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

HBO Max’s Harley Quinn: A Very Problematic Valentine’s Day Special gives fans of DC Comics a chaotic and hilarious Valentine’s Day watch.

Since its debut in 2019, the animated series Harley Quinn has been one of the best things produced by DC Comics. As things on the cinematic and television side of DC have been a little all over the place in terms of quality, this adult animated comedy has seemingly always been able to deliver the company a win. To ease the wait for the recently announced fourth season of Harley Quinn, a standalone special episode entitled Harley Quinn: A Very Problematic Valentine’s Day Special is set to premiere on HBO Max.

Arriving just in time for Valentine’s Day, Harley Quinn: A Very Problematic Valentine’s Day Special sees Harley Quinn (Kaley Cuoco) on a quest to ensure that her first Valentine’s Day with her girlfriend Poison Ivy (Lake Bell) is perfect at all costs. Elsewhere in Gotham City, supervillains Bane (James Adomian) and Clayface (Alan Tudyk) have unforgettable Valentine’s experiences of their own.

Harley Quinn has always been a unique adult animated series with a darker, extremely humorous take on the world of Batman/Gotham City, and this special is no different. The animation remains top notch and is backed by outstanding performances. This narrative is fantastically written and filled with topical and relatable comedy all while embracing the craziness of a world filled with superheroes and villains. As someone that is a fan of Harley Quinn (both the character and the series) and is indifferent to Valentine’s Day in general, Harley Quinn: A Very Problematic Valentine’s Day Special is a delight for all the right reasons.

Kaley Cuoco’s Harley Quinn has been amazingly fleshed out and developed over the 3 seasons of her series, but this special shows she is still very much the obsessive, kooky, and silly character we know and love. The narrative of Harley Quinn: A Very Problematic Valentine’s Day Special also puts her squarely in a situation that most audiences can relate to: wanting to craft the ideal Valentine’s Day for your new significant other. It is also something that we have rarely seen Harley Quinn deal with, which makes this story stand out further.

The result of placing Harley in this predicament is crude, and yes, problematic comedic gold. Things turn out quite well for Harley and Ivy’s Valentine’s date but like so many of us, her insecurities get the best of her, and that is where things take a wild and gut-bustlingly funny turn. While this turn is hilarious for audiences, the city of Gotham finds itself in a pickle that Harley and Ivy will have to solve together. There are jokes of all kinds here, from poking fun at various aspects of DC characters, to surprisingly sex-positive ones, and clever gags. This variety of options means you are bound to find something to chuckle at.

loud and clear reviews Harley Quinn: A Very Problematic Valentine's Day Special
Harley Quinn: A Very Problematic Valentine’s Day Special (Courtesy of HBO Max)

What I love most about the narrative outside of the humor is the focus that it places on the relationship between Harley and Ivy. The writers have clearly taken it upon themselves to ensure that this pairing maintains its authenticity, even though they are in this extravagant comic book world. Throughout this narrative, you will see Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy struggle with issues that a couple in the initial stages of their relationship may go through. You will also see them work through them in the way that couples in the real world will.

Harley Quinn: A Very Problematic Valentine’s Day Special gives Harley and Ivy a chance to show that their relationship is not perfect, but they continue to love each other deeply, and will constantly work together to make sure things stay that way. Part of that working together includes talking it out and then fixing the mess that Harley’s insecurities helped cause before it is too late. It is strangely romantic, watching this couple have their heart to heart amid a city in chaos, and then putting their minds together to solve the problem.

Harley and Ivy’s relationship is also bolstered by the performances and chemistry of Kaley Cuoco and Lake Bell. The duo brings an endless amount of charm to Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy, and their tones indicate a genuine love during the couple’s most heartwarming scenes. Their performances will make you root for and believe in Harley and Ivy’s relationship throughout Harley Quinn: A Very Problematic Valentine’s Day Special in many ways.

When the focus shifts away from Harley and Ivy, there is not a drop off. Bane’s subplot is hysterical as he seeks love on Valentine’s Day. Then you have Clayface’s arc which focuses in its own way on the value of self-love. The narrative of Harley Quinn: A Very Problematic Valentine’s Day Special may reach into outrageous comic book territory, but each of the plots put a focus on love and wind up fitting together. I also appreciated the moments with some of DC’s finest power couples like Clark Kent/Superman (James Wolk) and Lois Lane (Natalie Morales), which served as a nice compliment to the three plots and comic relief.

Fans of the series and of the Harley/Ivy relationship will absolutely adore Harley Quinn: A Very Problematic Valentine’s Day Special. I think non-fans could as well, because of the fun and romantic nature of the narrative and the fact that this special can mostly stand on its own. If you have seen Harley Quinn, it will enhance your experience and leave you a little less confused. This could serve as a nice little introduction to the series on the other hand and could encourage you to watch the first 3 seasons. I would not call either of those things necessary and believe you could cozy up on Valentine’s Day or any day for that matter and have an enjoyable time watching this special.

Harley Quinn: A Very Problematic Valentine’s Day Special is a splendid way to pass the time before the 4th season of Harley Quinn eventually hits HBO Max. The special tells a romantic story through three carefully crafted plots with love at their center. It is chaotic, vulgar, hilarious, and oddly enough beautiful, this special might even make one believe in the magic of Valentine’s Day.

Harley Quinn: A Very Problematic Valentine’s Day Special is streaming on HBO Max from February 9, 2023.

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