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IR TV Review: HARLEY QUINN – EPISODE 12 (“Lovers’ Quarrel”) [Warner Brothers Animation-S2]

The evolving path of Harley Quinn requires a little bit of understanding in her ability to commit. Once she does no one can stop her. What is interesting in the evolution of the character throughout Season 2 is her ability to actually be seen as somewhat of a caring individual. It is hard to say if that is cohesive with other elements in the DC canon but this series like some before it (like “Batman Beyond”) color outside the lines in a very specific way in an attempt to access some greater truth, whether it be fanboy driven or not. With Episode 12: “Lovers Quarrel”, the progression is based off of Poison Ivy targeting Harley Quinn at the request of Darkseid through Mr. Psycho. it sounds complicated in a small way but it is really not in the better perception of the path being followed. Again Kite Man gets the shaft no matter what.

What is interesting is a throwback homage to Max Headroom in a way which points to a necessary MacGuffin to make the ending of the story work. It is a pretty weak connection and ploy but again having the Justice League stuck in a book for a while seems sort of out there as well. The issue, like with the Darkseid side story, is that when they (the real superheroes) come into play, the series tends to revert back to old tropes in certain ways. The big diversion though is the sardonic banter between the Superfriends is even more out there (because the censorship angle is not as much of a problem on streaming). One particular interlude between Batman and Wonder Woman is definitely interesting and speaks back to Justice League (the movie) in many ways. Harley again is at the center of this melee but there is a sense of brokenness in her.

What is great is that everyone seems to have an opinion. Watching Joker try to order dinner for his girlfriend while understanding Harley’s duality is interesting. It culminates in the final scene, which is both soapy, funny, almost too much fan service but also groundbreaking in certain ways. Again the normal progression is that the series is more meta than it has a right to be. With only one episode left in the season, the path has been forged both for an idea of something new but also a more intimate setting in a bigger world. Now if the creatives can find the balance between the two…though, in all reality, it is that off kilter approach that keeps each of the episodes interesting.

B

By Tim Wassberg

IR Film Review: JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK: APOKOLIPS WAR [Warner Brothers Animation]

The aspect of Darkside progressions like “Star Trek” with the Mirror Universe is to examine those traits that are considered essential to characters but how they can be skewed in the aspect of a changed world or universe. That is the structure of “Justice League Dark: Apokolips Wars”. The idea is based around the continuing narrative from a couple years back in “Flashpoint” where Barry broke open a dimensional rift. The aspect is Darkside using Superman’s power against him and then rendering him useless is another perception that was reflected but not brought to ultimate bear in the live action “Justice League”. In this progression of “Apokolips” there is a change of focus. In an interesting irony, watching the loss and decimation of the Justice League allows for the stakes to be much higher. While some context structures work, others seems too generic.

On the whole the use of the paradoxes as well as the concept of the parademons works quite well. The tech thematic of using the Earth’s core as a salve for energy in a way reflects a certain element of “The Matrix”. There is also an ode to the Chosen One as well as a nifty Dark Side reference in a way between father and son and their master. To give away too much plot takes away from its brutality but also relevance. The nice intermittent strategy though is using John Constantine as the catalyst in many ways. His aspect of a fully reluctant and failing hero works well, especially in the reasoning when Superman initially tries to recruit him. It pays off as the story goes along because there is a good reason for him to act the way he does. The Damian/Robin and his interaction with Raven is the most satisfying of the subplots, especially after so many years of seeing them permeated with “Teen Titan Go!”. The essence of their underlying relationship is one that should be explored especially with darkness within her. “Titans” does it to a point but it really needs a full movie star/cinematic structure, The story and the visuals don’t mince the darkness but yet still allows the artists to revel in mythology.

Whereas the destruction and damage to everyone physically and mentally is almost beyond repair (and it primarily is), the aspect based in a thematic “Matrix” mythology or at least the possibility of a “Total Recall” one is interesting. Between some of the cool visuals, and the fight sequences have their intensity, but it is the loss that we see integrated with all the different superheros, especially towards the end is what makes this installment worth watching. The voice cast is phenomenal as well with real life spouses Rebecca Romijn and Jerry O’Connell playing Superman and Lois Lane, Rosario  Dawson playing Wonder Woman and  Jason O’Mara playing Batman not to mention the original Constantine from the TV series Matt Ryan bringing his right brand of bollocks to the man of the dead. “Justice League Dark: Apokolips War” continues the texture of comic darkness set in a web of redeemable archetypes. But in this new world of animation, the superheros can continue to be more flawed, but yet still seem so vast.

B+

By Tim Wassberg

IR TV Review: HARLEY QUINN – EPISODE 5 (“Batman’s Back, Man”) [Warner Brothers Animation-S2]

Understanding the meta nature of fanboys in an interesting diatribe in the current climate since some kind of balance needs to be maintained. But this is “Harley Quinn”. Which makes it unusual to do a step back, but in doing so, it almost gives the show more credibility by understanding there is a little bit more going on below the surface. The first couple episodes of the season were very happy-go-lucky with a subtext running below the surface. That subtext was Barbara Gordon and her seeing light in a dark city. In “Batman’s Back, Man”, there is a view throughout,  again mostly played tongue-in-cheek realizing that Batman isn’t what he once was but that everyone comes to a point where they can’t do it anymore. While this was a variant on “The Dark Knight Returns”, it shows a necessity in the runners of the show to create something against the norm while still engaging the “Birds Of Prey” mentality. The question becomes where the idea of where this is moving towards.

One could tell the story of Harley just going hog wild and going into a out of control psychopathic rain of thought (which could be fun) but to that end it just becomes lurid escapism and her acting out because of the separation from Joker. Bruce Wayne here is put in his place by Alfred who calls him on his crap. Wayne is mostly nothing but a man-boy. The revel and artifice of the view of the city which tears away to Gotham on fire in Batman’s vision makes it all the more dynamic. Even Commissioner Gordon has to understand that his ally is too far gone to help retake the city. While Batgirl/Barbara Gordon’s social media importance seems a little too giddy there is a balance running below the surface as the citizens see the aspect of hope. Granted all of this is not pushed as the primary. But with a good stable backbone it makes Harley as a character more dynamic even if her actions so far have been more primal responses in certain ways. However it creates an interesting path for the series itself.

B-

By Tim Wassberg

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