By Tom Moore
Hey you! Yes, you! Are you looking for a new binge watch filled with incredible adult humor spewing from instantly likeable characters? Or a blood-splattering good time that stems from gore-fueled animation? Or an empowering, bonkers, and female-driven storyline with plenty of wild moments that will continuously keep you hooked. Are you maybe even interested in seeing some of your favorite DC character in a comical new way? Well, then I have a show that you simply cannot miss – especially if you’re a DC fan.
All carnival sideshow slang aside, there’s hasn’t been a show that’s become my absolute obsession like DC Universe’s “Harley Quinn”. Premiering towards the end of last year, the animated series has set new standards for what DC can offer and presented through fun animation and incredible humor that isn’t like anything DC’s done before. It even presents a strong storyline about bad breakups that’s empowering to see as we see Harley go through a very cathartic journey throughout the series. Not to mention, it’s one of the only shows that my brother and I actively watch together every week and is something we genuinely look forward to every week.
However, I rarely hear anyone else talking about the series. While it’s likely because the series has been stuck on DC Universe, DC’s under-valued streaming service, it seems like the only time I’ve seen people talking about the show is when they are similarly asking why people aren’t talking about it. So, with Margot Robbie returning as the fantabulous Harley Quinn on the big screen this weekend in Cathy Yan’s “Birds of Prey”, I can’t think of a better time to tell you why DC Universe’s “Harley Quinn” NEEDS to be on your watchlist ASAP.
The animated series has set new standards for what DC can offer and presented through fun animation and incredible humor that isn’t like anything DC’s done before.
Seeing the iconic DC villain back in animated form is actually quite a treat in itself since it’s where it all started for her. Instead of her getting her start in some random comic, Harley was actually the creation of Paul Dini and Bruce Timm for the legendary “Batman: The Animated Series”. In her debut episode, Joker’s Favor, Harley was introduced as the sidekick/love interest to the Joker and their relationship would seemingly be the driving force behind her appearances for quite some time – regardless how abusive things might have been.
Things changed for Quinn, though, once the New 52 comic series gave her the rebirth she needed as it allowed her to finally breakaway from her abusive relationship with Joker and make a name of her own in the DC universe. Really, without New 52 breaking new ground for Harley, we likely wouldn’t have new kinds of storylines that showcases Harley’s strengths and psychotic antics– and that’s exactly what the series’ animation does.
Right from the first sequence of Harley (voiced by Kaley Cuoco) and Joker (voiced by Alan Tudyk) taking over a wealthy cruise ship, this series lets you know that’s it’s not for kids. I love how this series is unafraid and unflinching in deliver blood-gushing, bone-breaking, and gory action sequences that are a perfect fit for Harley. From the incredibly gory fight sequence Harley has with Joker’s goons in the first episode to the Queen of Fables (voiced by Wanda Sykes) literally slaughtering an entire family reunion with her surprisingly horrific fable characters, this series isn’t afraid to shed some blood and break a few bones to make Harley’s journey of self-discovery a total bloodbath. Not to mention, it’s complimented by adult humor that’s refreshing and shows the DC criminal underground in a new light.
The writing and direction are absolutely stellar as they create new depictions of classic DC characters that are hilarious. It’s incredible to see the lengths Harley goes in getting the Legion of Doom’s attention and her gleefully psychotic personality is infectious. Harley’s best gal pal, Poison Ivy (voiced by Lake Bell), has a perfect sense of cynicism that totally hilarious and the way she undercuts all of big-name members of the Legion around her, like Lex Luthor (voiced by Giancarlo Esposito) and Joker, is great. Together, these two have a relationship that’s hard not to love and Ivy trying to direct Harley’s ambitious personality to more empowering goals leads to some very funny moments. Harley and Ivy aren’t the only two to make viewers laugh as the series has an incredibly strong cast of supporting characters.
More importantly, though, this series is great because of the incredibly empowering and emotional narrative that’s at its very core of Harley dealing with the highs and lows of her breakup with Joker.
While classic characters like Joker make you laugh through his hatred of raisin bagels and anyone that thinks The Riddler is anything more than the world’s most indirect a-hole, there’s an onslaught of classic and new characters that will make you laugh like never before. Harley doesn’t just have Ivy by her side as she currently has a crew made up of the mind-bending and misogynistic Dr. Psycho (voiced by Tony Hale), the theatrical and overly dramatic Clayface (also voiced by Tudyk), and the strangely tech-savy King Shark (voiced by Ron Funches).
From Clayface, and really everything, always pissing off Psycho to King Shark losing control at the sight of blood, Harley’s crew hits the same comedic highs as it’s leader and they’re all awesome. One major new addition, at least to my knowledge, that brings his comedic “A-game” every time they’re on-screen is Ivy’s top tough-talking plant Frank (voiced by J.B. Smoove). He has such a foul-mouthed personality that hard not to love and has been killing in more recent episodes.
Even outside out Harley’s crew, this series makes even the most serious and horrifying DC heroes and villains absolutely hilarious. Batman (voiced by Diedrich Bader) is basically the no nonsense dad to the drunk, destructive, and self-loathing Jim Gordon (voiced by Christopher Meloni) and seeing him scold Jim by folding up the bat signal and take it away was hilarious.
While the Dark Knight might be the “dad” of the Justice League, the same can surely be said about Lex Luthor with the Legion of Doom and the way the series showcases the Legion as a typical office workplace is incredible. With budget meetings where Joker as for millions of dollars to put his face on things, a cruddy looking introduction video for new members, and plenty of chats in the communal kitchen – the DC criminal underground has never been shown to be so menial and it’ll make you want an “Office” styled show for Legion.
The real comedic MVP of the series, thus far, has to be Bane (voiced by James Adomian) as he’s just a constant scene-stealer. His love for ‘splosions, hatred towards the smoothie worker that constantly spells his name wrong, and love for magic card tricks is hilarious and this iteration is essentially all the hilarity that came from Tom Hardy’s Bane in “The Dark Knight Rises”, but is funny on purpose.
More importantly, though, this series is great because of the incredibly empowering and emotional narrative that’s at its very core of Harley dealing with the highs and lows of her breakup with Joker. I genuinely appreciate the patience put into Harley finding her self-worth as she navigates her origin story and deals with her past issues. It’s made me connect to Harley in a way that I never have before and it strongly showcases how Joker can be so manipulative with his odd sense of charm. You can never fully tell what’s going through his head and it easy to see that Harley struggles with this throughout and it’s what makes her struggles so easy to connect to.
“Harley Quinn” is something that just can’t be missed out on and sets new standards for not only what the character can be, but also what DC can be as a whole.
Even Ivy has some strong storylines being put into place in the second half of the season with the series focusing on her relationship with hilarious D-lister Kite-Man (voiced by Matt Oberg) and her having some conflict with a mysterious villain. However, the series is at its best when it brings Harley and Ivy together to give viewers a strong gal pal relationship to connect to and Cucuo and Bell elevate it to new heights through their great performances. Really, the entire voice cast is great and I’m super excited to see what’s about to unfold in final few episodes of the season now that some surprises have been put in place.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that “Harley Quinn” is something that just can’t be missed out on and sets new standards for not only what the character can be, but also what DC can be as a whole. It’s more than worth a quick binge on DC Universe and if you need a little more convincing to subscribe, there’re great live-action shows, like Doom Patrol and Titans, that are highly binge-worthy and the platform even gives users access to a huge variety of classic DC content – including all of the comics that can be read within the platform. So, with an animated series that brings the perfect kind of comedy bloodbath fitting for Harley Quinn and a fantabulous return to the big screen for the iconic character – there’s no better time to be a Harley Quinn fan.