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How ‘Harley Quinn’ Slowly Turned Its Protagonist Into a Hero

Editor’s Note: The following article contains spoilers for all of Harley Quinn Season 3.Harley Quinn – both the character and the show – took many twists and turns in Season 3 from fighting swamp monsters to surviving the chaotic mind of Bruce Wayne to Harley stopping Ivy from terraforming Gotham City. A season intended to focus on Poison Ivy’s development – which it did well – ended up taking its titular character in a significantly new direction. The end left Harley in an unusual spot in this series: teaming up with Batgirl, Nightwing, and Robin to keep Gotham safe. Harley? Aiding the Bat Family in public safety? In this economy? The turn may be a surprise at the start of the series but really should not be. In fact, the showrunners and writers have set this up well not only throughout this season but during the series with little tidbits.

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The question comes head front in a scene not even involving Harley (Kaley Cuoco). Joker (Alan Tudyk) (most likely trying to save his own life as Ivy wants to kill him) talks to Ivy (Lake Bell) about their exes. Then, the Clown Prince of Darkness reveals that he loved how Ivy did whatever he wanted “even when I knew she hated the idea.” When Ivy said that’s not how their relationship went, Joker responds that she’s doing the same thing “not on purpose” and adds “when has Harley ever forgotten her bat?” implying she did not want to be a part of killing Joker.


How ‘Harley Quinn’ Sets Up Her Transformation

That conversation wraps up a whole season of details that slipped through the cracks. At first, Harley brings Ivy back to Edin to help her self-actualize as a good girlfriend would after dealing with her problems with the Legion of Doom, Joker, and the Injustice League over the past year. Then, Harley gets bored as Ivy takes samples and examines her paradise. And then she convinces Ivy to leave to rescue King Shark (Ron Funches) and Clayface (Tudyk) from Arkham. When she drops “SharkFace” off, Harley quickly says, “There is nothing I’d rather do than listen to bae talk about chlorophyll for a couple of weeks,” while asking them to call her if “anything cool happens or even if anything uncool happens.” And then she decides to kidnap Amanda Waller (Tisha Campbell) just because she laughed at Ivy being called a supervillain – which led to Plastique (Kari Wahlgren) destroying Edin.

All of that convinces Ivy to say that they do not need to do everything together noting her poor description of nature. But Harley disagrees and asks her to “Please let me help you see your beautiful evil plot through.” It makes sense why Ivy would agree, both were romantic and caught in the moment. However, they also both ignored the tattered ruins of Edin caused by Harley’s unenthusiastic response to Ivy’s passion, ignoring Harley saying she wanted a partnership while also admitting that this was Ivy’s plan, not hers.

So, they pushed through and Harley’s action spoke less of her being all-in than her words. She forced Ivy to lead the team and, while that helped her BFFGFF grow, Harley played her hand about where she saw herself in the mission. She then forced Ivy to take a break to attend the Villies – which turned out to be a great night for them after some shenanigans. Then, Harley kept annoying Ivy inadvertently once Ivy made her breakthrough. Granted, Ivy is as much at fault for not being honest, but Harley did fail to recognize her girlfriend’s needs and then destroyed all of Catwoman’s (Sanaa Lathan) security cameras leading to Frank’s (J.B. Smoove) capture.

RELATED: ‘Harley Quinn’ Season 3 Ending Explained: Can Love Conquer All?

Harley Quinn Helps Batman Get Through His Issues

After several adventures across the country, Harley decides to go solo to kidnap Bruce for Ivy which leads to a side quest where she rescues Batgirl (Briana Cuoco) from the Mad Hatter (Griffin Newman). That last act is one of the first moments where Harley is questioning her role. She talks with her inner psychiatrist/conscience about whether or not she is friends with a hero. Those conversations showed up in the first season and here it is still hilarious – making fun of the name Jervis – while also serving as a moment of questioning her identity while convincing herself to do the right thing. Remember, she gets angry at Waller for saying Ivy hasn’t done anything evil in years, so that label of “good or evil” still carries emotional weight to Harley.

She does both a heroic and villainous act here – rescuing Batgirl and kidnapping Bruce. That leads her and the crew plus Dr. Psycho (Tony Hale) into Bruce’s brain and Harley is the only one to connect, shielding inner Bruce from Joe Chill. It figures that Harley would be the member to shield his eyes and connect. Psycho could not even remember Clayface’s name when he returned, Clayface got wrapped up in the drama and connection in his role as Billy Bob Thornton playing Thomas Wayne, and Ivy has acknowledged she’s not great at connecting with humans, particularly those who stole her best friend. Harley actually goes and talks through the trauma that Bruce has held because he feels he has to, actively trying to help him not only to save Frank for Ivy, but for Bruce’s sake. It harkens back to Harley’s career as a psychiatrist, a job with the purpose of helping people heal and sort through their lives. She did that with Ivy and now, in this internal crisis, she did the same with Bruce. She helps him again at the film premiere for “A Hard Wayne’s Gonna Fall,” helping him breathe and relax with the experience of reliving the trauma. Harley Quinn is going out of her way to help Bruce/Batman and doing it out of kindness.

Harley and Ivy End Up in a Better Place When Harley Knows Her True Self

Looking back, let’s remember Harley’s path to this season and really consider her “evil” deeds. She pushed to join the Legion of Doom to stick it to Joker. She defeated Joker both to save herself and her friends while also avenging Ivy. She fought the Injustice League to get revenge for freezing her. She fought Psycho to save her life. She went to Ivy’s wedding to save Ivy and her friends. Almost everything Harley’s done up to this point has helped her become a better, more fulfilled person, but it also served as a reaction to someone else or something else in her life rather than just her wanting to do it fully. Harley said it herself at the end of Season 2 after turning down Darkseid’s offer again: “All I’ve been doing is reacting…It’s because deep inside, I didn’t know what I really wanted, until now.” That action was choosing to be with Ivy, which is the first thing she truly does for herself and that is why she goes to such lengths to stay quote “bad.”

This is where Ivy reassures Harley at the end. She does not let Harley go bad because she knows she does not want to. Ivy lets Harley choose herself, which means staying together because they love each other but not changing for each other. It’s the best decision for both of them even if Harley helping people conflicts with Ivy running the new Legion of Doom.

It helps that the creators have flat out said they would never break them up as long as they were involved with the show, but also the series has built their relationship to be stronger than that (not to mention that Ivy and Lex Luthor (Giancarlo Esposito) teaming up may not work out fully) and they can work well as a couple and friends without doing everything together. For Harley, at this point in the story, helping people more than fits given everything she’s been through. Harley Quinn the series has built itself on its love for the D.C. Comics world while taking them into new directions, so maybe that bat can be used to take down a few bad guys.


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