Harley Quinn Season 3 debuts on HBO Max with three episodes on July 28, 2022, followed by one episode weekly on Thursdays. Below is a spoiler-free review.
For two seasons, Harley Quinn, mirroring the delightfully chaotic energy of its title character, gleefully and hilariously skewered every self-serious corner of the DC universe with abandon, while also sneaking in some of the best character development available in superhero streaming. Season 3 is no different, refusing to lose any of its signature satirical bite even as its heart gets a little softer due to Harley and Ivy’s finally-canon romance. It may sag a little in its various subplots, but when its focus is on our new favorite Gotham couple, it, like Harley herself, is hard not to love.
The first episode of Season 3 ends with the typical title card, but with a twist, reading “Harley Quinn & Poison Ivy.” That doesn’t seem to be a permanent name change (the subsequent title cards go back to just name-checking Harley), but it sets the tone for the season: this installment is very much a co-starring effort. It already started to look this way in Season 2, but by this batch of episodes, it’s clear that Ivy is just as much a headliner for the series as Harley, and it’s all the better for it. Just as they’re compatible as a couple, they continue to make for a great duo on-screen, with Harley bringing the unpredictability with all her smishy-smashy impulses and Ivy in more of a straight-man role, albeit with a good bit of complexity.
And shippers, rejoice: we finally get a show where Harley and Ivy are unabashedly a loving, romantic couple, as Season 2 ended with them quite literally riding into the sunset and Season 3 picks up just a couple weeks into their honeymoon – er, rather, their “eat, bang, kill tour,” as Harley insists on calling it. But we quickly learn that it’s not all rainbows and butterflies (or maybe in Harlivy’s case, photosynthesis and baseball bats), as the two have plenty of new struggles to face that their previously platonic relationship didn’t.
That’s not surprising if you’ve been keeping up with these characters: Harley loves all the time in the world with her significant other, and Ivy’s a little more independent, to say the least. These may be predictable – some may even say mundane – issues, but the way they play out is incredibly relatable and realistic, with each character believably growing a lot throughout the season. The writers tackle this new challenge with aplomb, being true to what incompatibilities they may face while never losing sight of the loving bond we’ve seen grow between them, which is what holds Season 3 together.
It also achieves something very important with Harley and Ivy: it reminds us that, in case you forgot, they’re still supervillains, particularly the latter. Ivy may balk at being called an eco-terrorist, but Season 3 leans into that aspect of her character, giving us an incredibly intriguing good vs. evil play that makes the end of the season feel very high stakes, especially for such a gonzo half-hour comedy.
Before you start to worry that Season 3 is all couple’s therapy and morality struggles, rest assured: it’s just as cartoonishly violent, crass, and riotous as before. You still get your Suicide Squad parodies, bloody beat ‘em ups, and even a well-placed orgy (and I’ve got to point it out: between an episode in this show and The Boys’ recent Herogasm, this is a banner year for superhero orgies). Harley Quinn has always been, and continues to be, deft in balancing all of this.
It’s the subplots of Season 3 that lead to more mixed results. Let’s start off with the positive: just about everything done with the Bat family is a welcome addition, since Harley Quinn is especially skilled at poking fun at DC’s most serious characters. Its kinda pathetic take on Batman/Bruce Wayne isn’t only funny, particularly in his relationship this season with Selina Kyle, but it also somehow manages to tread some new ground in this character’s incredibly well-worn trauma. There are some nice Batman/Harley scenes too, harkening to some of the two’s best moments in Batman: The Animated Series. And Nightwing, though a tad underutilized, is always funny is his desperate quest for Batman’s approval.
The other secondary characters don’t fare as well. The Joker standalone episode is a low point of the season; it has its moments, but the “hey, Joker goes to PTA meetings now” bit gets tiresome when stretched across even a short 22 minutes. The same goes for James Gordon’s storyline about running for mayor. Like the aforementioned Joker bit, his is one that works in small doses, but doesn’t earn nearly as much screentime as it gets, especially since Gordon has shown far less growth than other characters in the series (and maybe that’s the joke, but it’s not one worth dwelling on). And Clayface’s acting subplot earns a few chuckles – it is fun to watch James Gunn mock himself – but the many inside-baseball jokes will probably mostly be funny only to those entrenched in the entertainment industry.
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There are some other sidequest highlights, though: Kite Man’s appearance this season is brief (and probably mostly just there to tee up his spinoff series), but it gives us some closure on what he went through at the end of Season 2, and Harley Quinn’s take on the Court of Owls is appropriately ridiculous in the best way. But let’s face it: we’re here for Harlivy, and Season 3 ultimately does them justice. And hey, as a lifelong fan of the character of Harley Quinn, it’s just kinda nice to see the gal happy.