HBO Max’s ‘Harley Quinn’ Season Three Ends With Massive Character Development for the Bat Squad
HBO Max’s animated Harley Quinn series has officially won me over. The series has always been critically lauded, but I felt it was missing something and season three delivered. Not only did this new season provide character development for our leading sapphic couple, but it found a way to make Bruce Wayne and the Joker interesting again.
Spoilers for Harley Quinn season three.
The relationship between Harley Quinn and Poison Oaky—I mean Ivy—is one of the most well-known wlw couples in comics. For many, seeing them get together was the series’ biggest draw, especially since the couple has been overlooked in comics and other works. I felt disappointed that it took them so long to become an item (and that it involved some very clichéd bisexual cheater tropes), but now that they are together, both Harley and Ivy have gotten some much-needed development.
One of the exciting aspects of the Harley-Ivy relationship is that they are so different. Ivy has always been a lot more anti-humanity and goal-focused on her desire to protect the eco-life, and for the majority of the series, that has taken a backseat to Harley’s journey. In season three, Ivy is inspired, by revisiting Edin, to start planning to terraform the planet, starting with Gotham.
She learns to go into the Green (the mythical force that connects all life), and when Bruce Wayne kidnaps her favorite plant friend Frank to try to resurrect his dead parents (we will get to that), she decides to go full evil. Bruce’s plan accidentally creates a zombie apocalypse that Ivy uses to allow them to terraform Gotham. She only stops when Harley puts herself in the line of fire and begins transforming into a tree.
But the conflict doesn’t end there. Impressed by Ivy’s power, Lex Luthor offers her the chance to run the Gotham Legion of Doom, and Ivy is excited about the opportunity. Harley isn’t. Harley has been evolving into a hero. She’s friends with Batgirl, and she keeps the secret of Bruce Wayne’s identity and tries to help more than hurt. She doesn’t even want to kill the Joker anymore.
Speaking of Joker, I have been continuously impressed that the show has made Joker interesting for the first time in a while. Not only is he a good partner and a good stepdad, but he is a good socialist mayor. In the finale of the season, Lex Luthor wants Ivy to kill Joker because the latter is imposing a secret lair tax to make college free in Gotham. He also clocks that Harley’s heart isn’t into murdering anymore, probably recognizing it in himself. But the best thing he does is he defeats Bruce Wayne/Batman.
By arresting him for tax evasion.
It is genuinely genius to watch, especially because while busting Bruce, waxing about the wealth inequality in Gotham, and being a meme lord, he also says, “Ladies and Gentlemen and Non-binary friends.” Joker is the future the right is afraid of, and it is kind of awesome.
Bruce accepts his arrest because his character journey had been about facing the foundational trauma of his existence. Earlier in the season, Selina broke up with him for being clingy, and this sent him on an emotional spiral. He is afraid to be alone or be close to anyone. He plantnaps Frank to bring back his parents and is, in turn, kidnapped by Harley, Clayface, Ivy, and the professor guy I hate. They go into his mind, where Harley begins to empathize with Bruce due to his primary memory being the death of his parents. Harley grabs the memory of tiny Bruce and talks with him, offering him some therapy and coming to realize he is Batman.
Even though this might be the least “cool” version of Bruce we’ve ever seen, it is up there with Lego Batman as one of the best depictions of Bruce’s mental state, and for the first time in forever, he has an opportunity to work through his issues—from prison. I mean, he’s rich, so it’s probably a very nice prison.
Despite still having some minor issues with the show, I feel like it has finally found its footing. The characters are all in exciting places that organically make sense. The foundation for some real shake-ups in Batman’s canon makes the season’s end compelling, especially when Harley is now teamed up with the Bat Family, while Ivy will be running the dark side of Gotham.
(featured image: HBO Max)
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