It’s like I’m a broken record at this point, but this is yet another episode toward the end of Batman: The Animated Series that focused on one of the familiar Rogues trying (and ultimately failing) to go straight. But, whereas with the others, whose straight-and-narrowness is always tenuous and their fall back into crime is either entirely inevitable or immensely tragic. In today’s instance, it’s a comedy of errors that lead to the villain’s downfall, but ultimately ends on a positive, hopeful note. Strange for this show, surely, but when the character is fan (and writer) favorite Harley Quinn, anything less would be a travesty. This is the rare instance where Harley appears totally sans her abusive boyfriend/boss the Joker, and she’s all the better for it, proving she can easily carry a whole episode herself. We’re talking, of course, about “Harley’s Holiday.”
Written by TAS head writer and creator of the character Paul Dini, “Harley’s Holiday” is one more for the canon of Harley Quinn acting alternately silly and violent but ultimately showing herself to be misunderstood and afraid. It’s amazing how deep they continually made her and it’s because of this that she became so popular and bled over into the comics range. This episode aired almost exactly 20 years ago, on October 15th, 1994, and is actually the very final episode of the series to feature Harley Quinn. Good swan song methinks.
We begin with Harley in a meeting with her doctor at Arkham Asylum. She’s apparently made amazing progress in her treatment and is excited that she’s being released the following day. She’s positive she’ll be able to stay on the path of law and order. Just then, Batman and Robin escort a hysterically-shouting Scarecrow back down Arkham’s hallowed halls. After dropping him off, Batman walks up to Harley and wishes her well out in the world. She says she’s going to be as normal as normal can be.
CUT TO people on the street running and cowering because Harley is on roller skates being pulled down the sidewalk by her beloved pet hyenas. Completely oblivious to why they’d be upset, she just thinks they’re acting strange because her outfit is out of date. She decides to go buy a new dress at a department store, where the staff also hides from “the babies.” In the same store, coincidentally, Bruce Wayne is being forced into shopping for new clothes by socialite and notoriously shallow person Veronica Vreeland. Harley literally crashes into Bruce Wayne at one point and makes small talk. When Veronica comes up, Harley cheerfully says, Rremember when I held you hostage with the Joker last year?” to her, which makes Veronica walk away slowly. Harley is upset that people can only see the way she used to be instead of the healthy person she is now.
She’s lost in thought when she pays for her new dress and takes it before the cashier can remove the security tag, so as she tries to exit, the security alarm goes off. Harley immediately thinks she’s being set up and doesn’t listen when the guard says he just needs to take the tag off. She clobbers him with a mannequin arm and heads into the dressing room. Bruce Wayne tries to talk to her, but she’s already put her Harley gear on and decides she needs to get out of there, kidnapping Veronica and stealing Bruce’s car in the process.
Batman and Robin need to find Harley first to try to quell the issue and not get the poor girl sent back to Arkham, or to jail, but they’re not the only ones looking. In her escape, Harley causes Detective Bullock, who just happened to be driving by, to crash his car, so he goes in hot pursuit after her. Veronica Vreeland’s father also happens to be a highly decorated Army general and badly wants his baby girl back, to the point where he’ll do anything. Roads all seem to be converging somewhere.
Batman and Robin track Harley to the South Side where they assume she’s trying to find help, which she does in the form of mobster and racketeer Boxy Bennett, whom we last saw in “Harlequinade.” Boxy agrees to help Harley get out of Gotham, but first he wants to ransom off Veronica to her wealthy father. Harley says no, that nothing should happen to Veronica because she didn’t do anything wrong. This doesn’t sit well with Boxy who decides he’s taking control. Luckily, Batman and Robin show up and a big fight ensues. Harley and Veronica make a break for it again, after sicking the hyenas on Boxy who eventually climbs into a delivery truck and gives chase.
Veronica, despite being a hostage, sees that Harley is sad at what’s become of her first day out of the asylum and says that if Harley can get her back home safely, she’ll totally drop all charges. This makes Harley very happy, except just as things are looking up, the car is met by General Vreeland in a charging army tank who begins firing on the car. Oh, this can’t be good. Now, Harley is trying to get away from a mobster, a police detective, and a deranged general, all while Batman tries to keep everything from getting out of hand. Too late. The three pursuers eventually meet the car and they all smash into it.
Batman thinks Quinn and Veronica have been killed, but the clowness managed to get them both out in time. She drops Veronica into Robin’s arms and tries to make another getaway. Batman chases again to try to make Harley see reason, which she doesn’t. Eventually, she’s climbed out onto a moving neon sign for soda and it breaks. Luckily Batman catches her, but now she’ll definitely have to go back to Arkham.
The doctor seems very upbeat about the whole thing and Veronica has indeed dropped all charges so Harley might be out in no time. Batman even brought her the new dress she bought, because he also had a bad day once. Harley says “Nice guys like you shouldn’t have bad days,” and gives him a kiss. Then, because she’s Harley, she hauls off and plants a big smacker on the Dark Knight before saying “Call me!”
This is a really fun, funny episode that still manages to make Harley into the most sympathetic of villains. She’s not malicious and has always tries to protect women if possible, unless Mr. J tells her otherwise, of course, but she’s not an evil person. Misguided? Obviously. Perhaps more than anyone else, she should be in Arkham and it makes sense that she’s the one most likely to get released. She’s not a bad person at heart, she just got warped by the most evil mind alive. This episode features, to my mind, the only time a cartoon of the period was permitted to say “freakin'” when Boxy refers to “The freakin’ Batman.” Harsh language. It’s a fun half-hour all around and it will always make me hope, even though I know otherwise, that Harley will indeed get rehabilitated.
Enough of this reformed bad guy stuff; next week it’s yet another sadistic and insane plot by the Clown Prince of Crime, this time using stand up comedy as his palate. “Make ‘Em Laugh” is next week, and until then, let me know your favorite Animated Series villain in the comments below!