Monday, September 19, 2022

REVIEW: 'Harley Quinn' - Harley and Ivy Reckon With Their Lives Evolving in Separate Ways in 'The Horse and the Sparrow'

HBO Max's Harley Quinn - Episode 3.10 "The Horse and the Sparrow"

After her terraforming plan goes awry, Ivy is enticed by an offer to take over the Legion of Doom, while Harley questions her path forward.

"The Horse and the Sparrow" was written by Sarah Nevada-Smith and directed by Joonki Park

Life is exciting and scary. Harley and Ivy love each other. They don't want anything to jeopardize that. And yet, they are evolving in separate ways. Who they are becoming may not line up to create a perfect relationship. They will do anything to secure their future together as a couple. They have overcome so much in order to get to this point. However, Harley ultimately stopped Ivy's plans to terraform Gotham. Ivy had a literal transformation. She and Frank note how many people comment on her new appearance. It's stunning to the people around her. Her close friends loved her before she achieved this villainous goal. They were still terrified by what she could accomplish. She had to improvise once Bruce projected his own insecurities onto the formula. He brought people back from the dead. Ivy only wanted to awaken the plant life below Gotham. Bruce allowed so much more to happen in pursuit of reuniting with his parents. It was all a complete failure. Harley couldn't stand by while innocent people were killed. She never saw that as an inevitable consequence of this plan. She wanted to support Ivy no matter what. And yet, she had to stop her girlfriend from achieving her ultimate vision for what this city could look like. That immediately creates tension. It doesn't destroy their relationship. That's a crucial detail. This could present as a massive obstacle that would doom them forever. They simply want different things out of life. It's terrifying for these characters to evolve beyond their central identities. Joker was the ultimate villain. He is now the Mayor of Gotham implementing socialist policies. Bruce created an army of zombies to take over the city. As such, he was completely unable to serve as the hero Gotham needed. Ivy wanted nothing to do with the Legion of Doom. She is now given an offer to run it without Lex Luthor looking over her shoulder dictating the terms. And finally, Harley can no longer compromise herself in order to support whatever her partner wants. Ivy never saw a parallel between her and Joker. Her relationship with Harley was drastically different than his. It was an improvement for all involved. Some of the same issues still persisted. Ivy doesn't want to hold Harley back. Harley still wants to be an agent of chaos capable of killing people who wrong her. That's no longer the direction life has created for her. It takes true power in order to accept that. Joker knows no one is going to kill him. Meanwhile, it's not sensible for Bruce to avoid the punishment he deserves for his tax crimes. Harley can't lead the Legion of Doom with Ivy. That's not the dream she wants. Instead, it's more aspirational to join Batgirl as the hero the city may ultimately deserve. It's all a work in progress. It also showcases such a strong willingness to subvert the expectations of this genre and the characters who have been a part of the DC mythology for decades.

This season was one of intense evolution. Of course, some characters stayed fundamentally the same. Bane was the annoying villain no one wanted to hang out with or include him in their devious plans. He actually had the funniest recurring joke of the season with his obsession of the pasta maker Ivy refused to return after she didn't marry Kite Man. He's best served in that role of stability. Not everyone has to change in order to ensure different points are conveyed each season. The characters at the heart of the story can still provide that insight. Plus, it's an ongoing struggle for them. Bruce has been fixated on the death of his parents for his entire life. It has blocked out every other memory from having meaning. Sure, he hopes Selina is at the film premiere to support him. She actually just sees the perfect opportunity to steal his mother's necklace. That's valuable. It also showcases how she has no doubts about her place in this world. She deserves to be with someone who is just as secure in their identity. Selina may not be a traditional hero or villain. She is celebrated by both sides of this divided city. She operates with confidence no matter where she goes. She doesn't have to explain that balance to those struggling either. It's ultimately up to them to find their way. Bruce faces his punishment knowing he has some soul searching to do. Harley is willing to help him too. She learned he was Batman. Everything suddenly made sense. She is willing to keep his secret as well. She can provide the therapy he needs. She is willing to be there for him. This secret could easily be exploited if she wanted to destroy the heroes that save Gotham from every threat. Harley doesn't want to do that. Sure, that means secrets will persist in her relationship with Ivy. That doesn't mean they are doomed to fail. They have the freedom to explore all of these pursuits. Harley doesn't immediately fit in with the rest of the Bat team. Barbara is excited for her friend to be there. That's encouraging enough. Harley hopes to show a new side of herself to Gotham. That's uplifting. Of course, this city will still project whatever they want onto people regardless of their feelings. Clayface is continually refused the satisfaction of a brilliant performance being praised. It's easier for the world to believe Billy Bob Thornton is a shapeshifter instead of being dead. That's a killer punchline. The lack of recognition as himself is what is truly devastating even though Clayface did a good job in the film. He can't see that. Instead, it's all the personal pressure to be the best. Everyone can relate to that. It's not always a good impulse. Recognizing that and coping with it were the central tenets of this season. Not everyone succeeded. Growth still comes from that. The most crucial bonds still remain in place. They will continue to face obstacles. The willingness to address them instead of falling apart shows the true maturity of this ensemble and overall storytelling. It's so smart while also having fun with the silly aspect of these infamous characters.