The last season of Harley Quinn was filled with tons of Gotham drama and, unfortunately, still way too much of the Joker. Season 3 doesn’t improve on the latter, but we get more Catwoman, which makes up for the clownery! The series has so far dealt with the central theme of Harley Quinn shedding her abusive ex and finally getting with her best friend, now girlfriend, Poison Ivy. Along the way, Quinn has fallen into hijinks that put her at odds with Batman’s infinite rogues’ gallery and her former crew member, Doctor Psycho. The previous season showcased the near completion of her evolution from the sidekick, scorned lover, and infamy-obsessed villain, to the anti-hero we know and love today. Harley Quinn Season 3 continues to parse through that character development, though the focus has slightly shifted.
Harley Quinn Season 3 begins with Quinn and Ivy embracing the honeymoon phase of their new love, with the two galavanting around on Wonder Woman’s invisible jet and getting into all sorts of Harley-driven shenanigans. That comes to a stop when Quinn decides to return the favor from last season and encourage Ivy to step into her villainous power. Since Ivy supported her efforts to run Gotham, Quinn has Ivy put on her lab coat once more to execute her biggest dream, terraforming the city, then the whole world. Season 3 offers a lot of Harley and her joyous and chaotic energy, but she and the show named after her take a step back for a new adventure that puts Ivy even more front and center.
The usual antics of Harley Quinn are working overtime, with inside jokes towards the DC Extended Universe, the range of heroes and villains in Batman’s Gotham, and the larger DC landscape all included. There are also some tidbits regarding real-world issues, which may or may not all land depending on your comedic tastes. These are the elements that make Harley Quinn appointment television. The expansive, subversive, and satirical take on Gotham through the eyes of Quinn’s imaginative and wacky point of view is what makes this a unique take in the mighty pantheon of DC television. There isn’t anything quite like Harley Quinn, and it’s perfectly attuned to what is currently happening in the DC zeitgeist, with relevant jabs and self-deprecating humor.
This season thrives on leveraging Poison Ivy’s criminal background and comic history. Focusing on Ivy’s grand plan sets up a great narrative arc that tests the limits of Quinn’s anti-hero ways and explores Poison Ivy’s own psyche. Although, we must recognize that her efforts to terraform Gotham have honorable intentions at the root but are horrible nonetheless. Centering Ivy is the most natural progression after the last two seasons of her supporting Quinn’s own growth. It’s also great to see how well she balances Harley’s more vexing qualities with her sarcastic and misanthropic personality, which is used effectively this season. Harley can be a bit much, especially when you take on the series through a binge rather than a week-to-week watch. By placing Ivy at the core of this journey, the Harlivy relationship is given a much more in-depth exploration as Ivy is not just Harley’s girlfriend. She is an independent character with her own personal drama, ambitions, and rich mythos worth exploring.
High expectations have been put on the Harlivy relationship, and showrunners Justin Halpern and Patrick Schumacker rise to the challenge. They do the work to pave the way for a fully fleshed-out romance that just happens to feature two out and proud queer women. Their queerness is not amplified for brownie points; instead, the writing of Harley Quinn Season 3 treats the Harlivy duo with respect and dignity but is wrapped in an off-kilter, raunchy animated comedy series, with extra emphasis on raunchy.
What makes Harley Quinn so remarkable is its strong reliability. The comedy is just as provocative as ever, making great use of this perverted version of Gotham the showrunners have dreamed up. Harley is, to a degree, as unpredictable as ever, yet there is exponential character growth that never sacrifices the parts of her persona that make the show so entertaining to watch. Even so, it’s still a juggling act; as the narrative evolves to accommodate Harley and Ivy’s bond and individual arcs, the show needs to utilize the abundance of DC lore to drive those core relationships forward. Harley Quinn could become stale with the familiar writing from season to season. However, the writing team use everything around Harley and Ivy to liven up their chemistry. It’s risky to abandon Harley and Ivy for side plots that focus on other popular DC names, but these short interludes only strengthen the show’s world-building. It allows the sincerity of the storytelling to make an impact while taking advantage of the expansive universe that Harley and Ivy have the great fortune of being a part of.
The bar doesn’t need to be raised incredibly high with each season because it’s comforting to have a familiar framework each time that examines its titular character and Ivy (who should have been sharing the title of the series from day one, but I digress). The playground simply needs to grow a bit more each time, folding in a rotating roaster of compelling and underrated characters for more well-earned entertainment. Although, the constant need to include Joker can be a tad tiresome because potential is wasted by revisiting that well repeatedly.
Harley Quinn Season 3 is a riot, with ample humor, drama, and enough Harlivy romance to entertain the wide breadth of the DC fandom (or just the fans who actually enjoy being entertained and aren’t seeking ways to always be offended). The series thrives on its balance of giving its audience what they came for, Harley Quinn and her badass partner Poison Ivy, and so much more that is unexpectedly fun.