Harley Quinn has been popular since she first popped up on Batman: The Animated Series. Now, she’s been on several cartoons, had a version of her on the Birds of Prey show, been played by Margot Robbie in two movies, and most recently got her own animated series on the DC Universe service. It’s a different take on several characters, and has now built to the season finale. Last episode ended with the shocking death of Poison Ivy, the triumph of the Joker, and things looking horrible for the crew. Now they need to figure out how to get back on top in “The Final Joke.” As a season finale, there will be spoilers.
The episode opens with a recap of Ivy’s sudden death, and the stunned reactions from Harley, Kite Man, and the crew. With cartoon logic, they immediately hold a funeral in the park, burying Ivy amid lamentations, tears, and a borrowed eulogy. After some quibbling at the headstone, Harley lets her temper get the better of her and does something rash. Once again, an unlikely character is put in the position of being the responsible one, reining her in until they come up with a better plan. After another excruciating scene with Commissioner Gordon and Batman, and a nod to Kaley Cuoco’s (Harley) last show, Harley pops up on the roof by the famous signal and makes a surprising suggestion.
Some time later, Harley leads her team to the Joker’s big tower. After more of Joker’s babbling and really rubbing it in about Ivy, Joker gets drawn in when Harley offers him a special birthday present: Batman and a song. Of course, there’s a plan here and, as you might expect, it goes horribly wrong. By the end of the scene, everyone’s been captured except our titular character (I really can’t call her a hero).
A week later, things are really bad. The crew and the Dark Knight are prisoners. Gotham is under the Joker’s control, Gordon’s been captured, and there’s a huge reward out for Harley. Scarecrow suggests a celebration, and we see another of Joker’s odd little issues/phobias. The villain of fear then does something against the rules of the Batman/Joker dynamic, which leads to Joker bitching. After he pushes his luck too far, Scarecrow finds out why you generally don’t want to be in the same room as an irritated and bored Joker. In the aftermath, Joker goes on a rant about something from earlier in the scene.
Alone and on the run, Harley visits Ivy’s grave. In an interesting mix of touching and weird, Kite Man is sort of performing a vigil there, and the two of them talk about what Harley’s going to do next. After she cries over her friend, Harley sets her own plan in motion. Probably wisely, Kite Man isn’t part of this. There’s also a hint about something I’m sure absolutely everyone saw coming. Using both her own psychiatric training and her unique view of the world, Harley comes up with a way to demand Joker’s attention and cooperation. There’s a very tense standoff, in which they each get a bit of what they want, as Harley gives in on one point and Joker frees her crew.
Despite the fact that he seems to have won, Joker still isn’t happy, and hears something from Harley he heard earlier and ignored. A war of words turns into a knife fight, and things aren’t looking great for either of them. He finally gets the upper hand, and goes through an elaborate set-up, both in actual mechanism and explanation, of what he’s going to do to Harley. The situation gets resolved in an enjoyable but predictable fashion. The very end is a summation of the new status quo in Gotham, with a hint or two at what might be coming.
What I liked: I’m still entertained that Dr. Psycho keeps ending up as the responsible adult in this group. Kite Man’s devotion to Ivy was actually handled well, even if they played some of it for laughs. Alan Tudyk continues to impress as both Clayface and Joker, and I’ve been enjoying Rahul Kohli’s Scarecrow. I will give them points for taking everything in a very different and unexpected direction at the end of the episode/season.
What I didn’t: I’ve said several times, I don’t like their take on Gordon. Similarly, while it’s not his show, Batman isn’t preforming to expectations. The crew suffers from NPC-syndrome: they do fine when the main character is around and giving them orders, and become next to useless deprived of her guidance.
I’ll give the episode a 3 out of 5, and the season a 3.5 out of 5. Season two has already been approved, so Harley and company will be back to deal with the mess that is Gotham.