In the age of Marvel fatigue and The Flash flop heard round the world, Harley Quinn season 4 is here to say adaptations don't have to stink — they can soar. And its latest episode just convinced me to shout that fact to the internet, to make sure nobody's sleeping on one of the best shows on Max.
In fact, not only is Harley Quinn the best anything in the world of comic book adaptations in 2023, but this season is one of the best shows on TV right now.
This is the latest edition of a column where members of the Tom's Guide staff share what they're watching and/or enjoying right now, with the goal of helping you find great shows and movies that you may have missed. We previously covered I'm A Virgo.
Before I gush further, I'll point to the two other shows I'm dyng to catch up on. Reservation Dogs season 3 just debuted and should not be underestimated, while fellow Max series How to With John Wilson just began its third and final season. And I've yet to catch up on this series, which I hear raves about.
That said, I think Harley Quinn has a wider appeal than How To, which is much more of a disarming genre-bending quasi-docuseries like The Rehearsal. And even though I love Res Dogs, I can tell it's a bit too meditatively-paced for some.
Here's why I think you should give Harley Quinn a chance.
What's going on in Harley Quinn season 4?
In a phenomenal inversion from its previous years, Harley Quinn season 4 sees its titular villain break good. No longer fighting with Batman, Harley (Kaley Cuoco) is actually fighting crime ... alongside Robin (Jacob Tremblay), Batgirl (Briana Cuoco) and Nightwing (Harvey Guillén), as a member of the Bat-Family.
Want to know what Bruce Wayne (Diedrich Bader) thinks of all this? Well, you'll have to find him in prison, as that's where he ended season 3. Oh, and the Joker (Alan Tudyk) is the mayor of Gotham. Yes, it's one of those seasons of TV that asks if cats-and-dogs can live together, and it works shockingly well.
But that's not the biggest twist: Poison Ivy (Lake Bell) isn't just Harley's girlfriend — she's also running the Legion of Doom as Lex Luthor (Giancarlo Esposito) installed her as an executive. Basically #HarlIvy are now together but working on opposing teams while still together. It's an ultimate conflict of interest that's just due to boil over.
I'm so excited to gush about Harley Quinn's fourth season, though, because episode four just reaffirmed my belief that this show rules. Both Harley and Ivy are thrown into the deep end of their new workplaces. The Bat-Family is broke, and it feels like Harley is the only one who can teach them to get over their reliance on gadgets, while Ivy's on the moon at a conference for super-villains.
Why Harley Quinn season 4 episode 4 is so good
Originally, the Harley Quinn series was about Harley trying to build her own gang of villains post-breakup, and now she's on the right side of justice. Again, though, she's forced to work on team-building, and it breathes new life into the series while staying true to what fans love about it.
Normally, the Bat-Family would have everything they need with no need for growth, because that's how rich people (think they) are. Cleverly, the HQ team decided to bring in Talia al Ghul (Aline Elasmar) to use corporate tricks to take all the stuff and funds the family has, using Bruce's imprisonment as an excuse. While this is a fine narrative device, it's also a depiction of corporate cost-cutting, something everyone hates right now.
That forces the Bat-Family into coupon-cutting and — you guessed it — renting out Wayne Manor on Gotham's version of AirBnb. Which goes as smoothly as you might expect.
Meanwhile, Ivy's dealing with Luthor's narcissism, as he's continuing to prove he's the kind of exec who would only promote a criminal mastermind like her because of the performative optics of a woman in the C-suite. Hilariously, Lex can't handle the media's adoration for Ivy, and it blows up in his ... calves.
All the while, Harley and Ivy continue to be the communicative couple they struggled to become in past seasons. And that's one thing I want to comment Harley Quinn's writers for. Unlike a lot of animated shows, Harley Quinn won't tell the same story twice, and the slightly slower pace this season offers moments to continue to develop its characters.
That is, whenever it's not making raunchy jokes about phallic vehicles and other eccentricities that previous Batman movies and shows didn't dare to broach.
Outlook: Don't let Harley Quinn's DC lore and raunch fool you
Comic book characters and animation have their fans, but they're also red flags for some who believe they've "been there, done that." But Harley Quinn season 4 episode 4 feels like the confirmation that this is a show that rises above its genres.
Oh, and don't overlook the excellent voice actors behind the cast. Giancarlo Esposito, in particular, makes for a fantastically vain Lex Luthor, and What We Do In The Shadows standout Harvey Guillén helps make Nightwing much quirkier than you might expect.
So, if you can enjoy a little adult humor, and aren't afraid of someone seeing you watch a DC TV show, you gotta check out Harley Quinn.
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Henry is a managing editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.