Velma preview: Harley Quinn meets Riverdale in HBO Max's meta mystery

Velma Dinkley gets the prequel treatment courtesy of Mindy Kaling.

While New York Comic Con was being rocked by the Super Mario Bros. trailer, another panel saw Mindy Kaling and frequent collaborator Charlie Grandy finally spill the beans on their upcoming HBO Max adult animation series, Velma. They revealed the cast, and showed the first episode.

Inverse saw the episode, and trust us when we tell you it’s not what you expect.

Velma begins with, of all things, a shower scene. While scrubbing up, Daphne (Constance Wu) asks, “Have you ever noticed how pilot episodes of TV shows always have more gratuitous sex and nudity than the rest of the series?” Buckle up; we’re doing self-referential jokes.

Another girl mentions how Betty and Veronica kissed in the Riverdale pilot, but someone else argues that was okay because the scene immediately called it out as tired. The conversation descends from there until a corpse is revealed.

This self-aware tone is present throughout the debut episode. Even the sneak peek posted on YouTube shows Velma mad about a gritty reboot focused on Judy Jetson that ends with her saying, “Well, at least she’s white.”

While Velma makes it clear it knows the audience it’s dealing with, predicting the online reaction is another matter. Outside of trolls, there’s been no negative response to Velma being South Asian (Kaling voices the character). Fans seem more upset, or at least confused, by Shaggy (Sam Richardson) being called Norville, his canonical but rarely referenced real name.

It’s a justified change, as Norville is no longer a stoner burnout. He’s just a nerd with a car and a big crush on Velma. In one scene, he alerts Velma to a possible drug front within their favorite diner, saying, “I think it has something to do with drugs, and I hate drugs.” Get it?

Mindy Kaling, Sam Richardson, Constance Wu and Glenn Howerton at New York Comic-Con’s Velma panel.

Bryan Bedder/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

The only white character of the Scooby-Doo crew is now Fred (Glenn Howerton) which makes sense. In the post-preview panel discussion, Kaling said that whiteness isn’t inherent to any of these characters, except for Fred. In Velma, being an entitled guy is his whole deal, and the basis of many jokes.

The raunchy sex jokes and self-referential gags aren’t the only elements of Velma geared toward adults; there’s still a story, and it’s haunting in a sense beyond goofy ghosts occupying abandoned theme parks. “Grief and trauma” have become buzzwords in the world of gritty reboots, and Velma is dealing with the loss of her mother. The tragedy has resulted in horrific hallucinations whenever she tries to solve a mystery.

Velma looks trite from the outside, but underneath all the jokes and references there could be a companion to the esteemed Harley Quinn on HBO Max’s slate. Maybe, after you hear Velma’s story, you’ll react like Norville does: “Wow, after hearing that I not only feel emotionally hooked, I understand the stakes of your journey.”

Velma is coming soon to HBO Max.

Related Tags