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

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Adult animated series have increased over the years, thanks to the success of series like The Simpsons, Family Guy, and South Park. With animation, almost anything is possible, because it’s not limited in the same way live-action is. It’s also reminiscent of our childhood but with humor that we can appreciate now that we’re grown up. DC and HBO Max’s Harley Quinn animated series is a perfect example of using this medium, turning the dark humor to ten, and having fun. Having spawned three seasons already, the series returns with Harley Quinn: A Very Problematic Valentine’s Day Special, prior to its fourth season.

This 45-minute stand-alone special explores Harley Quinn (Kayley Cuoco) and Poison Ivy’s (Lake Bell) first Valentine’s Day together. However, in true Harley fashion, it’s never as simple as it seems. A Very Problematic Valentine’s Day Special sees the return of many faces from across the three seasons of Harley Quinn, with a few new characters added to the mix. So being a fan of the series, or even just one of DC comics, is Harley Quinn: A Very Problematic Valentine’s Day Special worth your time? Or is it just a box of conversation hearts that ends up unopened in the trash? Let’s explore what this special has in store for the holiday of love.

[Warning: Spoilers from Harley Quinn: A Very Problematic Valentine’s Day Special are below!]

Harley and Poison Ivy have different ideas about Valentine’s Day in this HBO Max special

Harley Quinn loves Valentine’s Day and cannot wait to celebrate the season of love with her girlfriend, Poison Ivy. Ivy, on the other hand, doesn’t care for the holiday and would rather celebrate anything else. She doesn’t want to disappoint her girlfriend on their first Valentine’s Day together, either. Ivy makes Harley promise a low-key holiday, which seems like a great compromise.

The two end up at a very fancy restaurant eating delicious Vegan Laszitballs (a.k.a. The Tuscan Turducken) when things go awry. Two individuals storm the restaurant looking to steal the recipe for the famous Laszitballs, and Harley and Poison Ivy have to stop the delicious recipe from getting into the wrong hands. A car chase ensues and Poison Ivy saves the day,  taking off a few heads in the process. Ivy then discovers that the recipe she saved, isn’t the recipe at all, but a card from Harley. The whole situation was a pre-orchestrated gift for Valentine’s Day.

Harley wants Ivy to say that this Valentine’s Day was the best one ever, but she senses for Ivy it was not. This leads Harley to steal Wonder Woman’s (Vanessa Marshall) lasso of truth to get her answer. 

Harley Quinn: A Very Problematic Valentine’s Day Special. Harley and Ivy
Harley Quinn (Kayley Cuoco) and Poison Ivy (Lake Bell). Harley Quinn: A Very Problematic Valentine’s Day Special (HBO Max).

Having secured the lasso of truth in typical Harley Quinn fashion, she uses it on Ivy to get her to admit that their first Valentine’s Day together has been the best ever. She’s shocked when Ivy admits that it’s not the best, with it ranking in the top three. Devastated and determined, Harley sets out to make this holiday memorable for both of them, which involves some magic-assisted orgasms.

Yeah, you read that right. Sneaking out through the bathroom, Harley rushes to Etrigan the Demon (John Stamos) for a little help. Etrigan gives Harley a spell, which grants the next person Harley sleeps with an intense experience. However, the magical orgasm from Poison Ivy releases her pheromones city-wide, sparking everyone in the city to get extra friendly with each other (even the cats and dogs!).

Bane and Clayface’s side-quests in Harley Quinn: A Very Problematic Valentine’s Day Special

Both Bane (James Adomian) and Clayface (Alan Tudyk) are feeling completely alone and searching for love this Valentine’s Day. 

Clayface is looking for someone to go to a Brett Goldstein (voiced Brett Goldstein) show with him, although he ends up walking straight into a trap. Divided in half, Clayface’s lower half develops a face and personality of its own. Together, the two halves of Clayface set off on a series of romantic activities, finding love in a hopeless place. 

Bane roams around the city and stumbles upon a dominatrix who mistakes him for someone joining her on a job. Together, the two build a connection, but when the dominatrix makes a comment about the assignment’s tiny member, Bane rushes for a magical potion to help his ego and his own average-sized penis grow. He quickly learns that magic and human growth hormones don’t mix well, as this causes his entire body to grow larger than the buildings around him.

Harlivy work through some giant problems during this very problematic Valentine’s Day

Ivy’s released hormones cause the entire city to become horny, having sex everywhere without a care in the world. Bane, having grown exponentially and also influenced by the hormones becomes a giant horny monster, causing havoc and destruction throughout the city. 

Harley and Ivy, along with the help of Clayface, must work together to stop him. How they do so, well reader you see, I won’t spoil everything about Harley Quinn: A Very Problematic Valentine’s Day Special. But just know, it resolves itself in a way that only Harley and her crew can.

Overall, the special was a strong entry in the Harley Quinn series on HBO Max. I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect from a Valentine’s Day special from this series, but I should have known that it would zany and incredibly horny. I laughed so hard at parts that tears streamed down my face. I also found parts of it rather touching. The fact that Harley Quinn cares so much about Poison Ivy that she wants everything to be perfect reinforces just how much heart this animated series has.

Harley Quinn: A Very Problematic Valentine’s Day Special Hawkman and Hawkgirl
Hawkman (Tyler James Williams) and Hawkgirl (Quinta Brunson). Harley Quinn: A Very Problematic Valentine’s Day Special (HBO Max).

Not only Harley though, because finding out what Ivy’s best Valentine’s Day is was also a scene that pulled on my heartstrings. It helps to tie the entire story together, circling back to the simple beginnings of the two lovebirds. I also loved the scenes in between the main story, which focused on the love stories of many popular DC heroes and villains. They reminded me of Parks and Rec and The Office, with an interview style to them. These might have been some of my favorite parts.

Individual holiday specials can sometimes be cheesy, but Harley Quinn leaned into it and frankly it worked. I think the humor was top-notch, with some high-level and low-hanging humor. Kayley Cuoco continues to shine as Harley, bringing a certain energy to the character through her voice acting. Lake Bell is also fantastic as Poison Ivy, as well as the rest of the voice cast for this special. If you’re looking for something comic book related for this Valentine’s Day, this is definitely this special for you.

Harley Quinn: A Very Problematic Valentine’s Day Special is streaming on HBO Max. Are you excited to check it out? Let us know on Twitter or in The Cosmic Circus Discord. And if you haven’t already, check out our review from the season 3 premiere of Harley Quinn.

Review: Harley Quinn Season 3 Premiere – Harlivy is Back With a Vengeance

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Review: Harley Quinn Season 4

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Brian Kitson

Working hard to bring you the latest news and thoughtful analysis of all things nerdy!

Brian Kitson has 363 posts and counting. See all posts by Brian Kitson