‘Harley Quinn’ Works On Many Levels

by Frank Martin

The great thing about the Harley Quinn animated is that it treats its plot very much like how a comic story would develop. In this week’s episode, for example, Poison Ivy (Lake Bell) has trouble connecting to the Green. Now any comic fan knows that the Green’s main avatar is Swamp Thing, and that’s exactly the direction the story goes in. Any comic book that had a similar premise would unfold the same way, except Harley Quinn isn’t a comic book. It’s a ridiculous television show that satirizes the DC Universe. So to have the episode play out like a regular comic book story is very refreshing, especially when it’s stretched to absurd proportions.

It almost seems obvious that Swamp Thing (Sam Richardson) would be a hippie who serves chai tea, but it’s still hilarious to see it happen. Also, the episode is amped up even more when Nora Fries (Rachel Dratch), the former wife of Mr. Freeze, teams up with Harley (Kaley Cuoco) and Ivy to party. The dynamics of all these characters, and how the show takes them to an absurd extreme, is part of the charm. Even though the story feels very comic book-esque, Nora and Swamp Thing would probably never interact in a comic. Yet here they are, in a pseudo-relationship that completely works within the confines of this twisted DC Universe.

And yet despite all of this craziness, the episode still wraps up on a profound moment. Swamp Thing and Ivy come to terms in a rather touching climax. With all these different elements flying around at once — comic book familiarity, extreme DC adaptations, and powerful character themes — it’s no wonder that the show is as popular as it is. The main plot of Ivy searching for her missing plant friend wasn’t expanded upon a whole lot, but the episode did end on a twist that makes that storyline even more interesting for the future of the season.

Harley Quinn streams Wednesday on HBOMax.

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