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The hit HBO Max animated series Harley Quinn made a raucous appearance at San Diego International Comic-Con last week, screening the first two episodes of the third season for fans. The romance between Harley (Kaley Cuoco) and Poison Ivy (Lake Bell) was on full display in those opening episodes, which showrunners Justin Halpern and Patrick Schumacker say is a fitting tease to Season 3 as a whole. The new season leans heavily on #Harlivy, which is all part of the long-term plan.
“We wrote the first two seasons together so before Season 1 came out, we knew where Season 2 was going. We were like, okay, by the end of Season 2, they will be together,” says Halpern during an interview with SYFY WIRE at SDCC. “ It feels like the timing is right now. We sort of took care of what Harley's gonna do with her career, essentially. She's kind of figured herself out in that arena, at least for the time being.”
The decision to showcase Harley and Ivy as a renegade couple was made easier due to the great chemistry between Cuoco and Bell. “Definitely, I think a huge part of it I would attribute to Kaley’s performance [and] Lake's performance,” says Halpern. “You can hear and sense the love between them, even though these two actors are never in the same room with each other.”
“I really think it is their performances, right?” adds Schumacker. “Kaley’s performance is so winning. Kaley as an actress is so winning and that's why you cast her, so you can get away with a lot. You wouldn't be able to get away with [as much] if you would cast somebody else. Same thing with Lake.”
Part of the enduring appeal of Harley Quinn as a character, be it in the movies such as Birds of Prey and The Suicide Squad starring Margo Robbie, DCAU, or in the pages of DC comic books, is that she’s impossibly likable. No matter what heinous acts she does, the audience just adores her. Both Halpern and Schumacker agree that the sheer likability Cuoco brings to the title role helps mask the fact she’s playing a character who’s still a bona fide supervillain.
“It is a fine line to walk,” says Schumacker, while pointing out that the new season will explore Harley’s actions and her moral compass. “There are some people who are in our lives that we just really like and root for, even though maybe they're not living as virtuous a life, as we would wish that they would.”
“It also helps that like 90 percent of the characters on the show are supervillains,” adds Halpern. “But also, Harley and Ivy and their love for each other buys us as writers a lot of goodwill in terms of the chaos that they cause.”
While the relationship is the focal point of the new season, expect some bumps in the road. One thing you won’t see is a breakup. “We're never going to break them up in the show,” Halpern declares. “Harley will never backslide with the Joker. They will go through… they will navigate rocky waters, but they'll always be solid.”
Other things to expect in Season 3 include more jokes at the expense of Commissioner Gordon and Batman. And watch out for an adventure with the Bat-Family that involves an escape room and the Riddler. There’s also tons of outlandish, blood-spilling violence and an orgy. There is also a subtle moment that’s in the Season 3 trailer that pokes fun at the controversy that occurred when the showrunners revealed that DC objected to a planned oral sex scene between Batman and Catwoman.
“Yeah, the Batman-Catwoman thing that I got in trouble for talking about. So there's that thing,” Schumacker recalls with a laugh.
Turning serious, Schumacker noted that DC’s corporate leaders and HBO Max have given them a wide berth to bring all sorts of mayhem to the show. “I think what people don't give DC enough credit for is that DC takes swings. They will let you take swings with their IP,” he says. “They can make Joker, the movie, and then they can make Aquaman. Those two movies definitely don't exist in the same universe, right? But they trust that the audience isn't going to conflate these universes.”
“Like our show exists in its own universe. The tone is pretty unique. I think Peacemaker is maybe a little bit of a kindred spirit, at least. And we love that. DC allows us to make a fun, crazy show that makes the fans happy. And they’ve been really supportive.”
Harley Quinn Season 3 debuts on HBO Max on July 28.