Episode 13 Review
Harley Quinn runs out of allies to take on the Joker with and despite having everything go pretty much accordingly to plan, Joker is still restless. On the day her crew is slated for execution, Harley tries one last suicide mission but she's still due for a few more surprises as season one comes to its explosive conclusion.
Rolling out of "Devil's Snare" last week, "The Final Joke" begins with Poison Ivy's funeral. Harley is too distraught to speak. Clayface speaks in her place. Dr. Psycho is even impressed until he finds out his speech was from Wrath of Khan. Sy Borgman starts digging a grave and Frank is overwhelmed with grief. Harley tries to charge the Joker's tower but the crew stops her and implores her to come up with a plan. Batman checks in with Commissioner Gordon but has reached a deadlock until Harley arrives and suggests a temporary team-up. Batman refuses at first Harley makes a good point that they both know Joker the best and can come up with a way to beat him. For Joker's birthday, Harley presents him a captured Batman, who is really Clayface, at his doorstep while the real one infiltrates the tower. Things go awry when Clayface breaks character and Joker manages to knock Batman out with sleeping gas then all but Harley are snatched up by mechanical arms.
Cut to one week later, Gotham is essentially under Joker's authoritative rule and Gordon is being marched around by the Joker's SWAT team. To his frustration, a bounty on Harley has yielded no results. He passes the time by torturing the crew: making a necklace out of King Shark's teeth, subjecting Psycho to videos of feminist rallies, turning Clayface into pottery, and pushing Sy down a long flight of stairs. However, he gets bored of tasering Batman with a cattle prod over and over and suspects he's having a quarter life crisis despite being 38. Scarecrow makes a grave error in trying to cheer up Joker by removing Batman's mask and revealing him to be Bruce Wayne. Joker is livid he stole the mystery out of their relationship and kills Scarecrow with acid from his flower lapel. Harley pays a visit to Ivy's grave and learns about a live execution of her crew from Kite Man, who can't bring himself to leave Ivy's side. Harley gets Joker's attention by revealing she's wearing an vest lined with dynamite. Joker puts the crew at jeopardy and promises their safe release if she puts her old costume back on for him. The Joker reveals she is his one weakness and he wants to erase her rather than kill her. He presents a vat of acid that can turn her normal and into a blank slate. Poison Ivy arrives, healed by mother Earth, and helps Harley turn the tables and drops Joker into the vat. Joker manages to trigger a self-destruct before he sinks down. Batman is lost in the collapse and Gotham is leveled by a 8.6 magnitude earthquake caused by the tower's destruction. Harley, Ivy, and the crew look on from a roof as Gotham plunges into utter chaos. Batman, the Justice League, the Legion of Doom, and Joker are all gone. Harley calls it beautiful. Unbeknownst to them, in the wreckage of the tower, Joker's hand shoots out but turns into a shade of normal human flesh and drops down.
From a narrative standpoint, it made perfect sense that Harley would ally with Batman and for it to go wrong in order to remove Batman from the center so it could all hinge on Harley confronting Joker. But they threw in a surprise with Scarecrow doing just about the dumbest thing possible and revealing Batman's secret identity. But in accordance to the classic Batman curse, learn his secret and your days are numbered. The electric car quibble was an amusing turn but perhaps there was a missed opportunity for Bruce to retort that was more of a customer service kind of question. It was great seeing things come full circle all the way back from the pilot and first half of the season like Batman and Harley being on the same wavelength and deducing Joker's psychosis or Joker staging the Ace Chemicals scene. Joker vs. Harley one-on-one was certainly a fun and much anticipated rematch. Maybe it could have gone on longer but it was entertaining enough. Joker's final joke was certainly inventive and defies expectations of some grand death trap Harley has to escape from but really cuts into his side of the story. He resented himself for falling in love and tried to surgically remove what he perceived as weakness entirely from his being. And coupled with his refusal to admit he was 38 years old, I mean, there's very little else evidence for us conclude his vanity was his comeuppance. The big non-surprise was Ivy's return and with what little screen time, she still had one great line telling Harley they weren't living in a Disney movie.
The only real gripe I had with this episode is that it goes by way too fast and leaves me wanting to see more. We're certainly left with a whole lot of questions. What's Batman's status? If the Queen of Fables is really dead, shouldn't the Justice League have been freed or does someone like Zatanna have to free them? Or is the Legion really gone for good or who was really inside the Hall when Joker leveled it? Is Joker really stuck as an amnesiac normal Joe for good? And that final scene. Who would have guessed the season finale would leave the door open for a take on the No Man Land's arc?! I can totally see a time skip and starting off with several Gotham villains gone Mad Max acting as warlords of their own territory, Harley is the undisputed Queen of Gotham, and they're all teetering on the verge of all-out war with each other.
"The Final Joke" brings the first season of Harley Quinn to an exciting close. All in all, a strong starring and recurring voice cast, writing, humor, easter eggs, and cohesive season long storyline outweighs the over the top graphic violence and excessive language and makes this one of the more successful premieres of any DC animated series. And with a No Man's Land scenario set up, season two can't come soon enough!
Rating: 8 out of 10