Batman is, no question, the ultimate badass. He’s the smartest, hardest-working guy in almost any room he’s in, and he’s usually the most dangerous, too. But he’s struggled over and over again with simple social tasks like making friends or asking for help, even when he desperately needs it. In the comics, it makes him look even cooler. In real life, though, you know what happens when you try to put weight on a busted ankle and the like. Wincing, screaming, and maybe even crying. This week’s all about Batman in the aftermath of the Joker’s takeover of Gotham and Harley’s victory over the clown prince. Spoilers follow for Harley Quinn 2×05, “Batman’s Back, Man.”
“Batman’s Back, Man”
Let me get this out of the way right at the start. If you’ve ever used the word ‘triggered’ in hopes of triggering someone, the opener and closer that bookend this week’s episode of Harley Quinn are almost guaranteed to annoy you. In fact, they were designed to do that. I don’t want to spoil the joke, other than to say that it’s a screamingly funny metacommentary on some takes on Harley Quinn.
But the show dives into its actual story before too long and, surprise, this week is all about Batman. When last we saw the Dark Knight, he was tied up in Joker’s tower, and still was when it collapsed into a pile of rubble.
When we find Bruce Wayne, he’s waking up from a coma in his bed and stumbles toward his window to find Gotham City in ruins. Soon, Commissioner Gordon is briefing Bruce on the appearance of two low-level heroes trying to protect Gotham: a British “yankee-doodle dandy” that calls himself Macaroni and someone calling herself Batgirl.
Despite Harley Quinn being a comedy show, and a slapstick one at that, this episode manages to drill to the core of Batman’s drive and ego and the way Gotham would likely view Batman. Once Batman realizes Batgirl is out there, he tracks her down and confronts her. She responds by broadcasting him on her live social media story, revealing to Gotham and the world that Batman is back, man.
The state of Gotham seems designed to play on Batman’s worst tendencies. Staying home to heal even though he can barely walk is all but unbearable for Bruce. Seeing someone else wearing the bat cowl drives him bonkers, even when she manages to prove herself confident with her social media stories showing her fighting crime.
Bruce talks Lucius into building him a robot batsuit, which Alfred forbids and goes to great lengths to prevent, though Alfred’s charge proves more cunning than he. Batman ends up fighting Bane under a Two-Face billboard, and Bane wrecks him so thoroughly that the comic-book Bane would probably tell him to chill out.
Eventually, Batman has to relent. When Batgirl and Macaroni–who is actually Alfred in a wig–find him with his legs pointing the wrong direction, Batman has to give Batgirl his blessing so that Gotham has a Bat, even if it’s not the Bat.
This episode seems like a kind of homage to that whole situation, with Bruce confined to a chair, getting his ass kicked by Bane, having to let someone else be the Bat. It’s not a 1:1 by any means, but it seems to me like the inspiration is there.
While all of that is happening, Two-Face and Bane are butting heads. Bane is simultaneously strong enough to command a gang and capture part of Gotham, but he’s also the whipping boy for the other members of the Injustice League. With only these two left, though, they’re forced to work together, and Two-Face uses every opportunity to take advantage of Bane.
Harley Quinn has often been about looking at what villains’ lives are like outside of villain times or asking how these extraordinary characters might respond to their situations if they were a little more ordinary. The show beat the crap out of Batman and then asked how he’d handle it. Badly is the answer, and the show pokes fun at that with moments like when a kid sees Bane thrashing Batman and drops his Batman toy and dejectedly picks up a Tommy gun.
I love seeing Alfred give Bruce tough love throughout the episode. Alfred is the closest thing Bruce has to a father figure, and seeing how that relationship plays out is a blast. Seeing how dangerous Bane can be after a season and a half of the other villains dumping on him is fun, too.
I’ll admit that I felt the lack of Harley, Ivy, and their crew. Actor Diedrich Bader is equal parts hilarious and self-serious as Batman and Bruce Wayne, but Harley and her crew bring kinetic energy that fits the look and tone of the comedy really well. Without them, something is missing. With Batman’s condition confirmed and Batgirl temporarily in charge of Gotham, though, I’ll admit that I’m excited to see what happens when Batgirl and Harley Quinn finally meet.