Harley Quinn, an adult animated series centered on the popular Batman anti-heroine, may soon stream on HBO Max, WarnerMedia's newest streaming platform to rival Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+. The show just finished its acclaimed second season on its original home, DC Universe, a separate service under the same WarnerMedia umbrella. Should Harley Quinn stream on HBO Max, it will be the latest sign that DC Universe will end less than two years after its launch in the fall of 2018.
That said, it's also great news for anyone who hasn't seen Harley Quinn yet because it's one of the best DC shows (animated or otherwise) in recent memory.
What Happened? — On Saturday, Reddit users u/eze352 and u/spoke7 shared a screencap of an email newsletter from HBO Max. In the newsletter, HBO Max recommended three animated shows that are "Coming Soon to Your Screens": the HBO Max original Close Enough, the anime hit InuYasha, and Harley Quinn. The newsletter did not disclose a date for Harley Quinn.
The brief plot synopsis for Harley Quinn reads: "Harley Quinn (voiced by Kaley Cuoco) is on a mission to prove herself as Gotham's criminal queenpin."
Why this matters — If the newsletter is true — as a Max subscriber myself, I did not receive a newsletter in my inbox — it may confirm that WarnerMedia is confident in Harley Quinn's critical and cult popularity to make it an HBO Max original.
Harley Quinn, which takes place in its own continuity and stars Kaley Cuoco (The Big Bang Theory) in the title role, premiered in the fall of 2019 on DC Universe to rave reviews. It was one of the most high-profile exclusive shows to DC Universe, a multimedia service targeted to fans of the DC Comics brand.
Despite a notable launch in 2018 and a slew of original shows like Titans, Doom Patrol, Stargirl, and the short-lived Swamp Thing, DC Universe failed to visibly capture a big enough paying audience. (Doom Patrol is already streaming on HBO Max, but most of DC Universe originals are not.)
The series chronicles Harley's breakup with her ex-boyfriend, the Joker, and her subsequent rise through Gotham City's villainous underworld. "Between all the F-bombs, shattered limbs, and exploding bodies, Harley Quinn tells the progressive story of a woman who lost herself in a toxic relationship, but manages to redefine herself in inspiring and hilarious ways through the support of her friends," wrote Inverse's Corey Plante in his review of the pilot at New York Comic Con last fall.
In October 2019, WarnerMedia boasted that DC Universe is "still going strong" but did not disclose any subscriber count figures. In May 2020, the service touted a 35 percent increase in readers of its comic book library, citing Covid-19 lockdown as a boon for consumer engagement. Still, no definitive numbers were provided.
With the launch of HBO Max, which has a small collection of DC movies and shows in its broad library (including the DC Universe original Doom Patrol), fans are openly speculating if DC Universe will come to an end, with its media library being added to HBO Max.
The Inverse Analysis — Although it is still new and less than a year old, Harley Quinn is easily one of the greatest animated shows of all time. Though its future is unknown — WarnerMedia hasn't officially green lit a third season — the show ranks high for its gut-busting humor, shocking violence, and emotional complexity that sees a sprawling (and very familiar) comic book universe through a uniquely millennial and feminine lens.
The show was and is one of the best reasons to subscribe to DC Universe. But if the platform is not meant for this world and is headed towards doom, HBO Max is its only sensible home, as the show's relentless violence and graphic content is difficult to tame for broadcast or even cable TV. Harley Quinn, like its DC Universe cousin Doom Patrol, is a sublime product that really ought to be seen by more eyeballs and frankly doesn't deserve to be behind the paywall of a very niche platform.
There is no date for Harley Quinn's rumored release on HBO Max.