We are about 14 months into the DC Streaming Service’s run. Much has changed in the world of streaming. Apple launched and flubbed their service and Disney came out swinging for the fences with their Star-Studded line up. But just leave it to Warner Brothers DC to show some signs of life with their original content. Swamp Thing was great but gone too soon as the execs felt it did not fit the current mold. The service surrounded with rumors that WB would be going back to the drawing board and ending it before it got its fair share. However fast forward a couple months we had a highly touted second half of Young Justice and in my opinion a break out season for Titans. Now DC Universe does not seem have bad. DC Universe is ending the year strong with the most original bing worthy series to date with Harley Quinn, this raunchy, super violent, animated series (yes animated) takes all the source material and turns it on its head. All while making it a hit with masses.
By now, we should all know the relationship between Harley Quinn, a former psychiatrist-turned-villain, and the Joker has always been abusive and toxic – a fact that most people can see, but some house some Batman fans see the pairing as an iconic love story that they love. Harley being one who sees it like that as well– she’s spent her entire criminal career being the Joker’s unappreciated play thing, and as Harley Quinn starts-off, Harley still failed to see it, even though everyone around her – including her best friend Poison Ivy – is well aware.
When Joker sacrifices Harley in order to get away, she eventually stays at Arkham Asylum for a full year. During the year, Harley foolishly spends believing that any minute, her Pudding is going to come rescue her. However, when reality sets in, she finally starts to get it: the Joker does not care about her and never has. Heartbroken Harley take this time to strike out on her own. That is the basic set-up of Harley Quinn show, and it allows the animated series to go down some bloody, foul-mouthed, but unbelievably funny paths.
While it helps to have some working knowledge of the characters and their world. It is not super necessary to know too much. Just that the Joker is Batman’s most dedicated villain to the point that he’s co-dependent. Those of us who love Batman and his universe are going to have plenty to latch onto. At the same time, we must keep in mind Harley Quinn is not interested in playing by rules that govern the real world or the Batman Mythos. Supervillains have their own office hangout with a breakroom where they gather and gossip. The animated Bane here has the same voice as the Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, and like that, version of the character, his solution to seemingly every problem is to blow it the hell up. There is an entire episode where the characters attend a bar mitzvah. In another episode, Robin (Damien Wayne) shows up, and, as voiced by Jacob Tremblay, he plays the character as an adorable little kid playing crime fighter rather than an actual superhero. It is all so wonderfully ridiculous, that I am sure some Batman faithful are not going to gung ho about it.
Kaley Cuoco beautifully voices Harley, and she gives the character her own version rather than the now-iconic, thick-accented vocal work of original Harley actress Arleen Sorkin. Cuoco’s comic timing is flawless, and she manages to make Harley sympathetic despite the flaws in her. The unsung hero of the cast is Lake Bell, who is an absolute delight as the always bothered but empathetic Ivy. She is Abbot to Harley’s Costello. Alan Tudyk voices the Joker, Tudyk seems to be content with being a poor man’s Mark Hamill’s famous Joker voice, and it works fine here. Tony Hale, voicing Doctor Psycho, a raging misogynist who ends up joining Harley’s low-rent supervillain team after the Legion of Doom gives him the boot for saying the c-word on live TV. (Yes that word) Hale gets to go as over-the-top as possible, which I absolutely loved.
Harley Quinn is a series about redemption. The show sets out to redeem Harley as more than just “the Joker’s girl”, and Harley herself wants to be ultimately wants to be an independent figure. However, that does not mean the show is in any danger of getting too sincere about any of the topics it focuses on. I give Harley Quinn a 4/5 for the series it works better in the first half but it never goes off the rails. Truly enjoyable for everyone who wants a good laugh.
Harley Quinn premieres on DC Universe November 29.