Episode 19 Review
Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy have some drinks at Noonan's and realize the bartender is the Joker, now a totally unremarkable white guy with no memory of his past life after his acid bath last season. They can't agree on killing or not killing him on the basis of whether people can really change or not. Harley spins it and uses Ivy as an example, thinking back to when they first met on her first day working at Arkham Asylum. But it's also the first day she met the Joker...
Harley plays theoreticals with Ivy as they drink at Noonan's but she doesn't quite get the game but she suddenly recognizes the bartender as Joker except as a normal white man. Ivy doesn't see it. Harley reminds her Joker's body was never found in the rubble and all the conspiracy videos on WayneTube point to him still being alive. Ivy thinks she's had enough to drink then is shocked when Harley does a crude doodle over a photo of the bartender. She decides they have to kill him but Harley just wants to quietly leave. But he trips over her and is incredibly apologetic. They try some key words to see how he reacts like 'world domination' and 'skin tight purple suits' but it's clear he has no idea what they're talking about. Instead, he talks about how much he loves his girlfriend's children like they were his own. Ivy still thinks it's a big act and wants to kill him. Harley doesn't think they should kill a 'normie' and argues the acid Joker fell in might have changed him. Ivy isn't convinced and reminds her the last time she thought Joker changed, he pushed her out of a helicopter. Ivy argues people can't change. Harley quips she used to be a psychologist who wore her hair up all the time. Ivy admits she could tell she was a crazy bitch back then then states people are who they are at their core for now and forever. Harley claims she is wrong and can prove it.
Harley goes years back to her first day working at Arkham Asylum when she was just Dr. Harleen Quinzel. She walks to the administration office and finds District Attorney Harvey Dent and Commissioner Gordon in a shirtless push up contest. Dent wins but Gordon suggests best two out of three with squats. Harleen gets their attention. As they get dressed, it's apparent Dent is completely focused on the election the next day and making choices that get him re-elected. Harleen boasts she was hired because of her thesis on Joker but Gordon confesses they had no idea she knew about the Joker and only chose her because she was cheap and was alive, compared to all the other shrinks Joker has murdered. They brief her that the Joker has hidden a bomb somewhere in the city and need her to get the location before it goes off. Alarms go off and they join guards in fending off Poison Ivy because the cafeteria accidentally ordered living lettuce. Several guards get torn apart or stabbed until one uses his flamethrower to defeat her plants. Ivy surrenders and is darted in the neck. Harleen protests their methods but Dent promotes Prop 17, some legislation aimed at redefining prisoner's rights. Harleen makes her way past the cells of Killer Croc, Scarecrow, Calendar Man, Man Bat, and Riddler. Riddler can't resist a riddle and asks who is in over her head and should have majored in communications. Harleen quips the joke is on him because she minored in it. Riddler notices he lost some strands of his long luscious black hair in his brush. Harleen stops at Ivy's cell but is met with hostility. She continues in to the Even More Maximum Security Ward where Cheryl accompanies her inside to Joker's cell. Joker mistakenly greets her as puddin' thinking the asylum's resident cook Luigi arrived with his meal. Luigi asks him if he's going to eat his dessert first and Joker is chummy with him. Joker sighs and advises Harleen to never end up in maximum security because eating alone is a drag no matter how fun the crime was. She asks him if he knows who she is. He admits he read her thesis and dismisses it as fan fiction then advises her to go to the source. Harleen lies she has come to set the record straight. Joker sees right through her. She asks him why he planted the bomb. He deflects by complaining about getting only five peas. Harleen changes the subject and asks him about his Batman obsession but he pretends the speakers are malfunctioning. Harleen orders Cheryl to let her in his cell so she can get on his level. Cheryl tells her it's her funeral and complies.
The Joker rushes Harleen and snatches her clipboard away. Harleen claims she's not afraid of him and he's a human being who can be helped. Joker grabs her and holds her pen at her neck. Harleen tells Cheryl to stand down. Surprisingly, she fights back even to the point of drop kicking and tossing him onto his back. He is amused and tells her to come back any time. Gordon reads Harleen the riot act but she points out Joker was testing her and reveals a smiley face he made on her neck. Gordon thinks he is just screwing with her. Harleen wants one more chance but Batman steps out of a shadow and promises to make Joker talk. Batman pummels Joker in an interrogation room. Joker doesn't give up anything and baits Batman about the time he killed Jason Todd. Batman advises Dent and Gordon to evacuate the city while they still can. Dent let's it slip he doesn't want to panic the voters. Harleen has her own idea and notices a photo of Poison Ivy and Joker in the same group therapy as she does through Ivy's file.
Ivy advises Harleen to just kill the Joker and could care less about saving people. Harleen brings up the group therapy notes are missing. Ivy reveals Joker killed the psychologist so he wouldn't have to talk about his family. Harleen thanks her and takes off. She asks the Joker about growing up. He is amused and states no one in an insane asylum ever comes from a happy home. Harleen baits him and mentions some people think he has daddy issues. Joker suspects the Penguin and claims that mutant orphan is the one with daddy issues. He lies down with his back to her. Harleen keeps up the charade and decides to end the session because she can see it's too painful for him to talk about. Joker boasts he was hurt by the best. Harleen is not convinced and claims everyone's scarred by their childhood. Joker claims he got the worst. She walks to the door. He agrees to tell her about his family. Joker tells her his parents weren't fond of him and never gave him much despite being wealthy and his only friend was his pet ferret Mr. Ferris. But one fateful night he walked in on his father having an affair with the maid and the next morning Mr. Ferris was gone. His father had a wide smile on his face then beat him and laughed over and over. Harleen falls for it. Joker admits he never got what was so funny but not everyone gets the joke. Harley tells him he is not defined by his father and he doesn't need to destroy the world. Joker decides to tell her where the bomb is in exchange for eating dinner in the cafeteria that night. He fears the promise will be broken if it's agreed on a later date. She promises. Joker tells her the bomb is in the heart of Little Italy. Gordon is impressed and gets on the walkie. Batman calls it beginner's luck.
Harleen goes back to Ivy and thanks her. Ivy is surprised she's still alive and takes no credit for helping her. Harleen leaves her a present, part of a plant. Ivy points out she could kill her with it. Harleen admits she knows she could then walks away. Ivy makes it grow a little, revealing flowers. Ivy smiles. Batman and the police race to Little Italy but there's no bomb in the macaroni heart statue. Harleen joins Joker for a meal in the cafeteria. Haleen hints she's thinking about turning her thesis into a novel. Joker is amused and notes her little naivete act. He chides her for not really caring about the bomb. Luigi brings them Sloppy Joe burgers. Joker quips it's their first date. Joker claims the only reason he keeps coming back to Gotham besides Batman is for Luigi's food. He hints Luigi has a nickname. Luigi suddenly feels something is wrong with his heart. Harleen realizes the bomb is in him. He implodes. Joker grabs Harley and escapes outside. Harleen is enraged at being lied to. Joker claims he told everyone exactly where the bomb was and he gave her what she wanted: a story. He assures her she will make millions from being kidnapped by him. Harleen points out the guards will kill them both. Joker doesn't think so. Nearby, Dent orders the sniper to take the shot despite Harleen being in the way. At the last second, Ivy appears and deflects the bullet with a vine. Joker is elated but Ivy quickly tells him she didn't come to save him then lifts him up off the ground with more vines. She asks Harleen if she's okay then explains that was the first gift someone ever gave to her and it was a plant. The guards use their flame throwers and narrowly miss them. Dent orders the guards to kill everyone. Ivy quickly surrenders for Harleen. Dent sighs and orders the guards to stand down. Ivy hints at needing a new therapist. Harleen agrees to work with her. She is darted and taken back inside. Dent pretends to be happy to see she survived. Harleen spits on him, flips him off, cusses him out, and calls him Two-Face.
Ivy can't believe she was the one who came up with "Two-Face." Harley laments she never got any royalties off it then circles back to her point: Ivy said humanity wasn't worth saving yet she saved her even though it meant another year at Arkham so she did change. Ivy disagrees and reveals she only started hating people after her ficus Mr. Ferris died. Harley is confused. Ivy points out Joker stole the story from group therapy and made it about a ferret. Ivy confirms her father beat her. Harley consoles her. Ivy tells it was a long time ago then asks what they're doing about the bartender. Harley suggests a tiebreaker. While the bartender uses the restroom, Dr. Psycho joins him at the communal urinal and makes an inappropriate comment then uses his telepathy. Psycho confirms he has no memories from before the Joker Tower collapse. Ivy admits she was wrong. Harley bids him goodbye and they leave. The bartender becomes conscious again. As soon as Harley and Ivy walk out of Noonan's, they are surrounded by Two-Face's goons and put in a squad car with him. The bartender cleans up and gets a text of his girlfriend's children with pizza sauce on their face. He breaks out in a fit of laughter, almost Joker-like, but quickly goes back to humming like a totally unremarkable white guy.
"All The Best Inmates Have Daddy Issues" is another solid Harley and Ivy episode and excellent use of the flashback episode trope. It was illuminating to learn how the pair first met as well as how Harley first met the Joker and it wasn't exactly love at first sight like the o.g. version of the story told in The New Batman Adventures' "Mad Love" classic. Instead, Joker's more of a cash cow to Harley for her tell-all book. It's not say there are a lot of callbacks to "Mad Love" as a tell-all was also that Harley's initial plan and tried to be the Joker's psychologist when she started out. Or Joker manipulating Harley with a fake story about an abusive dad. But still a lot of intriguing – let's call it "fine tuning" like Joker's fake story originates from stealing from Poison Ivy's past. Or Harleen is not so smitten with Joker and even fights back against him in his cell. The origin of Two-Face's name even! I also dug how there was a lot more connectivity to other characters than there ever was in "Mad Love," like how Harleen breaks through Ivy's hard shell or the chinks in Harvey Dent's facade starting to show. Even Cheryl evidently was a guard at Arkham back in the day. This wasn't about Harley falling in love with Joker. Ironically, things have changed after all with this story being told in 2020. There's also the little chuckles like how great Gordon looked back then, Riddler's beautiful hair starting to fall out or Gordon being so thirsty to be Batman's pal. Or the unexpectedly funny send up of the puddin' nickname or shades of The Dark Knight in Joker's design, the interrogation room beating, and the bomb in the dude used to escape. Or the totally unexpected Jason Todd mention! That just turns everything on its head. Damian was not the first Robin in this canon after all and just begs the question of is Dick Grayson and Tim Drake out there, too? Dare I say is this a superior version of Mad Love?
Like with "New Gotham" and "Batman's Back, Man" we're treated to answers about what happened with Joker after season one, Harley's past, Ivy's past and more. And a well done joke done before like in Batman: The Brave and The Bold, take away everything and Joker's just a totally unremarkable white man. All of Dr. Psycho scanning his recent memories and being very white was totally hilarious. Yet it seems there's still a little piece of Joker left with that laugh. Maybe Ivy was right after, you are you at your core. The argument of can people change or not was very intriguing and well presented through the big reveal of how Harley broke through to Ivy which was hinted at last season. It also touches back on a past season arc from last season it's proven that Harley was always Harley, the acid bath she took for Joker didn't change her nor did it define her as well as returning to Ivy's horrible child hood to reveal it was even more horrible than previously presented. It definitely begs the question of what is the current status of Ivy's terrible parents and will show they show up in the present or not. Dr. Psycho had a brief but perfect guest spot with the use of his telepathy, the weird bathroom small talk, and the acid/weed joke that only he loved. And picking up on last week, it was brilliant to again weave Two-Face into the narrative building up to him for the inevitable confrontation. Instead of just dropping him back into the series for the next one-on-one battle in Harley's revenge arc, the episode illuminates us on the unhinged Harvey Dent of the past and organically building in Harley's past ties to him even coming up with the Two-Face nickname. It definitely makes it a little bit more personal and lo and behold, the episode ends with Two-Face capturing the duo to be continued in next week's episode. Great timing, planning, structuring, and set up of a subtle mini arc for the villain. The crew really hit all marks with this episode! What seems like a really stuffed episode on paper played off so perfectly in execution.
"All The Best Inmates Have Daddy Issues" isn't the obligatory flashback episode nor is it filler. Instead it's a true feast of answers and revelations that leave you satisfied yet already started on new questions while revisiting a crucial premise raised in the inaugural season of whether people can change or not. 19 episodes into the series and we're still learning new things about the pasts of our motley cast of characters, how they're all connected, and perhaps we're still on a the tip of iceberg in what is becoming one of the most robust and layered origin story about Harley Quinn in any medium told to us not in chronological order but in pieces when it's most relevant and natural, allowing us to build and observe her, constantly seeing things in a new and clearer light. The episode is far beyond from being a modern retelling of "Mad Love" and is arguably more than enough to rival it.
Rating: 8 out of 10