Recap / The New Batman Adventures E21 "Mad Love"
Comissioner Gordon goes to the dentist as part of a required health checkup, voicing his displeasure all the while. This displeasure proves especially well-founded this time when it's revealed that The Joker
and Harley Quinn have taken the place of his dentist and the assistant in order to kill him. Fortunately for Gordon, Batman
bursts in just before Joker can start drilling into Gordon's skull, revealing that he quickly worked out a chattering teeth toy clue about this latest caper. Seemingly just to rub it in, Batman tells the Joker the chattering teeth gag is rather lackluster for him, only for Harley to reveal (to the Joker's further irritation) that the clue was her idea. Annoyed but undeterred, The Joker tosses Gordon a grenade, keeping Batman busy so that he and Harley can escape.
Later, in his latest lair in an abandoned toy factory, Joker is trying to come up with a new plan. Harley tries to seduce him and feed him a few ideas of her own, but the Joker berates her for her lack of creativity and angrily blows them off. The Joker then momentarily reconsiders one of his scrapped plans to kill Batman in a tank of piranhas, but suddenly remembers that he couldn't get the piranhas to smile, ruining the joke potential. Harley makes one last effort to seduce the Joker, but he kicks her out. She then laments her plight at not being able to advance her relationship with her puddin', and blames Batman for this.
In a flashback, Harley then recalls when she was just Dr. Harleen Quinzel, a fresh new intern at Arkham Asylum. The Joker somehow managed to smuggle a rose with a card into her office, so Harleen went to ask him about it. The Joker's initial attempts at seducing her were unsuccessful until he offered to tell her his biggest secrets. She then set up an appointment with the Joker, confident that his psychological tricks wouldn't work on her. However, the Joker's sob story about his past
ultimately won her over. Beginning to sympathize with the Joker, Harley eventually came to believe the narrative he spun her during their following sessions, where he painted himself as merely being a humble, misunderstood soul who only wants to make people laugh, suffering unfair prosecution at hands of the law and the villainous Batman in particular.
Some time later, after the Joker escaped for a week and Batman came dragging him back to Arkham beaten and bruised, Harley lost it. In a fury at Batman for his "brutality" she stole several pieces of merchandise from a novelty store and put them together into her costume as a super-villain and broke the Joker out of his cell, adopting the "Harley Quinn" name he'd suggested to her earlier while seducing her.
Returning in the present, Harley now plots to make one of the Joker's scrapped plans work after all in order to get rid of Batman so she can finally be happy with her puddin'. She lures Batman with a tape warning of the Joker planning a Roaring Rampage of Revenge
and offering to turn him in to the police in exchange for immunity, and captures him when he falls for it.
Batman wakes up hanging over a tank of piranhas just as the Joker plotted, except hanging upside down so that the fish look will seem to be smiling. Harley tells Batman that successfully killing him will be a testament of her love to the Joker, meaning the two can finally settle down. When she tells him this, Batman is at first incredulous and then, to her surprise and disquiet, bursts into laughter at her gullibility. When he finally stops laughing, he explains that the story about his childhood that Joker told her back in Arkham was just one of several he's told to win the sympathy of various people who've tried to analyze him over the years. Hurt and infuriated, Harley starts to lower Batman into the tank, but he convinces Harley to call the Joker first, saying that he won't believe she has succeeded in killing his greatest foe unless he sees it for himself.
When the Joker arrives, Harley happily welcomes him only for him to beat and berate her, insisting that he wants to be the one to kill Batman
. When she explains that technically he is
killing Batman since the Death Trap
was his plan, he points out that her having to explain why it "works" means it's not funny and therefore not worthy of being one of his jokes. In a fury, he then slaps Harley around, sending her reeling out a window and taking a fall from several stories up into a pile of rubbish in the alley. Injured and barely conscious, she feebly groans at her mistake as the police arrive, blaming herself for not getting the "joke" in the Joker's methods.
The Joker, meanwhile, is just about to release Batman, hoping to put this whole embarrassing incident behind him, when it occurs to him to try shooting Batman after all while he still has him at his mercy. Batman, however, is no longer incapacitated and escapes by breaking the tank open and getting hold of his belt while the Joker is distracted so he can pick the padlock on his chains. The Joker makes a run for it and escapes on a train, only to find Batman has caught up with him again. Rubbing it in, Batman explains that his Batman Gambit
of getting Harley to call him was his only hope for escape, and that Harley came closer to killing him than The Joker ever did. Furious at these humiliating taunts, the Joker attacks, trading blows until Batman knocks him off the train and into a smokestack.
Later, as a newscaster reports the disastrous outcome to the Joker's latest caper on TV, an intern at Arkham wheels the heavily bruised and bandaged Harley to her holding cell. In an internal monologue, the much-chastened Harlene Quinzel tells herself that she finally sees the Joker for what he really is, and resolves to get over him and get on with her life. As she lies recuperating in her cell, however, she sees a rose with a "Feel Better Soon" card from him, and promptly tumbles right back into her Mad Love
with him again.
This episode was adapted from an Eisner Award-winning one-shot special-issue graphic novel of The Batman Adventures
, the tie-in comic of Batman: The Animated Series
- A Day in the Limelight: Harley is the star here, of course.
- Adaptational Attractiveness: A variation present in the flashback. In the graphic novel, Harley's original costume, worn when she busts the Joker out the first time, is an obvious rush job, shoddily pieced together from mismatched and ill-fitting clothing. In the animated version, however, it's her usual costume for this continuity, and fits perfectly.
- Adaptational Heroism: While she doesn't deserve how she ends up in either version, the graphic novel shows us several more of Harley's failings that aren't in the cartoon, attributing her tragic downfall more to her being lazy and weak-willed than to the Joker's sociopathic superficial charm and talent for manipulation. In college, the graphic novel heavily implies, she was sleeping with at least one of her professors to get a better grade she didn't feel like studying hard to earn, and she only wanted a prestigious psychology degree in order to make lots of money selling fluff therapy books as a pop-psychologist quack.
- Adapted Out: Alfred appeared in the original graphic novel, where Batman relayed the stuff about Harley which was cut out. Harvey Bullock and Renee Montoya also appeared briefly, both in a scene where Gordon recieves a call about the Joker (racing on his way to Harley after she capture Batman) and being the ones who found Harley after the Joker knocked her through the window. Bullock also appeared in the scene where Gordon showed Batman Harley's video in the comic.
- Armor-Piercing Question: Harley insists that the Joker is more sympathetic than most people think, saying, "He told me things! Secret things he never told anybody!". Batman immediately deflates that position by asking, "Was it his line about the abusive father? Or the one about the runaway mom? He's gained a lot of sympathy with that one."
- Art Evolution: The original graphic novel was made during the Batman: The Animated Series era and Bruce Timm used those designs when he did the comics; the episode was made during the New Batman Adventures and no attampt was made to give Batman or the Joker designs in the modified style that harkens back to the B: TAS era during the flashback.
- Backstory: For Harley Quinn.
- Batman Gambit: Provides the current page image. Batman escapes by getting Harley to call the Joker, as Batman knows the Joker wants to be the only one to kill him.
- Big Damn Heroes: Just another night's work for Batman.
- Bill... Bill... Junk... Bill...: The brooding Joker summarily rejects possible capers one after the other as being "Boring. Lame. Not funny. Been done. Too Riddler!"
- Bowdlerise: Harley's unethical "extra-curricular activities" in her college days aren't mentioned in the cartoon. Harley Quinn's nightie is more see-through in the graphic novel, the Joker does some extremely nasty muffled swearing in his sleep, and the injured Harley Quinn at the end is shown lying in a small puddle of her blood, whereas in the cartoon her injuries are all internal.
- Call Forward: Dr. Leland was once Dr. Harleen Quinzel's supervisor at Arkham; in the present she's the latter's main psychiatrist in the aslyum.
- Cerebus Syndrome: For the DCAU Joker as a whole, after this it was hard to see Joker as anything other than the soul-less monster that he is. The appalling and brutal domestic abuse shown here is still very hard to stomach.
- Chronic Villainy: All it takes is a single rose and a note from Mr. J for Harley to go tumbling back into her old habits with him.
- Continuity Nod: The Joker remembers his plan to feed Batman to smiling piranhas, which he had to scrap as he couldn't get them to smile, noting that they were even immune to his venom from "The Laughing Fish" which worked so well on other species.
- Don't Explain the Joke: As Joker says while chewing out Harley, "If you have to explain the joke, there is no joke!"
- Downer Ending: Dear God is it one. Harley's attempt to prove herself to her Mistuh Jay results in the most epic Epic Fail of her career, she's almost killed, the Joker gets away and survives what would be certain death for anyone else, as he always does, and Harley's brief moment of sanity at the end, seeing the Joker for what he is, vanishes very quickly. The only good thing here is that Batman is really able to get the better of the villain, but it's still not much.
- Evil Laugh: From Batman, since the idea of Harley being with The Joker is just that ridiculous to him. Harley's never heard it before, and begs him to stop, as he's creeping her out.
- First Name Ultimatum: Joker shouting: "HAAAAARRRR-LEEEEY!"
- Flashback: How Harley's backstory is revealed.
- Foe Yay: In-Universe, Harley sees this as the reason she must Murder the Hypotenuse: Batman being that hypotenuse.
- Freudian Couch: We see a montage of how Harley Quinn met The Joker while she gave him psychoanalysis. It starts with him on the couch, but as he twists Harlene's mind, Joker turns up in the psychiatrist's chair in later scenes, with her on the couch.
- Good Is Not Soft: Batman while tied up pulls his Batman Gambit on Harley, knowing that Joker would come and be angry enough to stop her if she called him. He remains The Stoic as the Joker pushes her out the window, and focused on taking "Puddin'" down.
- Heel–Face Mole: Harley lures Batman into her trap with a message claiming she's turned against the Joker because he's planning to kill everyone in Gotham City.
- Hidden Depths: Harleen not only earned a medical degree before her Start of Darkness, Adaptation Explanation Extrication aside, but she's the only intern at Arkham that we see, meaning she probably had to fight tooth and nail to get that coveted spot.
- Ignored Epiphany: At the end of the episode, Harley realizes the truth about the Joker - only to snap right back into her old infatuation when she sees a flower and note from him.
- Ignore the Fan Service: The Joker pays no attention to a hot blonde in a see-through negligee kneeling on the table in front of him, inviting him to "rev up [his] Harley."
- Imagine Spot: The graphic novel shows Harley's fantasies of living Happily Ever After with the Joker, whose murderous insanity is smoothly combined with the veneer of a Standard '50s Father (e.g. giving lethal explosive cigars to the doctors at Harley's maternity bed).
- Also in the graphic novel: after Harley calls him to come see her kill Batman, the Joker imagines Penguin, Two-Face, and Riddler mocking him as "the guy whose girlfriend killed Batman". This doesn't exactly improve his mood.
- Kirk Summation: Batman gives a rather smug one to the Joker on top of the train, explaining that his Batman Gambit was the only way he could have escaped.
- Lima Syndrome: Harley fell hard for the Joker while she was employed at Arkham.
- Mad Love: Adapted from the Trope Namer.
- Multiple-Choice Past: The Joker has "a million" sob stories about his childhood to tell to anyone willing to listen. As Batman notes in the graphic novel, like any professional comedian, he uses whatever material will work.
- Murder the Hypotenuse: This is Harley's truly deranged goal: without the Batman, she's convinced, the Joker can be hers at last!
- Near Villain Victory: Batman even admits this to the Joker in his "The Reason You Suck" Speech, that Harley came closer to killing him that he ever did.
- Never Bring a Knife to a Fist Fight: A very enraged Joker attacks Batman, and seems to be giving him more trouble in a fistfight than he usually does... until he pulls out a knife, and Batman instantly knocks him off the train.
- Never Found the Body: Discussed and invoked by Batman. He tells Harley that even if she did kill him, the Joker wouldn't believe it because his remains could appear faked, done specifically to have her tell the Joker to come over.
- Never Heard That One Before: During their first conversation, The Joker points out how Dr. Harleen Quinzel's name sounds especially like "Harlequin." The good doctor notes with some subdued annoyance that it's hardly the first time anyone's pointed that out to her.
- Never My Fault: After the Joker kicks her out for pestering him with her seduction attempts, Harley gives a fairly accurate description of what a mess her life has become. She then declares that it's all Batman's fault.
- Never Recycle Your Schemes: Averted. In "The Laughing Fish", the Joker hoped to use his Joker smile formula on piranhas, to make the victims think their predators are smiling before killing them, but the formula was unsuccessful on them. However, Harley figures out that she should turn the victim upside down so that the piranhas seem to smile after all.
- No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Joker delivers one to Harley after the latter calls him to see her kill Batman. Normally Harley holds out on her own, but she's shocked that Joker would get angry at her for carrying out his plans and improving on it. It culminates in him pushing her out the window and not even checking if she survived.
- No-One Could Survive That: The Gotham news thinks it unlikely that the Joker could have survived falling into that smokestack, though the reporter notes that he's survived this kind of thing before. Their first instinct is correct, however, since the flower and card at the end mean he's survived again. This is further lampshaded in the graphic novel: when Batman knocks him into the smokestack, Joker screams "Not again!" in frustration... meaning this isn't the first time he's ever fallen into a smokestack?
- The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: One of the reasons why the Joker is so angry at Harley for pulling off one of his plans.
- Origins Episode: For Harley Quinn.
- OOC Is Serious Business: Batman never laughs, so Harley immediately detects something seriously amiss when he starts laughing.
- Out-Gambitted: Harley Quinn actually gets Batman to fall for one of her traps, but then he uses one of his own gambits to exploit both her feelings and the Joker's predictable reaction.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Dr. Joan Leland towards Harleen Quinzel; the former is nice to the latter following their initial meeting, while gently telling her that the Arkham interns are bigger than a first-year psychiatry resident can handle.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
- Batman gives the Joker one after he breaks free from his bonds. Unlike him, Harley managed to subdue Batman and nearly succeeded in finishing him off.
- Batman gives one to Harley for having served the Joker for so long and believing that he ever cared about her.
- Sdrawkcab Alias: When Joker is pretending to be a dentist at the beginning, the plaque on the door reads, Dr. J. Reko D.D.S.
- Series Finale: For the whole BTAS collection. (In airing order; in production order "Judgment Day" was the last to be produced.)
- Sextra Credit: In the graphic novel, Harlene Quinzel is shown getting a bad grade on a thesis of hers, and then leaving one of her professors Sex Dressed in his office while she walks out with a perfect grade on that same thesis.
- Shark Pool: Done with piranhas. The Joker had concocted it as one of his many potential ways of eliminating Batman, but gave up on it because there was no way to make it funny. He had wanted to call it the "Death of a Thousand Smiles", but piranhas are incapable of smiling, even when given Joker-Venom. Harley Quinn tried to implement the plan herself to impress him, reasoning that the frowns would look like smiles if you lowered Batman into the tank upside-down. Joker was furious, however, because she had to explain the joke.
- Shout-Out: The frame of Harley's backstory is almost identical to Clarice Starling's in The Silence of the Lambs. Young impressionable Psychiatrist/FBI agent in training is sent to psychoanalyse a psychotic killer and instead is disarmed and psychoanalysed by the killer himself. Much like Starling, Harley is also implied to be hiding her much lower class accent.
- Shown Their Work: As this episode points out, a Domestic Abuse couple doesn't start out with the abusive partner being mean. The Joker makes himself out to be a sad sack to Harley, while making her laugh and winning her over gradually. In the present, he's given up on that act, though Harley hopes that killing Batman will revert him back to that self.
- Snap Back: Harley gives up on the Joker at the end, and then falls back in love with him just as the episode concludes. This, alas, is entirely in character for her - see Chronic Villainy above.
- Start of Darkness: Harley's downward spiral into villainy and Mad Love is displayed in flashbacks, more detailed in the graphic novel.
- Stating the Simple Solution: Harley asks the Joker "Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?" in regards to dealing with Batman. Ironically, he comes remarkably close to taking her advice later on.
- Themed Aliases: The Joker poses as "Dr. J. Reko". (In the graphic novel, it's "Dr. Laffo" instead.)
- Triang Relations: Type 5: Harley Mad Loves The Joker, but the Joker Foe Yays Batman. Batman doesn't have feelings for either. Harley tries persuading the Joker just to shoot Batman. That doesn't work, so Harley being an Ax-Crazy Clingy Jealous Girl attempts to Murder the Hypotenuse.
- Unexplained Recovery: This episode features Batman punching Joker off a moving track and directly into a factory's smokestack. He survives, of course, and by this point his ability to survive anything is so taken for granted that the writers don't even make a cursory attempt to Hand Wave it.
- Ungrateful Bastard: Harley gave up her career and intern year at Arkham by busting an injured Joker out of the asylum. Joker at the end of this episode, set in the present sends her back to Arkham in a wheelchair, after giving her a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown. This almost snaps her back to sanity.
- Villain Episode: Batman is at most a secondary character in this story, and could even be called a Hero Antagonist; Harley is the star.
- Vocal Dissonance: Harley during her time as sane Harleen Quinzel has a lower vocal range, as well as less excitement in her tone. At the end this range shows up, as she decides to quit Mr. J cold turkey... up until she sees the Get Well Card from him and a flower.
- Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Harley combines this with I Surrender, Suckers to lure Batman into her trap. (That's right, she actually tricked Batman into falling for one of The Oldest Tricks in the Book.)