This Harley Quinn review contains spoilers.
Harley Quinn Season 2 Episode 5
Harley Quinn loves to piss people off and the cold open this week may well piss a few people off, but it certainly made this reviewer chuckle. DC Universe’s adult animation series is at its best when it mercilessly mocks itself and, in this case, its viewers. If you’ve ever shared the Release the Snyder Cut hashtag or got angry about Mary Sues, then you might want to forward through this opening unless you don’t mind having a little laugh at yourself.
The opening does actually play a purpose, though, as it introduces the set up for this chapter. Basically, if you want to enjoy more of Harley Quinn‘s signature silliness you’ll have to wait ’till this episode as this is a rare Bat-family episode and it’s a complete joy. If you’ve been keeping up with the sophomore season of Harley Quinn you’ll know that Bruce Wayne has been out of action and the Injustice League has taken over Gotham in his absence. The lack of Batman has also inspired some new heroes who are protecting the city to varying degrees of quality.
Earlier this season we met Barbara Gordon in an exceedingly exciting episode where she decided to take on the mantle of Batgirl. It was a lot of fun seeing Babs put on her iconic purple and yellow, and here we see her return as Bruce tries to come to terms with becoming obsolete. Batman has long been a character defined by his legacy characters and sidekicks. The creative team is clearly aware of this history as we’ve already dealt with Damian Wayne’s Robin and Babs offers up a new opportunity for rumination, collaboration, and jealousy.
Batgirl isn’t the only new hero, however, as we also meet “The Macaroni,” an apparently new character who wears a regency wig filled with strange tools. Remember that ridiculous name as the character plays a vital part in this hilarious and heartwarming episode. Despite the fact that this is usually the Harley Quinn show, this is a great little break from the dramatically dumb hijinx that the Clown Princess of Crime and her crew get up to. Batman and the tragic hero that he represents has long been used to explore masculinity, strength, and aging. “Batman’s Back, Man” respects all of the above, even offering a little emotional arc among the blood and curses.
It’s also a smart example of how you can make a female fronted show without just following the same two women. This season has already been laying the groundwork for a Gotham City Sirens-style finale, follow-up, or even a potential spinoff. But without Harley and Ivy here, fans might be worried that Gotham might be lacking a certain feminine je ne sais quoi. The addition of Babs means that is not the case. Barbara is a certified ass-kicking hero, showcasing not only her incredible martial arts skills but also her charm and prowess at social media. This is very much the Babs of Babs Tarr, Cameron Stewart, and Brenden Fletcher’s run on the title, not just in her instantly recognizable leather jacket and boots but in her cheery attitude as well. There’s also a little Ms. Marvel in Harley Quinn‘s Batgirl as she is a huge Batman “Stan,” her words!
This is still Harley Quinn, after all, so don’t worry–it’s not all girl power and Batman feeling pensive. Bane and Two-Face are the only two villains left trying to take ownership of an ever more lawless Gotham, although the latter is less than eager to team up with bumbling Bane. That changes when an angry but unhealthy Bruce heads out onto the streets unintentionally getting caught on camera by Batgirl. Becoming the symbol he always dreamed of, the people of Gotham revolt against the crims, causing Two-Face to call in Bane for help.
If you’re a big Bat-fan you’ll likely enjoy seeing Lucius Fox pop up here alongside a truly brilliant new iteration of the Batsuit. Part Azrael, part Iron Man, and a little Medieval Batman, it’s up there with the most interesting versions of the costume we’ve seen for a while. That first influence and the fact that Bane is playing a big part in this episode will leave most comic readers in the know of the inevitable outcome. The title’s just a little hint, too. Yep, Bane breaks poor old Batman’s back and not even Lucius Fox’s high-tech suit can help him. Babs and the Macaroni can, though, and they do, saving Batman’s proverbial bacon as well as revealing the latter’s true identity: Alfred! In a shocking series of events the polite British butler has been crafting the persona whilst Bruce was in a coma, and it’s about as ridiculous as his moniker would have you expect.
With Batman out of action, Gotham needs a Bat and Bruce knows just the woman. In a very fun twist he encourages a none-the-wiser Gordon to team up with his daughter in her new role. It’s a great way of setting up Babs as Gotham’s hero just in time for Ivy and Harley to return and wreak some havoc. It’ll be interesting to see how many other women the show will introduce before this is all over. Maybe some cosmic heroism from Big Barda? Perhaps Wonder Woman will return for vengeance against Dr. Psycho? Could we see Duella Dent arrive to reclaim her father’s legacy? I’d love to see Zatanna bring a little magic to Gotham. But with the rogues struggling to stay afloat it seems more likely that we’ll see some big bads like Lady Shiva, Enchantress, Granny Goodness, or even Roxy Rocket come to cause some trouble.