Friday, February 13, 2015

Recap: The Batman "Two of a Kind"

Based on the last two Recaps I did, it should be pretty clear that Harley Quinn is a crazy sack of obsession and madness. But I already talked about how Joker and Harley Quinn are anything but a healthy couple. Today's Recap answers a "what if."

What if Harley Quinn and the Joker had a relationship that was at least somewhat based on mutual attraction and their similarities instead of obsession and domestic violence?

Ladies and gentlemen, Paul Dini, the man who gave us a heartbreaking tale of obsession and desperation in "Mad Love," brings us its antithesis in today's outing of WB's The Batman, "Two of a Kind."

Has nothing to do with sitcoms starring the Olsen twins. Thank goodness.
The episode opens with the Joker and his henchmen, Punch and Judy, robbing an art museum to get some pictures for the bathroom.

Batgirl: "I consider the bathroom more of a library than art gallery."

As long as you don't consider libraries a bathroom, I guess.

Robin joins in the fight, and Joker throws a grenade at the Batman as the intro begins. You know, though I like it less than the original theme song, the second theme song has been growing on me since I first noticed a familiar "na na na na" as the beat....

Anyway, the episode continues. Joker makes a hasty skedaddle on a rocket-powered skateboard, citing prior a engagement. After Punch and Judy get taken away in the paddy wagon, Batman tells Batgirl and Robin that he's got an appointment, too, and they'll have to start looking for Joker's trail without him.

Robin: "Where're you going?"
Batman: "I have to deal with a whole other kind of craziness."

As Batman grapnels away, Joker leaps into a chair back in his hideout and turns the TV to his favorite show, Heart to Heart with Harley, featuring Dr. Harleen "Harley" Quinzel.

As always, The Batman is saying "What would Batman: TAS do?" and doing the exact opposite. What's interesting is that one of the men behind Batman: TAS is writing a very loose adaptation of one of his own episodes.

Here, Dr. Harleen Quinzel is a pop psychologist; a mixture of Dr. Phil and Jerry Springer in the body of Jessica Alba, watched by the audience of Oprah. With the accent of a 1940's newsie and the voice of Hynden Walch, whom DC fans probably know as a certain alien and/or candy princess from a couple different cartoons.

"I am so pleased to be doing the analyzing of the psychos!"
She starts her live show by taking calls, giving out her sage romantic advice, but we can clearly see that this "doctor" is terrible at her job.

Harley: "Flowers, flowers, flowers! And never take no for an answer!"

Hello, lawsuit. Remember, kids. No means no.

Harley: "Have a good 'un, Puddin'!"

I see what you did there, Paul Dini. You're going to be making all sorts of little references to B:TAS and "Mad Love," aren't you?

After she hangs up on the mother of a girl she gave advice to last week, Harley goes to commercial as Joker gives his thoughts on this crap.

Joker: "Pop psychology at its worst! That girl's theories are unfounded, her professional manner's a joke, and her training, if any, is shoddy at best. ...I love this show! The girl's more screw loose than me!"

During the break, a network executive criticizes Harley's direction with the show. But since she's got her fancy online psychology degree, she refuses to listen and continues to plan her big Valentine's Day special.

After the break, Harley introduces today's guest, one Bruce Wayne. Bruce starts trying to talk about the work the Wayne Foundation has been doing, like Harley promised, but she's more interested in digging up some dirt on him.

Harley: "This is your secret life, Bruce Wayne!"

Minus all that stuff with the batsuit and the clown, of course.

While taking out a thug stealing a TV, Robin and Batgirl catch Harley's show in the store window.  Harley's bringing in Kiki, a former girlfriend of Bruce's who actually appeared in the very first episode as one of Bruce's dates to a basketball game. Not only did he ditch her to go be Batman, but the clip of him doing so is continually used in the Season 1 titles.

Continuity. Love it.
But as you might imagine, this reunion's more than a little awkward.

"So. Kiki. Haven't seen you since we ditched the Season 1 title sequence. I see you got a haircut."
"I see you got a new chin to make you look like a Bruce Wayne people actually like.."
"...Touche, Kiki."
Robin: "We have to save him."
Batgirl: "It's too late, Robin. There's nothing we can do."

Kiki starts whining about how Bruce ditched her in the middle of a date to take care of some vague "business" (ostensibly Bat-business), and Joker laughs at seeing "that rich oaf" humiliated on TV. In fact, Joker's so pleased with this episode that he calls the show under his usual alias of "Mr. J" (because Paul Dini) and congratulates Harley for yet another amazing episode.

TLC's programming lineup explained.
“Mr. J” makes some choice statements regarding Bruce that Harley just laps up, so Bruce decides it’s time to peace out. The network bigwig apologizes to Bruce on camera in an oddly unprofessional way and cancels the show on the spot.

If I may go off on a "brief" tangent... How was Harley's show not canceled sooner?

(Note: The following information specifically applies to American television. Apologies to the rest of the world, but my spiel was long enough already.)

I mentioned in "It's a Wonderful Smash" how professional wrestling has been scripted since the turn of the century to guarantee entertainment and drama with a minimum risk of anything going wrong. Well, "reality TV" is the same way for the same reasons. There are some shows that try to "document" real life under whatever circumstances, but even these have some degree of scripting, even if it's just along the lines of "do this and see what happens because we need ratings."

Hidden camera prank shows like Candid Camera are generally as real as it gets, thanks to how funny the victims' unscripted reactions to planned pranks can be. And you can usually see who the good sports are on shows like this, because their faces aren't blurred. When faces are blurred out, that means that he or she did not sign a waiver to be shown on TV. Unblurred faces belong to people who signed such forms to let their faces be shown. So even if the joke was on them, they must have been told what was going on in the end if you can see their face. Full disclosure, right to privacy and all. Remember that.

Mystery Diners, a show that "reveals" bad and/or law-breaking restaurant employees, allegedly started out real, but quickly devolved into scripted material with paid actors after there were issues getting exposed employees to allow themselves to be shown on TV after being filmed in secret. Right to privacy and all.

Shows like Maury and Jerry Springer are pretty much 100% scripted with paid actors to get past this. I remember I was at D&D one night, waiting for the final player to show up. Another player offhandedly mentioned that a girl we knew from high school, her husband, and their transgender friend had been flown out to be on Jerry Springer and he was recording it. Naturally, we watched the segment while waiting for the last person. After watching the love triangle drama unfold (complete with the husband's less-than-convincing line reading of "What's going on here?") I asked if any of it was true. The answer: Hell, no. They acted their parts and are all living happily with a bit of cash in their respective banks. Because all Hell would break loose if she actually caught her husband with anyone but her.

To make a long story short...

Quiet, you.
Shows like Maury and Jerry are scripted to Hell and back, because if they weren't, you could expect lawsuits, fights breaking out against the hosts for their shenanigans, and, like Harley, cancellation almost guaranteed with possible jail time depending on which regulations were broken to what degree.

And don't get me started on the legality/scriptedness of Moonshiners....
Wait a minute, wasn't she planning out a Valentine's Day media circus? Is her show scripted or not? Maybe she was just going to set up a scenario and let the chaos unfold.

Some hosts just wanna watch the world burn. After criticizing your choice in ties.
Anyway, Harley's show just got canceled.

Joker: “She’ll be an emotional wreck! Someone should take advantage of that….”

Harley returns home, heartbroken and lamenting that all her dreams have gone down the crapper and no one takes her seriously. But before she can follow standard procedure for that situation and create a review blog, the doorbell rings. The person on the other side claims to be her number one fan, so she opens up.

Joker: “I’m Mister J….”

He takes her to his secret hideout, and she’s so cool with the idea that even Joker’s surprised.

Harley: “Extreme personalities intrigue me….”

Should I start making a running counter of all these references Paul Dini’s making to his own work?

Harley admits that she wants to use her time with the Joker to gain some respect back as a psychologist, and Joker’s not amused. Then she offers to split the profits of the book deal.

Joker: “You’ve got moxie! I feed moxie to the hyenas.”

He calls his pet hyenas, Bud and Lou, and they start creeping ever closer to her with hunger in their eyes.

Harley:SIT!”

They do.

Joker: “You’re good.”

With nothing better to do, Joker agrees to start telling stories about his early life.

Joker: “I guess for as long as I remember, I always wanted to make people laugh.”

Then you had a bad day, right? I’ve read Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke. Unless you wore yourr dad’s pants and he broke your nose, in which case, I’m seriously this close to putting up a counter, Dini.

Over with the Bat-Family, they’re investigating Dr. Quinzel’s apartment, trying to figure out why she would ever leave willingly with “Mr. J.” Batman theorizes that Joker just wants to take advantage of her emotional state for a few laughs.

Batgirl: “And join us again next week when Batman analyzes the Freudian implications of Penguin’s umbrella.”

"It makes me feel like a young maiden out on a summer's day with her parasol. Is that so wrong?"
Over with Joker and Harley, they’ve switched places and Joker is now psychoanalyzing her. You know what? I'd put up that counter, but I don't want 75% of this Recap to just be pictures of that counter going up and up.
Joker, seeing an opportunity, starts with the sad sack story again to try to gain Harley’s trust.

Harley: “Guess we have a few things in common, huh?”

Princess Bubblegum, explain to the "psychologist" what's going on.

Thanks, Peebles.
Joker finally strikes and offers her a night on the town, in disguise, of course, which she can later use for her book if she likes. She puts her new outfit on, and Joker seems to be taking a liking to her like Paul Dini to Zatanna.

So, why did the Joker have a clown suit sized for a woman in his hideout?
...Never mind; I don't want to know.
Then there’s a musical number as they have a night on the town, an upbeat duet by Joker and Harley themselves. It’s fairly short, so it’s not too grating, and Kevin Michael Richardson has some surprisingly good pipes, even when doing the Joker voice. But it’s quite clear that Harley has taken to this lifestyle, as she’s having an absolute blast. But of course, Batman comes to ruin the fun.

Harley: “Has anyone ever survived a night out with you?”
Joker: “There’s a first time for everything….”

After a scuffle, Batman manages to unmask Harley and instantly recognizes her, despite her clever disguise of white makeup and a mask and the way she neglected to cover up her distinctive accent.

So Harley Quinn was actually Harley Quinzel?
Truly, Batman is the World's Greatest Detective.
Joker creates an escape with an improvised bomb scare, and makes a get away with a parachute-umbrella “borrowed” from Penguin.

"Oh, so Joker wants to handle another man's umbrella, and I'm supposed to be the Freudian one?"
The next day at Joker’s lair, the news broadcast goes on about some missing diamond before changing to a story on what could have possibly driven poor Harleen Quinzel to villainy. This is enough to wake up Harley from her deep sleep on Joker’s couch and get her attention. Why, there’s even a celebrity psychologist based on Dr. Phil who advertises his upcoming TV special to analyze Dr. Quinzel’s turn to crime and her hollow soul that she tried to fill by giving fraudulent advice.
Harley:Whaaaaa-AAT?!”

As she smashes the TV, Joker comes in to wish her a Happy Valentine’s Day by giving her that diamond he just stole. But she’s too upset to be materialistic. Not-quite-Dr. Phil stole her Valentine’s Day timeslot!

Harley: “I was trying to help people, and now I'm the bad guy?”
Joker: “More of an accomplice, actually.”
Harley: “They should all suffer.”
Joker: “Sounds like a hoot!”

Later that night, as not-quite-Dr. Phil begins his broadcast, Harley and Joker crash the party and start blowing the place up with heart-shaped grenades. Bruce and Dick catch this on TV and go to suit up. Harley, meanwhile, gets Bud and Lou ready as she pitches a new show to the hostage network executives.

Harley:When Animals Attack People I Hate. It’s a comedy!”

Ah, taking a page from Joker's jokebook.

Exactly. Just don't explain it....
But Batgirl is on the scene to save the day with animal abuse by kicking the hyenas away. Joker manages to knock her down, and Harley tells him to gas her or something. Big mistake.

You don't want to be around when the smile's upside down.....
Joker: “You… ordering me around? Don’t go too far. I’ve indulged you only because it amused me.”
Harley: “…Yes, sir.”

But in the defining moment of difference between these two and their B:TAS counterparts, Joker giggles in a way I’d almost call… “good-natured.”

Joker: “I could never stay mad at you!”

But when Batman and Robin arrive on the scene, he pushes her at them for a diversion. Harley tries to detonate the bombs around the building, but fails. She tries her grenades next, but gets knocked out as the civilians are led out of the now-burning building. Joker ditches her to save his own skin, but Batman manages to save her. Outside, Batman tells Harley what’s what.

Batman: “The Joker doesn’t care about anyone but himself.”

Harley agrees, and the cops take her to a car to be driven to the station. When the officer sits down, though, he lands on a whoopee cushion with a note for Harley from one "Mr. J." Harley breaks into laughter, and somewhere, Joker is laughing with her. And so, the episode ends.

3 comments:

  1. Great episode and all, but...am I the only one disappointed that this version of Harley doesnt have her iconic over-sized mallet?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Once again, where B:TAS zigs, The Batman zags.

      Delete
  2. "We are Two of a Kind, violent, unsound of mind, you're the yin to my yang, can't you see? And if I were to leave, you would grumble and greave, face it, Bats, you'd be lost without me!"
    -Miracle Of Sound, Joker's Song, 2013

    ReplyDelete