CREATED BY: Justin Halpern, Dean Lorey and Patrick Schumacker
STARRING: Kaley Cuoco, Lake Bell, Diedrich Bader, Ron Funches, Tony Hale, Jason Alexander, J.B Smoove and Alan Tudyk
Harley Quinn is an animated series from DC Universe that focuses on the title character, who breaks up with the Joker and strikes out on her own in order to make a name for herself. With the help of Poison Ivy and a ragtag crew of villainous misfits and castoffs, Harley tries to earn a seat at the biggest table in villainy…the Legion of Doom.
Admittedly when it came to the promotion material for the animated series of Harley Quinn, it wasn’t really working for me. After all, I believe it was still due to the stink of the 2017 animated feature of Batman and Harley Quinn, but the trailers also didn’t really work for me and felt like some of the R-rated humour placed in the trailers were pretty forced, like Titans-level forced. But, since DC universe for the most part have knocked it out of the park with the original series content (Doom Patrol, Swamp Thing and Young Justice, not a particular fan of Titans), I decided to give it a shot.
Thankfully, the animated series of Harley Quinn actually plays its adult humour very well and there’s a particular level of fan service and deep cuts that make the series as a whole very enjoyable. I like that the overall concept of the first season however is delving into Harley’s psyche, after all can she really grow on her own in the criminal world? Can she come out from under the Joker’s shadow and, most of all, can she really get over him? This is greatly executed in the first few episodes as Harley struggles to get goons to work for her, even some connections that she would’ve had under the Joker are cut off and she literally has to rely on a downtrodden bar to recruit the likes of Doctor Psycho (who gets cut out of the Legion of Doom for using the C word against Wonder Woman and and Giganta) and Clayface. Eventually King Shark, Sy Borgman and Poison Ivy complete the crew and everyone brings their own personalities to the table and they blend perfectly together. The friendship of Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy is also handled really well and is one of the biggest strengths of this season in particular. I actually quite enjoyed the animation style, particularly in how it is used for the fight sequences. In terms of the voice performances, on paper I wasn’t really keen on Kaley Cuoco as Harley Quinn but I thought she was great for the role, as is Lake Bell as Poison Ivy. The voice talent ensemble overall is really good, I got some major laughs from Ron Funches and J.B Smoove voicing King Shark and Frank the Plant, as well as Tony Hale as Doctor Psycho and I’m enjoying the fact that Tom Hardy’s Bane voice from The Dark Knight Rises is being used almost as canon now between The LEGO Batman movie and now Harley Quinn, with the voice here being provided by James Adomian. I also enjoyed a beatdown Jim Gordon being voiced by Chris Meloni and it’s nice to have Diedrich Bader back to voice Batman again. Alan Tudyk is now becoming DC’s go-to guy and he has an absolute blast voicing the Joker and Clayface. Even small comic characters get their time to shine here and not in a million years did I ever think that Kite-Man (hell yeah!) would be one of them. The standout episodes for the season, for me personally, were ‘A High Bar’, ‘Finding Mr. Right’, ‘Bensonhurst’ and ‘Devil’s Snare’.
In terms of the animation, there is an attempt to blend the 2D style animation with some 3D animated environment and while this might work in some aspects (something that appears in the second last episode of the season), it doesn’t quite work in the chase sequence in the episode ‘Harley Quinn Highway’. One thing that might be too much for some people is the level of violence and adult humour in the series, which shouldn’t be too surprising as they’ve marketed it as this is not your child-friendly kind of animated show. But still, some might believe it goes for more shock-and-awe that might seem unnecessary. While I enjoyed the antics of Harley’s crew leading up to her attempting to get a seat at the Legion of Doom, I will admit it lost that fun spark they had together once we got into the last few episodes of the season, even though it made sense for the purpose of the storyline.
The animated series of Harley Quinn is surprisingly entertaining, character driven and gives even the casual viewer a fresh perspective that the character of Harley Quinn is more than her relationship with the Joker. The rest of the ensemble are great and the voice talent does a great job, especially Kaley Cuoco, Lake Bell, Ron Funches, Tony Hale, J.B Smoove and Alan Tudyk. Definitely interested to see how the second season will follow up this impressive first season.