“All the Best Inmates Have Daddy Issues” pulled double-duty as background for both Harley’s relationship with the Joker and her relationship with Poison Ivy, as the show asks whether or not a comic book supervillain can really change.
This recap of Harley Quinn season 2, episode 6, “All the Best Inmates Have Daddy Issues”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
The relationship between Harley Quinn and the Joker is a long and storied one and the kind of thing that is enthusiastically misunderstood quite a bit. In that sense, I suppose it makes sense for “All the Best Inmates Have Daddy Issues” to return to it since the self-aware crudity of Harley Quinn is a useful tool for both making a point and berating those who miss that point once it has been made. But this is a show that is often about Poison Ivy (Lake Bell) just as much as it’s about Harley (Kaley Cuoco), so Harley Quinn Season 2, Episode 6 smartly pulls double-duty as an exploration of not just Harley’s first meeting with the Joker (Alan Tudyk) but also her best friend.
What this episode does immediately is offer a reason for why Arkham’s inmates so frequently escape captivity – it isn’t just because they’re supervillains and that’s what they do, although that’s certainly a part of it, it’s also that while there they seem to suffer horrendous abuses of their human rights. While it’s played in a daft way, there’s a utility in Arkham staffers and elected officials and indeed Batman (Diedrich Bader) and Jim Gordon (Christopher Meloni) delighting in the torture of the inmates. When Harley – as Dr. Harleen Quinzel – first arrives, she’s drawn to Joker and Ivy as victims, and not necessarily as their arch villainous personas.
It’s quite unintentionally hysterical that pre-Two-Face Harvey Dent graces our screens in “All the Best Inmates Have Daddy Issues” at around the same time that footage has emerged of Vice President Mike Pence asking if he should deliver empty boxes of PPE to a Virginia hospital for the photo opportunity. This has since been proven as a joke, but it’s not a very good joke for someone like Mike Pence to make, and this Harvey is basically Mike Pence if he wasn’t joking. Harley Quinn Season 2, Episode 6 leans into this archetype, among others, and it’s both stronger for it and a little bit more grounded, which I suppose is just as well since it attempts to ask quite a serious question about redemption and rehabilitation.
While revisiting the longstanding Harley/Joker relationship in this show would have no doubt been enjoyable on its own terms, reframing it as background for the show’s most essential relationship is clever and really works out in Harley Quinn Season 2, Episode 6. More importantly, it feels on-brand. Over the last few weeks, Harley Quinn has delighted in playing with expectations; its Batman-focused episode last week was really a leg-up for Batgirl, for instance, so the fact that very few of the recurring cast have substantial roles here isn’t much of a leap. Neither is the idea that Joker has seemingly been rehabilitated – encountering this reformed version of the Clown Prince of Crime is what prompts the reverie in the first place – or the idea Dr. Psycho’s (Tony Hale) meddling might have reawakened the monster. Even that works as a bit of a gag at the expense of comic book storytelling, which has only a passing relationship with lasting change. Of course, Joker couldn’t be reformed – he’s got another arc to get through. Seems fitting enough to me.
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