In DC lore, most of Harley Quinn’s storyline focused on her as Joker’s sidekick. This was quite evident with his debut in Batman: The Animated Series in 1992, as well as comics and cartoons thereafter. However, realizing the toxic nature of the relationship and how misogynistic it was, Harley has been emancipated and turned into a badass feminist icon as of late.
In the process, she turned into an anti-hero, as seen with Margot Robbie’s jester in action movies, new comic books and, of course, her romantic rehabilitation with Poison Ivy in her series of single-player cartoons. Simply put, DC doesn’t view Harley as Joker’s successor, but as someone who can show fans what a second chance means. However, the next Gotham Knights The game seems to throw that notion out the window, as Harley Quinn permanently cuts that sadistic figure that other psychics were afraid of.
Admittedly, it feels like most stories don’t mean to make Harley a villain, because that would confirm that the clown took his agency away from him and made him a villain through gaslighting, conditioning and emotional abuse. Still, Harley has always had that side of her since her days as a therapist, which is why she clung to Joker. He was simply tapping into the darkness that already resided within his soul.
Gotham knights features this, with the Gamescom trailer focusing on Batgirl encountering Harley in a cell, wanting information on how to stop the rise of anarchy engulfing the city. Villains like the Penguin and the Court of Owls run rampant, and Mr. Freeze has deadly new technology, so without Batman (who is dead in this reality), the Bat-Family needs all the help they can get. in a city that’s ripe for the taking. It’s even worse with the death of Commissioner Gordon, which is why Renee Montoya steps up to help Nightwing and Co.
However, Harley taunts Barbara, calling her “Brat-Girl”, in a not-so-subtle way to let her know she doesn’t care about Gotham’s safety. Which is why Harley is later spotted starting a fight club, filled with Joker devotees and what could be metahumans with masks. It looks like his way of creating more Joker gangs and cults, with shows airing to spread the Symbol of Destruction. It’s unclear where Joker is in this story, but the way Harley functions as an agent of chaos, she does exactly what Joker would want in a successor. However, Harley carries out the mission in her own style, becoming the tyrant she thinks she’s meant to be, independent and free.
It’s a good choice for her, because she knows how to work minds and get them on board. This was discussed in the Batman: White Knight comic books too, where Harley Quinn battled the darkness within, while psychoanalyzing Bruce, Joker/Jack Napier, and even his evil doppelganger. As such, she realized that if she gave in, she could have turned into a freak like her darling “Mistah J.”
In Gotham knights, Harley Quinn fully embraces this power. That’s why Barbara pursues her at the end, mimicking the relationship between the Dark Knight and the Joker. But make no mistake: Harley isn’t just a mastermind and no force in this rivalry – she swings an electrified mallet to reiterate that she’s both a mental and physical threat. Ultimately, it’s the kind of unhinged, raging Harley that could end up being a true destroyer rather than a savior. This subverts everything DC has mapped out with the character, which is why Barb is so desperate to take her down to save an already stretched Bat-family, realizing that Harley is becoming quite a destructive force.
Gotham Knights launches October 21 on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, and PC.