Harley Quinn: A Very Problematic Valentine’s Day Special — Humor, Heart, and Horniness Galore

Harley and Ivy having dinner

For years now I’ve been singing the praises of HBO Max’s Harley Quinn. It’s a show that has consistently remained one of the few bright spots in the DC film and television universe, one that is otherwise marred in a sea of consistently underwhelming films, universe rebuilds, and projects that have just…disappeared amidst a big, messy corporate merger.

Funnily enough, “big and messy” is also an apt way to describe Harley Quinn, and while most of us are eagerly awaiting the show’s upcoming fourth season, in the meantime we have the show’s self-proclaimed Very Problematic Valentine’s Day Special to tide us over.

The special takes an almost Phineas and Ferb style approach to its story, following three separate Valentine’s Day misadventures that ultimately collide in one glorious finale, broken up by When Harry Met Sally-esque interviews with an assortment of well-known DC couples (or at least how they appear through Harley Quinn’s often irreverent lens).

First up of course are Harley and Ivy, facing the plight of countless established couples: Harley wants an extravagant, over-the-top “best Valentine’s Day ever” while Ivy wants nothing more than a low-key evening spent relaxing at home and watching TV—naturally including “the wide variety of quality shows found on HBO Max.” Harley eventually manages to get Ivy out of their apartment and out for a low-key dinner, which predictably ends in a car chase and the death of an oil executive. Turns out, it was all orchestrated by Harley to give Ivy a big Valentine’s Day celebration after all, but when Harley doesn’t get the reaction she expects she resorts to more drastic measures.

Clayface and his lower half looking longingly at each other

Meanwhile, Bane—consistently the show’s funniest character—is spending Valentine’s Day alone after striking out on a number of dating apps, only to find himself mistakenly taking a job with a dominatrix that opens the door to a potential connection. Naturally, this leads to him paying a visit to Etrigan’s shop in search of some supernatural male enhancement—unfortunately, Harley’s attempts at pleasing Ivy have led to Gotham City being covered in aphrodisiac, and when the aphrodisiac meets the enhancement the end result is a kaiju sized Bane going on an oversexed rampage through the streets of Gotham City, eventually setting his eyes on actor Brett Goldstein who’s performing the poems of Lord Byron at Gotham Stadium.

Finally, there’s poor Clayface. His online date turns out to be an attempted mugging that leaves him sliced in two, but it turns out that his lower half is sentient—and possibly his perfect match. The two of them attempt a romance as best they can, with the added complication of being unable to have any physical contact lest they reabsorb each other into one complete being. All three stories eventually collide in one glorious finale, with Ivy and Harley enlisting Clayface’s help to try and get Bane calmed down before too much of Gotham is reduced to rubble.

If you’ve been following Harley Quinn at all prior to A Very Problematic Valentine’s Day Special, this will all sound well within the show’s tone of irreverent insanity, and sure enough this special is just as wildly funny as any episode of the series proper. Everything from the show’s timely (and slightly less timely) pop culture references to the way it fearlessly points out the utter ridiculousness of some of DC’s most well-known characters is on full display here.

Harley and Ivy meeting for the first time in Ivy's cell

But for all Harley Quinn’s gleefully anarchic humor, what stands out about series and special alike is just how much heart it constantly has. These characters might border on funhouse mirror versions of how we normally see them portrayed in DC comics, but they’re still ones that we’re consistently made to care about. There’s a quality of genuineness to each character and the relationships they have with one another that’s rarely found in adult animated comedy, whether its the Harley/Ivy romance that beautifully unfolds over the course of two seasons and counting or the genuine connection that Harley forms with Bruce Wayne thanks to her background as a therapist.

It might be a Valentine’s Day special, but the show never tries to portray love in any sort of unrealistic or idealized light. Relationships are messy, imperfect, and take almost constant work, and what makes Harley Quinn special is the show’s willingness to portray them that way. The show might gleefully indulge in sex and violence, but it knows that its true power lies in moments like Harley and Ivy’s heart-to-heart about being mindful of each other’s wants and needs or Ivy’s reveal on what her best Valentine’s Day truly was.

Harley Quinn: A Very Problematic Valentine’s Day Special gives us just about everything that makes the series great: humor, heart, and honesty, all wrapped up in a wildly irreverent take-no-prisoners portrayal of the DC universe. It’s not only a perfect Valentine’s Day gift, it’s the perfect thing to tide you over until the show returns for its fourth season.

Written by Timothy Glaraton

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *