Harley Quinn Season 4 Review – Absence makes the heart grow fonder

July 27, 2023
Jonathon Wilson 0
HBO Max, Streaming Service, TV, TV Reviews
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Harley Quinn Season 4 Review - Absence makes the heart grow fonder


With the violence and the comedy very much intact despite some – arguably necessary – changes to the status quo, Harley Quinn continues to carve out a really distinct space in the adult animation market.

This review of the Max series Harley Quinn Season 4 does not contain spoilers.

Harley Quinn has had a fascinating trajectory since its debut on the now-defunct DC Universe streaming platform back in 2019. And I don’t mean the show’s inevitable transition to Max with the rest of DC’s small-screen superhero efforts, either.

For one thing, Harley has survived the move with her brand of anarchic, self-referential, strictly adult humor intact, and has managed to embrace a sense of deliberate “wokeness” entirely without compromise. This is an animated superhero show on a major streaming platform that is explicitly about sexuality, relationships, identity, and in a roundabout way acceptance, and it makes both itself and the storied lineage of its beloved comic book underpinnings the butt of the joke.

The show’s fourth season, while perhaps easing off on some of the best dynamics to better explore new ideas, not all of which work as well, still maintains the most essential aspects of the character and her show. It’s funny. It’s daring. It’s unpredictable. And there’s no other piece of contemporary mainstream superhero media quite like it.

Harley Quinn Season 4 review and plot summary

The fourth season picks right up from the end of the third, with Harley (Kaley Cuoco) having joined the Bat-family to leave her villain ways behind. But that also means leaving her girlfriend Poison Ivy (Lake Bell) behind, at least professionally, since she has taken on a new role as the leader of the Legion of Doom.

This sets up the two major conflicts of this season. The first is Harley’s innate anarchist and penchant for murder making it difficult for her to fit in with the very square Batgirl (Briana Cuoco), Nightwing (Harvey Guillén), and Robin (Jacob Tremblay). And the second is how the sudden change in circumstances causes problems for Harley and Ivy’s relationship.

Luckily, this isn’t as maudlin or as serious as it sounds. It’s mostly just an excuse for jokes or elaborate scenarios, most of which rope in recurring characters like The Joker (Alan Tudyk), Clayface (also Tudyk), and King Shark (Ron Funches) so that the dynamics can be shifted slightly around the change in circumstances.

The only lamentable consequence of this approach, really, is that it keeps Harley and Ivy separate for longer than the show usually does, and it’s just notably better when they’re together.

In many ways, though, this is the logical progression of a show in its fourth season. Yes, this group started out as an ensemble in what was essentially a break-up comedy, but the show has moved beyond that, and the characters must follow suit. This, and the fact that many of the individual storylines are very enjoyable on their own terms, makes the inevitable trade-off in more cozy intimate moments more worth it.

And no concessions have been made in the humor, which continues to take jubilant aim at the very nature of itself and its DC and Marvel contemporaries. But Harley’s refusal to forget she’s in a comedy show first and foremost also sets up fun interactions with new characters like Nightwing and Batgirl, and the sometimes-ludicrous take on established characters elsewhere occasionally amounts to some of the season’s overall highlights. Bane, for instance, is the best part of Ivy’s girl-boss sexism-in-the-workplace story arc by a country mile.

Is Harley Quinn Season 4 good or bad?

Look, it’s still really good. While I’m on the subject it’s often impressively and surprisingly good, even after all this time, and while the separation of the leads will be a bone of contention for some, the upsides are well worth it in the long run.

And, crucially, none of the changes detract from the core experience. It’s still just as funny, daring, and violent.

Is Harley Quinn Season 4 worth watching?

Fans of the show who have made it this far are unlikely to find anything particularly off-putting about this latest season, the temporary physical separation of Harley and Ivy perhaps notwithstanding.

Since it has a history of aggravating the right people, Harley Quinn certainly won’t be enjoyed by everyone, but much like how every character has a place in the show, the series has its own, very specific space in the market.

What did you think of Harley Quinn Season 4? Comment below.

You can watch this series with a subscription to Max.

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