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.

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 the 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.


  • Adaptation Explanation Extrication: 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 mentioned in "Adaptation Explanation Extrication" to him. 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.
  • Art Evolution: The original graphic novel was made during the Batman: The Animated Series era and Bruce Timm sued 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: 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.
  • 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 brtual 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!"
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 Fanservice: 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.
  • 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!
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
    Batman: She almost had me, you know. Arms and legs shackled, dizzy from the blood rushing to my head... I had no way out other than convincing her to call you. I knew your massive ego would never allow anyone else the honor of killing me, though I have to admit she came a lot closer than you ever did... puddin'!
  • 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.
  • "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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.)
  • 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.