Movie Review - Harley Quinn: A Very Problematic Valentine's Day Special

The release of the series first-holiday special ought to be reassuring in more ways than one for those of us who have been counting down the days until a new season of Harley Quinn hits HBO Max (and perhaps fretting over its status on the streamer in light of recent cancellations), as it will serve as a reminder that the show will continue to air on HBO Max.

It’s great to know that Harley Quinn (Kaley Cuoco), Poison Ivy (Lake Bell), Clayface (Alan Tudyk), and many more of our Gotham-based favorites are still kicking about — especially of the amorous and lusty sort — even though the start date for the next fourth season is still TBD (although truth be told those two things should be more of an “and” than an “or” more often).

The extra-fun-sized special, which clocks in at 44 minutes, can sometimes overstay its welcome when compared to the show’s typical format of 23 minutes; however, the absolute mayhem that results from the story will leave you feeling a little overwhelmed by everything you’ve just been witness to while simultaneously praising the animation gods for this delightful gift in the lull between seasons.


Harley Quinn: A Very Problematic Valentine’s Day Special Trailer

Now that they have officially become BFFs-now-GFFs (Best Friends Forever-now-Girlfriends Forever), Harley’s greatest challenge in planning this unique event is figuring out how to give Ivy the most memorable Valentine’s Day she has ever experienced. Harley can persuade herself that Ivy wants something huge, grand, and over-the-top.

Even though her girlfriend insists otherwise, Harley goes to great lengths to enact a scenario that probably falls under the dictionary as the definition of extra. For Ivy, an evening spent in comfortable pajamas binge-watching any number of shows before capping it off with some nighttime loving is the ideal scenario.

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But the chaos resulting from Harley’s well-meaning but ultimately misguided actions leads to some of the show’s most ridiculous elements. One of these elements involves a character who, after unintentionally growing to kaiju size, begins destroying Gotham in a lust-filled and horny rampage.

Showrunners Justin Halpern and Patrick Schumacker’s insistence that Harley and Ivy won’t be breaking up, despite the relationship grenades that might be lobbed in their direction from time to time, was already one of the things that made the series refreshing. However, relationship grenades might be lobbed in their direction occasionally. A decision like this sets the show apart not only from others of the live-action genre, but also from the medium of comics themselves.

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When it is likely that a different writer will come in and take over the task of writing characters for a particular story arc, there is a good chance that some previously established relationships will undergo significant shifts, be turned on their heads, or be eliminated entirely to provide a fresh start for the narrative arcs.

It ensures that larger, bold storyline decisions, such as Batman and Catwoman tying the married for good, will only continue to be that way for as long as they are in the hands of that particular writer. Who knows if a divorce will be in the cards by the time someone else picks up the baton, or if the marriage will even have been in the first place to begin with?

When you need to inject a certain level of drama into a long-form narrative to keep your audience’s interest, choosing to keep characters in a relationship for an extended period is a daring move on television. This is especially true when you need to keep the audience interested in the story throughout its entirety. But I have always believed that you can still put your committed couple through the wringer here and there without needing to split them up, and Harley Quinn’s Valentine’s Day Special demonstrates the perfect example of how to do it just that.

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When compared to Harley’s previous relationship with the Joker, her dedication to Ivy is still in its early stages, and this means that there are going to be some growing pains as they figure out not only how to acknowledge each other’s differences, but also how to make sure that they are not bulldozing over each other’s wishes because they think they know what the other person wants.

In contrast, Harley’s previous relationship with the Joker lasted considerably. The reassurance that these two women will remain committed to each other even when things go very, very hornily awry means it is even more fun to sit back and watch the shenanigans play out. This is especially true for longtime show fans who have followed it for a long time.

Bane (James Adomian) finds himself trying to barge in on the Riddler (Jim Rash) and Clock King’s date night simply because he doesn’t have anything else to do — or anyone to spend the holiday with. Clayface ends up being catfished by someone using Jason Momoa as their profile picture, but it turns out to be… not Jason Momoa. In typical Harley Quinn fashion, these characters’ paths all inevitably converge by the time things have devolved into mass destruction (and orgies!) across the city of Gotham.

Although these storylines play out somewhat in the background of Harley’s increasingly unhinged plot to engineer Ivy’s Best Valentine’s Day Ever, in typical Harley Quinn fashion, these storylines play out somewhat in the background of Harley’s increasingly unhinged plot to engineer Ivy’s Best Valentine’s Day In some ways; these side plots are not the most interesting part of the overall episode; nonetheless, witnessing an ignorant Bane fumbles his way into a meet-cute with a dominatrix sets up an unexpectedly charming romantic storyline that, if the show is renewed for a fourth season, may potentially continue.

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Beyond the mayhem, Harley Quinn’s Valentine’s Day special is packed with references that any superfan of classic rom-com will appreciate. Examples of these references include the When Harry Met Sally-esque segments interspersed throughout the special and feature both classic and unexpected DC couples. In addition, so many more good gags haven’t been mentioned because it would ruin their impact if they were. Oh, and since it’s out there now: yep, the cameo appearance by Brett Goldstein is just as charming as you’ve imagined it to be.

Regardless of the mayhem that ensues, one thing that Harley Quinn is always able to bring attention to is the fact that the leading ladies of the story fell in love with each other due to their hearts, which are the most genuine aspects of themselves and one another that is hidden beneath their tough exteriors.

Cuoco and Bell have always been brilliant at depicting those moments in their characters’ lives when they eventually put everything aside and engage with one another from a place of genuine honesty. This special will remind you why you fell in love with this program in the first place as Harley and Ivy rediscover each other and fall in love again.