Harley Quinn: A Very Problematic Valentine’s Day Special – TV Review

Harley Quinn: A Very Problematic Valentine’s Day Special

  • Creators: Justin Halpern, Patrick Schumacker, and Dean Lorey
  • Starring: Kaley Cuoco, Lake Bell, Alan Tudyk, James Adomian, Casey Wilson, Michael Ironside, Quinta Brunson, Tyler James Williams
  • One-off episode watched for review

Grade: A-

DC’s animated Harley Quinn show skewers the personalities of its most popular characters – plus Kite Man – as filtered through the bizarre mind of creators Justin Halpern, Patrick Schumacker, and Dean Lorey, offering a fresh take on the animated superhero show. For as much as some of the movies and live-action shows feel beholden to their IP overlords, it’s incredibly refreshing to see a show take a baseball bat to those rigorous structures.

And the A Very Problematic Valentine’s Day Special is no exception, a fantastic entry for the characters we’ve come to know and love over the previous three seasons. If you’ve ever wondered what James Adomian’s lovelorn Bane would do once he meets a pretty woman, or how Alan Tudyk’s Clayface could possibly love anyone more than himself, or how Harley (Kaley Cuoco) would show her exaggerated affection for Poison Ivy (Lake Bell), you’re in for a 45-minute treat.

Harley Quinn; HBOMax

Harley Quinn is a people pleaser, so it comes as no surprise that she wants her first Valentines Day with Poison Ivy to go perfectly and be declared as the best of all time, in spite of Ivy’s insistence that she just wants to stay home and watch jazz documentaries. It can be all too easy for a special episode to forgo its character motivations for the sake of creating wacky holiday-related situations. But Harley Quinn’s creative team sticks to what has worked so well and filtered it through our most romantic holiday. In a show where virtually anything can and does happen, it’s incredibly refreshing to see its characters resort to their basest instincts. 

For Harley, it’s doing everything she can to give Ivy a night to remember; in this instance it’s going to her favorite restaurant and orchestrating an insane heist that may or may not result in multiple fatalities. For Ivy, it’s going along with whatever cockamamie scheme pops up along the way. Of course, once things really start to get out of control – there’s a sequence with a love potion that spreads throughout Gotham and results in a level of horniness the show has never seen – Ivy and Harley let it all out in the open and profess that all they want to do is make the other one happy, regardless of their own instincts. It’s relatively predictable, in a general sense, not so much in the details, but it’s a great reminder how perfect the two are for each other.

Harley Quinn; HBOMax

Of course, the other strength of Harley Quinn is in its inspired ensemble, and A Very Problematic Valentine’s Day Special doesn’t let them down either. Both Bane and Clayface are on the search for love in all the wrong places, and it’s a delight to see where it takes them. I make no secrets of my love for Bane, and he runs away with the episode, somehow becoming the most unhinged and the most sympathetic character. Through circumstances I cannot possibly accurately sum up, he meets up with a dominatrix voiced by Casey Wilson but feels he can’t – ahem – measure up to her expectations and the night goes even further off the rails from there. I have no doubt that the Valentine’s Day Special will have no long-term effect on the show proper going forward, but I sincerely hope that Wilson finds the time to return.

Interspersed throughout the episode are confessionals between DC’s most prominent couples, including Superman and Lois Lane, Hawkman and Hawkgirl, and Aquaman and Meera, a kind of spoof of the novelty in When Harry Met Sally. It’s a solid reminder that this world of Gotham extends far beyond that of our main cast, even when some of its regular members like Dr. Psycho or King Shark or Sy Borgman are sadly absent. Still, fans of the show will find plenty to enjoy about the Valentine’s Day Special; it’s another solid mix of silly absurdity and strong character development, and a great way to satiate appetites in the wait for season four. As Kite Man would say, Hell Yeah.

Harley Quinn: A Very Problematic Valentine’s Day Special is available to stream on HBOMax now.

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