This post contains spoilers.
If you missed out on Harley Quinn’s first season, you should fix that. Like, now.
If you’ve been holding off because you’re worried this is just another mid-tier Adult Swim-style animated series, let me assure you: Harley Quinn is much, much more than that. The show is thoughtful, funny, and more than a little violent—and it only gets better in the second season.
If, however, you’re all caught up and want to know what Gotham’s favorite anti-heroine and her friends have been up to lately, read on. You won’t be disappointed.
There are mild spoilers here for Season 2, but I’ve kept things pretty vague. Still, you’ve been warned.
Life At the Edge of Chaos
The second season of DC’s Harley Quinn picks up just after the Season 1 finale, with Gotham in ruins and Harley having eliminated the Joker. Because of the extensive damage to the city, Gotham is expelled from the United States and subsequently taken over by the Injustice League—an organization made up of Two-Face, the Penguin, Bane, the Riddler, and Mr. Freeze. These five supervillains divide the city into five fiefdoms, each ruled over by a different member of the League—and they don’t want to give Harley a piece of the action.
Early on, the season focuses on Harley’s interactions with the League as she tries to wrest control of Gotham away from them. As the show progresses, however, it widens its scope, working in other characters from the DC universe and doubling down on the comedy, mayhem, and character development that made the show’s first season such a pleasant surprise.
By the time the final credits roll, Harley and her crew have come toe to toe with love, betrayal, an interdimensional tyrant, and a good cop with nothing left to lose.
The Harley (& Friends) We Deserve
If the arc of Season 1 was Harley Quinn confronting the toxic nature of her relationship with the Joker and learning to put herself first, Season 2 is about Harley addressing her own toxic behavior and learning to put others first (while still maintaining her eccentric and violent tendencies). This is shown, primarily, through her deepening relationship with Poison Ivy—something fans of the series will almost certainly celebrate (as they should).
And while Harley is given a great arc over the course of the season, she isn’t alone. Practically every character the show carried over from its first season shows growth during Season 2.
Standouts include: Commissioner Gordon, who the show paints as a washed-up alcoholic with a Batman fixation, trying to pull himself out of his rut (inspired by his daughter, a.k.a. Batgirl); Poison Ivy, who has to balance her relationship with Harley and her romance with Kite Man; and Doctor Psycho, the misogynistic telekinetic, who chafes against Harley’s leadership and thirsts for control.
Other characters, like King Shark (Ron Funches, putting in god-tier work) and Bane (James Adomian, in a much-deserved expanded role this season), have smaller arcs but make just as much of an impact due to the strength of the writing and vocal performances.
The legendary Alan Tudyk also returns, voicing Clayface, the Joker, Calendar Man, Doctor Trap, and Condiment King—and leaves his mark on each of them. The highest compliment I can pay the cast of Harley Quinn is that it never feels like Tudyk is dunking on anyone with his work, in spite of his bona fides and the number of characters he’s juggling; everyone is basically on a level playing field.
Putting the “Meta” in Metahuman
While the show’s scene by scene humor remains as sharp as ever, it also commits to more meta jokes as it goes on.
One Batman-centric episode is bookended by two nerds (one wearing a “Release the Snyder Cut” shirt, the other in a “The Last Jedi Is Not Canon” tee) trying to decide if it’s worth watching “another heavy-handed female empowerment story where the true villain is the quote-unquote ‘patriarchy’.”
Later on, Poison Ivy’s talking houseplant Frank (J.B. Smooth) provides recaps because, he explains, he was well-received by audiences and the show’s producers wanted to shoehorn him in wherever they could.
Season 2 of Harley Quinn is, simply put, the best thing DC has produced in years. None of its comics or movies have shown so much respect for their characters, managed to take them in directions this fresh, or delivered the incredible highs of Harley Quinn in recent memory. An episode centered around Mr. Freeze actually moved me to tears. That’s the power of adult animation, baby!
This is Must-Watch Television, plain and simple. If you haven’t yet taken a dive into the show’s colorful brand of insanity, there’s no time like the present.
Both seasons of Harley Quinn are streaming on HBO Max.
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