A season finale that ties together (almost) every lingering thread, “The Horse and the Sparrow” features the kind of understated character drama that makes Harley Quinn tick. It’s also absurd in its setting, evoking the final act of Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, albeit without the cartoonish bloodshed; the result is a self-reflexive, relationship-centric story that retroactively justifies the rush in last week’s penultimate entry. And with the show having thankfully been renewed for season four, it sets up an intriguing dynamic for lead couple Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy going forward, whose romantic woes both come to a head and find resolution this week. As usual, the series is breezy, economical, and even meaningful on occasion.
The finale opens with dead bodies strewn about at the Jazzapajizza festival, as Ivy completes the “uuuuuuck” half of her anguished “fuuuuuu —” that closed last week’s episode. She is, of course, mourning the death of her plan to terraform Gotham into a flora paradise, rather than the zombie collateral damage (the show’s “extras” have always been disposable), but she’s just as peeved that it was Harley’s personal sacrifice that threw this scheme into disarray. I wrote last week that this resolution felt far too neat, but I’m happy to have been wrong. Despite this plot being brought to a close, the couple’s conflict was only just getting started.
Ivy may not have really undergone much rigorous change this season, but Harley has, to the point that she’s practically a hero. She’s uncomfortable at the notion, unable to process praise and cheers from wide-eyed onlookers who see her as their savior, which now places her and Ivy at opposite ends of Gotham’s imaginary super-spectrum. In a more straightforward show, the fallout would be fisticuffs. In Harley Quinn, it takes the form of difficult discussions, and lingering suspicions during the couple’s plot to kill the mayor (who, in case you missed a few episodes, happens to be a reformed Joker).
Ivy, during some much needed downtime, is approached by Superman’s arch nemesis, Lex Luthor (Giancarlo Esposito), who follows her through a department store on a series of TV screens (as any great villain should), and offers her the lead role in his renewed Legion of Doom — if she kills the Joker. Ivy accepts, but she knows Harley’s new moral compass may not allow her to get on board. Her suspicions are proven right at the premiere of A Hard Wayne’s Gonna Fall — the James Gunn–helmed Thomas Wayne biopic that’s been peering through the wings all season — where Harley is suspiciously cagey even when it comes to murdering her abusive Clown Prince ex, who’s now one of Luthor’s political adversaries. The couple ties him up in the projection booth, but in a surprising turn, Joker and Ivy bond over their respective relationships with Harley while she’s off retrieving her baseball bat — her signature weapon — and while the Joker is still a manipulative shit about it, he manages to make Ivy reflect on aspects of her own character that may be similar to his own (i.e., the expectation that Harley will simply show blind support, and go along with her plans).
Harley, as predicted, really wants to prove her love for Ivy, so she tries to bash the Joker’s head in, resulting in a fun reversal. Ivy, having realized she might be forcing Harley into it, uses her vines to string the Joker up like a piñata, jostling him around the room to avoid bloodshed while she tries to talk things out, even though she needs him dead in exchange for leadership of the Legion. A traditional and typically Gotham murder scene thus becomes a game of opposites, and a shot at reconciliation; “I have no problem with you killing Joker right now, but not if you’re only doing it because it’s what I want,” Ivy says.
It’s both absurd and touching — a descriptor that also applies to Bruce Wayne’s story this week. He has Alfred rebury his zombie parents, but he still can’t escape their specter, as pamphlets for the Thomas Wayne movie starring Billy Bob Thornton rain down from the sky, courtesy of a marketing blimp alongside both skywriting and sky banners for the upcoming release. He’s been invited to the premiere, too, and where he once believed the past would forever define him, he now sees watching this film as the ultimate confrontation of his grief. He also invites Selina as his plus one, despite their breakup, and her showing up to support him moves him to tears (though his preceding conversation with Harley the therapist might have opened him up to this reaction).
Elsewhere, Clayface agonizes with his buddy King Shark over whether or not he should reveal that he’s been Thornton all along, if only for the adulation. Unfortunately, it’s the episode’s weakest subplot. It results in little by way of memorable comedy or convincing drama, but we do finally catch a glimpse of the movie itself (which is appropriately melodramatic). The premiere may not serve Clayface’s saga, but it does form the backdrop for every other subplot to collide, including softboi Bane in what little way he can contribute to the story. (“God bless you, Harley,” he politely proclaims from beneath his top hat, only to be met with “Eat shit, loser!”) Sadly, his missing pasta maker doesn’t warrant a mention.
Bruce, though he seems to finally be on the verge of an emotional breakthrough, is tragically — or, depending on how you look at it, justly — the victim of what turns out to be Joker’s secret plan to lure him to the premiere and arrest him for tax evasion. He does this by having several cops, all dressed as clown goons, pop out of a tiny clown car. It’s just one of his many “reform” schemes (like an “evil lair tax”) that, though it might be altruistic, threatens to upset the fabric of this pocket of the DC universe by targeting established billionaires like Bruce and Lex. Much to think about.
In the end, Bruce goes to prison willingly, seeing it as a chance to finally reflect and heal without any Bat-antics, while Harley and Ivy come to an understanding. While it’s seemingly a reconciliation for now, there’s the potential for plenty of future tensions. They communicate, as any healthy couple should, and decide that they can stay together without being tethered to each other’s interests or goals. Harlivy forever.
This would make for a definitively happy ending, were it not for the paths they’ve chosen. Ivy is off to lead Lex’s new league of villains, while Harley has found her own purpose by joining her friend Batgirl and the rest of the Bat-family. They’re both happy — at least until their paths inevitably cross as part of their new villain and hero organizations. A cliffhanger if there ever was one!
• The Joker as a send-up of fears of mildly left-leaning policies — “I’m both a maniacal force of nature and I want free universal health care!” — will never not be funny.
• Billy Bob Thornton’s dry, matter-of-fact delivery of “You’re proof that anything’s possible if you’re born into generational wealth. Let my death define your entire life!” as a dying Thomas Wayne is downright marvelous.