NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Harley Quinn”, including a major character death, are present in this review

 

 

Having secured Firefly’s flamethrower at the end of last week’s episode, Harley and her crew can finally target Mr. Freeze during the latest episode of Harley Quinn! “Thawing Hearts” creates a memorable and subversive battle against Gotham City’s icy super-villain, one that provides an interesting and funny roast of the shortcomings behind modern feminism, without going so far as to invalidate it. At the same time, Ivy and Kite Man work to try and secure a wedding venue at Gotham’s local corn factory, the last wedding spot in new New Gotham. Unfortunately, an old nemesis of Kite Man is also determined to steal the venue first!

“Thawing Hearts” is another slam dunk for Harley Quinn, following on from last week’s especially superb, “Trapped.” Even as the series continues to completely move away from the Batman Family and their conventional supporting heroes, with Barbara Gordon being left to develop her fledgling Batgirl identity off-screen at this point, the show’s biting sense of humour consistently continues to impress. The focus on a more edgy, consequence-filled take on the Batman Family’s villains also continues to excel here, right from the opening seconds of this episode, when Harley creates an, “Ice Vagina” as a way into Mr. Freeze’s lair, while also purporting to, “Flip the script” from penis sculptures.

This is just the first in an avalanche (pun not intended) of jokes about the best and worst elements of modern feminism, all layered around another smart and funny episode of Harley Quinn. Even the subplot with Ivy and Kite Man turns out to be a real winner this week, despite some of its payoff appearing to be saved for future episodes. Regardless, this subplot begins when Ivy and Kite Man arrive at the corn factory to apply for the venue, only to run into Kite Man’s apparent enemy, and another of the cheesiest, most unimpressive villains that DC’s Batman franchise in general has ever cooked up; The Condiment King! Apparently, the Condiment King is also getting married, and he’s also determined to book the Gotham corn factory as his venue!

This comical, if rather brief psychological duel between Kite Man and Condiment King over a wedding venue is not only amusing from the standpoint of them both being ineffectual, un-threatening Batman villains, but also because it’s another smart way that this episode flips a cliched script, namely by having the men fight over a wedding venue instead of the women. Instead, Ivy eventually ends up being pulled into the main storyline, which kicks off after Harley and her crew are frozen and captured by Mr. Freeze. After Harley bargains with Freeze to give him a shortcut to a cure for his frozen, dying wife, Nora in exchange for mercy however, Mr. Freeze agrees to let Harley and her friends do lunch with him, eventually necessitating that Harley call Ivy in to help find a cure for Nora.

This race to a cure for Nora is kicked into high gear after Harley appoints herself as Nora’s liberator as well, thawing the frozen Nora out with Freeze’s stolen Freeze Gun, only to learn the hard way that Freeze was telling the truth about their relationship. This was a cute spoof of the ill-advised change to Mr. Freeze’s backstory after DC Comics’ New 52 reboot, which removed the marriage between Freeze and Nora, and made Nora a victim of Freeze’s mental delusion. Not only that, but it was also an inspired way to give Harley a demonstration of real love, after Ivy’s ‘cure’ saves Nora, but ultimately forces Freeze to sacrifice his life so that Nora may live. This is yet another major Batman villain that’s been killed off in the Harley Quinn universe, shockingly, and if there’s any drawback to this otherwise superb episode, it’s the fact that it feels rather early to kill Freeze off. Maybe it amounts to scheduling limitations with Alfred Molina and his ability to record Freeze’s voiceover, but either way, it felt like Freeze went down with barely any presence on this series in the end, despite also opening a promising door through which to have Harley re-examine her emotional politics.

Regardless, “Thawing Hearts” is a Harley Quinn episode that proved to be surprisingly poignant amidst its feminist satire, carrying a real message about mutual empowerment through selfless love, while still managing to pack in a great selection of strong jokes, topped with some more cartoon-ish violence at Freeze’s lair for good measure. The introduction to Condiment King also promises to add some great new layers to the Ivy/Kite Man relationship, particularly now that Kite Man has had to sacrifice his dream wedding venue in order to assist Ivy in delivering Nora’s cure to Harley. The fact that Harley’s emotions are thrown for a loop after her inadvertent victory against Freeze also provides lots of promise for upcoming episodes, especially as the seeming inevitability of a Harley/Ivy romance continues to loom in the show’s background. We’re probably overdue for a revisiting of the Batman Family characters by this point, not to mention the potentially sane Joker, who has remained AWOL throughout this entire season so far, but it’s nonetheless great to see that Harley Quinn is still riding high on comedic and narrative momentum, even as Harley’s quest to defeat Gotham’s villain overlords appears to have reached its halfway point.

Harley Quinn 2.4: "Thawing Hearts" Review
Harley Quinn delivers another superb episode this week, finely balancing sharp feminist satire with some surprising emotional stakes for Mr. Freeze and Harley alike.
THE GOOD STUFF
  • Unpredictable infiltration and capture at Mr. Freeze's lair
  • Harley witnessing real love with Mr. Freeze's sacrifice
  • Comical Kite Man/Condiment King rivalry
THE NOT-SO-GOOD STUFF
  • Mr. Freeze's death feels a bit premature
88%Overall Score
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