Harley Quinn Season 1 (REVIEW)
Season 1 (Complete)
Release Date 11/29/19
Harley Quinn is a big win for DC Universe.
As much as DC has put out plenty of quality animated work, there was risk with this series.
Going for an edgy, vulgar, violent show with Harley Quinn makes sense, no question. But those things aren’t associated with DC – though the comics themselves continue to get darker. Furthermore, while there’s a demand for Harley Quinn content, she comes with lofty expectations. After the first live-action Suicide Squad movie, DC can’t keep involving her in anything that isn’t up to par.
But, again, DC fans don’t have to worry, this show is far from a flop.
As expected, there’s no shortage of action in the 13-episode series. When it comes to the level of violence, DC didn’t hold back. This isn’t the definitive “most vicious animated show” out there, but it’s in the conversation. But none of it is forced. The violence isn’t over the top, either. It’s fitting for a show centered around a villain/anti-hero.
Harley (Kaley Cuoco), the action and the roster of characters DC can utilize may be the reasons you give Harley Quinn a chance, though they’re not the reason you’ll want to binge this show. The plot is good, not great, but that’s not something necessarily vital to a character like Harley.
The lifeblood of this show is its comedy. The quips mid-fight and mid-planning are non-stop. Most of them hit. Though, the best comedic moments happen during the in-between moments between Harley and her crew.
Frankly, those in-between moments make the show. Not only are they funny, those are the instances where the characters are most relatable. They’re also well-paced and never overextended.
Looking back at the roster of characters, DC went all out. You won’t see every DC character, but you’re going to a lot of them. Again, DC didn’t force things. The characters who were sprinkled in didn’t dominate the screen for long. In fact, most of the cameos and minor reoccurring characters were home runs.
The main cast was excellent, as well. Cuoco and the writers did the character justice. However, the show wouldn’t be the same without Poison Ivy (Lake Bell). The other members of Harley’s crew are nice adds, and the Joker (Alan Tudyk) is, of course, important, too. But Ivy and Harley provide the most comedy (and the best), and Ivy is at the center of everything with Harley. Ivy may not be a character who warrants her own show — and she may not be able to carry one — but damn, she is an outstanding No. 2 to Harley.
Regarding Joker: try as he might, he never dominates things. He won’t be the reason you remember this show, unlike the times the character has been on the big screen. Joker is still his evil-genius self, but he’s a jerk first and foremost in Harley Quinn. He’s essential to the story, but not someone I was dying to have on-screen at any point. Though, that’s a good thing. This show is all about Harley getting out of Joker’s shadow anyway. For what DC was trying to do, Joker was written well.
Now, there are serious moments within the show, but the show itself is not serious. No character is safe from ridicule.
Of all 13 episodes, the first two are probably the weakest. They’re not bad, but I was definitely waiting for things to pick up. With the episodes only being 20 minutes apiece, it’s not hard to be patient. But you’ll see right away the second episode is better than the first, then the next 11 are all on a fairly similar playing field.
(WARNING: Spoilers ahead for Season 1 of Harley Quinn.)
As much as Harley and Ivy were responsible for most of the comedy throughout the show, the secondary characters brought a lot to the table.
The reoccurring them of Doctor Psycho hating women was outrageously funny. On a show that let expletives fly — though didn’t abuse that power — Psycho managed to find a way to cross the line. But everyone’s reaction to what he said is really what sold it.
Almost every time Bane was on-screen or brought up in conversation led to a laugh out loud moment. We all now see him as this genius-level brute thanks to Tom Hardy’s interpretation in The Dark Knight Rises, but no one on this show respects him in the slightest bit.
Ivy’s plant, Frank, brought a few good laughs, as did Clayface. But, Clayface also swung and missed a few times. He’s so over the top with his theatrics, so that’s bound to happen.
My least favorite character on the show was Jim Gordon. Though I don’t think that’ll be the case for everyone. In fairness, this interpretation of him was probably a better representation of what would happen to someone in his position in real life if there were a ton of masked nut jobs running around his city.
Of all the laugh out loud moments, two stood out most to me. Joker’s line about Riddler in the first episode was both accurate and funny: “His whole schtick is being the world’s most indirect (expletive).” Not only was it accurate, but it also set the show’s comedic tone. The other moment came later in the season at the Legion of Doom headquarters. At the start of the tour, Scarecrow lists off some of the Legion of Doom’s heavy hitters. Turns out, one of them is NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
Moving toward the plot: again, good not great. Everything is centered around Harley and Joker. She wants to show she doesn’t need him and he’s always trying to find a way to keep her down. Everything she does is driven toward that goal.
Sometimes Harley’s motivation can be a bit infuriating because her crew — Ivy, Doctor Psycho, Clayface and King Shark — is what should matter to her more. Of course, she eventually realizes that.
Speaking of her crew, I was a little apprehensive when Harley’s group formed. The three male characters aren’t exactly heavy hitters in the DC universe — but that’s also why they fit well. Clayface was the only one who was a bit much at times, but that was consistent with the way the character was written.
The mix of superheroes and supervillains throughout the show was outstanding. We saw multiple Justice League and Legion of Doom members. Their contributions throughout flowed with the show.
I’m not sure where DC will go with the show given the ending, but I’d be interested in seeing Bane get some more play. There’s motivation for him to emerge as a major player, maybe opposite of Harley and her crew.
Either way, count me in for a second season of Harley Quinn.