The show Harley Quinn has concluded its third season and, despite the recent purge of animated content from HBO Max, a fourth season has been greenlit. While the first season focused on Harley (Kaley Cuoco) separating herself from the Joker (Alan Tudyk) and the second focused on her taking over a chaotic Gotham City, the newest season was focused on Harley dating Poison Ivy (Lake Bell).
This is not a new concept; several comics have paired the two romantically before. And it makes sense in the show as well, considering Ivy has been supportive of Harley throughout the past two seasons and she convinced Harley that the Joker wasn’t good for her. Unfortunately, while this relationship makes sense conceptually, I found that the show’s depiction of it wasn’t great.
My issue with the couple mostly boils down to Harley: she is far less patient and understanding than Ivy is. Harley claims to be super supportive of Ivy’s plan to terraform Gotham City, but won’t give her the time to work on it. The countless times Harley screws something up, Ivy sighs and tries to move forward to fix it; meanwhile, Harley finds out Ivy hooked up with Catwoman two years prior and gets unjustifiably angry at her. She’s like a kid that was forced to go fishing with her dad, and that’s not a good dynamic for a romantic couple.
The show does acknowledge this in the finale, with Ivy realizing that Harley wasn’t as invested in the project as her. However, this mainly stemmed from Ivy altering her plans in a way that Harley couldn’t accept, which meant that her behaviour in the earlier parts of the season wasn’t affected by that. Not to mention, while a partner doesn’t need to be on the same level for everything their partner does, they shouldn’t constantly be hindering them either.
The highlights of this season largely come from the B-plots. Clayface’s story about working on the Thomas Wayne biopic had some funny moments, and King Shark’s relationship with his brother helped to flesh him out.
Batman’s B-plot was about how emotionally stunted he is; this wasn’t fun to watch, though it was an interesting change of pace from the typical “unstoppable techno-wizard badass” story we’ve gotten a dozen times since the Nolan films. The biggest standout of this season was the Joker, which is ironic considering Harley’s attempts to distance herself from him.
Joker’s episode, “Joker: The Killing Vote,” was my favourite of the season. After the events of season two, Joker has become a stepdad. When his stepkids aren’t allowed to enter a Spanish immersion program due to political reasons, the Joker runs for mayor to fix things. He’s a loving father and husband while retaining the same level of insanity that made him a fun villain in the past.
This episode reminded me of what hooked me to the series in the first place: watching these villains have fun and caring dynamics with those closest to them, while at the same time flagrantly maiming and murdering people. Their heinous acts are more palatable when juxtaposed with how kind they can be when they aren’t being villains. And when the latter starts to weaken, like it did between Harley and Ivy, it throws the show out of balance.
I don’t think Harley should have been a perfect girlfriend; this was her first relationship after the Joker and only her second after becoming Harley Quinn. But rather than showing Harley attempt to better herself, or even come to terms with how her last relationship might be tainting her current one, she just continues to mess things up. And as a viewer, it’s frustrating seeing characters act in a way that even a five-year-old could realize is dumb.
Overall, I had some frustrations with this season, but there were enough highlights that I can still say I’m looking forward to season four. I’m hoping that “Harlivy” will have smoothed out by then, and the show can regain its mixture of fun and brutal vibes.