Harley Quinn Season 3 Review: Harley And Ivy's Love Story Takes Center Stage In The Latest Season Of The Irreverent Send Up Of All-Things DC

In the current world of non-stop superhero movies and TV shows that all seem to take themselves far too seriously, the vulgar, violent, unapologetically silly "Harley Quinn" can seem like a breath of fresh air. At times, the show feels like it only exists to relentlessly mock all-things DC Comics. The world of Batman and company hasn't been this goofy since the Adam West era, and that's not a complaint — we need comic book entertainment like this; titles that are willing to point and laugh and say, "It's okay to lighten up a little." Of course, "Harley Quinn," like its titular anti-heroine, can also be a bit much. The show's mix of ultra-violence and over-hyper comedy can wear you down if you're not in the right mindset. Harley is truly an agent of chaos, and watching her run amock while voiced with shrieking glee by Kaley Cuoco can grate if you're not in the mood.

But "Harley" has been gone for a while, and fans will no doubt be ready for her return. The second season of the animated series, which aired on the already forgotten streaming service DC Universe (season 3 has made the jump to HBO Max) ended with Harley and Poison Ivy (Lake Bell, the real MVP of the series) finally proclaiming their love for one another — right as Ivy was about to marry pathetic (but kind) supervillain Kite Man. 

Season 3 picks up with Harley and Ivy in the full swing of their relationship, embarking on what they've dubbed the "eat, bang, kill" tour — full of, you guessed it, eating, banging, and killing. The two are very much in love, but their relationship isn't exactly going to be smooth sailing. Usually, to create conflict, show writers will quickly break up a couple just as quickly as they brought them together, especially when the slightest hint of discomfort arises between the pair. Thankfully, "Harley" doesn't go down that road. Yes, Harley and Ivy go through several relationship problems throughout the new season, but there's never a moment where those situations result in a breakup. Instead, the characters find a way to work through their issues, which is surprisingly mature for a show this, well ... immature

Orgies, movies, and terraforming

"Harley Quinn" season 3 begins in a honeymoon phase for Harley and Ivy, with the two flying around the world (in Wonder Woman's invisible jet), getting into mischief, and having lots and lots of sex. But eventually, every honeymoon period ends. Ivy decides she wants to terraform Gotham, covering it in plants and getting rid of most of humanity (and hey, can you blame her?). Harley, the ever-supportive girlfriend, says she has Ivy's back. But it becomes clear rather quickly (if it wasn't clear already) that these two supervillains aren't cut from the same cloth. Ivy is (mostly) calm and focused, and doesn't even consider herself a villain, while Harley is a bouncing ball of killer mayhem — while Ivy is prone to meditate, Ivy can't sit still or quiet for very long, and these contrasting, conflicting personalities begin to clash. 

Meanwhile, the other familiar Gotham residents engage in their own subplots. Batman (Diedrich Bader) is still grappling with his parents' deaths — so much so that an episode where Harley and Ivy enter Batman's mind reveals that the only thing Batman thinks about, over and over and over again, is his parents being gunned down. There's also a Thomas Wayne movie being directed by James Gunn (who voices himself), and starring Billy Bob Thornton (who also voices himself ... at least at first). "Haven't they exploited that poor rich Wayne family enough?" Batman says at one point. "Every few years there's a new movie depicting the Waynes' murder. We get it!" It's a not-so-subtle jab at the fact that there have been a lot of Batman movies, and almost all of them feel the need to show us the Waynes being gunned down in Crime Alley. (The new movie, by the way, is called "A Hard Wayne's Gonna Fall.")

The increasingly pathetic Jim Gordon (a very funny Christopher Meloni) is running for mayor with the help of campaign manager Two-Face (Andy Daly), while Joker (Alan Tudyk) has settled down to become a family man with a wife and two step-children. But Joker can't stay settled for long, and soon plans to run for mayor, too. All the while, Clayface (also Tudyk) continues to chase his dreams of stardom while King Shark (Ron Funches) has to deal with troubles in his underwater kingdom. Throw in cameos from characters like Swamp Thing (Sam Richardson), a budding romance between Riddler and Clock King, and the Court of Owls being presented exactly like the sex orgy group from "Eyes Wide Shut," and you have yourself a pretty jam-packed season. 

A milkshake of mayhem

In fact, there are times when the show feels too jam-packed. "Harley Quinn" is so overloaded and so over-hyper that it can start to burn you out (I recommend watching the season in pieces instead of binging it all at once, as I did to write this review). Cuoco's Harley is lovable, but to truly underscore how different Harley and Ivy are, temperament-wise, Cuoco has dialed her voice performance up to 11. There's not a single episode that goes by where she's not shrieking or screaming. The series also takes a "gag-a-minute" approach to its comedy, never relenting with its jokes. That type of oversaturation often leads to a lot of lines that fall flat among several that really kill. Bane (voiced by James Adomian, doing a killer impression of Tom Hardy's take on the character) remains a series highlight, and he has a genuinely funny arc about being mad at Harley and Ivy for not returning the pasta maker he bought Ivy as a wedding present. Then there are great little gags, like Joker dancing down the steps of his house exactly like Joaquin Phoenix in "Joker." Joker also runs for mayor as a socialist, with a platform that actually sounds helpful to Gotham. 

The Riddler runs a deadly escape room, there's a mouse-family version of the Waynes, and there's a wonderful, quick bit, where characters confuse Joe Chill, the hoodlum who killed Batman's parents, with both Joe Cool (which is a version of Snoopy) and Joe Camel, the former cigarette mascot. The best line of the season, though, goes to Jim Gordon, who, when asked why he hasn't gotten an endorsement for mayor from Henry Kissinger, replies: "That piece of s*** isn't dead yet? God really doesn't exist."

At the center of it all is the queer love story between Harley and Ivy. The way the show handles their love is sweet, even when conflicts arise. And the fact that these two characters find ways to work through their problems and only grow as a couple makes it all the more rewarding. Long live Harlivy (their official 'ship name, although Ivy points out that "Hivy" would sound better).

But the best thing about "Harley Quinn" is flexibility. The animation allows the series to play around with form and style — there's a fake sitcom based on the Joker's life at one point, and the trip into Batman's mind recreates the art-deco backgrounds of "Batman: The Animated Series." The show's insistence on not playing by the rules — iconic Batman characters are flat-out murdered constantly over the show's three-season run — also keeps it feeling both fresh and unpredictable. There's a sense that the writers can do literally anything here; anything at all. There are no consequences. There's just a glut of chaos and insanity with smart quips, silly gags, and crude humor mixing together, into a big, sloppy, calorie-heavy, and highly enjoyable milkshake of mayhem. 

"Harley Quinn" season 3 premiers on HBO Max on July 28, 2022, followed by one episode weekly through September 15, 2022.