I love Harley Quinn. I absolutely adore her twisted, psychotic obsessiveness and arc of coming to terms with the unhealthy nature of her relationship with The Joker in order to embrace her inner villain (and sometimes heroine). She is flawed, bonkers, and badass and that’s why I love her.
Naturally, I was very excited to hear that DC Universe planned to release an animated series all about our Harley that focused on rebuilding after leaving The Joker. It sounded great! Then lots of little things about the plot started to chafe. Harley wanted to prove to Joker that she was just as much a leading villain as he is, meaning she would still be obsessed with him but on a different level. Kaley Cuoco was voicing her. The trailer that dropped right before the premiere episode did not upgrade my tepid curiosity into joyful excitement either.
One day I finally sat down and turned on Harley Quinn, watching Episodes 1 through 6, which were all of those available at the time. Can I tell you that I didn’t even crack a smile the entire time? Or that it felt like an agonizing marathon to slag through the episodes? Because both are true. Why?
1. Cuoco as Harley
I’m not saying you have to copy OG Harley Arleen Sorkin or Tara Strong to have a good Harley voice (Hi, Margot Robbie!). What I am saying is that you need a range of some kind to perform the role and Cuoco hasn’t got it. Her line readings are flat, boring, and fully her own voice with little inflections every now and then to indicate she knows about Harley’s accent in other performances and cannot do it.
2. The Jokes
I could see the jokes coming from a mile away, lessening their impact greatly. Also, most of the jokes just aren’t funny. The funniest thing in the whole half I watched? James Adomian’s impersonation of Tom Hardy’s The Dark Knight Rises Bane for his Bane. That’s quality right there, kids, and I could not get enough of him or the smoothly posh Rahul Kohli as Scarecrow. Alas, they aren’t featured as much as the next two annoying f*cks I’m going to sh*t on.
3. King Shark and Clayface
Ronald Funches is King Shark and Alan Tudyk is Clayface, the two most annoying assh*les in the entire series. Every time Clayface started to speak I wanted to burn down my own face to escape the uselessness of the monologuing. While I enjoy Funches elsewhere, I just couldn’t get into his King Shark. He is very sunny. It’s weird. I don’t want to talk about it.
4. The Redundant Nature of the Episodes
Ivy (Lake Bell) tries to convince Harley not to do crazy things. Harley does them. People get hurt, Harley is shunned, they all change their mind and help her in the end. Lather, rinse, repeat. It was boring, a sin I cannot forgive.
5. The Plot of the Season
Basically, Harley is dumped by Joker (Alan Tudyk) and Ivy tries to get her to stay away from him for good. Of course, Harley goes back at least once and Ivy has to trick her into realizing Joker loves Batman (Diedrich Bader) more than her. Once free of Joker, Harley decides she has to impress him with an invite into the Legion of Doom. So the whole season is just Harley obsessed with The Joker in a different way, seeking his approval in a new manner, and looking to rise to the top of the Gotham criminal underground to prove her worth to him and not herself.
It’s a frustrating premise, to be sure. Perhaps Harley learns she only needs to prove her worth to herself throughout the last half of the series, but the first six episodes were such a disappointment to me that I doubt I’ll finish the series. Sometimes that happens, you know?
I’m not saying you shouldn’t watch Harley Quinn but I am saying I didn’t find it to be everything that it could have been with the right voice actress for our anti-heroine and a different bunch of storylines. I know that lots of people feel differently, but this is my take.
It stinks because I really wanted to love it.
Image sources (in order of posting): DC Universe, Warner Bros.