This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the series being covered here wouldn’t exist.
Look out: Harley Quinn, DC Comics’ unofficial fourth cornerstone, is back in action! With the main focus on her in the upcoming Suicide Squad Isekai and even in Joker: Folie à Deux, Harley has certainly left a strong impact since her early days. Now, with it being in its fourth season and having its own special, Harley Quinn looks to continue exploring Harley and Poison Ivy’s relationship, albeit tested by new allegiances and changing aspirations.
Harley Quinn‘s fourth season picks up after the events of the Valentine’s special, where Harley (Kaley Cuoco) and Ivy’s (Lake Bell) relationship has never been better than ever. It opens on Harley and Ivy going wild, bashing in skulls of LoD guardsmen and cops alike, all while trying to deliver the other’s lunch. Harley brings her enthusiastic personality to her new position, supported by Batgirl (Briana Cuoco) yet dismissed by Nightwing (Harvey Guillén) and a teened-up Robin (Jacob Tremblay). Meanwhile, Ivy’s new position as Legion CEO, made possible with the self-confident aid of Lex Luthor (Giancarlo Esposito), gets heavily reviled.
As seasons 1-3 focused on cementing Harley and Ivy’s relationship, Harley Quinn‘s fourth season highlights how the opposing dynamics of heroism affects their personal growth. Harley finds herself somewhat trapped in her old ways, using every method at her whim to stop criminal activities. However, with several factors like the Bat-Family’s “no killing” rule, Harley struggles to fit in. In good faith, the show portrays her as a more radicalized version of her DC Animated Universe form, which helps develop a stronger sense of morality in her personality.
For Ivy, she finds herself firmly entrenched in villainy as she assumes the role of the top dog in the Legion of Doom. However, a sect led by Lex seeks to undermine her position and diminish her influence. The show definitely goes no-holds-barred when it comes to exploring social ideas in this context and it still pays off here.
Speaking of the Bat-Family, they’ve got a lot more involvement in Harley Quinn‘s fourth season. Since Bruce Wayne (Diedrich Bader) was arrested for inadvertently raising the undead in attempts to revive his parents, Harley has been positioned to fill that hole. Albeit, she’s still somewhat of a hero-in-training. Luckily, Batgirl’s got her back, becoming a friendly mentor slash gal-pal for Harley to rely on throughout the season. Nightwing still has his brooding personality, continuing to doubt Harley’s dedication. However, the show moves back from his personal arc and transforms him into a secretive sexual deviant for the Bat-Family to joke about (which works to a certain degree.) As for Robin, he’s still pretty much the same. However, there’s someone that brings out his prepubescent reliance while also serving as an interesting counter to Lex’s personality: Talia al Ghul (Aline Elasmar).
Though the show puts Harley and Ivy front and center, it also features some interesting developments in the background. Since we last saw him, King Shark (Ron Fuches) has pivoted towards a patriarchal position with his wife. However, the season makes time for him as his side story inserts some weirdly comical, yet sweet moments all throughout.
That’s not to forget Clayface (Tudyk), who’s enjoying a grand Las Vegas residency, and Nora Fries (Rachel Dratch), who’s gone full on deceptive-drunken secretary mode under Ivy. These side characters and their stories add their own charm without budging aside the main dynamic of Harlivy, which goes to show how Harley Quinn has nailed its format.
In terms of its theme this time, Harley Quinn focuses on how work and business can get in the way of a strong loving relationship. Harley and Ivy’s dedication to different causes strains their relationship as they pursue their individual paths. Although they still want to make their relationship work, they struggle to find time for each other. This dynamic drives their shared character growth as they navigate their new lives together and apart.
Harley Quinn doesn’t forget to add recognizable references and topical humor in between the story and action. In general, the show likes to divulge into self-awareness while underlining its societal core ideas. This time, most of the jokes definitely feel more prescient given recent events. They can be a bit obnoxious and overdone at times, but they don’t detract from the central story.
Harley Quinn‘s fourth season is a wild, unabashed take on the social hierarchy and the basics of heroism that proudly defies the DC Comics norm. With chaotic action and plenty of fun jokes to go around, the show continues to happily experiment with its subversive formula. Though the future of the DC Universe may feel a bit shaky, one thing’s for certain: Harley Quinn’s still got it.
Harley Quinn Season 4 releases on Max on July 27.