The Joker’s Ex-Girlfriend has moved on and grown, and so has her story.
SUMMARY (Spoilers for Season 1)
Having beaten the Joker (Alan Tudyk) and with Batman (Diedrich Bader) and the Justice League out of the way, Harley Quinn (Kaley Cuoco) is now poised to take over the city of Gotham. Unfortunately, Gotham is quickly declared No Man’s Land, and it turns out that the Injustice League wants it too. They get the drop on Harley and divvy up the territory. With the help of Poison Ivy (Lake Bell), King Shark (Ron Funches), Sy Borgman (Jason Alexander), Frank the Plant (J.B. Smoove), Clayface (Tudyk), and Doctor Psycho (Tony Hale), she’s out to get revenge on the Riddler, Penguin, Mr. Freeze, Bane, and Two-Face (Jim Rash, Wayne Knight, Alfred Molina, James Adomian, Andy Daly) and claim Gotham for herself. Also, Batgirl’s there (Briana Cuoco).
So, my main criticism of Harley Quinn Season 1 was that the show often tried to go a little too exploitative with the violence and swearing to the point that I thought it distracted from the show. I will admit that, on rewatching, it still was a little over-the-top, but I might have let my feelings towards DC Universe’s show Titans color my opinion on how they were handling “mature” superhero shows. It still bothered me when I watched it again, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought on the first go-around. Whatever problems there were, however, have been almost completely fixed in the second season.
It’s not that the show is any less exploitative in the second season, in fact the violence and swearing are probably even increased, but the show has started to use them as a form of self-commentary. Harley even says, while defending a show-within-a-show, that “violence ups the dramatic effect,” and honestly, this season that’s mostly what it did. In the way that the John Wick films manage to make killing hordes of people into slapstick routine, season two frequently makes violence cathartic or humorous.
Moreover, the subject matter of this season was almost uniformly made more mature and relatable. While I thought that the first season forced the plot of Harley getting over the Joker to last longer than it should have which killed the relatability of dealing with an abusive ex, this season covers a number of plots that interweave and keep the relationships and topics fresh. They range from having feelings for a friend, to dealing with your own feelings of inadequacy, to dealing with repressed emotions and trauma. Instead of being a simple set of plots with a lot of swearing and ‘splosions, it’s a lot of blood and cussing that heightens the emotions of the scenes. It’s everything I wanted out of this series, and it feels so damned good.
If you have a chance to check it out, do it. The first season is pretty good in retrospect, but this season should earn it a following.
The adult animation returns for more violence, more strong female friendships, and more of a giant shark with a cuddly heart.
SUMMARY (Spoilers for Season 1)
After the Joker (Alan Tudyk) took over the city, got rid of the Justice League, and captured Batman (Diedrich Bader), Harley Quinn (Kaley Cuoco) and Poison Ivy (Lake Bell) finally managed to take down the clown. Unfortunately, his last act was to activate a device that created an 8.2 earthquake (~30 Megatons of TNT or slightly more powerful than the biggest US nuclear device) in the middle of Gotham City. With everything destroyed, Batman gone, Joker presumed dead, and the Justice League trapped in another dimension, Harley finally has the city at her feet. The US Government has declared Gotham no longer part of the US, so no one is planning to come in and stop her. Unfortunately, the Riddler (Jim Rash), Two-Face (Andy Daly), Penguin (Wayne Knight), Mr. Freeze (Alfred Molina), and Bane (James Adomian) have banded together to put the new “No Man’s Land” under their rule. Harley has to deal with the new “Injustice Gang” with the help of her crew: Clayface (Tudyk), Doctor Psycho (Tony Hale), Frank the Plant (J.B. Smoove), King Shark (Ron Funches), and Sy Borgman (Jason Alexander).
This show originally didn’t grab me as much as I’d hoped. It seemed a little too violent and a little too crass to be what I was looking for. However, when I rewatched it, I found myself really enjoying the show’s fairly unique style of humor, often involving the mundane conversations of the characters that stand in contrast to the fact that they’re involved in superhuman events. For example, when trapped on a magical cloud populated by the giant from Jack in the Beanstalk, Poison Ivy and Harley both are interested in seeing how well-endowed the giant is. It’s a strange diversion, but it works well because it’s just so absurd for the situation.
While the first season focused on Harley’s development in getting past her relationship with the Joker by trying to get into the Legion of Doom, this season starts with her in a new place both emotionally and in terms of power. While she has previously been mocked by most people for her dependence on the Joker and just generally being a female supervillain (Gotham is sexist, unlike the real wor… oh, right), Harley has shown that she is much more intelligent and capable than almost anyone else in the show. However, due to her preference for anarchy, she ends up allowing the other villains to cement power rather than just taking over the city herself, something that gives her yet another personal flaw to overcome for the season.
I will also give the show credit that it starts averting one of the general rules for comic book shows pretty early on in this season. I won’t spoil it, but it took me by surprise (or would have, if the damn ads for the show didn’t ruin it for me).
Honestly, I recommend this show. Unfortunately, it’s really hard to watch it, since there aren’t a ton of people with DC Universe subscriptions and they won’t put the season on Amazon streaming until after the entire season is over. Still, if you can find someone with the account, you should ask to watch this show.
Jemaine Clement guest stars in one of the craziest escapes involving a sentient cloud.
Rick (Justin Roiland) is teaching Morty (also Roiland, talking to himself) how to drive his flying vehicle so that Rick can drink more and have Morty run his errands. Rick is surprised to discover that Jerry (Chris Parnell) is in the back seat (literally sitting in plain view), claiming that he and Rick agreed that a boy’s father should be there for a driving lesson. Rick receives a call about a meeting and has Morty fly them to an asteroid where they take Jerry to “Jerryboree” a place where Ricks throughout the mulitverse dump their Jerrys to keep them “safe.”
Rick and Morty head to a parking garage where they’re met by the very upbeat assassin Krombopulos Michael (Andy Daly) who buys weapons from Rick. Rick uses the money to take Morty to “Blips and Chitz,” a Dave-and-Busters-style entertainment center which seems to specialize in Virtual Reality, including the game “Roy” that lets you live a life as another human being and somehow scores you on it. Morty is angry and states that Rick selling Krombopulos Michael a gun makes them culpable for the death. Rick disagrees, so Morty steals the flying car and crashes into the facility that Krombopulos Michael is in, killing him. Rick arrives via portal gun and he and Morty discover that the target of the assassination was a sentient cloud that Rick accidentally names “Fart” (Jemaine Clement). They take Fart with them and flee the facility.
Meanwhile, back at Jerryboree, Jerry feels demeaned by being kept in a facility that appears to be designed for children, but is also frequently distracted by the offerings. He watches Midnight Run, meets other Jerrys (and also Beth’s second husband, Paul Fleishman (Ryan Ridley)), and then decides to escape. Then, he’s told that he can leave at any time. When he does, however, he runs into trouble being on an alien asteroid and quickly comes back.
Fart, Rick, and Morty escape to Gearhead’s (Scott Chernoff) planet for repairs, but Gearhead ends up calling the authorities on Rick. Rick responds by ripping out his “gearsticles” and shoving them in the slot for his mouth gears. They try to escape the Gear Authorities but are cornered until Fart uses his psychic powers to cause a massive series of crashes. They arrive at the planet where Fart’s portal is located. Morty walks to the portal with Fart but Fart indicates that his species is going to destroy all carbon-based life. Morty asks him to sing again before shooting him with Krombopulos Michael’s gun. They pick up Jerry, or A Jerry, at least, and head home.
I love Jemaine Clement. I think he’s talented, funny, and a good singer. What We Do In the Shadows is one of the funniest movies that I’ve seen in the last 10 years and he’s a large part of that. One of his best abilities is to play someone who seems to be just a little off but also still self-confident. Because of that, his performance as Fart is especially amazing to me. He’s a being of unbelievable power, but he also cannot really relate to carbon-based life in a normal way, which makes him seem humorous rather than terrifying. Also, given that the dimensional portal he comes out of is designed to look like a vagina, I think we can safely say that “Fart” was their way of getting around what he really is.
Fart’s song “Goodbye Moonmen” is an example of how something can be perfectly recontextualized from being happy to being horrifying. The lyrics originally seem to be about leading the universe into harmony and convincing the people who don’t agree to see the beauty of peace. However, once you know that Fart wants to kill all organic life, the lines “All the Moonmen want things their way/but we make sure they see the sun/Goodbye moonmen” instead becomes a statement that they’re going to eradicate all of them. It’s a trippy, peaceful song that tries to get you to ignore that the chorus is about genocide, just like “Puff the Magic Dragon.” Yeah, I said it. It’s nonsense, but I said it.
Jerryboree is an interesting exploration of Jerry, particularly given how weird and pedantic the things that Jerry enjoys are. He prefers movies with the Director’s Commentary on. He enjoys figuring out how to set-up entertainment systems. When there are versions of him that were abandoned, they just keep living in the facility, explaining it with “We’re Jerrys.” Basically, Jerry is a giant ball of insecurities, neuroses, and aversions to risk-taking, something that, apparently, is true across much of the multiverse.
Another part of the episode that stands out is Rick and Morty’s disagreement over whether or not providing a weapon makes you culpable for the murder. I think the episode wisely doesn’t take a definite stance on it, but it’s interesting that Rick points out that Morty actually kills far more people in his attempt to do the right thing in the episode than would have died if Rick just sold the gun. Also, if Rick hadn’t created the gun, then Fart’s people would have killed everyone. Hell, if Morty hadn’t kept the gun with him (which is another question altogether) and shot Fart, then Morty would have, by his own logic, killed the universe.
A famous fan theory that seems pretty substantial arises from Jerryboree and the information that Rick fills out for Jerry in this episode. Basically, the fact that the number that “our” Rick and Morty get isn’t the same as the number that the Rick and Morty from the end of the episode have. So, after dropping Jerry off, “our” Rick and Morty probably go off and do some other stuff, possibly just chilling at “Blips and Chitz,” while the Rick and Morty we follow save their universe from Fart and kill Krombopulos Michael. This wouldn’t matter much if it was just this episode, but… well, just wait a few episodes.
JOKER’S THEORY CORNER
So, I’m not doing the theory I just mentioned as I don’t have much to add to it that the internet hasn’t already provided. Instead, I’m going to do a theory about why Rick brought Jerry along on the car trip. After all, Rick doesn’t actually seem to remember bringing him, only remarking “I guess I remember that” when Jerry reminds him of their agreement, then seems mildly astonished by the fact the Jerry had apparently just been in the car the whole time. So, there are two possibilities here:
Rick brought Jerry along so that he could dump him at Jerryboree as part of a plot to get rid of him
Let’s look at the circumstances: Rick knew that he was going to get a call from Krombopulos Michael sometime in the near future, likely during the lesson, as evidenced by the fact that the gun was already in the car. He immediately decided to get rid of Jerry on the Jerryboree asteroid, claiming they didn’t have time to take him back to Earth, despite the fact that Rick literally can teleport people anywhere. Also, Rick immediately rattled off the location of the asteroid, despite the fact that it is likely the first time he’s ever needed to use it. After all, Morty doesn’t know about it and when is Rick going to care about Jerry’s welfare when Morty isn’t around? Now, it’s true Rick could literally just have the location memorized off-hand because he has a mind equal to millions of planets, but it still seems weird that he has it memorized if he’s never used it.
Now, once Jerry is at Jerryboree, how could Rick get rid of him? I mean, it’s not like Rick had a machine that would mess with Morty’s mind that he could suddenly throw him in which he could innocently say caused him to forget the day’s events and then tell Beth and Summer that he has no idea what happened to Jerry. Oh, right, ROY. Yes, the VR game that Rick shoves Morty into basically re-writes his mind to experience another life, which clearly leads Morty to have some difficulty remembering the real world. If Morty hadn’t remembered about Jerry, then Rick would have an excuse to just never pick him up. That’s why Rick leaves Jerry’s Dimension-ID blank: So that no other Rick or the Jerryboree nurse or whoever could send him back. It was a long-shot, but we also know from one of the other Mortys at the end that at least some of the versions had Morty get hooked on playing ROY, so it’s not inconceivable. And yes, I do know the meaning of that word.
2. Rick is actually commenting on the writing
By this point it’s pretty obvious that Rick knows he’s in a TV show. As such, when he seems surprised that Jerry has somehow been in the back of his car unnoticed until now, he could very well be commenting on how ridiculous it is that Jerry would be in the back of his car for Morty’s flying lesson, since Rick would never agree to that. Rick then accepts his out-of-character past behavior as a precursor to the episode’s B-plot and obliges by taking Jerry to a place where he can be the focus, but since Jerry will be completely safe it will be less-interesting than Rick’s hi-jinks and therefore not overshadow the A-Plot.
NOW LEAVING THE CORNER
This is one of my favorite episodes, but since this is Rick and Morty that ties it with like half of the series.
Overall, I give this episode an
on the Rick and Morty scale.
Wubba-Lubba-Dub-Dub, I need a drink. See you in two weeks.