What’s a clown to do when she makes friends with a nerdy do-gooder? For as silly as Harley Quinn is, it also is going out of its way to make its lead more three-dimensional than she’s ever been. This week, she has to start contending with the fact that she might actually like working with–ugh–Batgirl. Spoilers follow for Harley Quinn Season 3, Episode 7, “Another Sharkley Adventure.”
“Another Sharkley Adventure”
Things rarely go as planned for Harley and her crew, and that’s doubly the case this week as she sets off to capture Frank the Plant’s captor while King Shark heads home for his father’s funeral.
While Harley began life as Joker’s sidekick, she’s evolved arguably more than any other DC character ever. Changes to characters like Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and The Flash tend to be circular; for as many changes as they undergo, they always end up back in the classic silhouette that we know them for. Then there’s Harley Quinn. A sidekick, then a girlfriend, and then her own person. Her sexuality is fluid, and so are her allegiances. She’s absolutely Chaotic Neutral in the Dungeons and Dragons sense; she cares about people regardless of their allegiances, not because of them.
When Harley goes to capture Frank’s kidnapper–Bruce Wayne–she’s expecting the job to go smoothly. Instead, she ends up tied to a chair next to Batgirl as Jervis Tetch, the Mad Hatter, enters the room with his Cownews Boyboy hats. Griffin Newman (The Tick) provides Tetch’s voice, and seems to have a lot of fun with it. But the Hatter is really there as an obstacle for Harley to admitting that she actually gives a crap about Batgirl and that she has something resembling a conscience, even if it doesn’t function quite like everyone else’s.
While that’s going on, King Shark’s return home leads to his discovery that his brother is only interested in being King for a Day; his kingdom’s value as aquatic real estate for Ocean Master is far more appealing to him. This forces the usually rather silly character to think hard about whether his freedom matters more than the responsibility of protecting his people. King Shark isn’t typically the deepest character in DC, whether in comics or film. He doesn’t have enough pathos to develop much depth, but by putting together this story for him over the last few seasons, they’ve found a way to give him something to fight for.
It’s still silly, of course. King Shark’s brother wears a scarf made of his father’s body, and the ceremony they attend is backed by a prominent image of a crucified Shark Jesus in the background; Ocean Master is actually a balding sleazeball more than a proper villain, and his spikey helmet proves to be a powerful weapon when the brothers come to blows. Ron Funches’ voice has always been one of the best parts of this show, and it’s fun to see him get a bit more to do in the story aside from just letting the inherent silliness of his voice do so much of the work. In just this episode he took me from “Oh I love this funny guy” to “wow, I can’t wait to see how he handles this situation.”
Don’t break up the party
Even with how much I appreciate these ideas, they don’t work quite as well in action as they do in theory. This is one of the worst episodes of Harley Quinn so far, by which I mean it’s quite enjoyable instead of hilariously written and deeply insightful. Separating characters is always a risky move; it’s virtually required to let the characters grow, but it also removes them from the chemistry that has made them so enjoyable. That’s the case here.
King Shark’s storyline drags at times even as it attempts to flesh out the shark kingdom, and it’s hard not to feel the absence of Ivy, Clayface, and King Shark in Harley’s storyline.
The episode is still enjoyable and lays enough groundwork for future fun that it’s worth watching. Will King Shark, now an actual king, step up and be a ruler for his people? And what does that mean for his adventures with Harley’s crew? And with Bruce Wayne captured and taken back to Selina Kyle’s penthouse, what manner of hijinks will ensue from all of the unknown connections there? I’m looking forward to next week’s episode due to these developments, rather than enjoying them on their own merits.