'Harley Quinn' Episode 10 Review: Harley reunites with her family and the contrast with her past is surreal
Harley Quinn (Kaley Cuoco) might be on top of the underworld with her new job in the Legion of Doom, but her personal life has hit a real low point.
Her closest friend, Poison Ivy (Lake Bell) has parted ways with her, as has Harley's crew. Harley Quinn needs a place where she can expect unconditional love and support. Despite how much she's changed since she left, Harley is heading home.
Leaving Gotham and the Legion of Doom Headquarters behind, Harley finds herself standing outside her childhood home, in full costume. Her costume is bright, revealing, and it stands out even more as she stands in the doorway of her very ordinary home.
It's a taste of the surreal quality this episode has that only gets stronger as the episode continues. The episode really sells the feeling of what it's like to go home after you've grown, and changed, into a completely different person.
The person Harley used to be wrestles with the person she's become. We see more of Harley's Jewish roots than we ever have in the previous nine episodes, and it's nice to see the show acknowledging the lesser-known aspects of Harley Quinn.
It's also interesting to note that even Harley's hometown Brooklyn accent gets stronger when she's talking with her mom, Sharon (Susie Essman).
Home is not the haven Harley was expecting, however, with her dad's back in town, we learn that Harley's been sacrificing her own goals for a dominant male figure long before ever meeting the Joker (Alan Tudyk).
The arc that establishes Nick's (Charlie Adler) selfishness to a redemptive arc, right back to his betrayal, is efficiently done. What stands out here isn't how quick Harley is to forgive him after one de-thumb-ing life save, but how happy she seems once she's done so.
As cynical as the show can sometimes be, Harley Quinn is a character who is optimistic to the point of delusion. That Harley is so mad at her father says tons about how much he must have consistently let her down, because Harley is apparently looking for any good excuse to care about him.
Harley is a character who is all about giving people another chance — from the Joker to her crew and, of course, her own criminal father. This episode shows us just how big a role both of Harley's parents had in influencing that attitude.
Given how well the show establishes the feeling of a normal home, the general hijinks and gratuitous violence become that much more shocking.
There's an extended scene of Harley's parents arguing with her about her life choices while they're also trying to argue about trying to kill her for a bounty reward is a reasonable request.
By that point, it's become a surreal fever dream of an episode. It doesn't help that Poison Ivy is trapped in an ominous lab with a cheerful kindergarten teach/goon-for-hire, nor do the scenes with a stoned Frank the Plant (JB Smoove) and his pot guy (James Adomain) help.
The glimpses into Harley Quinn's past in this episode and 'Being Harley Quinn' present interesting layers to Harley's character. There's a lot more to Harley than the wackiness she tends to embody.
The question is, does humanizing Harley Quinn work when she's so cartoonish a character? How far can you ground a character who works so well in being over-the-top?
As this episode illustrates, the harder you try to push those two facets together, the stranger the contrast feels. It's ultimately a pretty tragic episode, as the one place Harley came expecting to find comfort has brought her lower than ever.
Harley needs someone like Ivy back in her life — which works out great, because at the moment, Ivy needs someone to rescue her, too. The next episode of 'Harley Quinn' airs on February 7 on DC Universe.