‘Harley Quinn’ Season 2 Review: DC‌ Universe’s Animated Series Thrives in an Anarchic New Gotham

     April 3, 2020

It’s the Gotham-pocalypse and Harley Quinn is fucking loving it. If ever there was a character primed to dance through the ashes of society, it’s Harley (Kaley Cuoco) the former-psychiatrist turned anarchy-loving anti-hero who spent the first season of her DC‌ Universe animated series breaking free of The Joker. That first season was a profane and vibrant delight, even if the broad strokes in the story of Harley’s emancipation were generally familiar to fans of her comic arcs.

By contrast, Season 2 introduces a whole new apocalyptic world, and it’s all Harley’s for the taking. Season 1’s finale was a heck of a cliffhanger that saw Harley and Ivy drop the Joker in a vat of acid that essentially “un-made” him, but not before he triggered his complex to implode, taking all of Gotham with it. Last we saw the iconic comic book city, it was in flaming shambles. As Harley summarily recaps in the first episode of Season 2, which was provided to the press for review, “The Justice League is kaput, the Legion of Doom is doomed, and the Joker’s had his last laugh.” Oh, and Batman’s still missing after taking a critical hit while saving Harley and Ivy.

harley-quinn-season-2-image

Image via DC Universe

What does that leave? Chaos. Pandemonium. And a whole new Gotham for the series to embrace. Where Season 1 felt like it was skewering the Gotham City we know and love through Harley’s off-color sense of humor, Season 2 gets to build its own world in Harley’s image. At the start of the first episode, appropriately titled “New Gotham,” the president summarily deems Gotham City beyond saving and announces that it’s no longer a part of the United States. To which Harley replies with an enthusiastic, “Fuck yeah!”

With no Joker to push her around and no big bad Batman to tell her no, Harley is living the dream, thriving in the anarchy. If she wants sushi, she just kidnaps a Michelin star sushi chef! But as Poison Ivy is quick to point out, she’d probably enjoy the sushi a lot more if they had the fresh fish that comes with free trade and functional markets. This is Harley we’re talking about, however, and when Ivy encourages her that it’s time to take up the mantle and run Gotham, Harley goes full anarchic revolutionary, vive la villain life, convincing all the goons and henchmen in Gotham City to strike out on their own as super-villains.

Naturally, more chaos and more pandemonium ensue and the fallout is absolutely laugh-out-loud hysterical, but it also causes the creation of a new power structure for Harley to fight back against: The Injustice League. The classic Gotham villains – Penguin, Mr. Freeze, Riddler, Bane and Two-Face – team up to take back control of Gotham; a plan that flies right in the face of Harley’s beloved anarchy and, with Batman and Joker sidelined for the time being, puts her in a position to battle the iconic Batman-verse heavies.

All the highlights of the first Season are still on point here, especially the tremendous voice ensemble, with standouts including Lake Bell as Poison Ivy, Ron Funches as King Shark, and Alan Tudyk in dual roles as Clayface and Joker. The absolutely pathetic take on Jim Gordon remains horribly hilarious and the series never misses an opportunity for a good Bane gag.  Like the first episode of Season 1, the Season 2 debut is back in hyper-profane and hyper-violent mode, with some particularly gnarly handiwork from King Shark. But what’s most exciting about this season is how it entirely rebuilds a Gotham perfectly suited to Harley’s batty antics, giving her a classic rogues gallery to combat, and teeing her up for a post-apocalyptic adventure to claim Gotham as her own.

Harley Quinn embraces this skewed new Gotham City from the get-go, and it absolutely comes out of the gate swinging. With the Joker-Batman dynamic on the back-burner for now, there’s a giddy “while the cat’s away the mouse will play” mischievous energy, and more space than ever for Harley’s character arc and relationships to take center stage. It’s crazier than ever, relentlessly playful, funny as hell, and an absolutely delightful spin on the fan-favorite characters of Gotham City.

★★★★★

Television