[Warning: The following contains spoilers from the first three episodes of Harley Quinn Season 3. Read at your own risk!]
It's a good time to be Harley Quinn, at least when it comes to the HBO Max adult animated series about the anti-hero. When Season 2 ended, Harley (Kaley Cuoco) and Ivy (Lake Bell) literally rode off into the sunset after finally being able to admit they are in love with each other and Ivy left Kite Man (Matt Oberg) at the altar. While it was a major heartbreak for Kite Man, it was a big moment for the two villains.
Season 3 picks up almost where we left off, with Harley and Ivy very much in the honeymoon period of new love. However, the dewy glow of fresh romance doesn't last too long as the two figure out their new dynamic. Executive producers Justin Halpern and Patrick Schumacker told Variety that the couple will never break up, but that doesn't mean that Season 3 doesn't come with some serious growing pains for their relationship.
"This season is largely about, for Harley and Ivy, learning 'how do I coexist in a happy, healthy, relationship when I might want something different from my partner?'" Halpern explained to TV Guide. "The history of Harley, certainly in our show, but even in canon, it's her relationship with the Joker. She just lived in service of him. She put her wants to the side and just convinced herself that his wants were her wants. That was really unhealthy for her. This season, [Harley and Ivy] are together, but that's the only thing Harley knows about relationships. That the only thing she's been in. So this season is about, 'What happens if I want something different? What does that do to our relationship?'"
The first three episodes of the season, which debuted on HBO Max on July 28, start to illustrate that struggle as Harley goes above and beyond to show how supportive she is of Ivy getting back into the villain game. Tension arises when Harley goes too far "in support" and ends up ruining Ivy's chill vibes, or more importantly, interrupts the work she's doing on this season's major evil plot — terraforming Gotham into a prehistoric garden. However, Harley's pushiness is something that Ivy needs after sitting on the sidelines for so long.
"Harley does force Ivy into uncomfortable situations that ultimately lead to her becoming a more whole person. You'll see from the get-go in the first episode of Season 3 as we set up what the big arc is for Ivy this season, Harley is the consummate cheerleader for her," Schumacker elaborated. "Harley is the one who is doing everything she can to coax that confidence out of Ivy that Harley believes should be there because she's brilliant. Ivy is so self-deprecating and so insecure in certain ways that she needs someone like Harley to make her whole."
The push-and-pull between Ivy and Harley illustrates what the animated comedy does so well: character development. Harley Quinn smashes things with baseball bats and blows things up just for fun, but the show has dedicated itself to showing her develop into a full-fledged human with desires and dreams of her own, rather than just being Joker's wild sidekick. Even if it causes tension in the relationship, Harley Quinn is committed to having its central anti-heroines grow together. And it is not just them — the villains around them will also be having big moments of growth in the remaining episodes of the season.
"We have a really fun Clayface (Alan Tudyk) storyline this season that allows us to be meta but hopefully not annoyingly meta," Halpern said of the shape-shifting character who lands the most exciting opportunity of his acting career thus far in Season 3. His BFF King Shark (Ron Fuches) will also be stepping up as the audience learns more about his life back home and under the sea.
"There's some big changes that happen with King Shark's family. There's the death in the family that then propels him into this sort of family drama and we get to meet his brother," Schumaker teased. "King Shark doesn't want the throne. He loves what he's doing in Gotham and his sort of simple life, but you know, his royal duties call him back to the shark kingdom."
And while Bane (James Adomian) isn't exactly in Harley's crew, the juiced-up villain gets his own spectacular moments to shine as he fights to get his expensive pasta maker back from Harley and Ivy, and has to reconcile with the fact that he has depression. He begins to cope with his mental health in the premiere episodes via a satirical Sex and the City bit that the showrunners were deeply worried was not going to land.
"We were very worried about who was going to get that, because who is in the Venn Diagram of people who watch Sex and the City and watch our show?" Halpern said. "Someone said in that episode as we were breaking it, 'I think Bane is depressed.' And that led to the Carrie Bradshaw bit and the identity theft where the [bank operator] calls him out."
There's a lot of serious stuff on the table for these villains to get through while also making the audience laugh, but Harley Quinn has proven over its previous two seasons that the show knows exactly how to make a poignant point as it sticks the landing on a great joke.
Harley Quinn Season 3 continues with new episodes dropping every Thursday on HBO Max.