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A binge guide for the animated appearances of Poison Ivy
It's no secret that Poison Ivy is a SYFY FANGRRLS fave, and we'll take any chance we get to sing the praises of this delightful misanthrope. Introduced in Batman comics all the way back in 1966, she is one character who has only gotten more compelling with time.
Though her early days in the comics are good campy fun, her animated appearances are where she truly started to shine, and they remain the primary outlet that brought her to the larger audience she enjoys today.
From her early days appearing as a classic femme fatale with a conservationist twist to her modern-day complexity in the Harley Quinn cartoon, these episodes were the gateway for a lot of Poison Ivy fans to discover the character. While we are thoroughly loving the gentle, heroic Ivy of the DC Super Hero Girls cartoon, this is a look at her most effective appearances as the siren of Gotham.
Batman: The Animated Series - "Pretty Poison"
For a lot of Ivy fans, Batman: The Animated Series' ruthless but complex portrayal of Doctor Pamela Isley remains the definitive take on the character. Voiced by Diane Pershing, this Ivy is intelligent, dedicated, direct — all admirable traits used to unfortunately futile, generally murderous ends. Choosing between the equally iconic Pretty Poison, Eternal Youth, Harley & Ivy, and House & Garden episodes was no easy task. In the end, we went with the episode that introduced her to the show, but we strongly recommend TAS in its entirety — with an emphasis on Ivy appearances, of course!
Though her first appearance here positions Ivy clearly as the villain due to her extremism, it helps establish her as a more sympathetic villain than much of Batman's stable. She becomes engaged to Harvey Dent, then tries to kill him, but she does it for reasons. She's trying to take out a guy who is paving over natural wildlife to build a prison, which adds another side to the story. Her anger at men who wield their power irresponsibly added a great deal of complexity to her story right off the bat and helped set the tone for many excellent, character-driven episodes to follow.
The New Batman Adventures - "Girls Night Out"
When Batman: TAS ended and was reborn as The New Batman Adventures, there were some character redesigns and a few new faces around the Batcave, but much of the established cast returned for exciting new appearances. Harley and Ivy were the subjects of several stories during this time, working as partners-in-crime. Ivy began to focus more intently on cultivating her power, Harley started to pull away from the Joker, and the seeds of what would ultimately become one of comics' long-term (if often subtextual) queer relationships were sown.
This episode is beyond delightful and features the magnificent Lori Petty making a crossover appearance as the Superman villain Livewire. Batgirl (Tara Strong) and Supergirl (Nicholle Tom) team up to capture the escaped Livewire only to find that she's teamed up with Harley and Ivy. Livewire's excess and selfishness prove to be a bit much for them to handle, and their caper goes awry. Still, this episode is an absolute delight. Note: horror fans will stay tuned for the next episode of the series, the unsettling "Chemistry."
Static Shock - "Hard as Nails"
People in the know are well aware that Static Shock is easily one of the most underrated animated series of its time, and this episode is one of the best. Giving us a great showcase for the operational differences between Static and Batman while volleying to important supporting character development might seem like enough for one episode, but this one also happens to have one of the iconic Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn team-ups of their early days outside of the Batman series.
Again, Ivy does appear as an amoral villain here, but this episode brings a focus on her manipulation tactics and her willingness to put human lives on the line to fulfill her whims. While that might not be great for fans that are more accustomed to seeing her as an antihero, she still raises some salient points here, and her partnership with Harley is seamless.
The Batman - "Batman Begins Part 1 & 2"
2004's The Batman might not have been everyone's cup of tea, but we would be lying if we didn't say that there's some great stuff in there. The discordant soundtrack, the updated take on Bruce, and the centering on Batgirl as his partner rather than any Robin all seriously drew us into this wonky take on Gotham City. Indeed, Batgirl's story is directly linked to the rise of Poison Ivy, and though still villainous, this version of Ivy has serious autonomy.
In the beginning, Barbara and Pamela Isley are close friends. They share an overriding concern for preserving life and their interest in STEM allows them to confide in one another. In standard Ivy fashion, Pamela goes too far with her ecological interests. After a chemical accident, she discovers that she's gained control over plant life, which she uses to nefarious ends. Barbara becomes Batgirl to help Batman put a stop to her. Meanwhile, Ivy herself is generally sympathetic if ruthless in her plans. She is immensely powerful and refuses to be deterred from her goals. Though still villainous, we see the potential for more, and that makes this one of her greatest early appearances.
Harley Quinn - "Til Death Do Us Part"
The Harley Quinn series on DC Universe should be called Harley & Ivy, because it is definitely that two-person team that brings us the greatest moments of the series. In fact, Ivy's arc here is so compelling that it's difficult to choose a single episode that highlights her greatness — the whole series is a must-watch for Ivy fans. Voice actor Lake Bell and some considerate scriptwriters gave us one of the most beloved takes on Ivy to date, setting her apart from her early appearances by adding much-needed depth to her character.
In "Til Death Do Us Part," much of the focus is indeed on the chaotic breakup of Harley Quinn and the Joker, but Ivy's importance to Harley is apparent even in the beginning. Her gentle but constant insistence that Harley is better than the Joker allows her to be is laced throughout the episode, and when Harley is finally broken out of Arkham, it is by Ivy — not the Joker, who is nowhere to be seen. Through the series Ivy establishes herself as primarily focused on saving plant life, her power is unquestionable and her disdain for the boys club of supervillainy is perfect.
We were already Ivy fans, but Harley Quinn is a series that lets her breathe, and for that we are grateful.