Spoiler Warnings for Harley Quinn S02E05, Trigger Warnings for violence and blood
Welcome back my friends! The fifth episode of Harley Quinn‘s breakneck second season has released and…whoa boy, was not expecting this to happen this early in the season. But then again, I’ve been saying that a lot this season. So, let’s dive right in!
We open up with…a dude on a couch wearing a ‘Release the Snyder Cut’ t-shirt, arguing with his friend who’s wearing a ‘The Last Jedi isn’t canon’ t-shirt. This is quickly revealed to be a meta-joke, jabbing at your stereotypical dudebro assholes and toxic fanboy culture, as the ‘Release the Snyder Cut’ guy insults the show, refusing to watch it. And then it’s revealed to serve a greater purpose besides. A way to get it out up front that Harley and Ivy aren’t in this episode. Harley Quinn will not be in an episode of the show that’s literally called Harley Quinn.
Instead we will be focusing on the Bat Family, as Bruce Wayne wakes up from a coma that his fall at the end of Season One caused, meets Batgirl for the first time, and works with her, Gordon, and Alfred to plan out how to retake Gotham and restore order. All the while Bane and Two Face try to work out an alliance in order to defend themselves.
I…am of mixed feelings about this choice honestly. On the one hand, adding Harley and Ivy shenanigans to the episode would be a bit much to ask given the 22 minute run time of this show. This is not a run time that allows for three plot lines. Hell, as we’ve seen, it barely allows for two. But on the other hand…the show is called Harley Quinn! This feels like a very odd choice.
Well, regardless of whether or not this was the best idea, our episode begins with Bruce Wayne waking up from his coma, with a long beard and hair, and staggering over to the window to discover Gotham in ruins. He collapses, and is forced to crawl across the floor and be snippy with Alfred. This is the first time we see Alfred in the series, having only been mentioned once in the previous season, and he’s remarkably excellent. It’s nice to see him, but it should be noticed that we seem to have traded him for another of Bruce’s household because Damian is…nowhere to be seen. We haven’t heard a peep about him since the first episode, and while there’s a degree to which that’s fine, it’s very strange to see him not in this episode given that, y’know Bruce is his father.
After being helped to shave and dress by Alfred, Bruce goes down to have a meeting with Gordon, who begs for money to help him retake Gotham. When he’s turned down, he attempts to sway them by showing footage of two new heroes who’ve been fighting in Gotham, Batgirl and a guy who dresses like an eighteenth century fop with a wig full of weapons who’s called ‘Macaroni’ in a…remarkable historical deep cut. I’ve come to expect comic book deep cuts in this show, what with full episodes devoted to Harley having to deal with Maxie Zeus, Queen of Fables, and Dr. Trap, but this is a different thing entirely. For context, a ‘macaroni’ was a deeply effeminate, powdered and tall wigged, rich man in British society in the 1700’s. So effeminate in fact that dandies were considered a masculine reaction to them. A weird choice from a writing standpoint, and a weird choice for a heroic aesthetic, but then again this is a comedy show, and an episode absent the majority of the show’s comic relief characters.
We then visit Bane and Two-Face at the Injustice League headquarters, reacting to Mr. Freeze’s death in the previous episode. Bane is more than a little worried about the situation and floats the idea of working together rather than just not against each other, but Two-Face boldly declares that he’s not afraid of Harley. Which, given her string of successes of the last four episodes, is remarkably cocky. This version of Two-Face is, in fact, about as big of a departure from the norm as Bane and Clayface. He never refers to himself in the plural, never flips a coin, and is generally just a disfigured bank robber. It’s an odd choice, particularly given that unlike the other two these changes don’t seem to have been done to make him more comedic.
After Two-Face rejects Bane’s proposed team up, we go back to Bruce, sitting in bed and watching Batgirl stream taking down a criminal and giving a safety tip to her audience. Her costume is complete now, and between it and the social media presence she’s quite clearly being drawn from the Batgirl of Burnside period within the comics. A good choice honestly, and I miss that costume. Bruce isn’t impressed though. He’s worried that she’ll get herself killed, and that, in Gotham’s current state, the death of a hero wearing the Bat symbol might do irreparable damage to the morale of the citizens of Gotham, a not unreasonable concern. Particularly given that in this setting Bruce has no idea who she is beneath the mask and had nothing to do with training her.
He slips out into Gotham to speak with her about this, but she’s simply excited to meet him and quickly pulls out her phone, streaming and announcing to all of New Gotham that Batman is back. This sends a surge of hope through the city, with citizens standing up against Two-Face when he attempts to rob a bank and telling him to just go away. Two-Face reacts with much more fear in the news that Batman is back than he did to the threat Harley presented, and quickly calls Bane back to meet him, presenting Bane with a comfortable chair and his favorite drink. It is a strange mixture of adorable and sad how pleased Bane is with this basic kindness, and while he’s not stupid enough to not suspect that this is solely because of Batman’s return, he agrees to go along with Two-Face. Even if he’s upset by how Two-Face downplays his presence in the marketing of their team up.
Realizing that he can’t fight in the regular suit, Bruce calls Lucius Fox, who makes him a suit that’s a rather blatant Iron Man homage. Alfred confiscates the suit, feeling that it won’t compensate enough for the poor shape of Bruce’s body, but Bruce manages to steal it while he sleeps, donning it and going out into the city. Things go well for him for a while, taking out several criminals, until he eventually comes into contact with Bane. They struggle at first, with the suit giving Bruce an advantage, but pointing out that the marketing very clearly doesn’t include Bane results in the criminal snapping and activating his Venom.
The resulting fight is absolutely brutal, as we finally see why Bane is allowed to sit at the table of the Legion of Doom and the Injustice League. Despite the armor and weaponry of the suit, Bane destroys Bruce with relative ease and no visible injuries, leaving Batman with broken legs and major head wounds. Bane doesn’t finish him off however, storming off to go confront Two-Face over the marketing.
Speaking of Two-Face, some of his goons find Bruce and string him up over a fire, planning to kill him and then post the video of them doing so online. Before they can however, he’s saved by Batgirl and Macaroni, who’s revealed to be Alfred. It’s an odd costume choice for him, but I suppose that’s the point, both for being so over the top nobody will suspect him and for the sake of comedy. Bruce finally acknowledges that he’s not physically fit to be Batman yet, and introduces Batgirl to Gordon (I mean, obviously Batgirl knows Gordon, but still), while Two-Face sweet talks his way out of trouble and gets Bane back under his thumb. The episode then ends with a cut back to the two men from the opener, and a jab at DC Universe’s binge preventing, one episode a week model.
This…was an odd episode. It wasn’t bad by any means. Batgirl is adorable, Alfred is amusing, the fight between Batman and Bane is honestly one of the best in the series, certainly the best to not involve Harley, and I’ll always be here for media where Bruce is forced to back down and admit that he has flaws and isn’t unstoppable.
That being said…this is still an episode of Harley Quinn without Harley Quinn! And while the cast and writing is good enough that the absence of Harley and her crew doesn’t ruin the episode, it’s a very strange choice that I don’t honestly think I approve of. But, so long as this doesn’t happen too often in the future, I guess this wasn’t a bad experiment of an episode. If nothing else, it’s nice to be able to say that this proves that my enjoyment of this show doesn’t solely derive from me being a massive Harley stan.
Thanks for reading y’all! See ya next week!
Image courtesy of Warner Bros.