‘Harley Quinn’ and ‘Rick and Morty’ reviews: Binge-watching Blu-ray TV
WASHINGTON — Bored with having to stay at home, courtesy of those never-ending Covid lockdowns? We have the perfect antidote. Here’s a look at a pair of mature-rated, cutting-edge animated series perfect for binge-watching on the Blu-ray format. Harley Quinn and Rick and Morty won’t disappoint.
“Harley Quinn: The Complete First and Second Seasons” (Warner Home Video, rated TV-MA, 594-minutes, aspect ratio: 1.78:1, $29.99).
By far, and I mean “by far,” this Harley Quinn package could be the best-animated offering from the might of Warner Bros. This animation and DC Entertainment effort stars the Joker’s gal pal and originated on the ill-fated DC Universe streaming service. Recently, it moved again to a more potent new streaming service: HBO Max.
The adult-themed series now arrives on high definition as well. It’s assembled on three Blu-ray discs, compiling the 26, roughly 23-minute episodes that gleefully ignore the currently super blandly animated PG-13 DC hero homages, produced by the antiquated Bruce Timm and his minions. Instead, this edition embraces, with all of its appendages, the bloody, uber-violent, and profanity-loaded world of Harley’s Gotham City.
For those who forgot, the odd twist here is that Mr. Timm, along with Paul Dini, actually created the lead character in comics back in 1992. But it took TV sitcom-writing veterans Justin Halpern, Patrick Schumacker, and Dean Lorey to see Harley’s true potential.
Harley in action
The series’ beginnings define Harley’s toxic relationship with her Puddin’. It ultimately leads to a vicious break for the couple. Result: the female villain is fully empowered by her new freedom. She promptly puts together a gang comprised of Clayface, King Shark, Dr. Psycho, Sy Borgman and Frank the Plant. Better yet, she befriends Poison Ivy for good measure.
The first season included in this collection focused on Harley’s break with Joker, her obsessive craving for her gang to be part of the Legion of Doom (Joker is a founding member) and a battle with friend-turned-foe, the Queen of Fables. That action eventually causes mayhem with the Justice League.
Season two found the gang dealing with a Gotham City decimated by the Joker and run by supervillains The Riddler, Two-Face, Penguin and Bane. Harley & Co. get help from no less than Darkseid and his Parademons to take back the city. And for good measure, this series also explores Ivy’s budding love triangle.
Not surprisingly, the lunatics behind this show are hardcore DC Comics fans. That’s why they never stop introducing both well-known and obscure characters from the world of DC comics. These include Batman, Batgirl, Commissioner Gordon (eventually tossed out by his wife and living with his daughter Barbara in her college dorm), Alfred Pennyworth, Felix Faust, Granny Goodness, Mister Miracle, Kite Man and — I am not making this up — the Condiment King (reference “Batgirl: Year One, No. 8” and “Batman: The Animated Series,” episode “Make ‘Em Laugh”).
The real-life cast
If the above raves are not enough of a hook, the all-star, voice-over cast should cement the deal. And the deal is led by Kaley Cuoco (“The Big Bang Theory”) as Harley Quinn; Lake Bell (“Childrens Hospital”) as Poison Ivy; Alan Tudyk (“Doom Patrol”) as Clayface and Joker; Tony Hale (“Veep”) as Doctor Psycho; Ron Funches (“Trolls”) as King Shark; Jason Alexander (“Seinfeld”) as Sy Borgman; and J. B. Smoove (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”) as Frank the Plant. Wow.
And even guests stars shine. We’re talking about guests such as Diedrich Bader (“The Drew Carey Show”) as Batman; Alfred Molina (“Spider-Man 2’s” Doc Oc) as Mr. Freeze; Wanda Sykes (“Black-ish”) as the Queen of Fables; Michael Ironside (“Starship Troopers”) as Darkseid; and Wayne Knight (“Seinfeld”) as the Penguin. The guest list is topped off by an appearance by a practically irrelevant George Lopez as himself, performing at a prison talent show.
Suffice it to report: This is what every fan ever wanted out of Harley Quinn. These episodes are worth watching and rewatching, again and again. At least until HBO Max releases the third season of the show. That hopefully happens this fall.
Best Harley Quinn extras:
Holy major miscues Batman, the discs offer nothing in bonus content, not even a digital code to restream the fun on one’s portable devices. That’s almost unfathomable, considering the cutting-edge lunacy being unleashed on the screen. I want to know more about its origins and the creators, and I want to know now.
“Rick and Morty: The Complete Seasons 1-4” (Warner Home Video, rated TV-MA, 918-minutes, aspect ratio: 1.78:1, $89.99).
Surprisingly, Cartoon Network allowed creators Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland to bring to its cable space whatever thoughts dribbled from their demented minds. That decision gave the world Rick and Morty, one of the smartest, dumbest and funniest animated series in the history of this planet.
For those looking to quickly catch-up on the interdimensional adventures of brilliant science manipulator Rick Sanchez (think a sarcastic, gassy and alcoholic version of Doc Brown) and his terrified grandson Morty, this four-disc set offers all 41 episodes of the show in its high definition, profanity-bleeping free glory.
When not conquering time and space, Rick lives on Earth with his daughter Beth, her clueless husband Jerry and prickly granddaughter Summer. He spends his productive time perfecting outrageous inventions and dabbling in forbidden sciences in the family’s garage.
For those not understanding why they would waste time watching a show packed with sophomoric shenanigans, adult humor and sci-fi-inspired intellectual theories, I offer a trio of my favorite episodes in this collection thus far.
This third episode from season 3 of Rick and Morty finds Rick avoiding the pitfalls of family counseling while preferring to live his life as a pickle. After getting knocked into a sewer and uncovering a secret agency up to no good, he becomes a warrior and action hero. He even wears an exoskeleton built from dead roaches and rat corpses and wields a jetpack. However, he ultimately decides that family is more important than existing as an uber-violent condiment. The bloody violence in this episode is matched only by the episode’s resolve to appreciate one’s family. Surreal morality at its best.
“The Old Man and the Seat”
The second episode from season 4 offers an unabashed examination of shy pooper Rick’s existential crisis. He confronts it when dealing with a violation of his sacred space. I am still laughing.
This fourth episode of season 2 finds our dysfunctional extended family locked down in their home after being infected by extraterrestrial parasites. Almost like pod people, they create fake loved ones from fake memories. That skill set translates into appearances by Frankenstein’s monster, a raptor photographer, Tickles the Lamb, an Amish cyborg, a “Hamurai” warrior (a samurai with ham for armor), Elvis and, well, you get the idea. As always, remember to wash your hands when you get back from outer space.
The best part of this extended set is knowing that Mr. Harmon and Mr. Roiland are working diligently on the fifth season of this show. Hurry up, boys.
One of the best parts of owning any of the individual seasons on Blu-ray was the abundance of bonus content the creators provide for their fans.
All those extras were ported over to this latest collection. That bountifully translates into an optional commentary tracks on all of the episodes (sometimes multiples for each), offering unique perspectives from both the high-profile cast and crew.
Expect plenty of ramblings from Mr. Harmon and Mr. Roiland. Ditto material from celebrity fans such as “Walking Dead” creator Robert Kirkman, goth musician Marilyn Manson, Hole leader Courtney Love, comedian Russell Brand and Simpsons creator Matt Groening. As a bonus, pile on deleted scenes, animatics for each episode (rough storyboard layouts), an insider’s look at half of the episodes, and a party for the cast and crew for the second season debut.
This video package also includes codes enabling purchasers to own the shows through the digital streaming service Vudu; plus an exclusive, generously-sized poster (24 inches by 18 inches) of the entire family hanging with a quadrupedal robot while a passed-out Rick points his bare hindquarters toward the heavens.
— This story originally appeared in The Washington Times.
— Headline image: Cover art for “Harley Quinn: The Complete First and Second Seasons”
and “Rick and Morty: The Complete Seasons 1-4.”
Both now available in Blu-ray format from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.