Starring: Kaley Cuoco and Lake Bell
Writer: Adam Stein
Director: Vinton Heuck
Studio: WB Animation
I’ll admit, I was never the biggest fan of Harley Quinn as a character. She was great in Batman: The Animated Series (1992-1995), but other appearances never seemed to interest me. However, recent outings — such as Birds of Prey (2020) and Harleen (2019) — and now her newest foray into animation have reminded me why she continues to be a fan favorite. Harley Quinn Season 1 was irreverent, quick-witted, and surprisingly heartfelt with a supporting cast that quickly elevated the show. The focus was never taken away from Harley, and the finale was a great conclusion to her journey of self-discovery.
Season 1 of Harley Quinn found the titular character quickly abandoned by The Joker (Alan Tudyk) and leaving Harley (Kaley Cuoco) with broken promises of love yet again. After advice from her roommate and BFF Poison Ivy (Lake Bell), Harley decides she needs to stick it to The Joker. How? By trying to earn a membership with the highly touted Legion of Doom. To prove herself, she forms a supervillain team of misfits by the likes of Clayface (Alan Tudyk), Dr. Psycho (Tony Hale), King Shark (Ron Funches), and Sy Borgman (Jason Alexander).
With her crew in tow, Harley goes on a soul searching romp through Gotham City to try to prove she’s villain enough for the Legion and The Joker. But by season’s end, she soon realizes that she’s been ignoring the people who truly care about her in favor of the affection of someone who has continually let her down. Of course, Gotham had to crumble into anarchy before her self revelation, but that’s part of the fun in Harley Quinn.
Season 2 starts with just that: A Gotham in shambles, supervillains taking over, and The Joker and Batman (Diedrich Bader) nowhere to be found. Anarchy rules in what looks to be a loose adaptation of the No Man’s Land story from the comics. The setting is grim, but Harley revels in the chaos with her newfound independence from The Joker. However, she and her friends are soon confronted by the goons of notable Gotham villains looking to capitalize on the situation. It quickly becomes apparent that in taking down one giant psychotic asshole, Harley now has a handful of smaller ones to deal with. That’s Gotham City for you.
Rather than directly taking on the likes of Two-Face and the bunch, Harley decides to go another route. Fueled by her new sense of independence, she rallies the henchmen of Gotham into finding their own freedom away from their super villain bosses. What follows is a hilarious montage of low-level goons ripping off their former boss’ shtick and an exasperated Harley exclaiming that she had to fight off “five new question-based villains.”
This episode mostly focuses on Harley vs. Gotham’s worst while everyone else sort of takes a backseat. The team does get involved in a hilarious heist to rescue Harley, who still manages to cause bloody mayhem despite being frozen in a block of ice. It’s just how Harley rolls, y’know? This episode also made me realize that I want to play a Dungeons and Dragons session with ACT-TOR Clayface and his elaborate character backstories. The real meat of this episode is when Harley takes on the new Injustice League made up of Two-Face (Andy Daly), Penguin (Wayne Knight), The Riddler (Jim Rash), Bane (James Adomian), and a newly introduced Mr. Freeze (Alfred Molina).
One of the highlights of last season was making fun of how organized crime works in this world. The Legion of Doom makes press releases, low-level members are relegated to the office basement, and there’s even a supervillain-for-hire app. Season 2 continues this when the Injustice League forms in an attempt to reorganize Gotham into territories, renaming it “New New Gotham.” The dynamic between these characters is great, especially Mr. Freeze’s over-dramatic ice gun entrance. However, Bane continues to be a standout from Season 1. He’s portrayed as the bumbling punching bag of the group, but what makes him even more hilarious is his muffled Tom Hardy Bane voice.
Jim Gordon (Christopher Meloni) is another standout from last season. He has a hilarious run-in with Damian Wayne (Jacob Tremblay), a pre-pubescent Robin donning an over-sized Batman suit. His confident declaration of his readiness to take on his father’s mantle is about as hilarious as it sounds.
The Season 2 premiere rides the momentum of the previous finale despite major characters mostly taking a backseat. Instead, we follow a reinvigorated Harley as she deals with Gotham’s Injustice League. The humor remains quick-witted and irreverent as before with Bane continuing to be a standout gag character. Cuoco gives another strong performance as Harley. She could easily become iconic despite rarely using the Brooklyn accent. With a New New Gotham and nothing holding her down anymore, Harley Quinn remains a show that needs to be on your radar.