DISCLAIMER: This recap of the Harley Quinn episode “Batman Begins Forever” has spoilers. Prepare to process your Bruce Wayne-associated trauma and proceed at your peril.
Welcome back, Harlivy lovers! This week’s episode of Harley Quinn is, without question, the best of the season. It’s easily in my top five episodes of the series, and that’s not hyperbole. Not only does Dr. Psycho return to the fold, but we get a poignant and profound deep dive into Bruce Wayne’s psyche and Harley Quinn’s trauma.
Ready to delve into “Batman Begins Forever”? Let’s get to it.
Let’s Get (Dr.) Psycho
We open with Harley (Kaley Cuoco) beating the snot out of Bruce Wayne (Diedrich Bader), who hangs upside down courtesy of Ivy’s (Lake Bell) vines. Ivy tries to get in on the interrogation front, but Bruce stonewalls her. Ivy reluctantly reveals there’s someone else who can help them. Who could that be, I wonder?
Meanwhile, at the Arkham Community Center, Dr. Psycho (Tony Hale) records an episode of his podcast. It’s all about chillaxing, baby! Psycho’s now cool, calm and collected, and he’s got the piping hot cup of tea to prove it. He receives a call from a guest, who goes by the name of “Rane,” claiming he’s fuming over losing a pasta maker. Bane (James Adomian) might need to find a better disguise name.
Suddenly, Harley and Ivy burst into the room while Psycho records an ad. He seamlessly switches back to the anger-riddled, hotheaded dude we, well, we know. After revealing they need his assistance, they help Psycho break free.
Instead of the usual opening credits, we get a Harley Quinn-ified version of the Frasier logo, and Harley admits she learned more from watching Frasier than from her time in med school. God, this show is perfect.
Later, Harlivy takes Psycho back to Selina’s apartment, wherein King Shark (Ron Funches) and Clayface (Alan Tudyk) are lounging. They bring Bruce forward, revealing they need Psycho to access the former’s mind so they can find Frank. King Shark sits this one out, claiming he’s out of his motion sickness meds.
TOTA (Tightening of the Asses)
So, Psycho joins hands with Ivy, Harley and Clayface. After the requisite tightening of the asses (it’s necessary for mind infiltration), our quartet tumbles down a vortex into Bruce’s most formative memory — the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne. We see young Bruce (Jack Stanton) exit the movie theater that fateful night while with his parents.
Suddenly, Joe Chill (Or is it Joe Cool? Joe Camel?) emerges from the shadows with his gun drawn. He kills the Waynes. Then, the horrific event unravels … again. And again. And again. Harley, Ivy, Psycho and Clayface note that it’s happening in multiple locations now. Multiple young Bruces watch his parents die.
Ivy wants to discover Frank’s location through brute force, while Harley, putting on her therapist goggles, wants to take a gentler approach. Clayface, seizing the opportunity to talk to the man himself, Thomas Wayne, tries to interview Bruce’s dad before he bites it. Hey, he’s portraying Billy Bob Thornton who’s playing Thomas Wayne in that James Gunn biopic. There are a lot of balls in the air here.
Next, Harley alters the course of Bruce’s traumatic memory by picking up young Bruce in front of Joe Chill and walking away. Ivy, Psycho and Clayface return topside, leaving Harley to navigate Bruce Wayne’s mind. Psycho tries to wake Harley, but no dice. Meanwhile, King Shark locks himself away in his “kingdom,” clearly distraught and traumatized from killing his brother.
Then, Harley and Bruce flee from Joe Chill. She asks the young boy to lead her through his memories as they search for Frank. They tumble down a tunnel into what looks like a bat cave (not the Batcave). Despite Harley’s reassurance that she’s trustworthy, young Bruce isn’t sure he can trust her. However, Joe Chill is hot on their heels, so time is of the essence. And, as Psycho tells Ivy, you die in your mind; you die in real life (or something of that nature).
So, Bruce and Harley wander through a cavernous corridor of the boy’s memories, including one where Bruce attends his parents’ funeral with Alfred (Tom Hollander) at his side. Other fragments of the past include undergoing intense physical training and donning the Batsuit for the first time. Oh, and Harley learns that, yes, Bruce Wayne is Batman. Even she admits he doesn’t do a stellar job of hiding it.
Confronting Old Demons
Later, Harley and Bruce wind up in another memory featuring Joker (also Tudyk) and Harley Quinn in her old harlequin getup. Meanwhile, our Harley dons Robin’s suit as Joker, and past Harls strap her to a rocket. Harley acknowledges her past self and how toxic her relationship with Joker was. It’s such a gratifying moment that’s been a long time coming.
Suddenly, Batman appears, and he and Harley take on Joker and past Harls together. Harley relishes being a hero, realizing it’s not as cheesy as she thought. Outside of Bruce Wayne Land, Batgirl, Nightwing and Robin utilize a gaseous substance to knock Ivy, Psycho and Clayface unconscious.
After the fight against Joker and past Harls, Batman morphs into young Bruce again. Harley doles out an impromptu therapy session, gently urging Bruce to revisit a happy memory. She encourages him to utilize his senses. Oof, I feel like I’m in a session with my therapist right now.
An Earthly Resurrection
So, the duo winds up in a happy memory of Bruce’s, one involving Christmastime. Unfortunately, that damn Joe Chill finds them again, so they hide in a closet. Bruce confesses a secret — he knows where Frank is. Not only that, but adult Bruce has plans for Frank. He modified Frank’s ability to resurrect plants. Now, Frank can revive humans. You can guess where this is going; Bruce wants to resurrect his parents.
Next, the pair confront Joe Chill, who removes his mask to reveal adult Bruce. Holy trauma-rama, Batman! Bruce reveals why he has the memory of his parents’ murder on an incessant loop. He wishes to punish himself. It’s his penance for putting the bullseye on Thomas and Martha’s backs. Bruce believes they would still be alive if he hadn’t insisted they walk home that night.
Harley tries to talk sense into Bruce, but he’s set in his ways. We see adult Bruce take young Bruce by the hand so they can stay perpetually enmeshed in their trauma.
Later, Harley wakes in Wayne Manor, wherein Aldred tends to a still unconscious Bruce. She’s tied up alongside Ivy, Psycho and Clayface. Bruce wakes, and Harley urges him to work through his trauma, not suppress it. That’s the only way he can heal. Harley fills the others in on Bruce’s plan.
Meanwhile, Bruce implements his scheme to revive his parents, utilizing Frank’s resurrection powers as the catalyst. We see skeletal hands rise from their respective graves, exciting Bruce. Unfortunately, it’s not only the Waynes coming back to life — a horde of former corpses in the cemetery clamber their way through the dirt. Oh, a zombie outbreak, perhaps?
“Batman Begins Forever” allows Harley to confront her past head-on from a healing standpoint. Our girl has evolved so much over the past three seasons, and I feel this outing shows us her true colors: compassionate and empathetic while still retaining her razor-sharp sense of humor and vibrancy.
Interestingly, she’s had a series of philosophical ruminations and moral quandaries while interacting with the Bat crew this season. It’s as if Harley might identify as more of a hero than a flat-out villain these days! Harley confronting her old self is so cathartic, while watching her tap into her therapist side is strangely comforting. Normally, I’d shun anything Batman-related because I’m sick of the same tired, overplayed, regurgitated narrative in all those Batman movies.
However, Harley Quinn does what most projects don’t: it dissects Bruce Wayne. The show displays his faults and shows him for who he truly is — a rich white guy with a savior complex that masks unprocessed trauma. The method in which the series explores that trauma in “Batman Begins Forever” is so brilliantly innovative. Plus, the fact that the episode title combines two Batman movie titles that aptly describe its premise? Chef’s kiss in perpetuity.
Harley Quinn drops new episodes every Thursday on HBO Max.