Monday, February 9, 2015

Recap: The New Batman Adventures "Mad Love"

"Harlequinade" was where Harley Quinn tried to kill the Joker in a single moment of rage. "Harley and Ivy" was where Harley found herself unable to give up her obsession with him, despite finding someone she could truly call a soulmate. And now, we've arrived at "Mad Love." Possibly one of the strongest Batman stories ever. Not just in the Animated Series, but ever.

This is the story that answers one simple question that has been lingering over Harley's relationship with the Joker since the very beginning.


Ladies, gentlemen, and others, this is the final episode of The New Batman Adventures.... sort of. Like I've said before, episodes of the show were aired out of order, yadda yadda, and this was the final episode aired. But I consider "Judgement Day" to be the finale, just because it was the last episode to be made as well as just... feelin more like a finale.

But enough about endings, let's look at Harley Quinn's beginning.

Harley Quinn Begins.
The episode opens with a sweeping pan over Gotham, before fading in on a hallway. Commissioner Gordon walks down, muttering about how much he'd rather not be at the dentist. He walks into the office of Dr. J. Reko, DDS. Yeah, the upcoming twist is more transparent than air. Gordon sits right down, and Dr. Reko turns out to be none other than the Penguin!

Just kidding, it's the Joker.

Harley Quinn, dressed up as a nurse....

No, there's still a few years to go before that.
Anyway, she restrains him. Joker whips out an electric drill and prepares to put a lovely smile on the Commish's face by way of the brain. As he is wont to do, Batman crashes through the window.

Batman: "It was an easy hint, Joker. Sloppy. Predictable."

And he's not talking about the name J. Reko, either. Joker left a pair of dentures as a clue.

Harley: "'Scuse me, but the teeth were my idea. So's this!"

She hits him with the laughing gas, which, let's face it, is pretty mild when it comes to what clowns dressed as nurses can do to you.

"This is how it's done, Harley."
Harley: "That's a real gasser, huh, Mr. J?"

Joker quickly and physically berates her about trying to be funny, and they beat a hasty retreat, tossing in a grenade.

Joker: "May the floss be with you!"

Fun Fact: Mark Hamill, the voice of the Joker as well as some character in some sci-fi films in the 80's, hears that joke all the time. His wife's a dentist.

Batman disposes of the grenade out the window, and it explodes over the Gotham streets.

Commissioner Gordon: "I really hate these checkups."

Later, at the Joker's hideout, he gets to work on the blueprints for his latest scheme as Harley waltzes up behind him in a skimpy negligee and clown make up. She even goes so far as to get right on the desk, but the Joker pays her double entendres no mind.

Harley: "Don't you wanna rev up your Harley?"

Originally, the line was "take a ride on your Harley." Apparently, this was too much for the network.

And yet, the negligee wasn't too much. Huh.
He pushes her off the desk, but that doesn't stop her from trying to get into his purple pants. But he can't focus on anything but his schemes. It's time to kill the Batman.

And it must.



Harley: "Why don't ya just shoot 'im?"
Joker: "Just shoot him? Know this, my sweet. The death of Batman must be nothing less than a masterpiece! The triumph of my sheer comic genius over his ridiculous mask and gadgets!"

His usual smile crosses his face again when he notices a discarded plan on the ground: the Death of 100 Smiles. The plan was to use his Joker Gas on some piranhas, then lower Batman into a tank filled with them. The only problem was that piranhas are immune to Joker Gas.

Unlike most other fish.
Harley tries to console her Puddin' one last time, and Joker kicks her out onto the streets. Harley gets all "Woe is me!" and quickly comes to the conclusion that Batman's to blame.

Harley: "Comin' between me and my Puddin' from the very beginning...."

And with that obvious segue, we flash back a few years to Arkham Asylum, where Joan Leeland greets the asylum's newest intern, Dr. Harleen Quinzel.

Get out of here; we don't need any fourth wall shenanigans.
Dr. Quinzel: "Hi, Joan. Call me Harley. Everyone does."

No thick accent. No over the top delivery. No volume control problem. This was before the madness.

Leeland takes her on a small tour through the halls, passing the numerous cells filled with the mentally ill. As such, it's a bit surprising that Dr. Quinzel asked to be here.

Dr. Quinzel: "Well, I've always had an attraction for extreme personalities."

She says this as she passes Poison Ivy's cell. Yeah, we've seen that "attraction," Paul Dini.

Dr. Quinzel: "They're more exciting, more challenging."
Dr. Leeland: "And more high-profile?"
Dr. Quinzel: "You can't deny there's an element of glamor to these super-criminals."

If this dialogue sounds familiar, that's because it was reused for Batman: Arkham Asylum.

Dr. Quinzel gets warned about dealing with these inmates without the drive and the commitment (as one of them begins licking the glass behind her), and Dr. Quinzel gets distracted by someone whistling in a nearby cell. He's a tall, fair-skinned man with yeah, it's the Joker. He stops whistling his own leitmotif and winks at her.

And she stares into his dreamy black sclera...
Later, Dr. Quinzel enters her office, finding a rose and a note from a mysterious mister "J." She smells the rose, and the strings of tension play to let us know that something terrible is happening.  She heads to the Joker's cell, and asks if he has any explanation.

Joker: "I put it there."

At least he's honest.

Dr. Quinzel: "I think the guards would be interested to know you've been out of your cell."

But two can play at the psychoanalysis game.

Joker: "If you were going to tell, you already would've."

Joker seems to have taken a liking to her, she's pretty, smart, and her name almost sounds like "Harley Quinn."

Dr. Quinzel: "Like the clown character 'Harlequin.' I know. I've heard it before."

He tantalizes Harley with promises of his story, and we hear a voice-over about how it took three months to set up a single session. She studied all his tricks and gimmicks and came in prepared for anything he could throw at her.

Joker: "You know, my father used to beat me up pretty badly."

Was he a drinker and a fiend who came home one night crazier than usual?

Joker: "Every time I got out of line, bam! Oh, sometimes I'd be just sitting there, doing nothing. Pow! Pops tended to favor the grape, you see."

Oh. He was a drinker. And a fiend. Well, this is awkward.

Joker: "There was only one time I ever saw dad really happy. He took me to the circus when I was seven. Ah, I still remember the clowns, running around, dropping their pants."

Pff. If I wanted to see people dropping their pants, I'd go to the mall and look at you dang kids with your loose pants and your dang rap music and long hair...

Joker: "My old man laughed so hard, I thought he'd bust a gut! So the very next night, I ran up to meet him with his best Sunday pants around my ankles! 'Hi, dad! Look at me!' Zoop! I took a big pratfall, and tore the crotch clean out of his pants!"

The two share a laugh over this story, as tears fill their eyes from how much they're enjoying themselves.

Joker: "...And then he broke my nose."

I.. buh... clowns?
Well, that was abrupt. Explains why his nose is that weird shape, though.

Joker laments that some people just don't get the joke. Like his dad.

Joker: "Or Batman."

As we see flashbacks of the Joker's origin, getting pushed into chemicals by Batman and ending up with a changed face forever, Dr. Quinzel formulates her theory that this is simply someone trying to lash out at a world that punished him because it simply doesn't understand him.

Dr. Quinzel (voiceover): "And there, as always, was the self-righteous Batman, determined to make life miserable for my angel."

Aaaaaaand there goes the whole "neutral perspective."

Turns out, she's been talking to the Joker, explaining that she's fallen in love with him.

Joker: "As a dedicated, career-oriented young woman, you've felt the need to abstain from all amusement and fun. It's only natural you'd be attracted to a man who could make you laugh again."

As it turns out, she's the one on the couch as they talk.

So, uh, Arkham doesn't monitor these sessions? Just saying, Human Resources might want to look into this.

Joker escapes, but is soon brought back, battered and bruised, by Batman. Dr. Quinzel doesn't take it well.

You'd think embracing him after Batman tosses him in would be a red flag. Seriously, HR.
This is the last straw. She robs a novelty store and returns to Arkham to break out her lover under a new guise.

Dr. Quinzel: "Say hello to your new, improved Harley Quinn!"

Better than the New 52's "improved" Harley Quinn.
And now she has a New Yorker accent. She probably grew up with one, but trained herself to speak with a more "professional" accent, which she now has no need to do. Clarice Starling from The Silence of the Lambs was implied to have done the same thing.

"Well, Harley....  Have the lambs stopped screaming?"
There's no plot hole here; there is only an opportunity for me to look all sophisticated and junk by referencing The Silence of the Lambs. And by saying "all sophisticated and junk," I've promptly undone that.

They escape, this 21st century Bonnie and Clown, and Harley finishes her reminiscing. She concludes that she and Mr. J can never be happy as long as Batman's around. Later, Gordon, Bullock, and Batman are going over a cassette tape (look it up on Wikipedia, kids) of a very distraught Harley Quinn. She claims that her Puddin' went off the deep end (again) and is going to take out the whole city. As we've established, Harley's not into that sort of scheme. On the tape, she takes off the mask and says the thing that convinces them.

Harley: "I finally realized this isn't funny anymore."

Batman meets up with Harley, and she hands over the plans to gas Gotham. But Joker appears out of nowhere and opens fire on his former henchgirl from a boat. Batman and Harley hit the deck, but she quickly hits Batman with a tranquilizer as the fake Joker mannequin she set up to fire at them falls apart.

Batman wakes up, chained up and upside down in an old aquarium, hanging over a fishtank.

Batman: "The Joker.... Where?"
Harley: "It's just me, B-Man."

Harley explains that this is her big chance to prove herself to her Puddin'. She had the bright idea to make Joker's scheme work by haning Batman upside down, making it look like all the fish were smiling.

Harley: "Clever?!"
Batman: "...Brilliant."

But even Batman's sarcasm can't get her down. She's going to kill Batman and live happily ever after with the Joker. Then Batman does the unthinkable. He laughs.

Harley: "I never seen you laugh before...."

He laughs a lot.

Harley: "I don't think I like it."

He laughs louder and harder.

Harley: "Cut it out! ...You're giving me the creeps..."
Batman: "You little fool. The Joker doesn't love anything except himself. Wake up, Harleen. He had you pegged for hired help the minute you walked into Arkham."
Harley: "That's not... no.... No! He told me things! Secret things he never told anyone!"
Batman: "Was it his line about the abusive father? Or the one about the runaway mom? He's gained a lot of sympathy with that one."

Don't forget the beautiful wife he carved his own face up for.

Harley: "Stop it! You're making me confused!"
Batman: "What was it he told that one parole officer? Oh, yes. 'There was only one time I ever saw dad really happy. He took me to the ice show when I was seven.'"
Harley: "...Circus... He said it was the circus...."
Batman: "He's got a million of 'em, Harley."

Just... damn.

Harley breaks into tears, but is still resolved to get a happy ending out of this. She starts lowering the chains.

Batman: "Except he'll never believe you did it."

Over at Joker's hideout, he's still going over plans as the phone rings.

Joker: "Boring. Lame. Not funny. Been done. Too Riddler."

Oh, but leaving Batman a clue on purpose wasn't "too Riddler"?

He finally answers the phone.

Joker: "You have who tied up where!?"

He speeds off, and Harley brags for a bit before Joker enters, mad as Hell. So mad, that he hits her with enough force that they have to cut away from it to get on TV. He yells that the whole point of this endeavor was so he could finally off Batman.

Harley: "But it's still your plan, see? Everything just like you said! Except I hung the guy upside down, so he'd see their little frowns as little smiles! Now it all works!"
Joker: "Except you had to explain it to me! If you have to explain a joke, there is no joke!"

Harley grabs a swordfish to defend herself.

Joker: "You've forgotten what I told you a long time ago...."

In a galaxy far, far away? Hey, if the episode can make Star Wars jokes, then so can I. Besides, this Recap is getting really heavy on the feels.

Joker: "You always take shots from folks who just don't get the joke!"

He shoves her out a window, and she falls all the way to the ground in slow motion like she was the Comedian. Wait, was this part an intentional reference to Watchmen? Nice. (I'm referring to the comic, of course.)

Joker: "And don't call me 'Puddin'.'"

But Harley is still alive, somehow. The official explanation is that Ivy's shot gave her improved resilience. Either that, or she's taken harder hits than this from the Joker.

Harley: "My fault... I didn't get the joke...."

Joker sets the chained up Batman on the floor, and walks away. Suddenly, he gets an idea. He could always just shoot Batman in the head. Before he can, Batman kicks the gun up so Joker shoots the tank. As piranhas fall all over Joker, Batman runs over to his utility belt and uses it to undo his bonds. Joker runs off the building onto the passing above-ground train, followed by Batman.

Batman: "She almost had me, you know. Arms and legs chained. Dizzy from the blood rushing to my head. I had no way out, other than convincing her to call you. I knew your massive ego would never allow anyone else the honor of killing me. Though I have to admit she came a lot closer than you ever did."

Geez, Batman, you already threw this guy into a vat of chemicals. All these sick burns can't be good for his skin condition.

Batman: "Puddin'."

The Joker lunges at Batman, and they fight. Before Joker can end the Dark Knight with his knife, he gets kicked off into a smokestack.

Over at Arkham, a badly injured Harley swears off her obsessions while being brought to her cell.

Harley (voiceover): "I finally see that slime for what he is. A murderous, manipulative, irredeemable..."

She looks over and sees a rose with a note.


Harley: "...Angel."

And the cycle continues....
Chills. I... just... let's review this masterpiece.

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