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Harley Quinn Is a Great Example of Emotional Growth (Seriously)

Harley Quinn Is a Great Example of Emotional Growth (...

By Joshua Lapin-Bertone Thursday, September 15th, 2022

Welcome to the Couch Club, our recurring column devoted to all things #DCTV! This week, Joshua Lapin-Bertone looks at how the animated Harley Quinn may be one of the healthiest characters in the DC Universe.

SPOILER ALERT: The following contains spoilers from the season finale of Harley Quinn. Watch it before you read any further...otherwise, you have no one but yourself to blame, kiddo.
 

I’m really glad that Harley Quinn has been renewed for a fourth season because this week’s season three finale set up so much. Harley is now a member of the Bat-Family, fighting alongside Nightwing, Robin and Batgirl. Bruce Wayne has been arrested for tax fraud. Poison Ivy is leading the Legion of Doom. The Joker is mayor of Gotham. There is a lot happening!

Ever since the pilot episode, Harley Quinn has been a show about growth. Harley had to grow as a person to leave her abusive relationship with the Joker. She had to learn how to be a better friend to Ivy and realize that her goal of joining the Legion of Doom wasn’t healthy. That theme of growth continued this season, with a focus on how relationships grow.

The season began with Ivy and Harley enjoying their early days a couple, but everyone who has been in a romantic relationship knows that things are never so simple. It doesn’t matter how much you love someone, there are still incompatibilities that you have to work through. Throughout the season, we saw Harley and Ivy overcome these differences and learn how to be a couple. For example, Ivy learned how to communicate with Harley about habits that annoyed her.

It's refreshing that the problems they faced weren’t typical soap opera fare. We never got an episode where Harley and Ivy fought because they thought one of them was cheating on the other. Their problems were real and relatable. The episode where Ivy is annoyed because Harley is distracting her while she’s working is something that I’d imagine all couples have gone through, and it happened on a show with a mud monster that makes a living by pretending to be Billy Bob Thornton.

Now it looks like #Harlivy will face its biggest challenge yet. Harley Quinn will be a crimefighter working alongside the Bat-Family, while Ivy will be leading the Legion of Doom. How is this going to work? Their careers are in direct opposition to one another. This isn’t a case of one partner liking seafood while another hates it—this is Ivy leading a team of criminals, while Harley is working to stop crime. We’re talking George and Kellyanne Conway times about a million here and it’s one of the many reasons I’m psyched for season four.

No doubt it’s a weird recipe for a relationship, but I have faith in Harley and Ivy. They’re on much better ground than they were at the start of the season and they seem to be going into this new arrangement with healthy expectations. They’re going to compartmentalize, separating their home-lives from their work-lives. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure there will be speed bumps, but they can work through this.

I can’t believe I’m writing this, but the Joker has grown and matured as well. The former criminal has found love, set up shop in the suburbs and is now the mayor of Gotham. He even talked Jim Gordon out of killing Two-Face. That moment in particular felt weird because usually the Joker is on the other end of that conversation, often as one of Gotham’s superheroes has to be convinced not to murder him! The Joker has grown as a person, and as a result, his most beloved relationship has evolved. That’s right, nobody means more to Joker than Batman and we saw an entirely new dynamic between them this season on Harley Quinn.

How new? Well, the finale ends with Joker arresting Bruce Wayne for tax fraud. The episode doesn’t call attention to it, but let’s not forget that the Joker knows that Bruce Wayne is Batman. Scarecrow unmasked the Caped Crusader during the season one finale, which enraged the Clown Prince of Crime. After murdering Jonathan Crane as punishment for ruining his fun, Joker turned his attention to Bruce Wayne, demanding to know why WayneTech hadn’t delivered on their promise of electric cars. Since then, the Joker has been up to other things. And now he’s mayor.

By arresting Bruce Wayne, he’s finally defeated his biggest foe. After years of sparring, their dynamic has been flipped. Joker is the lawman, and Batman is the outlaw. It’s a fitting joke, one which I’m sure isn’t lost on the Joker himself. It’s also worth noting that he gave Ivy relationship advice. Sure, he was trying to save his own life, but he was also making sure Harley wouldn’t be stuck in another toxic relationship. Compare that scene to their earlier interactions in season one and it’s clear that Ivy and Joker’s relationship has grown as well.

A raunchy cartoon like Harley Quinn is an unexpected place to find character growth and heart, but don’t forget that our protagonist is a former psychiatrist. Harley may be an unconventional mental health practitioner, but look at her. She’s gone from villain to hero and she’s in a healthy relationship with her best friend. She’s even working hard to make sure Batman gets the therapeutic help he needs, if you know the Dark Knight, then you know that’s a tall order. Harley still has a lot of growing to do and lots of skulls to bash in. I can’t wait for season four, it’s going to be a wild ride.


Harley Quinn Season Three is now streaming on HBO Max. For more moments of mayhem and psychological insights, visit our official Harley Quinn series page.

Joshua Lapin-Bertone writes about TV, movies and comics for DCComics.com, is a regular contributor to the Couch Club and writes our monthly Batman column, "Gotham Gazette." Follow him on Twitter at @TBUJosh.

NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this feature are solely those of Joshua Lapin-Bertone and do not necessarily reflect those of DC Entertainment or Warner Bros.