and his villains, and skewers it all lovingly. From the villains meeting up for the Bar Mitzvah of the Penguin’s nephew, to a burnt-out Commissioner Gordon who’s just trying to keep it all together, Harley Quinn refreshingly skewers the world of the Dark Knight, and even Batman isn’t immune, though he’s typically the straight man to the insanity around him.
Harley Quinn has big voice talent shoes to fill, but Kaley Cuoco handles the task easily. Full of great emotion and skill, Cuoco is a blast to listen to, and you can tell that she’s really having fun in the role. Lake Bell is also spectacular as Poison Ivy, who serves as Harley’s emotional rock, while also trying to keep to herself and her talking pet Frank (voiced by JB Smoove). The rest of the cast is chock full of great surprises, and I won’t spoil them here, but I will say that you’ll definitely want to have IMDB up while you watch (but be careful to not scroll too far down).
I always hesitate to say that one show is worth signing up for a streaming service, but if you can get a free trial of DC Universe, you should definitely watch Harley Quinn first. And if you plan it right, you can even start the second season (which starts in a few weeks). I’ve always believed that the reason why characters like Batman have endured for so long is because they’re constantly being reinvented, and Harley Quinn is a great example of this. It may not be every Batfan’s cup of tea, but for me, it’s a really funny take on the Batman that is sharply written and produced, and really should be seen by more people.