Sunday, April 14, 2024

Harley Quinn Brings Back The Joker, Asks Questions

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Spoiler Warnings for Harley Quinn S02E06, Trigger Warnings for blood, death, and mentions of parental abuse

Well, things are back to normal in the world of Harley Quinn! Or, well, as normal as they get in this crazy show. Still, Harley has returned to the show, as has Ivy and the crew. To varying degrees though. This episode you see, is going to be almost entirely in flashback, the most extensive use of the gimmick in the series thus far. With that in mind, let’s dive in!


Our episode begins with Harley and Ivy in a bar, playing some games, when Harley notices a man she insists is the Joker, just now looking like a person, positing that he must have been unmade by that acid he tried to use on her. Ivy is skeptical at first, until Harley uses a picture editor on her phone, giving him a paper white face and green hair to demonstrate that no, that is very much the Joker. Ivy wants to kill him, but Harley for once just wants to avoid making a scene and tries to leave. Not wanting the Joker to see her, she and Ivy crawl on the floor, but this just results in Joker tripping over them.

To their confusion and suspicion, Joker apologizes to them, and helps Harley up. In a really rather good bit of detail work, Harley instinctively flinches away from the Joker’s hand before reluctantly letting him help her up. They briefly talk with him, listening as he talks about his girlfriend’s kids, and his job, apologizing and blaming himself for tripping on them, before resuming his work. Harley and Ivy go back to their table and get in a debate over whether or not a person can change at their very core. Harley feels they can, Ivy doesn’t, and so Harley decides to tell the story of her first day at Arkham.

Her day begins by walking in on a pre Two-Face Harvey Dent and a still in shape and clean-shaven Commissioner Gordon in the middle of a push-up contest. She greets them happily, pleased to have been made the Joker’s psychiatrist. She’s apparently studied him quite a bit, having even written her thesis on him already. Which is a…different take on the character’s backstory. I don’t know if I’ve never seen it, but I certainly don’t remember anyone having Harleen be interested in the Joker before even arriving in Arkham. Unfortunately for her, neither Gordon nor Dent actually were aware that she was qualified for the job, she was simply cheap to hire and they’re desperate. It turns out that Joker has hidden a bomb in Gotham and they need someone to go into maximum security and find out where.

Harleen agrees to try, but before she can truly make the attempt there’s a disruption as Ivy escapes. It turns out the Arkham cafeteria has accidentally gotten some lettuce that Ivy got a hold of, and she’s using it to kill the guards. However, Arkham’s security is equipped with flamethrowers at this point in history, and are thus able to subdue her. Harleen protests that flamethrowers aren’t a good way to treat patients, but Harvey brushes aside her concerns with enthusiasm for a potential law that will give prisoners even less rights. This is a very different version of Harvey Dent to go along with their very different version of Two-Face, the man being a self-obsessed and craven politician, more interested in votes, and his impending re-election than anything else. It’s not bad, it’s just a strange direction to take the character in my opinion.

Regardless, Harleen heads into the cells of Arkham, looking at the different inmates, getting jump-scared by Man Bat, trading barbs with Riddler, and giving Ivy her sympathy. Eventually, she reaches the maximum-security wing, where Joker’s being kept. The pair speak for a little bit, Joker dismissing her as uninteresting and unimportant, until Harleen decides to get rid of the barriers between them, figuratively and literally, and enters his large cell. The two quickly begin to get into a physical fight after Joker takes her pen and presses it to her throat, with Harleen using her gymnastic abilities to escape the holds the Joker puts her in. Gordon chews her out for this but, as she demonstrates by revealing that the Joker drew a smiley face on her neck, Joker wasn’t actively trying to kill her, just testing her.

It’s decided to let Batman try and interrogate Joker, resulting in an homage to the interrogation scene from The Dark Knight, with this time Joker pushing Batman’s buttons by bringing up the death of Jason Todd (a name drop that frankly just raises a ton of questions about the state of the Bat-Family in this show, but we’ll just move on cause I can’t go a full paragraph off of a single line in good conscience). There’s much more blood in this version than in the live-action one of course, but in the end Batman fails to get an answer from Joker. Harleen requests a second crack at him, and runs off to speak with Ivy. She noticed that Ivy and Joker were put in the same group therapy session, but that there are no notes. As Ivy explains, Joker killed the therapist due to not wanting to have to talk about his family.

Harleen goes back to the Joker to speak with him, this time exploiting his ego to get him to talk to her about his family. He spins her a story about his abusive father, and parlays it, making a deal. He’ll tell her where the bomb is if she can get him a dinner in the cafeteria, rather than having to eat off of a tray in his cell. Joker declares that it’s in the heart of Little Italy. Everyone assumes he’s talking about a portion of Gotham, which happens to have a statue shaped like a heart made out of macaroni noodles, but as is soon revealed when Harleen meets Joker in the cafeteria, he is, in fact, talking about Arkham’s short Italian chef Luigi, whose nickname is Little Italy. Luigi explodes near a wall, allowing Joker to grab Harleen and run, intending on using her as a human shield. Dent’s not interested in worrying about that though, as he views the damage letting Joker escape would do to his career far worse than killing Harleen.

Fortunately for the good doctor though, before she went to meet with Joker Harleen met with Ivy, giving her a plant clipping in thanks for her help with Joker and flippantly disregarding the fact that Ivy could easily kill her. This allows Ivy to both escape and to capture the Joker. She then surrenders herself, securing future therapy with Harleen before being sedated. As Joker and Ivy are hauled back to Arkham, Dent approaches Harleen, trying to act like he didn’t order a sniper to kill her to get the Joker, but she spits in his face and calls him Two-Face before heading off.

Back in the present, Harley explains that this is her basis for believing that people can change, because Ivy changed. Ivy disagrees with the extent to which she changed, admitting that her father hit her in the process of explaining this. They decide to call in a tiebreaker and get Psycho to come in and check the now sane Joker’s mind (they never reveal his new name I’m afraid). Psycho’s scans show a happy, boring, man who has no memories of his life before the collapse of the Joker’s tower, and Harley bids the temporarily catatonic man farewell before heading out with Ivy…where they’re promptly captured by Two-Face, ending the episode on a cliff hanger.

Final Thoughts

This was an interesting episode! We haven’t really seen much of Harleen in this series, particularly outside of Harley hallucinating her to get herself some therapy. So it was fun to see that, as well as the past version of Gordon. Ivy and Harleen were adorable, and Joker was fitting for the character. I’m also relieved to see that they’re not using Joker being made sane and ‘normal’ as a device to get Harley back with him, even temporarily. That was my one concern with the revelation that he’d survived at the end of the previous season.

It’s hard to say to what extent this is a filler episode. Not only do we not know the extent to which they intend to use the newly sane Joker in future episodes, meaning this could either be tying that loose end or just reminding us that it’s there, but it does end with the hook for the upcoming episode. It doesn’t feel essential except for that ending bit, but nor does it feel like a waste of time or uninteresting on the whole. All in all, I quite liked it!

Thanks for reading y’all! See you next week!

Images courtesy of Warner Bros

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