The Daily Stream: Harley Quinn Is A Rare Superhero Show With Actual Consequences And Changes

(Welcome to The Daily Stream, an ongoing series in which the /Film team shares what they've been watching, why it's worth checking out, and where you can stream it.)

The Series: "Harley Quinn"

Where You Can Stream It: HBO Max

The Pitch: When Harley Quinn breaks up with Joker, she goes on a journey of self-discovery and embarks on a quest to become Gotham City's newest crime boss. This includes run-ins with some of the DC universe's biggest characters, fights against Apokolips, electoral campaigns involving Joker and more.

This is a very hard R-rated animated show, with incredibly gory fights and explicit moments, and it is one of the best things DC has ever made. It is also a show that lives squarely in its own version of the DC continuity, one inhabited both by Batman, Superman, and Joker, but also characters like Condiment King, Big Barda, and Imperceptible Man. 

More importantly, "Harley Quinn" breaks the biggest rule of comics: it has consequences. From the moment the show starts with Harley and Joker splitting ways, it has never looked back or hit the reset button, on the contrary. Each season introduces a huge change to the status quo that impacts the rest of the season, and each of the characters. This started when, in the first season, "Harley Quinn" started killing off established characters, from Scarecrow to Penguin and Mr. Freeze.

Why it's essential viewing

More than just shocking and gory deaths, "Harley Quinn" uses character deaths to further its own story with no regard for plans for DC characters in other media. This is a far cry from the time when Batman was not allowed to appear in TV shows because of Nolan's movie trilogy, or how "Arrow" had to stop using the character of Deathstroke because of the canceled Joe Manganiello movie. Instead, "Harley Quinn" is free to maim, kill, or otherwise drastically change its depiction of major DC characters. Like when Harley killed Mr. Freeze, it wasn't just for shock, but to further show that Harley was impulsive and reckless, which she still is, but has improved.

Bojack Horseman once said: "You can't have happy endings in sitcoms, not really, because if everyone's happy, the show would be over, and above all else, the show ... has to keep going. There's always more show." But that is not "Harley Quinn," because it both gave us the happy ending we needed in season 2, and then showed how happy endings are not just something you achieve, but continue to build upon every day.

Comics change many things with time, like tone, cast of characters, and more, but for the most part they don't really change the personality of the main characters. Batman is always Batman, and no matter what happens to him, he eventually resets to being who he has always been. Even when they go through huge events, like the death of a Robin, Batman cannot drastically change or the comic would have to eventually end.

The importance of consequences

"Harley Quinn" doesn't care about that, and instead shows how major events have major impacts on the characters. This version of Joker is drastically different from any other portrayal we've seen, but it makes perfect sense within the context of the show. Batman himself is not just different, but he leaves season 3 in a place that has huge repercussions for the entire show, and it tracks with what we've seen of him, and the psychological progress he's made this season.

That's what makes this show exciting and keeps it fresh, because you never know where it will go, because there is no status quo to revert to. While the DC movies enter their 145th reboot, here is "Harley Quinn" telling a complete story that is both personal, and epic in scope, impacting the whole DC universe while staying true to its unique tone.