Flipping the script on Batman can be tough–so much of his character and those of the people around him are so well established that evolving him can be difficult. But Harley’s fluidity of character is affecting everyone around her this season, right up to the final moments of Season 3. Spoilers follow for Harley Quinn Season 3, Episode 10, “The Horse and the Sparrow.”
“The Horse and the Sparrow”
By the time the credits roll on this season, Gotham is almost unrecognizable. Ivy very nearly terraformed the city. Joker is not only mayor, but a well-liked mayor. Bruce Wayne goes to jail. Harley is working with the Bat Family. And the weirdest part is that all of this feels earned and organic.
The overarching theme that seems to unite so many storylines in Harley Quinn is the simple idea that “just because it’s like this right now, it doesn’t mean that it has to be.” The main characters of the show all have moments like that throughout the season, allowing what feel at first like disparate, distracting stories to weave back into the main narrative in meaningful ways.
Harley’s roots (not the hair dye kind)
Harley Quinn, as we’ve discussed throughout the reviews this season, was a licensed psychologist and therapist before she was the Joker’s Gal Friday; reclaiming her life for herself has meant reuniting with the knowledge and experience she developed as a doctor. There seems to be a middle ground between Harley and Harleen, in which the clown and doctor both have roles. Sometimes someone needs their skull crushed, but others just need their heads shrunk a little bit. While I wouldn’t try to pull most of these stories back into the primary Batman storyline, they feel a lot more grounded despite the hijinks going on around them.
Making Batman the villain in the way Harley Quinn does, for example, would be wildly out of place in the comics, both for how silly it all is and how mundane it ends up being. Harley set Bruce down the path of actually dealing with his trauma. He decides to attend the premiere of the biopic about his father’s life, which he finds out too late was also a sting operation to arrest Bruce for tax evasion.
A lot happens in a short time here; Bruce reveals to Harley and Barbara that he’s going to accept his punishment because, for him, it’ll be part of the healing process Harley started him on. He also knows that Barbara and the other members of the Bat family are capable of protecting Gotham–not to mention that Harley is finding herself standing more and more on the side of good, even if it’s not a label she’s comfortable with.
Ivy’s roots (the plant kind)
Ivy also has plenty of work to do. She’s embracing her villainous side. If it weren’t for the fact that the showrunners have said that Harley and Ivy won’t be breaking up at any time in the series, it would almost feel like the two are growing apart, but it seems instead like they’re both growing, and doing so together. Lex Luthor approaches Ivy not to join the Legion of Doom, but to lead it, and Ivy finds the offer difficult to resist.
Luthor tasks her with taking out the Joker over one of his new tax policies, and soon Harley and Ivy have Joker tied up in the back room of the theater where the movie premiere is taking place. Harley leaves them alone and the two get to talking, and the Joker has some surprisingly insightful things to say about Harley. When they were together, she would do stuff she didn’t want to just to please him, he explains, and he could always tell when that was the case. He didn’t care, but he encourages Ivy to pay attention and notice the little signs of Harley’s lack of commitment–forgetting her bat, tying an easy-to-escape knot on the Joker’s ropes.
Growing apart, together
Ivy’s growing confidence is pushing her further down the villainous path, while Harley’s reconnection with her roots is leading her more toward doing heroic things. Harley Quinn is already set to get a fourth season, and I’m deeply curious to see how the writers ride the line of putting these two characters on seemingly opposing sides of a conflict while also committing to the idea that they’re not going to break them up, especially since both characters seem so well suited to the paths they’re on.
With all that said, one of the most impressive things is how the writers have managed to keep the show’s slapstick humor despite all of these character changes. There are tons of in-jokes for fans of comics, like Harley commenting on Nightwing having the best butt in Gotham or Clayface noting that a mustache in his movie cost the film $16 million in budget. Harley Quinn never stops being silly even as it evolves and changes the characters in meaningful ways.
I’m intrigued to see where so many of these characters end up next season. What does Batman look like when Bruce Wayne is actively dealing with his trauma? How does Harley and Ivy’s relationship following the events of this season?
There were some down episodes in this season, like last week’s rushed villainous twist for Ivy, but Harley Quinn is still one of the most interesting DC shows in production right now, and I can’t wait to see more.