Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Harley Quinn Hits The Campus

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Spoiler Warnings for Harley Quinn S02E02, Trigger Warnings for blood, violence, death, and slavery themes

Another week, another episode of Harley Quinn! Fresh off of a surprisingly swift defeat of one of her biggest enemies, the series now turns its focus to another of the ‘Injustice League’, as we look to take down the Riddler! Will Harley get a second of the five taken down in a row, or will she experience a setback? Let’s find out!


We begin in the mall, where Harley has set up a large board of enemies. The five members of the Injustice League and the Joker, with the latter and Penguin crossed off. But her attempts to go over the list falter and fail due to problems with lighting, though Psycho is prepared with homemade candles. Power has gone out across Gotham it seems, though if that’s related to Penguin’s death or some other factor(s) is unclear. There seemed to be power and water aplenty in the previous episode at any rate.

Well, regardless of the source of the outage, there does seem to be one person who still has power and clean water, and that’s Riddler. He’s taken control of Gotham University, locking it down and rebuilding it in his own image, and broadcasting commercials for his territory across Gotham. This puts him right on Harley’s list as her next target, and she decides that she and Ivy will sneak into Riddler University as co-eds and kill him. Clayface wants to come along, disguised as a co-ed himself, but well, he’s a terrible actor and so they tell him no. While Harley and Ivy go off to do that, King Shark and Psycho are dispatched to go find a water filter.

We cut to Kite Man airdropping Harley and Ivy into Riddler’s territory while the guards are distracted by a group attempting to storm the gates and get access to the campus and its resources. The couple flirts, Kite Man making a joke about not recognizing Ivy in her co-ed disguise (the pair have both used makeup to give themselves human skin tones) and Harley does not approve. The pair run into a tour being given by a redhead we soon learn is Barbara Gordon, and attempt to ask her where the Riddler is. She begins to question their sudden appearance, but her concerns are put to rest when Clayface (in his co-ed disguise of course) vouches for them. Apparently Clayface has become quite popular and well-liked despite not hiding his odd speech patterns.

And I need to talk about this development. Being a comedy show about villains, all of Harley’s crew has their flaws. But Clayface is the one whose biggest flaw, his own ego, repeatedly screws things up for the crew. From going too far in trying to trick Maxie Zeus, to getting the crew captured and indirectly causing No Man’s Land because he couldn’t resist the urge to showboat when trying to distract Joker, to now going against the instructions of his boss to sneak into the university in disguise. Does it work out alright in this episode? Sure. Are they a criminal group that’s more like friends than a proper outfit and thus have a loose chain of command? Yes, though it should be pointed out that in the previous episode the others admitted that trying to operate without Harley’s leadership was a disaster. Am I sick and tired of Clayface letting his ego and delusions of grandeur cause problems for everyone and not suffering any consequences in terms of his relationships with the crew? You bet!

Regardless, Barbara doesn’t know where Riddler is, though she warns them that he’s always watching via security cameras. Harley and Ivy consult a campus map, wondering where the Riddler could be, only to seemingly see him casually walking by. Harley jumps him, tacking him into a fountain and attempting to drown him, then realizes that it is not in fact the Riddler she’s attacking, but a mascot of the man. Because of course, he’d make himself the mascot. And to make matters worse, the dunking in the fountain caused splotches in Harley’s makeup, resulting in Barbara recognizing her. Harley attempts to chase her down, but she’s surprisingly agile and fast, and Harley gets blocked by a pushy pair of a capella group leaders trying to get her to audition for them.

Fortunately, she reunites with Ivy, who uses a tree to get them into Barbara’s room. Barbara manages to trip Harley up with a pillowcase, but Ivy subdues her promptly with the student’s houseplant. The trio begin arguing, with Barbara reassuring them that she hates Riddler and wants him taken down, and isn’t opposed to them being the ones to do it. Particularly given that, as we see, Jim is now living with her, drinking beer in the shower and refusing to wear shirts, a broken man. She hates seeing her father like this, and hopes to help lift his spirits. She proposes a team-up, showing that she got bands to let them into a party at the central frat house of the university, but Harley and Ivy just steal them and leave.

They find Clayface and discover that he’s successfully wooed a popular young man, getting himself a VIP bracelet. They force him to focus and get enough out of character to stop worrying about his ‘boyfriend’ and go check out the VIP area, but he doesn’t return anytime soon. Impatient, Harley and Ivy take out the bouncer and break in, discovering the secret of Riddler’s power supply. A large room full of giant hamster wheels, housing former students (and now Clayface) hooked up to shock belts, running to generate electricity for the university. Harley and Ivy are captured, Riddler being smart enough to recognize them, and are likewise hooked up to wheels.

However, they’re saved by an unlikely source if you don’t read comics. Barbara, in a hoodie and ski mask has arrived, determined to fight back and save people. She manages to put up a fight, and knocks Riddler into the switch that frees the prisoners, allowing Harley, Ivy, and Clayface to fight Riddler’s thugs and take Riddler with them.

Throughout the episode, we’d occasionally cut to Psycho and King Shark’s misadventures as they tried to retrieve a water filter, but like Jim’s troubles in the previous episode, while these were interesting and amusing character moments they didn’t do much to advance a plot so much as pad things out, so I won’t cover them here. But when they return they discover it was all for naught. Harley and Ivy have enslaved Riddler, putting him on one of his own wheels and using him to power the mall, and as such, they now have clean water again.

The episode ends with Barbara donning her purple biker jacket costume, an early prototype with a homemade cowl and no logo or cape. It looks like we’re finally getting a third member of the Bat-Family to show up and I could honestly not be happier. Barbara is an excellent character, and I look forward to seeing her bounce off of the wacky cast in the future.

Final Thoughts

This episode was also really good. A far better second episode than the previous season’s. I don’t know that I enjoyed it quite as much as the previous episode, I will concede. I feel like Harley and Ivy go to college is a premise worth spending multiple episodes on, so there’s a severe sense of missed opportunity, you saw how I felt about Clayface, and there wasn’t anything outstanding about this particular episode. Having Barbara show up is cool, and the ending with their treatment of the captured Riddler is cathartic, but there’s nothing that made me laugh out loud, only giggle, and nothing made me go ‘oh damn’ the way Harley’s takedown of Penguin did in the previous episode.

All in all, a good showing and a good episode, but not a great one.

Images courtesy of Warner Bros.

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