Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Harley Quinn's second season rides off into a gorgeous, well-earned sunset

Illustration for article titled Harley Quinn's second season rides off into a gorgeous, well-earned sunset
Photo: Warner Bros.

As I take a moment to revisit the last time we peeked into the charming pandemonium of Harley Quinn, it’s hard not to chuckle at my now-unwarranted anxieties that hovered over the start of the second season. It’s not inaccurate to say that I harbored my fair share of concerns, from Harley’s questionable lack of motivation to Harley and Ivy’s seemingly lopsided friendship. Had I known that the season would ultimately address literally every single one of them, I could have saved the energy I spent hand-wringing and devoted it to far more pressing matters, like my newly complicated feelings towards this universe’s Bane. The biggest question that I had was, how were Justin Halpern, Dean Lorey, Patrick Schumacker and their team of writers going to approach a more symbiotic relationship between Harley and Ivy, one that properly tapped into and delivered on Ivy’s emotional needs? Apparently, season two’s answer to that was, “with a wedding we all knew wouldn’t happen.” And despite the inherently predictable nature of that, the payoff was just as gratifying as I had hoped it would be.


When we reunite with Harley, we’re met with one hell of a parallel: The Maiden Of Mischief is once again behind the bars of Arkham Asylum, tortuously pining after the love of her life. And yet, this is a brand new Harley Quinn, one that has experienced a significant amount of growth since her days as The Joker’s faithful paramour. Instead of needlessly keeping vigil for her appalling ex in the confines of her cell, she plans on using the downtime to quietly reflect and remain out of her best friend’s way. Reoccurring imprisonment aside, we’ve witnessed this moment time and time again—that is, a dejected Harley realizing that she’s a prisoner of her own poor decisions despite many shaky attempts at doing the right thing. More than her failed romantic pursuits, this season also centered on her slowly evolving sense of purpose as she struggled to figure out just how committed she is to villainy. The Harley that was hyperfocused on putting her desires first wouldn’t have wasted any time busting out of the slammer to tear through this sham of a wedding. Harley 2.5 still ends up hopping the allegedly high-security fence, but with every intention of making sure that Ivy’s big day commences without a hitch.

Unfortunately for our beloved anithero, her path towards self-discovery happens to dovetail with Commissioner Gordon’s, who is now confronting his newly unlocked aspiration to become the mayor of Gotham City (or rather, a desire that was previously behind a door that was figuratively jimmied open by a meddling Two-Face). Taunted by his own desires to both become the city’s leading hero and finally earn Batman’s respect, Gordon is essentially goaded into crashing Ivy and Kite Man’s high-profile wedding in an effort to achieve one of the biggest criminal busts in history. I’m not sure that there is ever a moment when we’re supposed to authentically believe that he is capable of achieving this—as Two-Face astutely notes, he’s a “hair-trigger reactionary kind of guy who runs his mouth off when he’s backed into a corner.” But it’s enough to both serve as a necessary obstacle for our villains and mark the beginning of Gordon’s eventual road to the mayor’s office, which includes actual hijinks and a phony beard. Regardless of any personal feelings towards Gordon (or Christopher Meloni’s spot-on handling of a disheveled, anguished wannabe hero), any change in narrative that isn’t soaked in his desperation for the Dark Knight’s friendship is a blessed sojourn, even if it’s at the expense of what is supposed to be the most important day of Ivy’s life.

Poison Ivy (Lake Bell) and Harley Quinn (Kaley Kuoco) in Harley Quinn
Poison Ivy (Lake Bell) and Harley Quinn (Kaley Kuoco) in Harley Quinn
Image: Warner Bros.

And though the blushing bride isn’t exactly cut out for the sterilized, staunchly suburban future that Kite Man has inexplicably laid out for the them, the day is still a pretty monumental one for Harley and Ivy’s friendship-slash-budding romance. Beyond that, it’s also a watershed moment for Ivy, who has spent the majority of the past two seasons, as she notes in an overdue rant, “managing everyone else’s feelings” and doubling as her entire social circle’s voice of reason. Even if her methods of pursuing her well-deserved Happily Ever After are momentarily misguided, her insistence on claiming her own slice of peace is such a welcome change of pace. Harley, to her immense credit, has proven multiple times over the course of the season that she is more than willing to quite literally sacrifice her well-being to allow Ivy that solace. Capers and ex-lovers aside, their relationship has long stood as the apex of Harley Quinn: Harley’s initial quest for acceptance and Ivy’s nascent attempts at real, human connection have uniquely satisfied one another. Now, the only way to go is up... or in their case, chased into the sunset by a litany of cops.

With the fate of the series still up in the air, Harley Quinn’s creative team has crafted a noteworthy conclusion befitting of both a season and series finale (though I certainly hope we’re dealing with the former). At its best, the series doubles as a hearty mix of classic comic book spectacle and heartfelt storytelling about an unbreakable bond. “Runaway Bridesmaid” is not only an extension of that winning design, but also a balm that gives our unstoppable duo both the happiness that they deserve while forging a credible path forward.


Stray observations

  • Commissioner Gordon’s misplaced obsession with a largely symbolic key to the city is... apt. Also, “Breaking News: Gotham City has a mayor” is a perfect, totally unintentional encapsulation for how our government has handled this pandemic.
  • Another tiny signal of Harley’s growth: her telling the guard at the top of the episode that she has every intention of busting herself out of prison once she’s done reflecting. We’ve come a long (or moderately lengthy, at least) way since the days of her insisting on rotting in prison, waiting for Joker to save her.
  • “Kite Man is a basic bitch through and through.” Yeah, and his taste is also late as hell. Is the rustic, mason jar aesthetic still a thing?
  • For the sake of levity, I will take a beat to tip my hat to Kite Man, who exercised a serious bit of agency when he ultimately calls the wedding off and salvages his last remaining thread of dignity, even if the writing was on the wall (and Doctor Psycho’s equivalent of a city-wide Jumbotron) ages ago.
  • The screams of abject terror as Gordon’s team learns that they are eating vegan donuts will never not be funny.
  • The sequence that melds Clayface’s breathtaking performance and the fiery bedlam that is taking place behind him is some of this year’s best animation, to date. Also, this season did the unthinkable: It made me like Clayface.
  • On the flip side, I thoroughly enjoyed the visual of the prison fruit in the fruit cup first offered to Harley, which is apparently nothing more than nondescript geometric blobs.
  • I would not mind an entire episode that centers on Cheryl’s mundane life next season. Speaking of...
  • If there’s anything I hate more than a cliffhanger, it’s the cheeky acknowledgment of said open-ass ending, especially when it comes to a show that I desperately want to return. The taunting “The End?” placard elicited a nice little scream from me. Of course this isn’t the end, right? Right?! (But if it happens to be—which I’m inclined to doubt, what a lovely parting image.)