Work-life balance is a major concern among DC‘s costumed criminals. Harley Quinn Season 4 puts this conflict front and center, endangering Harley and Ivy’s romance as they pursue conflicting career opportunities.
The previous season ended with Poison Ivy (Lake Bell) being hired as the new leader of the Legion of Doom. Unfortunately, this coincided with Harley Quinn (Kaley Cuoco) joining the Bat-Family after publicly helping them save Gotham City. The two agreed to keep their work and love lives separate, so as not to deprive themselves a chance at success. This set up the core problem with Harley Quinn Season 4, both in-universe and as a story.
Harley and Ivy Are Better Together
The relationship between Ivy and Harley is one of the core elements of the Harley Quinn animated series’ success. Both Kaley Cuoco and Lake Bell did a masterful job of developing their characters and slowly advancing the romance between them. The interplay between the introverted Ivy and manic Harley was also one of the show’s key sources of humor.
That element was sadly lacking throughout much of Harley Quinn Season 4, as the story separated the characters. The two had little chance to lean on each other as they struggled to find acceptance in their new roles. Harley’s presence aggravates the more disciplined members of the hero community. At the same time, Ivy discovers she’s a token hire, meant to make Lex Luthor (Giancarlo Esposito) look more progressive for hiring a “She-E-O” with nature powers.
This opens up new avenues for humor, but the show loses much of its heart in the process. Comparisons can be made to The Venture Bros. which also began to lose sight of its core characters as its universe and supporting cast expanded. The members of Harley’s gang from the first season are still around, but in a reduced capacity. King Shark, for instance, is now employed as the Legion of Doom’s IT guy, but he rarely interacts with Harley or Ivy.
It is amusing to watch Ivy try to bond with fellow “She-vil Bosses” like Veronica Cale and Talia al Ghul, in an effective parody of Sex in the City. However, it doesn’t make up for the reduced roles of the established supporting cast. The show justifies these absences, however, with King Shark focused on fatherhood and Clayface now a Vegas superstar.
The Show Remains Hilarious
While the show’s ensemble was scattered, Harley Quinn Season 4 still offered a darkly hilarious take on the DC Universe. The show broke the fourth wall on numerous occasions, with gags referencing the popularity of Nightwing’s butt and the gritty monochromatic appearance of the DCEU movies. There was also some topical satire, with Doctor Psycho mocking Joe Rogan with his new podcast.
Despite this, absurdism in the same vein as Monty Python continued to be the preferred flavor of comedy. The show’s version of Bane, for instance, spent most of the season in Italy. This was part of a misguided quest to replace a broken pasta maker and win the heart of his latest crush. This is wonderfully insane, in or out of context. It is also a fair representation of how gloriously silly Harley Quinn Season 4 was, despite the drama.
A Strong Finale Sets The Stage For Season 5
Thankfully, while the opening episodes of Harley Quinn Season 4 were somewhat weaker, the season stuck the landing with its season finale. The events of the season prove to Harley and Ivy that they don’t need to fit in with the hero or villain communities so long as they have each other. This revelation leads to a revenge-filled rampage, and hilarity ensues as they establish the Gotham City Sirens.
The show continues to break with the traditional Batman timeline, as Barbara Gordon (Briana Cuoco) becomes Oracle as part of the Gotham City Sirens. This seemingly out of character move is an odd acknowledgement that Babs did many shady things in the Suicide Squad and Birds of Prey comics. This development will prove an interesting change of the status quo in Harley Quinn Season 5.
In a similar twist, Talia al Ghul uses the Lazarus Pit to bring Nightwing back from the dead. While referencing how she did the same thing with Jason Todd in the mainstream DCU, it also offers Dick Grayson (who died because of Harley) a chance at revenge. It should be noted Talia still controls Wayne Enterprises as the season ends. With Bruce Wayne soon to be released from prison, we could see a reunited Bat-Family going after the Gotham City Sirens.
Harley Quinn Season 4 showcased why the show remains the crown jewel of Max‘s adult animation line-up. While slow-paced at the start, the finale affirmed the Harlivy romance. With strong voice acting, deep cuts into the comics lore, and wicked humor, it is still worth watching.
All episodes of Harley Quinn are available for streaming on Max as of September 14, 2023