It was always going to be tough to follow up last week’s incredible episode, a strange and touching journey through Bruce Wayne’s psyche, but “Climax at Jazzapajizza” is yet another solid entry despite being somewhat rushed. As a zombie horde threatens a nearby jazz festival, eco-terrorist Poison Ivy comes one step closer to her goal of turning Gotham into a plant paradise, while her girlfriend Harley Quinn fights alongside her onetime nemeses, the Bat-family. The result is some amusing imagery that seems, at first, like it’s going to set up a rigorous finale. Instead, the season’s penultimate chapter opts for a quick-fire resolution without allowing its drama to stem from the couple’s preexisting tensions.
Bruce, whose trauma hosted Harley’s mind-bending adventure last week, kicks things off by introducing the villains to his resurrected parents. Of course, the billionaire playboy still has some kinks to work out, so for now, his mum and dad are a pair of mindless, half-plant hybrids with glowing eyes, but he’s happy to have some version of them walking around his mansion. Unbeknownst to him, all the other corpses from the cemetery have also been reanimated — they show up at the manor’s window and are revealed in a distinctly Shaun of the Dead fashion — leading villains Harley, Ivy, Clayface, and Dr. Psycho (along with Bat-alums Nightwing and Batgirl) to concoct a plan.
To make matters worse, the zombies won’t stop scromiting, and their jet-black puke turns regular people into tree creatures (a disturbing transmogrification that would feel at home in a Ridley Scott movie). Courtesy of Clayface’s organic binocular eyes, the other characters discover that the ghouls are making their way to a jazz performance in Gotham Central Park. Ivy, a jazz fan, springs into action and accesses “the green” in an attempt to form a neural link with them. Upon doing so, Ivy realizes she has the ability to control this plant-zombie horde. It’s not quite the terraforming master scheme she had in mind, but she figures she can use them to create her version of Eden all the same (despite psychic warnings from fellow plant-themed antihero Alec, a.k.a. Swamp Thing).
Harley, unaware of this change in plan, sets out in the Batwing plane, alongside Batgirl on her Bat-bike and a reluctant Nightwing on Alfred’s rocket-powered penny-farthing, to try and save the Jazzapajizza festival. En route, Harley realizes that the horde — which she still doesn’t know is being controlled by her girlfriend — is attacking people and places across this city except for locations where Harley and Ivy have been on dates (their favorite Italian joint, Mama Macaroni’s, is still intact). But while Harley’s realization appears to set up a compelling confrontation for the season finale, it all comes to a head much quicker than expected in a somewhat mechanical fashion. Harley, instead of being allowed to luxuriate in her crime-fighting face-turn, reaches the Jazzapajizza stage soon after and has but a brief exchange with Ivy about their differing viewpoints.
Ivy’s season-long story has finally seen her come full circle, back to godhood, while Harley has stepped over Gotham’s (admittedly flimsy) moral line toward the realm of heroism, but the clash this causes is rather brief. Harley very quickly sacrifices herself to save Bane, of all people, taking a bullet for him in the form of zombie goo and transforming into a tree, but Ivy swiftly undoes the effects, apparently foregoing her plant magic in the process.
Technically, all of this season’s stories collide and pay off in “Climax at Jazzapajizza,” but it isn’t so much a thematic symphony as it is a cacophony. It’s still funny, especially with Bruce talking to his zombie parents like they’re the real deal, but nothing meaningful or human is afforded the time to land this week the way it has in previous episodes. Bruce and King Shark briefly commiserate over their respective losses, leading to a realization on fast-forward for the Caped Crusader. Clayface’s long-running scheme where he impersonates a slain Billy Bob Thornton finally crosses paths with the A-plot, but only because he fears being found out now that Gotham’s dead are returning (he exits the episode midway through and isn’t seen again). And Harlivy, who’ve had plenty of tensions and well-meaning arguments through season three, feel disconnected from their own drama here; little of what they’ve experienced as a couple is foundational to this week’s conflict, and nothing of what they’ve learned to overcome is meaningfully threatened. It’s all a bit too neat and tidy, especially for a show so otherwise unafraid to get messy.
Usually, when an episode of Harley Quinn comes to a close, there’s some sense of what’s in store for the characters going forward — what emotional journeys they’ve yet to travel — but for the first time this season, a forthcoming entry no longer feels like appointment viewing. It’s especially unfortunate that there’s only one episode left to go (at least for now; the show has thankfully been renewed), but as this season has proved, even the series’ weaker chapters are largely breezy and inoffensive. So any disappointment here is less because the episode isn’t good — you can rarely make this case for Harley Quinn — but because it isn’t great.
• The highlight of this week is undoubtedly Bruce’s insistence that everything is perfectly normal. “I know how this looks, but I’m not crazy,” he states, matter-of-factly. “I just want to bring my zombie parents back to life.”
• A close second is Bruce’s equally straightforward interaction when introducing his moody son, Damian, to zombies Thomas and Martha: “Teens, right? Oh, right. You died when I was 8.” Diedrich Bader is a top-tier Batman.
• Nightwing, though he hasn’t been a central focus since his introduction this season, still gets fun lines like “Bruce Valanche is Batman?!” when trying (and failing) to throw Harley off the scent.