Harley Quinn Season 3 begins with a bang — or, well, banging to be more accurate.
Picking up where Season 2 left off, runaway bride Poison Ivy (a smirking Lake Bell) and her “gf bff” Harley Quinn (an ever-spunky Kaley Cuoco) are on the run from the law (in a stolen invisible jet!), relishing in the honeymoon phase of romance on their own personal “Eat Bang Kill Tour.”
Fans who’ve been shipping Harlivy since Season 1 will be thrilled to learn that — like Our Flag Means Death — this HBO Max offering isn’t closeting its queer romance. Season 3 is centered squarely on how these supervillainesses are growing in their love for each other. But could emerging passion projects pull them apart?
Harley Quinn Season 3 brings Harlivy to the center ring.
Credit: HBO Max
While Season 1 focused on Harley’s hardwon realization that she and the Joker were in a deeply toxic relationship, Season 2 had her falling hard for her best friend, while that bestie was preparing to marry a doof whose catchphrase is “Hell yeah.” Harley and Ivy have survived rival villains, a spectacularly ruined Jazz Fest, a painfully hip wedding, and even death, but taking a risk on a real romantic relationship with each other was the Season 2 finale’s most heart-racing moment. So now what?
Their honeymoon phase makes for a frantic and fun first episode, involving weird cameos of DC characters and real-life celebs (a trend that continues throughout the season). From there, Harley encourages Ivy to revisit her dream project to terraform Gotham into a plant-coated paradise. But as big a cheerleader as Harley is for her girl, their radically different styles clash. Loner Ivy struggles not only to bring Harley’s dwindled crew into her plans, but also to be direct about her needs when Harley’s energy (and general woo-girl vibe) is at war with her need to concentrate on her science experiments. Meanwhile, Harley is accidentally stumbling farther and farther from villain terrain, growing closer to Batgirl (Briana Cuoco) and even the big man himself.
The Bat-family rises with the addition of Nightwing.
Credit: HBO Max
As teased in casting announcements, Season 3 brings Nightwing (and his iconically tight butt) into the wings of Harley Quinn‘s Bat-family. Voiced by What We Do in The Shadows‘ Harvey Guillén, Nightwing has a chip on his shoulder that makes him a sharp parody of the DCEU’s so serious tone, which even this universe’s Batman (a reliably versatile Diedrich Bader) has to gently mock. Like Ivy, Nightwing is a square peg trying to fit in a round hole. And the wickedly smart writing this season shows both loners how their rigidity is hurting them and their respective teams by throwing the Queen of Green and the Bat Brat into an escape room together!
Without spoilers, I can safely tease that the Bat-family and Harley’s crew will grow even closer as the battle for Gotham takes on wild new turns, from haunted crosswalks to — well — the penultimate episode brings the kind of carnage you might expect from a finale. For now, let’s move on.
A Harley Quinn orgy takes this cartoon to a new level.
Credit: HBO Max
In Episode 4, Harley and Ivy infiltrate a secret society that of course is really about rich Gothamites swinging while wearing elaborate masks. There are plenty of raunchy visual gags, a handful involving fan favorite Bane (James Adomian), but the truly jaw-dropping element of this episode is how ruthlessly witty it is. All plot lines lead to this orgy, bringing together cops and crooks for two separate search missions, both of which are impacted by a surreptitious camera snapping dirty pics accidentally. It’s frankly incredible — and incredibly fun — to see how little elements, like a broken pair of eyeglasses, a mole on a butt cheek, or an allegedly stolen pasta maker, set up big moments in this off-the-wall show.
Season 3 is a sensational ride that pulls from its comic inspirations but doesn’t feel tied down by them.
Yes, Season 3 also boasts splashy action sequences, but the humor here works best when the stakes are low and the pursuit of goals is nonetheless DC-level intense. For instance, when Clayface (Alan Tudyk) zealously pursues his “big break” via a new James Gunn movie (yes, The Suicide Squad helmer is now a character in Harley Quinn), he’s auditioning not for the lead, but for Thug #3. When the Joker (also Tudyk, always crushing it) has a nightmare of being chased in the night, it’s not the Dark Knight that haunts him. Now the devoted stepdad’s greatest foe is a PTA mom with pull (voiced to prickly precision by Amy Sedaris).
The contrast between big emotions and such minor events in what is still a superhero series makes Harley Quinn season 3 an absolutely bonkers and brilliant exploration of ego by letting go of its brand’s self-seriousness. And that self-mockery cuts deeper as the Bat-fam goes H.A.M.
Credit: HBO Max
Full Disclosure: I’ve already watched this season twice the whole way through, and it’s taking all the willpower I have to not excitedly blurt out kooky cameos, shocking twists, and absolutely outrageous one-liners coming your way. I’m a little jealous that you still have all the fun of these discoveries ahead of you. Trust me, you’ll want to come back week after week.
Harley Quinn Season 3 is a sensational ride that pulls from its comic inspirations but doesn’t feel tied down by them. Without the pressure of an enormous budget that necessitates a massive audience, this DC cartoon series explores new sides to both the characters we’ve seen over and over, and the ones who’ve been shunted to the sidelines. It gleefully makes Gotham a sandbox for clowns, lovers, villains, and fools, who fight, frolic, and fuck knowing that tomorrow is fragile as a strand of pearls. And we are the lucky bastards who get to enjoy all the mayhem from a safe distance.
The only downside is the weekly rollout model means you’ll have to wait to see all the wonders this outstanding season has in store.