Review: Harley Quinn – The Series

Producer(s): Justin Halpern, Dean Lorey, Patrick Schumacker, Sam Register, Jennifer Coyle, Kaley Cuocco

Director(s): Cecilia Aranovich, Juan Jose Meza-Leon, Ben Garofalo, Frank Marino, Colin Heck, Vinton Heuck, Brandon McKinney

Writer(s): Jane Becker, Justin Halpern, Dean Lorey, Patrick Schumacker, Jess Dweck, Paul Dini, Check Dixon, Doug Moench, Gramham Nolan, Bruce Timm, Laura Moran, Tom Hyndman, Karl Kesel, Adam Stein, Jordan Weiss

Composer: Jefferson Friedman

Starring: Kaley Cuoco, Lake Bell, Alan Tudyk, Ron Funches, Tony Hale, Jason Alexander, J.B. Smoove, Matt Oberg, Diedrich Bader, Rahul Kohli, Christopher Meloni, James Adomian, Tisha Campbell-Martin, Vanessa Marshall, Giancario Esposito, Phil LaMarr, Jim Rash, Wanda Sykes, James Wolk, Chris Diamantopoulos

Distributor: DC Universe

Genre: Animation, Action, Adventure, Comedy, Crime, Fantasy

Rating: TV-MA

Harley Quinn is an American animated series based on the character originally created by Paul Dini and Bruce Timm for the 1990’s Batman: The Animated Series. DC Universe’s Harley Quinn The Series is written and executive produced by Justin Halpern, Dean Lorey, and Patrick Schumacker. In the fall of 2017, the new DC streaming service (DC Universe) ordered 26 episodes of an adult animated action comedy series based on the ever-growing popularity of DC’s character Harley Quinn. In conjunction with Ehaugadee Productions and Warner Brothers Animation, DC Universe announced the series would premiere on November 2019 and The Big Bang’s Theory Kaley Cuoco was set to executive produce and star in the lead role as Dr. Harleen Frances Quinzel. Early in its development, Suicide Squad’s Margot Robbie was approached to reprise the role of Harley Quinn, however negotiations fell through. Alongside the casting of Cuoco, it was announced the series would focus on lesser known villains in the DC comics world such as Clayface, Doctor Psycho, King Shark, and Sy Borgman. Additional voice talent such as Lake Bell, Alan Tudyk, Ron Funches, J.B. Smoove, Jason Alexander, and Wanda Sykes were announced. Many returning voice actors who have lent their talents to other DC animated productions such as Diedrich Bader as Batman and Vanessa Marshall as Wonder Woman also were cast.

Harley Quinn premiered on the DC Universe streaming service on November 29, 2020 to overall positive reviews. By the end of its first season run, which concluded on February 21, 2020, the series achieved critical praise with a critic rating of 86% and an audience score of 85% on Rotten Tomatoes. Metacritic scores the series with an average score of 83 and a user score of 6.9. IGN awards the series a 8.1 review score. With such universal praise, a second season of the series was announced to premiere shortly after the ending of season one. Set for an April 3rd, 2020 premiere, season two of Harley Quinn has quickly become one of the most anticipated shows of the year for Batman fans.

*Content Warning: This show is intended for mature audiences*

*Spoiler Warning*

Content Guide

Spiritual Content: There is no spiritual content to address in the series.

Violence: The series is hyper violent. Every episode consists of animated blood, gore, dismemberment, broken limbs, gunshots, gunshot wounds, stabbings, etc.

Language/Crude Humor: The entire series is filled with foul language such as B***h, A**, S**t, F**k, Mother F****r, and a multitude of others. The series is also occupied with adult humor consisting of sexual jokes and innuendos. 

Sexual Content: There are a few scenes depicting sexual encounters. A partially nude man lays in a woman’s bed without consent. The Joker and Harley Quinn Kiss passionately.

Drug/ Alcohol Use:  Many characters drink beer and other alcoholic drinks. One scene featuring marijuana use can be seen.

Other Negative Themes: The theme of domestic abuse is heavily featured. The main character suffers mental, verbal, emotional, and physical abuse, and psychological manipulation.  

Positive Themes: The series focuses on the power of friendship and how surrounding yourself with positive relationships can help you discover your true identity, especially after succumbing to physiological trauma.

Story

DC Universe’s Harley Quinn Follows the exploits of the aforementioned Harley Quinn after ending her long and abusive relationship as the sidekick and girlfriend of Gotham’s most fearsome villain: The Joker. After yet another heist goes array due to Batman’s heroics, Harley is left behind to suffer the consequences as The Joker successfully escapes and avoids capture. Although The Joker promises to break her out of Arkham Asylum, Quinn finds her self spending the next year behind bars. Harley, convinced her Puddin’ The Joker will rescue her as promised, refuses to see what the other inmates in Arkham see: The Joker isn’t coming. During her year in Arkham Asylum, Harley develops a deep relationship with one of Batman’s greatest foes in Poison Ivy. As the days drag, on Ivy finally convinces Quinn The Joker used and abused her, and her relationship with the clown prince of crime was toxic. 

After Harley and Ivy break out of Arkham, Ivy invites Quinn to become her roommate, further cementing their new-found friendship. Harley comes to the decision to confront the Joker to finally end their relationship once and for all. With Poison Ivy by her side, Harley Quinn embarks on a journey of self-discovery and pursues a goal of being her very own stand-alone Gotham villain. Quinn believes in order to be recognized as such, she must become a member of the Legion of Doom, which consists of the most iconic villains in the DC Universe such as Lex Luthor, The Riddler, and The Joker. In order to impress the L.O.D and earn a seat at the table, she strives to achieve villainy milestones such as committing large scale crime capers, obtaining a hero nemesis, and hiring a crew. Quinn finds herself with a rag tag group of second-rate villains who have fallen out of the public eye and have little respect from the more famous villains. As Quinn continues to gain acceptance from Gotham’s other villains, she finds herself in the middle of a journey of self-discovery.

Review

At first glance, DC Universe’s Harley Quinn seems like your run-of-the-mill DC animated show that will retell the same brooding stories about Gotham. If this is your assumption, you would be wrong…very wrong. Harley Quinn The Series takes the animated comic action trope and turns it on its head. The series perfectly matches the nostalgic feel of the 1990’s Batman: The Animated series and marries it to our more cynical and adult society. Every facet of this show operates and fires on every cylinder and achieves a peak performance. The series masterfully succeeds not only as an animated comic book show, but as action, comedy, satire, and an unexpected psychological introspective drama with tons of heart. Any comic book fan will enjoy the topsy-turvy world where the heroes don’t always win, villains fight with contractors to build secret hideouts, and a member of the Legion of Doom is excommunicated due to their treatment of women and gender bias.

Although looking at DC Universe’s Harley Quinn will bring you back to the Noir stylings of the 1990’s Batman cartoon, you will quickly realize this is not the world of Batman of old. This world of Gotham is grown up and very mature. The series seems like it was made for the kids who sat in front of their tube TVs to watch the 90’s cartoon who are all now grown up in a cynical world. The series is visually stunning and fits right in with the DC animated universe while raising the bar when compared to other animated endeavors. The show is hyper violent, crude, and littered with foul language, but it never feels out of place. Even though the violent and grotesque imagery coupled with the language you would expect from a Deadpool movie might feel like too much of a contrast to the animation style of other DC outings, this is a series we didn’t even realize we have always wanted. The violence and language never feels forced or out of place. In fact, the adult content allows for levity rarely seen in other DC animated properties. This is attributed to the excellent comedic writing and performances from the cast.

Harley Quinn is one of the funniest shows; not just on the DC streaming service, but any streaming service. Although the majority of jokes and dialogue are adult in nature, the punchy wise cracks and cynical gags will have you in stitches. The series is so expertly written, even lines of side dialogue will cause you to double over in laughter. In the hands of the extraordinary cast, the writing exceeds all expectations. The entire cast from the starring role to supporting cast are all stand outs and flesh out this new cynical adult world. Though the ensemble effortlessly blends perfectly together, some performances surpass others. Kaley Cuoco’s portrayal of the iconic Harley Quinn is surprisingly unique yet familiar. Cuoco embraces the psychopathic ex-Psychologist and makes it her own. With the popularity of Harley Quinn growing exponentially ever since the character graced our small screens in the 90’s and with the explosion of Margot Robbie’s depiction of the character in the zeitgeist of pop culture, Cuoco is able to maintain a resemblance of the character and her unique speaking tone to find her own voice. Filling the shoes of the living legend Mark Hamill is the incomparable Alan Tudyk. Although Hamill’s characterization is arguably the best portrayal of The Joker in any medium, Tudyk holds his own. Tudyk’s Joker, much like Cuoco’s Quinn, is familiar, yet different enough where it feels unique and not like an impression.

Conclusion

DC Universe’s Harley Quinn is one of the most surprising series to come out of the current streaming wars. The series could easily be written off as yet another DC cartoon show, but Harley Quinn is beyond that. The series is by far the best thing on the DC streaming service. Is it violent, yes. Is it filled to the brim with foul language, yes. Is it for children? No. Although the series is wrapped in a cocoon of adult jokes, blood, and broken bones, at the heart of the show is the story of a woman attempting to discover her identity after successful leaving a toxic and abusive relationship. Though the series is comedic in tone, it never makes light of the effects domestic abuse may have on the psyche. Where this series succeeds in the storytelling of Harley’s emancipation from her abuser, the theatrical movie fails. The only unfortunate aspect of the series is it’s buried in the unpopular DC Universe streaming service and a mass audience may never have the opportunity to enjoy Gotham’s new princess of crime.

The Bottom Line

DC Universe's Harley Quinn masterfully succeeds not only as an animated comic book show, but as action, comedy, satire, and an unexpected psychological introspective drama with tons of heart. 

 

8.8

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Noel Davila

Noel is a writer, performer, and Podcaster based out of the New York City area. With a background in acting, theater arts, years of stage and screen writing, composing and scoring utilizing his skills as a singer song writer, Noel looks to be an all around creator in the arts. Many of the films Noel has written have been selected and featured at a number of Film Festivals including The New York International Film Festival, The Hudson Valley Film Festival, The Art is Alive Film Festival, ect and have gone on to be nominated and awarded for multiple awards including "Best Comedy Short" ,"Best Of", "Best make up", ect. Noel continues to perform live original music all across New York City

2 Comments

  1. Tim on March 17, 2020 at 12:39 pm

    Thought this was a Christian site !?! How can a show like this be given high ratings of approval when it is filled with basically every negative thing a show could have in it. Call me confused !!!

    • Maurice Pogue on April 1, 2020 at 8:32 am

      Not sure if serious.

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