NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Harley Quinn”, including a major character death, are present in this review
Harley Quinn left viewers with a big shock during last week’s episode, namely Poison Ivy being killed by a giant flagpole, and Harley’s crew left in anguish at losing their arguably most well-liked friend. With Joker having subsequently ‘won’ at that point, the Gotham City of the Harley Quinn universe is now completely within Joker’s control, and that’s where this week’s season finale picks up. “The Final Joke” completely strips Harley and her friends of any means of striking back against the Clown Prince of Crime, but leaves Harley nonetheless desperate to take revenge on Joker, even motivating her to seek the help of Batman in the process.
In many respects, “The Final Joke” hits the notes that you would expect it to. Harley successfully forges an uneasy alliance with Batman, while the reliably ineffectual Commissioner Gordon fails to do anything about Joker taking over Gotham. The bellyaching Gordon remains a comedic highlight here, but where this season finale gets a surprising amount of laughs and cringes in equal measure is in showing just how far Joker’s takeover of the city goes. Joker has installed his own over-the-top weapons, plastered his grinning visage all over the place, and he even murders anyone who doesn’t laugh at his jokes on the street! Needless to say, without the Justice League and the Legion of Doom alike, there aren’t many forces left to stand against Joker at this point.
… Except for Batman, who is somehow fine, and easily located by Harley, despite the fact that he seemed pretty blatantly cornered by Scarecrow during the previous episode. It seems that perhaps Harley Quinn’s writers may have written themselves into a corner with that scuffle, since Batman simply ends up with Gordon here, and Scarecrow simply ends up at Joker Tower, as if the two had never confronted each other just last week. That’s pretty distracting, and begs the question as to why Batman is ‘missing’ at all. Still, the idea of a Batman/Harley alliance is pretty promising, especially when Clayface is enlisted to pose as a prize Batman for Joker, only to have his own over-the-top ego out the ruse before it could be completed, resulting in the real Batman’s capture.
This completes Joker having everything he ever wanted, which in turn makes him feel depressed and unfulfilled. This is actually another interesting idea that this episode explores, with Joker eventually coming to the conclusion that Harley is the source of his happiness. Fortunately, Joker has spent the past week torturing Harley’s captive crewmates at least, while Harley just barely gets away from Joker Tower’s defenses. After some inspiration from Kite Man though, who is comically camping out by Ivy’s grave, Harley then goes to Joker Tower with a bomb strapped to her, saying that she’ll kill herself, and ruin Joker’s demands for her live capture, if Joker doesn’t parlay with her in Joker Tower. Harley then successfully negotiates for her crewmates’ freedom, but at the cost of wearing her old costume, and suffering one last betrayal from Joker.
Said betrayal involves Harley being dropped into another chemical vat, which will seemingly erase any trace of her transformation into the anti-hero that we’ve come to know and love throughout this show’s current run. Okay, this is very hard to believe, but granted, this is a cartoon universe, so whatever, I can suspend my disbelief. Where the disbelief becomes harder to suspend however is through Ivy suddenly being resurrected at this point, claiming that the power of nature brought her back to life, which feels pretty contrived, even by the standards of this show. Regardless, Ivy saves Harley, her plants drop Joker in the chemicals, and after Joker primes Joker Tower to self-destruct, Batman saves Harley and Ivy, only to disappear into the chaos. The subsequent earthquake then leaves Gotham City in ruins, with Batman now firmly MIA, and Joker seemingly reverting to a ‘normal’ state, as the first season of Harley Quinn comes to a close, all while Harley’s crew stares lovingly at the destruction now facing Gotham.
This is definitely a very shocking note to end the season on, but I nonetheless have to respect Harley Quinn for its, “Go big or go home” storytelling philosophy. Despite that however, “The Final Joke” weirdly backpedals on some of the big story twists of last week, to the point where even Joker shockingly killing Scarecrow with his acid flower at one point doesn’t truly feel like it matters here. Still, the big confrontation between Joker and Harley is well worth the buildup, especially when it leaves Gotham City even more worse for wear, and still with no Justice League to protect it, nor Legion of Doom to regulate Joker’s carnage.
We won’t have to wait long to see where these story teases go, thankfully, since Harley Quinn has not only already been renewed for a second season, but said second season is even debuting at the start of this April, just over a month after this first season has concluded! It’s pretty obvious that the show was meant to go on, considering how this week’s season finale panned out, though Harley Quinn’s odd release strategy may not be too shocking to those with good memories. DC Universe ordered 26 episodes of Harley Quinn right away, if you recall, thus ensuring that a second season would obviously happen at some point from the get-go. Granted, the proximity between Season One and Season Two is remarkable, but perhaps it will help to ease some of the storytelling shortcuts that this first season finale layers through an otherwise fun and shocking ending to Harley Quinn’s first batch of episodes.
- Joker succeeding with his plans, and becoming depressed about it
- Harley giving up everything to save her crew
- The final Harley/Joker confrontation leaving Gotham in ruins
- Batman/Scarecrow confrontation is essentially retconned away
- Ivy's resurrection is far too contrived