Episode 15 Review
Harley Quinn is planning who to kill next but Riddler University provides an opportunity for her to kill two birds with one stone. Just don't tell King Shark. Harley and Ivy attempt to infiltrate Riddler University, kill Riddler, and take all his electricity and clean water for themselves but things get a little complicated when they meet Commissioner Gordon's daughter, Clayface installs himself into the plan, and they stumble upon a mystery of disappearing students. King Shark and Dr. Psycho, meanwhile, search for an industrial strength water filter for the lair but get entangled in territorial skirmishes with goon armies.
"Riddle U" begins with Harley, Ivy, and the crew in dire need of utilities. With no electricity and no clean water and plenty of runaway zoo animals, Harley is on a short fuse. But with perfect comic timing, Riddler broadcasts his Riddler University campus has the very necessities they need. Evidently, Riddler took a local university as part of his territory and installed himself as the dean. And it just happens to be the university where Barbara Gordon, daughter of Commissioner Jim Gordon, dorms at and attends. Harley fast tracks Riddler as the next target. Clayface insinuates himself into the plan but no one's interested in his acting skills or proposed character of Stephanie, a fun yet focused transfer student from Chico State. Dr. Psycho isn't too keen on twiddling his thumbs while they go undercover so Harley suggests he go look for a water filter himself in the meantime. Kite Man assists Harley and Ivy and flies them to the university and avoids the heavy security detail at the front gates. Harley stills finds Ivy and Kite Man's romance totally gross. Incognito as prospective students, Harley and Ivy try to blend in with a tour but thanks to Harley making up really distinctive cover names, Barbara starts to get suspicious until Stephanie steps in and says they're cool. Harley is livid Clayface still came along.
King Shark and Dr. Psycho easily procure a water filter but their activity earns the action of Two-Face's goons since they are in his territory. After their getaway camel is shot up, they're forced to run back inside and take cover. At Riddle U, the tour concludes but Harley and Ivy gain no helpful intel on Riddler's location except that's he has a constant watch on campus through the surveillance camera system. They observe student activists being taken away but Harley thinks she spots Riddler and takes off after him. She gives him a beat down then tries to drown him in a fountain but soon realizes he is Jiminy Riddle, the school mascot. Worse yet, Barbara realizes she's Harley Quinn and runs back to her dorm – displaying some surprising agility. Harley and Ivy corner her in her room but she reveals she actually wants someone to take Riddler down and tells them about students mysteriously disappearing. Commissioner Gordon comes out of the shower in a small bath towel to get more beer but Barbara makes something up to curb his suspicion. She continues and shows them her intel about Riddler constantly going back to a certain fraternity house where there's a party that night. Rather than team up, they swipe her wristbands and bail.
Still pinned, King Shark and Psycho stumble on a car and convert it into a proper apocalyptic death car. Psycho impales a goon while Shark opens fire with a roof top gatling gun. The goon give chase. Clayface has pretty much gone native and is too enamored in the life of his Stephanie character and if she will or won't become Chad's girlfriend. Harley and Ivy find Stephanie in line to the frat party and are shocked to see she has a VIP wristband thanks to Chad. Ivy is grossed out by the sights of the frat party inside but Harley is a little more willing to indulge. They try to get Stephanie on task and scouting around. Barbara fails to rally her dad to storm the frat and arrest Riddler. He stills holds a candle for Batman. Harley takes advantage of a pong game to take out a bouncer and get into the VIP room with Ivy. They soon discover Riddler was making students run on hamster wheels, effectively turning them into human batteries for his power plant. They're not too intimidated by his Riddler Stick since it looks like a cane. He electrocutes them and they're inserted into wheels. King and Psycho manage to outrace the Two-Face goons but unwittingly drive into Baneton and encounter Bane Boys who each have a syringe of Venom to use. Enough that bullets bounce off skin... Harley and Ivy are equally boned when Clayface proves utterly useless in his Stephanie form. Luckily, Barbara arrives in a hoodie and ski mask and barely manages to turn the tables on Riddler. She naively lets them take Riddler "to Arkham" and instead they use him as their own hamster to power Gotham Mall. While Harley and Ivy speculate on what will become of Barbara, she puts the finishing touches on her first Batgirl costume and hops out her window for a test run.
It's a welcome sight to sort of glean that each villain territory might be playing a different theme and send up different things. Such as with "Riddle U," the series plays around with college tropes. Hat tips to 21 Jump Street. Tying it in with Clayface coming up with a passable act was great. Steph the transfer student fitting in and having drama was a real hoot. Harley and Ivy playing the role of the older girls who hate on the new student but can't help but admit she's pulling off the crop top. An ironic line about how useful an Art History degree is. Competing capella clubs. Ivy's disdain of the frat party was pretty spot on and Harley seamlessly blending in was brilliant. And there's kinda always a guy in a body cast in, too. Even the bits with the wristbands or the disinterested bouncer were right on. And to top it off, Harley uses pong to her advantage to stay in stealth mode. But two episodes in a row with a crack about Harvard. Hmm, running joke detected.
It also a welcome sight for the mission, at least in principle, to be just Harley and Ivy and explore a bit more of their dynamics. It's very evident Harley's opinion of the Kite Man romance hasn't changed much and very clear we'll see more of that this season. It makes sense Ivy played it a bit straight as a college student like objecting to killing Barbara or hating the party while Harley fit right in and did super impulsive things like attacking the mascot, coming up with really specific cover names, or going for the ice luge. And so many great one liners. Yes, running does suck. Or really specific knocks like Ivy's comment about clogs or Harvard. It was pretty amusing to see them eventually treat Barbara as the third sister they didn't ask mom and dad for and she in turn is just trying too hard to be their pal after Riddler is defeated. Points to whoever decided to depict Harley and Ivy slowly grooving to the Wayne Box's Party Mix as they talk to Barbara. Or the "awkward Batman obsession phase" they all went through. Nice.
"Riddle U" is also the introduction to this show's Barbara Gordon/Batgirl and her origin story. Barbara is an interesting dichotomy. She's definitely the polar opposite of her father. And can we talk about that? Could it get any lower for Jim? Yes, he had to move out of his home and is living in his daughter's dorm room. Woof. But back to Barbara. She's inherited his keen detective instinct and totally suspected Harley and Ivy for the start or was secretly gathering intel on Riddler. Yet, she's still really naive like thinking Harley and Ivy wanted to pal around with her after the big fight or believed they were taking Riddler to Arkham. She's super agile, leading Harley on a chase and giving her the slip yet a bit of a klutz when she clumsily catches the frisbee in the commercial or in the fight against Tanner and dog luck surviving the fall by using him as a human shield. And being that ball of hope that loved being a superhero despite Gotham being turned into a post-apocalyptic wasteland is rather endearing. And since this is a modern take on the DC properties, makes sense Batgirl's suit is the more recent Burnside version. Though I can sense the DC purists will gripe about Robin/Damian coming before Batgirl in this canon because you know, let's never try changing up the order of things...
Riddler crowning himself dean of a university is a slam dunk of an idea. But it was a surprising reveal that he went all Matrix and turned undergrads into human batteries but funnily enough just so he could watch Jeopardy and play along. But hands down, my favorite Riddler bit was when he savagely dressed down Harley and Ivy's college disguises and totally bummed them out. It was fitting that his so cool Riddler Stick was used against him and instead of death, he's subjected to the punishment fitting the crime and whole lot of humiliation.
The soft introduction to Baneton was a nice surprise. And going into this episode, you trick yourself into thinking all there is to the Bane Boys is the luchador masks and ganging up on targets with base weapons. Nope. They each have their own syringe of Venom to use. Bane has a loyal army that's addicted to his serum but none can get as strong as him to over take him. Sure, King and Psycho could take three but a whole army of them? It definitely paints Harley and co. having a harder time against Bane unless they come up with some sort of compromise. Bane has been more of a friend to Harley than all the other Legion of Doom villains rolled into one. It doesn't seem like that episode will end with him getting killed off.
"Riddle U" is a hat tip to the undercover college classic but also sets up a lot of threads for the rest of the season: Psycho again objecting to having his time being wasted, the debut of Batgirl, Harley still not getting Kite Man, and the looming threat of Baneton. But at its heart, the episode gets back to the basics of Harley & Ivy and what makes them an endearing and entertaining power duo to audiences everywhere.
Rating: 8 out of 10