What is Harley Quinn?
Harley Quinn (2019) is an adult animated TV series revolving around Harley Quinn. In this show, Harley finally leaves the Joker after realizing that he doesn’t care for her at all, and tries to strike out on her own as a supervillain. It’s a comedic series, but it does have serious moments. Many of those moments involve her ex boyfriend.
Who is The Joker? What Has He Done?
He’s THE JOKER. I don’t feel like I have to explain much about who he is unless there is a definitive origin. In this show, he seduced Harley (who was already suffering some sanity issues before meeting him) into being his partner in crime, having her fall in a vat of acid, risking her life and disfiguring her, to prove her love to him. Joker’s abuse ranged from minor, like purposely out staging Harley in every turn during heists to actually putting her life in danger, such as tricking her into being a suicide bomber (Harley thought it was a romantic dance) for the police and Batman to allow him to make his escape.
Joker abandoned Harley to Batman after they attacked a yacht full of rich people, and she was in prison for a year. He didn’t even try to break her out like she anticipated him to. After Harley’s best friend, Poison Ivy broke her out of prison along with other prisoners, Harley confronts Joker for not rescuing her, but he gaslights her, making her think he wanted to, but he was too worried that it would endanger Harley's life, naturally making her fall for him again. Ivy and Riddler had a plan to convince Harley that Joker does not care about her, so Riddler has Batman and Harley dangling over vats of acid (it’s really margarita mix, but Harley and Joker didn’t know that), and has Joker choose who to spare. Since Joker wants to be the one to kill Batman, he chooses to spare Batman, and allows Harley to fall to, what they thought, would be her death.
After finally seeing the Joker’s true colors (for a while at least), Harley changes her outfit, goes to Joker’s base, and breaks up with him. Of course Joker doesn’t take rejection well, so he orders his henchmen to beat her up brutally, and orders them to kill her when Harley refused his offer to come back. But with a clever use of explosives, Harley managed to defeat Joker’s men, destroy his base, and spare him, only to let him watch her make it as a supervillain without him. For the next few episodes, he’s been light on the villainy. He does have members of the Legion of Doom try to kill Harley and Ivy when Harley refuses to say she's nothing without The Joker, comedically takes a score away from Harley before having her thrown out a train, and some childish insults, but he starts being played much more seriously in episode 9.
Harley is now a member of the Legion of Doom, and has a request of Joker’s shut down (he wanted a ton of money to get a skyscraper with his face on it as a TV, and Harley points out he doesn't even have a plan yet). Joker actually thanks Harley for pointing it out, and says he wanted somebody to finally have the guts to speak out against him in the Legion of Doom. Most of the episode, he acted like a good friend to Harley, congratulating her on how far she’s gotten, and even letting her have moments to shine on a heist for old time’s sake. When Batman arrives, Joker has Harley leave with him on his escape helicopter instead of abandoning her like she anticipated. Both share a kiss while fleeing... only for Joker to push Harley out of the helicopter to fall to her death. This "graceful loser/nice guy" act was just a facade in an act of revenge to make Harley fall for him again, only to rub it in her face when he betrays her (Batman saved Harley).
It was later revealed that Joker was working with Scarecrow and the Queen of Fables to overthrow the Legion of Doom and take over Gotham. He had Scarecrow bait Ivy into coming to a power plant she intends to destroy, gas her to unconsciousness, and drain Ivy of her pheromones. Scarecrow would then mix them with his fear gas to mutate the trees in Gotham into savage monsters, and have them run rampant across Gotham, slaughtering several innocents. When the Justice League (without Batman) arrive, the Joker has the Queen of Fables trap them in her book and kill Harley and her crew (Queen of Fables has them sent up a beanstalk to a fairy tale giant's castle, but Kite-Man saves them). Joker also has his newly built tower rise through the Legion of Doom headquarters, destroying it and likely killing all of the Legion members who were there. Eventually, when Ivy takes the combination of her pheromones and Scarecrow's gas to mutate herself into a giant (but still in control) and destroys the tree monsters, Joker fires a harpoon through Ivy's chest just as she and Harley repaired their friendship, seemingly killing her, and laughs at Harley from his lair about it.
After Batman and Harley fail at their plan to work together to take out Joker because of Clayface's stupidity, Joker gasses Batman to unconsciousness, and kidnaps Harley's crew, placing a bounty on Harley's head to have her brought to him. For the next week, with no superheroes to stop him, Joker rules Gotham like a tyrant, killing those who don't laugh at his jokes, and torturing Harley's crew and Batman. (Clayface, Sy's and Dr Psycho's torture are played for laughs, but King Shark having his teeth painfully pulled out and Batman being beaten bloody and used as cuckoo clock have more of a sinister black comedy tone to it).
Joker gets bored and kills Scarecrow after he unmasks Batman as Bruce Wayne. Harley shows up at his door and threatens to kill herself if Joker doesn’t release her crew. He lets them go, but mainly out of spite and that she doesn’t want her to die on her own terms. He demands that he puts her old outfit on when she was with him or he will kill her crew. He tried to seduce her one last time, even saying he needed her more than she needed him. Harley intended to stab him when they came close together. She does, but Joker does too. They fight with Joker winning, and saying that he does not intend to kill Harley, but to erase her completely. His men take her into the vat of acid that she came out of before the show’s events, and says that this acid will not only take away her enhanced abilities, but will also erase her memories as Harley Quinn.
Harley jumps to the vat only to be saved by Poison Ivy (turns out she was buried and needed time to heal, being part plant, Harley’s tears being the water she needed to fully recover). The two managed to defeat Joker and throw him into the vat, but out of one last act of spite, he activates bombs to level Gotham City, nearly killing Harley and Ivy from the debris before Batman saved them both. (Seemingly sacrificing himself, but there’s a good chance he survived, and there’ll be a good chance that Joker will regain his old self around season 2 or later.)
From his abuse to Harley to murdering thousands of innocent people to his penchant for torture (both physical and psychological), Joker really stands out in this adult animated show.
This show has a case of black and gray morality and is also a dark comedy, so Joker’s crimes have ranged from serious to being played for laughs, like crippling Jim Gordon’s wife or bombing a talk show host.
The villain protagonists’ morals are pretty skewed as well, despite being sickened by Joker’s treatment to Harley. Several atrocities they cause or are involved in aren't treated seriously. Dr Psycho, for example deliberately made his son's life a living hell to try and raise him to be a good villain, like murdering every friend he's had or locking him in a basement for days, and when he reveals his motivation for why he did it, it's treated like a heartwarming moment by the characters. Ivy's sapient plant, Frank, murders and eats a little boy who was plant sitting him while Ivy was in prison, and the boy's parents when they investigate. Harley and the crew found the destroyed Gotham a beautiful sight to see, since there are no other major villains, and she’s the new "queen of crime." So yeah, while this show has Gotham in a crapsack world not unlike Rick and Morty, at least a good number of the more sympathetic villains were disgusted with Joker’s actions.
Leaning on a yes.