Monday, February 2, 2015

Recap: Batman: TAS "Harley and Ivy"

One of the best parts of Batman: The Animated Series is the absolutely phenomenal plethora of villains that can appear. Why, who knows which members of Batman's rogues will show up to....
Yeah, you know where this joke is going.

Penguin's showing up. Obviously.
The episode opens with the Batmobile chasing the Joker's car through the streets of Gotham City, also known as "Batman's average Wednesday." The Joker's moll, Harley Quinn, is the one doing the driving. I've only made one joke on my blog so far about women drivers, and I blame the influence of Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. As such, though I have ample opportunity to take cheap shots at her as she speeds through Gotham, I won't. Because I'm classier than that.

But like I said, I have ample opportunity to take such a cheap shot. You see, Harley's driving leaves something to be desired, what with the fact that she's absolutely freaking out, as anyone would when being chased by the Batmobile. Joker's backseat-driver directions don't help either, as he seems to believe that roads are optional. You know, Gotham's really the only place where you can say "some clown was driving like a maniac" and mean it literally.

Because Joker is a firm believer that not only do you not go through a woman's purse, but you shouldn't shoot and drive, he demands the gun in her purse so he can shoot Batman. Maybe a bullet to the face will slow him down a little, you know? Just a little. But things don't exactly go according to plan, seeing as how she handed him the joke gun with the BANG flag. Taking this opportunity, Batman launches his car-mounted grappler and grabs the Joker's car. After some application of the Batmobile's brakes, Joker ain't going nowhere. That is, until Harley hits a button to detach the back end and make a quick getaway.

Batman: "Next time, clown."

Next Bat-time, next Bat-channel!

As Harley feeds the hyenas back at the hideout, the Joker explains to his henchmen and/or fences that a certain someone in a jester's motley named "Harley Quinn" handed him the wrong gun. But Harley dares to suggest that maybe the situation was funny, and he goes ballistic. Ain't nobody tells the Joker what to laugh at. Ain't nobody. In fact, this whole thing has Joker so angry, that he's beginning to wonder why she's even a part of the gang. He literally kicks her out the door and sends her on her way.

Depressed and despondent, Harley begins wandering the perpetually late-night streets of Gotham. In an attempt to prove herself to her man, she embarks on a quick little scheme to rob the enormous diamond they were after herself. She manages to actually get past the lasers and start cutting the glass case, but the alarm suddenly goes off. Believe it or not, Harley's not the only one trying to rob the place. Figuring that subtlety would be pointless, she smashes the glass and grabs the diamond. After a failed escape, she meets up with the other crook, a leggy redhead, and chews her out a bit.

Harley Quinn: "Why don't ya turn on the batsignal while yer at it?"

Two grown women dressed as a clown and a chorus girl robbing a museum. Welcome to Gotham City.
Suddenly, she recognizes her inadvertent partner-in-crime.

Harley: "Say, aren't you that plant lady? Poison Oak-y?"

Yes, she is, but this might not be the best time for mangled introductions, now that they're on the run from Ratman and Sparrow.

They run and hide from the cops a bit, and Harley improvises a plan. Turns out, Poison Ivy stole some vials plant toxins from the museum lab. So Harley sticks a vials on her popgun and fires it at the officers so they can make a break for it. They get in Ivy's bright pink getaway vehicle and speed off.

Poison Ivy: "This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship!"

Or a subpar internet series.

They take refuge at Ivy's base, an industrial area so chemically toxic that even Gotham Health and Safety has condemned the place. And this is a city where the Ace Chemical Plant is allowed to just dump its chemical waste straight into the river. This place is so toxic, in fact, that Ivy gives Harley a shot so she won't get sick from all the poison in the air. Harley's a little squeamish, though.

Hey, at least it should protect her if the Joker should ever want to push her into some chemicals.
Fun fact: There's a scene in the spin-off comic referencing this scene that is often held up as evidence that Harley and Ivy are lovers.

There's also the fact that Paul Dini outright stated that they are. To me, that's more convincing than innuendo.
Anyway, Harley gets the shot like a big girl, and explains why she stays with the Joker.

Harley: "My Puddin's a little rough sometimes, but he loves me really."

You know, I've always found it just the tiniest bit disturbing that there's a lot of people who hold Joker and Harley up as DC's cutest couple when it's incredibly clear that they're in a violently abusive relationship. Like, not even subtext, but the actual text. To each his own, live and let live, agree to disagree an all... but still. Ivy starts teasing Harley over her "doormat" tendencies.

Ivy: "If you had a middle name, it would be 'Welcome.'"

But enough about that. If these subtextual lesbians talk too much about abusive relationships, the network censorship guys will come in and ask Paul Dini just what the Hell he thinks he's doing. Let's cram in some Girl Power to throw the censors off the scent!

Ivy: "You just need some lessons in good-old female self-esteem."

It's time for a girls' night out. They crash the city's gentleman club, and Ivy proceeds to give a little straw feminist speech while Harley drops a bunch of plant pods. They quickly sprout and envelop the men, letting the crooks loot the trophy room. Because this isn't about a couple of ladies wanting to join a stuffy, boring gentlemen's club. Why would either of them want to join the mustachioed ranks of these crusty, whitebread geriatrics? No. This is about teaching Harley a lesson in confidence.

Thus, the crime spree begins, as shown by a flurry of newspaper headlines. Ivy, wearing nothing but an oversized t-shirt because the writers want to see what they can get away with on TV, pins the latest headline to the fridge as Harley, wearing an oversized shirt of her own for the same reasons, gets excited about dinner. Dinner ends up being salad and beet juice.

So, here's what bugs me. Ivy loves plants, right? Then why is she a vegetarian? Shouldn't she be an out-and-out carnivore if she values plant life over human life? It's always bugged me. These are the things that keep me up at night.

But the specific shape of the greens, the cherry tomatoes, and the carrot just remind Harley of her Puddin'. Ivy's had enough of her obsession with that creepy clown, and lets her know it.

Wait, why are they wearing men's shirts if there are no men around to speak of? Whose shirts are those?
Did Ivy murder the guy who lived here and take his house and clothes like an evil Goldilocks??
But Harley simply wonders if the Joker misses her, too. And as we see a second later, he does. Because he can't find his socks and no one's fed the hyenas. Joker wonders where Harley is because the previous times he kicked her out, she always came back. But he sees the headline about the new "Queens of Crime" and loses it.

Speaking of them, they're on another crime spree, outrunning Detective Renee Montoya. But driving like a maniac just reminds Harley of her Mr. J.

Poison Ivy: "You wanna be some wacko's victim the rest of your life?"

I mentioned it earlier in the Recap, but there's only so much "serious" and "adult" subject matter you're allowed to put into a kids' show, and Paul Dini peppered just enough references to Harley and Joker's relationship so that the kids just see slapstick where adults see the bigger picture. But this episode isn't about Harley and the Joker, it's a bout Harley and Ivy. You can tell because of the title. So in all fairness to the episode as a whole, all I can say about the Joker and Harley is that their relationship is a terrible one and move on. I'll save the heavy stuff for "Harlequinade" and the really heavy stuff for "Mad Love."

Anyway, Paul Dini needs to distract the censors from the adult topics again. So some stupid guys next to them at a red light (designed to look like staff members Bruce Timm, Eric Radomski, and Ted Blackman) start catcalling and making kissy faces.

Apparently, Cosmo Kramer and Richie Cunningham started up a gang with a blonde Bob Hope.
Harley whips out her bazooka and blows their car up, as I'm sure many of my female readers have wished they could do at some point in their lives. Sometime later, a tow truck hauls away the wreckage and, shock of all shocks, Batman suddenly decides that he'll be in some more of this episode. He scrapes some rubber off the road and takes it to the Batcave, where he begins looking over the soil sample he found from the tire tracks.

Batman: "Contains the same compounds you'd find in a toxic waste dump."

Thinking quickly, he concludes that the two criminals must be hiding out at the toxic waste dump. Truly, he is the World's Greatest Detective!

On a side note, in real life, this spectrographic analysis and crosschecking would take a bout a week. But the Batcomputer is a marvel of engineering. Why, Batman can type on it without even using a keyboard! ...Or maybe the animators forgot to put one in one of the shots. Whoops.

Alfred hands him a gas mask, and we cut to later that night, where Harley has finally broken down and called the Joker, who hits a button and traces the call.

I was going to make a joke in this caption, but then I realized that some of my readers are wondering why those wires are coming out of those weirdly-shaped phones. Then I got sad.
Ivy comes home, so she quickly hangs up, but Joker already has the location. Before we can worry about that, a gasmask-wearing Batman busts in through the window.

Batman: "Evening, ladies. Playtime's over."

"You know, Harl, the worst thing about company coming over is that you have to put pants back on."
Ivy throws one of her quick-growing vines at him, and he gets thoroughly entangled. Soon, Batman gets chained up to a bunch of household appliances because irony, domestic slavery, yadda yadda, I have little patience for straw feminism speeches that were obviously written by men. And I just now realized that somewhere along the line, this episode made a left turn into a rather-mangled feminist statement.

Poison Ivy: "Admit it. You didn't think two women were capable of bringing you down."

You know what? You're absolutely right, Ivy. Batman didn't think you were. Not because of your two X chromosomes, but because of the fact that he's triumphed against immortals, ninjas, monsters, and other such terrors. You're just a clown and a lady in green tights. It's like how Bruce Lee wouldn't be afraid of losing a fight against Carl Sagan. ...I really don't know why that was the example that came to mind.

Batman: "Man or woman, a sick mind is capable of anything."

I know there were some hints of it earlier, when did this episode get all straight-up Battle of the Sexes? Was I too busy talking about how I wasn't going to talk about the Joker/Harley relationship?

Anyway, before Batman can explain that he doesn't hit girls, he only hits criminals, they toss him in the drink, and Harley sees that the lights have been left on. And someone's gone all Goldilocks and has broken in.

Joker: "My, haven't you two been the busy little bees."

Fact: the original line was "busy little beavers," but that was apparently too blatant, and they chickened out.

Harley embraces her Puddin', but Ivy just reminds them that they're on a toxic waste dump, and probably have about ten minutes before the fumes kill them. Meanwhile, Batman escapes his bonds and swims to shore. Joker takes Harley and Ivy's ill-gotten booty and shoves Ivy's face into the flower in his coat, which sprays Joker Toxin.

Fact: The sequence of Joker grabbing Ivy's head and forcing it was intentionally designed to look like he was forcing her into... something else.

Fact: This episode's making me more than a bit uncomfortable.

Luckily, Ivy's immune to poison, so she starts kicking Joker and his henchmen before the two femme fatales head off in their car, leaving Batman to fight the Joker and his goons. Joker grabs his tommy gun and gets to firing.

Batman: "Stop shooting, you lunatic!"

If only it were so easy, Batman.

Batman: "We're sitting on a powder keg!"

Suddenly, boom. The place goes up, and chemical fires begin to spread as Batman barely manages to escape with the Joker in tow. He drives off with the crazy clown and heads after Harley and Ivy.

Poison Ivy: "No man can take us prisoner!"

Except for, you know, all the cops that have done just that in the past. As well as Batman. You suck at this, Ivy.

But as karma would have it, a tire blowout makes them hit a tree, ending the chase as the very female Officer Renee Montoya arrives on the scene to tell the two to stick 'em up.

"Don't feel bad. That whole 'no man' thing screwed me over, too."
The whole group is taken to Arkham. As Joker rants and raves in his cell about how his next gang will have no women, Harley still hopes to work out their issues while she tends to the garden with Ivy. Ivy tosses manure in her face, and the episode ends.

Time to review "Harley and Ivy." Or as I like to call it, "the best Gotham Girls episode."


  1. So who would win in a fight, the Witch King of Angmar, or Batman?

    - That One Anon

    1. Batman, by enlisting the help of his Earth-23 counterpart.