In comics, the villains are pretty obvious to us–even when the heroes can’t see them. Joker, Reverse-Flash, Lex Luthor, and many other familiar names give us something easy to hate. In real life, though, the villains are more often than not corporations that exist only to make profit for shareholders without regard to the human cost. Harley Quinn isn’t super interested in getting deadly serious about, well, really any issue, but there’s no question that money and business are the real villains in this episode. Spoilers follow for Harley Quinn Season 4, Episode 4, ‘The First Person to Come Back From a Business Conference Without Chlamydia.’
“The First Person to Come Back From a Business Conference Without Chlamydia”
I discussed last week how the show’s natural evolution for Harley and Ivy–giving them new paths that are more appropriate to the character–is also a weak point for this season so far. Harley and Ivy and their crew are better together when it comes to writing funny, engaging stories for this show. What’s here is still good, but the gaps are impossible to miss. I love both of the stories, but wish they’d found a way to bring the two characters together.
When you’re an executive at a company, you’re going to travel for work. As the head of a villainous corporation, Ivy has to attend a villain convention on the moon. Of course. Meanwhile, Harley has to teach the Bat Family to fight with their bare hands when the new caretaker of Wayne Enterprises, Talia al Ghul, starts cutting corners and it affects the team’s ability to perform its duties.
When we look at Harley’s story in the abstract–a new boss of a megacorporation suddenly taking away everyone’s favorite toys–it’s hard not to see it as commentary on the goings-on at Warner Bros. Discovery, in which the new brass led by CEO David Zaslav has indefinitely shelved entire swaths of the Warner Bros. library so that they don’t have to pay actors and creators for it. This is entirely speculation on my part, and it may not be at all what the writers were intending, but a new boss coming in and taking a bunch of stuff people like away from them is certainly noteworthy.
It’s fun to see that, despite how chaotic Harley can be, she’s also a very grounded character in certain ways. Where Batman has all manner of Wayne Enterprises technology to help him in his quest, Harley has–get ready to make a list here–a baseball bat. Her fighting style is more akin to Jackie Chan than Batman, as she makes extensive use of her surroundings, including the bodies of her foes, to fight.
It makes the Bat Family look like a bunch of doofuses for a little while, of course, but the deadly serious Nightwing can surely withstand a few more jokes about his redonkulous badonkadonk. This story is about how Harley is finding ways to bond with these other vigilante heroes who think so differently from her. The other heroes catch up in pretty short order, and we get some rewarding fight scenes to go with the silliness.
While she’s doing that, Ivy is hobnobbing with other villains on the moon. Lex Luthor is in his element, his ego is out of control. For as great a planner as Lex is, he’s eventually always beaten by Superman, usually as a result of that ego that requires that he be the only person to battle mano a mano with the Man of Steel. It gets him here, too, when he gives Ivy the honor of introducing him at his keynote speech–a humiliating request for the new leader of a company.
And so Ivy spends the episode going around him, making her own opportunities. Lex giddily informs her that Steppenwolf, general of Apokolips, is the most anticipated conference guest, and so Ivy sets about getting Steppenwolf’s attention. Much of this time is spent following Ivy around as she lets her villain flag fly free, and it’s a lot of fun. Ivy has spent so much time buttoned up and afraid to flex, and now she’s grown enough to really go for it. It’s funny and fast and definitely the kind of thing we could stand to see more of.
Both Harley and Ivy are overwhelmingly successful in their separate quests, and it seems like it’s only a matter of time before the two come to blows. The writers have already promised that Harley and Ivy aren’t going to break up, so I’m excited to see how they thread the needle of this without erasing the progress of one of these characters.