'Harley Quinn' Episode 1 Review: A fantastic reintroduction to a character whose time has come to have her own show
Spoiler alert for Episode 1 of 'Harley Quinn'
There have been a lot of takes on Harley Quinn since her introduction in 1992. Some of them good, some bad, some empowering, and some extremely problematic. Even the romance between the Joker and Harley Quinn is the very definition of a toxic relationship (literally, if you include a certain vat of Ace Chemicals).
The pilot episode of 'Harley Quinn' encapsulates all of those takes, tackling her problematic history head-on.
It does this in a way that somehow balances humor, sensitivity, empowerment and disgustingly graphic violence that includes a close-up of Harley biting a guard's ear off in the middle of a discussion about her relationship problems.
It's that kind of show. And as much as people seem to enjoy the gritty darkness of the Batman mythos, the fact remains that Gotham is an absurd place, filled with ridiculous characters. 'Harley Quinn' celebrates that — the joy in pointing out the patently absurd that comes through in every line.
A few things you should be prepared for — the swearing and the violence come on strong in this episode.
No punches are pulled, and whether its legs snapping, ears getting bitten off, digested families being vomited by carnivorous plants or exploding telegram deliverymen, get used to seeing bright red on much more than just Harley's costume.
The swearing, though it takes a moment or two to get used to, flows naturally out of the characters' mouths after a while. They're villains, after all, why wouldn't they swear?
At its most basic, the pilot does everything a pilot should — it establishes who Harley Quinn (Kaley Cuoco) is, why she changes, and what her goals are moving forward.We see Harley Quinn first — as many fans know her best — in her classic costume, the Joker’s mistreated underling/girlfriend.
She adores the Joker (Alan Tudyk) to the point of delusion, and it takes a year locked up in Arkham, abandoned by the Joker, combined with an elaborate supervillain plot where she's abandoned by the Joker yet again for Harley to finally realize the Joker's no good for her.
Breaking out of her situation in every sense of the word, Harley dons a new costume, a new attitude, and breaks up with the Joker by tearing down his lair.
Kaley Cuoco steps into the role of Harley Quinn quite comfortable. Diehard Arleen Sorkin fans won’t be disappointed but combined with the shows strong writing, we get to see more nuance from the character.
We see Harley's inner psychiatrist contrasted with her self-delusion, her rage alongside her boundless optimism. Alan Tudyk's Joker is a delight — he leans into full super-villainy, shameless in his misogynist, jealous, selfish ways.
The breakout character is Poison Ivy (Lake Bell), whose dry, hopeless look at the world still holds much love, and support for Harley Quinn. Harley and Ivy play well off of each other, Harley's wackiness complementing Ivy's more grounded (no pun intended) perspective.
Harley's new look demands a mention as well. It is one of the rare cases where a more revealing costume for a female character is the more empowering one. It's the costume designed by Jim Palmiotti that represented Harley Quinn becoming a more empowered character in the current comics continuity.
It's the more practical costume that she chose for herself, and represents how far the character has come from the woman previously known as the Joker's girlfriend.
The show is packed with appearances, easter eggs, side jokes and gags that are deserving of a separate article in its own right, but on the whole, 'Harley Quinn' could not have asked for a better first episode.
It's a must-watch for everyone who's loved the character and everyone else who wants to discover the character as well as for anyone who enjoys brilliant writing in animated comedies. That's a wide target audience and the show deserves it. The next episode of 'Harley Quinn' airs on December 6 on the DC Universe.