Thursday, June 20, 2024

Harley Quinn Returns As Things Go To Hell

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Spoiler Warnings for Harley Quinn S02E01, Trigger Warnings for gore and death.

Hello everybody! Welcome back! March is over, the world’s falling apart, and Gotham’s not doing much better! When last we left off, Joker and the Queen of Fables had defeated the Justice League and the Legion of Doom, then summarily been beaten by Harley, but in the process of doing so Joker triggered an 8.6 earthquake that devastated Gotham. Now then, with the summary of the previous season taken care of, let’s dive right in!


We open with the President of the United States declaring that Gotham is beyond saving after the earthquake, and that as such he is declaring it to no longer be a part of the United States. That’s right people, we’re doing the No Man’s Land story arc…but arguably darker, given that Batman’s gone and the only member of the Bat Fam we’ve seen around is Damian Wayne. The crew is understandably unhappy with this new turn of events except for Harley, who’s incredibly excited.

Fast forward three weeks and Gotham is in chaos still, murder and bloodshed running rampant on the streets. Harley has found her hyenas, Bud and Lou, and uses them to ferry her around Gotham, using a bumper car as a chariot. As she returns to the mall where she and her crew are based, Ivy tries to talk to her, saying that Harley needs to use this opportunity to take over Gotham. Harley disagrees, unable to get past her own mindset and seeing this as the best situation. She doesn’t want to rule Gotham, she doesn’t want anyone to do that. As far as she’s concerned, anarchy is the order of the day and it’s great.

This is disrupted rather quickly though, when first Penguin thugs and then Two-Face thugs attempt to seize the mall for their bosses, leading Harley to confront the fact that the big villains are going to try and maintain a certain degree of order and status quo. So, she heads off to the main bar frequented by henchmen and goons, and gives them a rousing speech, inspiring them to rise up and act like the Penguin, Two-Face, and other villains. To carve out a spot in the world for themselves.

And…it works! We see Two-Face get double-crossed in an attempted bank robbery, Riddler’s transmission get interrupted by one of his own goons, Harley busting up Penguin’s casino and inciting riots. Harley succeeds in creating a ‘goon insurrection’ as Penguin calls it. And so five villains gather together. Penguin, Riddler, Two-Face, Riddler, Bane, and newcomer to the show Mister Freeze, all meeting in Penguin’s place to discuss the consequences of not having goons. Penguin rallies them together, declaring that they need to unite, to get Harley on board with them and the goons under control. Bane attempts to point out that if they wanted Harley on board they probably should have actually invited Harley to the meeting, but gets told to shut up by the others.

Harley returns from her insurrection raising, proud of herself, but Ivy’s not pleased, pointing out that instead of having to worry about a few big assholes they now have to deal with a bunch of small assholes. Harley’s uninterested though, convinced that she has guaranteed Gotham will stay in the state she wants, unmitigated chaos. But then she gets a letter, inviting her to the inaugural meeting of ‘The Injustice League’, much to her dismay and Ivy’s amusement, the eco-terrorist bragging that she told Harley this would happen. Harley goes to the meeting, where she discovers that the Injustice League is just the five villains, and is presented with a map of what they’ve dubbed ‘new New Gotham’, with territory divided up. They later say they were planning on giving Harley territory, but the view of the map we get doesn’t reflect that, and Riddler openly brags to Harley that they’re going to give her the worst territory. This is a weird choice to make, given that Harley A) spent most of last season showing how dangerous she was and B) has Ivy in her corner, who all of them are terrified of, but I guess toxic masculinity blinds men well.

Harley, unsurprisingly, rejects this offer, trying to declare that since she took down Joker she gets to make the rules. The five disagree, with Freeze well, freezing her in a block of ice, which Penguin has put on display in his casino. We briefly see Harley’s perspective as the Injustice League taunts her through the ice, then cut to Penguin entering his casino, displaying his less than pleasant personality as he moves along and interacts with his employees. He goes through the main floor, stopping to admire the frozen Harley, where a disguised Clayface, shapeshifted into a waiter, pours him some champagne and convinces him to give a toast. We see that the rest of the crew is also present, disguised in the casino as guests and staff. They aren’t very subtle, Psycho is notably perched on top of King Shark beneath a tuxedo, but it’s a comedy so nobody notices. Penguin gives a toast, a long speech about his success, while Sy begins filling the room with smoke. The crew manages to get Harley off the pedestal and start sliding her out of the room, but are noticed before they can complete their escape. They do manage to partially free Harley, exposing her face and her right arm, still clutching the bat, allowing her to talk and fight somewhat.

The escape goes well at first, with Harley’s ice prison actually making for an excellent weapon given King Shark’s strength and Psycho’s telekinesis, but then they lose control of her and she winds up trapped in a room with Penguin. He taunts her, telling her that she was a mistake and it’s time for her to die, but before he can slit her throat she bites his nose off, falling backwards to shatter the ice and free herself. The pair get in a brief fight, with Penguin firing grenades at her, but all this does is create smoke, rubble, and chaos for Harley to hide in. It’s honestly very intense and kinda terrifying, as Harley moves through the smoke, laughing and mocking Penguin, before coming up and shoving the splintered, broken handle of her bat into his neck, killing him.

…yeah, Penguin dies in the first episode. I did not see that coming. But given his repulsive personality (kudos to Wayne Knight for an excellent performance on that front by the way) it is quite satisfying and cathartic. The crew and Harley return to the bar, where the crew explains what happened. Namely that Harley was in ice for two months, and that in that time the goons have gotten back in line and the Injustice League have successfully taken over ‘new New Gotham’. Harley’s pissed and admits that Ivy was right, and declares her intention to take over all of Gotham.

Also, throughout the episode, we get moments with Gordon as he tries and fails to hold his life, the GCPD, and his hope together. They’re good character moments for him, and honestly, Harley Quinn‘s take on Gordon is quite interesting and unique, so I do like them, but they don’t connect at all to the main plot, so it didn’t make sense to include them in the main body of the recap. Needless to say, things aren’t going well for him.

Final Thoughts

This was a really good season opener y’all. I have no real complaints. It was funny, had good character moments, had good action pieces, and Harley is freaking terrifying in her takedown of Penguin. There’s not much for me to say honestly. It’s really really good, and that kinda means I don’t have a lot of thoughts beyond ‘watch it!’.

Thanks for reading, see y’all next week!

Images Courtesy of Warner Bros.

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