Harley Quinn (Season 2): Batman’s Back Man Review
*This Review Contains Full Spoilers for Episode Five*
On this week’s episode of Harley Quinn, Batman’s Back Man, we get a break from Harley’s (voiced by Kaley Cucuo) adventures in taking down the Injustice League and instead catch up with Batman (voiced by Diedrich Bader) as he comes out of his coma to see Gotham in ruins.
While we’re generally treated to a pre-title set up for what Harley’s going to be up to for the episode, we’re treated with a delightfully and darkly hilarious middle finger to annoying fanboys. The opening introduces us to two fans, Ian (voiced by James Adomian) and Brian (voiced by Phil LaMarr), who have some strong opinions on pop culture. From their shirts saying things like “Release the Snyder Cut” and “The Last Jedi is not canon” to Ian ranting about how he feels that Harley Quinn is just female empowerment only fitting for twelve year old girls, it’s almost sad how real this is. Frankly, its so fitting for this series to embrace the hate like this and its absolutely hilarious how Brian is kind of willing to see what the new episode is all about, but Ian is unwillingly to see otherwise – even if it presents him what he wants. It’s an incredibly unconventional and delightfully meta opening that shows the excellent unapologetic nature of the series and is a great setup for a first for the series – an episode without Harley.
Like I said before, this episode is solely focused on Batman coming back to save Gotham, or new New Gotham, and it’s the caped crusader like never before. First, we finally get to see Alfred (voiced by Tom Hollander) and while we’ve seen him and Bruce argue before, it’s incredibly funny to see here. With Bruce being totally out of his element and out of commission, it’s awesome to see Bruce kind of act like a spoiled brat here and Alfred be completely sick of his shit. While Alfred is telling Bruce to take some time off and let some of the new blood, including a peppy and social media phenom Batgirl (voiced by Briana Cucuo), take down the criminal empires that have formed, Bruce just wants to get back into action reignite the hope of Gotham’s citizens. There’s such a smarminess to their bickering that’s awesome to see and a side that we generally don’t see with these characters.
Things get even funnier when Bruce calls in Jim Gordon (voiced by Christopher Meloni) to give him an update on who the big players are in Gotham and Lucius Fox (also voiced by LaMarr) to craft a new batsuit. It’s hard not to smile every time Gordon becomes involved in anything on this show and his appearance here continues to not disappoint. He’s truly not himself without the Batman around and when he berates Batman later in the episode like a girlfriend not answering his texts, it’s so perfect. Their friendship, or lack thereof, is always entertaining and even him not being a huge of Batgirl, who is a delight to see grow this episode as she fangirls over seeing Batman and is given a cool social presence, is a sign of growth to come. Not to mention, the short appearance from Lucius, who creates an AI cyber suit for Bruce that has an incredible “Iron Man moment” at one point, is also great and the feud between him and Alfred to be Bruce’s favorite is hilarious.
What’s really great about this episode is that it presents a great rise and fall for Batman that sends the heroic side of the series in a new direction. Even with the high tech suit that Lucius makes him, Bruce’s determination to make things right, and his return making citizens hopeful for a turnaround for Gotham – Bruce still isn’t where he needs to be. He has to have a cane to walk around, even when he’s in his normal suit, and just isn’t mentally recovered enough to understand the situation that he’s in. It’s rare, but Batman does fail at times and this is one of them. With Bane (also voiced by Adomian) breaking both of his legs in brutal fashion and Two-Face’s (voiced by Andrew Daly) goons stringing him up over a fire, Batman’s really at the end of his rope and he can’t save Gotham on his own. Although Robin is oddly nowhere to be found, Batman does get some help from Alfred dressed as a strange new hero named Macaroni, which is just a delight to see, and Batgirl. Truthfully, while it’s sad that Batman is going to have to spend some time on the bench, he kind of needs it and it’s a perfect opportunity for Batgirl to prove herself and forge a new direction for the heroic side of the series.
This episode isn’t just about Batman though, as it also focuses on Two-Face and Bane trying to work together as the last members of the Injustice League still in power. Aside from Riddler still powering Harley’s lair, Two-Face and Bane are the last two members in power and they start to question whether or not they should team up – or at least Bane is. Like just about everyone else in this series, Two-Face has zero respect for Bane and treats him like a useless child. Bane just speaking is hilarious in this show, especially when he’s talking about being born in the shadows and loving the fact that he has a real chair now, but Two-Face trying to please him while still maintaining dominance is great. As a fan of Two-Face, it’s just great to see him still around, but seeing him create ads about himself and being forced to try and work with Bane when Batman returns is priceless. Even when Bane figures out he’s lying to him about them being equals, he just nonchalantly changes the subject and him showing Bane his new gift for him, which is just a giant hole like the one he became Bane in, is absolutely hilarious.
Even without Harley or any of her crew, Harley Quinn still brings viewers an excellent episode that deals with Batman dealing with a brave new New Gotham, Two-Face trying to maintain dominance while working with Bane, and a delightful sequence poking fun at shitty fandoms. If anything, this episode proves this series’ ability to versatile, deliver strong storytelling, and conjure some delightfully dark hilarity even without its title character.