Harley Quinn herself is one of the best examples in modern comics of the anti-hero. In D&D terms, she’s truly chaotic neutral. Harley Quinn has been a journey from Harley the villain’s sidekick to Harley figuring out who she wants to be. This episode marks a big moment where she’s making a choice that she feels is right, despite lots of reasons not to do that, and it feels like a huge moment for this version of the character. Spoilers follow for Harley Quinn Season 3, Episode 9, “Climax at Jazzapajizza.”
“Climax at Jazzapajizza”
How do you follow up one of the best episodes of a show and one of the best looks at Batman, possibly ever? Maybe you don’t. The team behind Harley Quinn put an admirable episode forth this week, but when contrasted against last week’s it’s hard not to see how this episode just doesn’t measure up.
This week picks up where the last left off, with an army of plant zombies threatening to terraform not just Gotham, but its citizens as well, as a result of Bruce Wayne’s emotional turmoil being in control of his genius brain. The crew, along with a reluctant Bat-family, hatches a plan to stop the wave, with Ivy as the crux of the plan.
Nightwing and Batgirl don’t know yet that Harley has been inside Batman’s head and knows his true identity, and the two try to throw her off the trail. “Batman is Bruce–” Harley begins. “Batman is Bruce Vilanch?!” Nightwing replies. Normally Harley’s jokes are pretty accessible even if you aren’t especially turned onto DC stuff or popular culture, but that one stretches really far, and that feels somewhat indicative of the episode overall. Everything is there, it just never quite lands.
Ivy realizes shortly after entering the Green that the zombies are essentially doing what she intended, but taking a very different path to get there, which only serves to embolden her. While Harley herself is very much an anti-hero who mostly looks out for herself and the people she cares about, the rest of her crew are decidedly villainous elsewhere in Batman lore. Clayface, King Shark, and Dr. Psycho are all straight-up villains, and Poison Ivy certainly tends to lean much further that way than Harley herself. For this version of Ivy, though, this feels like an Anakin Skywalker-style turn to the Dark Side.
If you pull back out from the story and look at it from a bird’s eye view, it makes sense the same way that Anakin’s turn did (before Clone Wars actually did the work to justify it). She was previously a villain, and she’s been gaining confidence in her abilities this season, so here she witnesses the true depth of her abilities and wants to take advantage of it. Okay, sure. But as recently as last week, there was no indication that she’d considered such a thing. It feels really sudden.
Harley and the crew book it for Gotham to try to hold off the zombie horde as it shambles toward the jazz festival happening downtown, and here you can kind of hear the writers’ room saying the festival name back and forth, getting funnier every time: Jazzapajizza. Only it’s not quite as funny in practice as it probably was in the writers’ room.
Harley somehow ends up in control of the Batwing, and she uses it to save Nightwing, Batgirl, and others before it crashes. The Bat-family is planning to kill Ivy to stop her from terraforming, you know, the whole world, but Harley stops them and instead throws herself in front of the plantifying vomit that the zombies are horking up all over the place, forcing Ivy to abandon her plan and withdraw her control. Once again, Ivy is in control of her mind again. It feels really flip-floppy for a character that has been very consistent throughout the show, and is generally quite consistent throughout Bat fiction. Ivy isn’t evil in her own eyes, she’s just misunderstood. Here, she went from misunderstood and insecure to just evil and cruel. If the show had justified it, that would be one thing, but it didn’t.
The other thing that it doesn’t handle well is Bruce’s role in all of this. Bruce continues to be the butt of the joke, which I’m fine with–this is a humor show, primarily. He tries to introduce his zombie parents to Damien, who shows no interest. “Ugh, teenagers. Wait, you wouldn’t know, you died when I was 8.”
Bruce should be in bigger trouble
Eventually, though, Bruce wakes up to the true insanity of what he’s doing. And that’s the thing: where Harley Quinn sits right now, Bruce Wayne is as much a villain as the Joker was in season 1. While Joker is implementing socialist policy to lift up the impoverished of Gotham, Bruce Wayne is destroying it with the careless use of plant magic. Maybe the show will deal with this in the finale, but right now it feels like it’s just being tossed aside without consequence.
One thing worth calling out is that when Ivy does go full villain, she changes from her stylish jacket into the classic ultra-sexy Ivy we know, and she honestly looks awesome. I like the idea that this version of Ivy–ultra-confident and unconcerned with human life–is also the classic version of the character. It feels like the same kind of rethinking of the character as season 1’s episode of Harley visiting her family in New Jersey and picking up her accent again.
This is still an enjoyable episode with lots of funny jokes and good moments, but it feels like a dud compared to so many others in the series, and it’s a disappointment after last week’s offering.