It’s kind of a wonder that taking the piss out of Batman hasn’t been a bigger thing. Fans, comedians, and some comic books have all done it many times over the years. There’s plenty to work with. The child soldiers he trains, Bruce Wayne as a member of the 1%, the bat costume, the fact that his whole deal is an idea he cooked up when he was 8 — the guy is just begging for someone to come along and own him daily. Luckily, Harley Quinn has found a way to mainstream Bat-mockery, centering its raucous third season antics in part on lambasting Batman — but also, maybe, helping him grow as a person. This is what I tell my friends whenever I laugh at them.
After season 2 Harley Quinn ended with its heroine (voiced by Kaley Cuoco) driving off into the sunset with her girlfriend, Poison Ivy, season 3 begins with them on the tail end of their romantic “Eat, Bang, Kill Tour,” getting down (doing crimes) and Getting Down (the other stuff) all around the world with the help of Wonder Woman’s stolen invisible jet.
However, their newly found gay bliss is marred by several complications back home in Gotham City. Frank (J.B. Smoove), their sapient friend and plant mate, has mutated. He was kidnapped. Alan Tudyk, the Joker, is running to be mayor. Bruce Wayne (Diedrich Bader), who is deeply in love with Catwoman (SanaaLathan), has broken up with him. James Gunn, (James Gunn), will make a biopic about their parents. Making it hard to deal with all of this is the fact that Harley is trying to do something she’s never really done before: be in a healthy adult relationship.
All the Gotham dramas this season Harley Quinn doesn’t really feel that much like it’s about Harley Quinn this time around. Granted, she’s still important; her relationship to Poison Ivy, Joker, and the Bat-family still drives a lot of the action, but the real dramatic weight is shouldered by Poison Ivy as she struggles to deepen her plant powers and eco-terrorist vision while not losing herself in her new relationship. Batman and his co-stars now make up the comedy heft, which is as common as the recurring villains Clayface (also Alan Tudyk) and Bane (James Aomian).
This larger canvas Harley Quinn’s writers have slowly staked for themselves across three seasons puts the show in the unique position of being the only DC Comics adaptation to occupy the place Deadpool has in the Marvel Universe — a self-aware semi-parody that is AlsoIts own honest themes to explore is what it is most interested in. Thankfully, Harley QuinnAlthough it doesn’t display the same fourth-wall breaking charm that Deadpool is known for, both characters are adapted in ways that allow them to be more than just jokes.
Underlining Harley Quinn’s comedy is the way that it has always taken Harley herself quite seriously. This meant that she would never compromise her agency in her quest to be independent after breaking ties with Joker, her abusive ex. In this season Harley’s story is about learning the difference between supporting your partner and enabling them, and also using her degree in psychiatry to maybe get at the bottom of Batman’s whole deal.
However, we hope she doesn’t. Harley QuinnThere might be no more jokes. That would be the real crime.
The first three episodes Harley QuinnYou can now stream them on HBO Max. New episodes drop on Thursdays.