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The Ending Of Harley Quinn Season 3 Explained

"Harley Quinn" Season 3 has come to a close, completing another absurd and hilarious installment for the HBO Max animated series. Season 3 may even be the show's best entry yet, with critics raving about the enhanced focus on character development and complicated relationships. Of course, the blossoming relationship between Harley (Kaley Cuoco) and Poison Ivy (Lake Bell) is at the center of the season, solidifying it as the focal point of the show.

Hot off their whirlwind get-together at the end of Season 2, Harley and Ivy kick Season 3 off with a bang. Reinvigorated, Ivy devises a plan to terraform Gotham and take it back from humanity. Things don't exactly go as planned, though, leading to everything from a visit with Swamp Thing (Sam Richardson) to a mild zombie apocalypse. Along the way, Joker gets elected mayor on a surprisingly progressive platform, King Shark (Ron Funches) and Clayface (Alan Tudyk) take part in a slew of shenanigans, and the whole Bat Family grows up — at least a little.

The ending of "Harley Quinn" Season 3 isn't exactly what fans might have expected after the previous seasons. The finale is more interested in character growth than in hilariously grotesque action set pieces, and it's stronger for it. While the show's always been fun as an absurdist parody, it's even better when it takes itself a little seriously. Here's everything you may have missed at the end of "Harley Quinn" Season 3 and what it could set up.

Poison Ivy: Supervillain

After spending the better part of three seasons chilling on the couch and doing occasional bits of eco-terrorism, Poison Ivy really comes into her own at the end of "Harley Quinn" Season 3. Her reignited passion for plant-based riots — fostered by Harley's support — leads her to reconnect with the ethereal energy source known as the Green. From there, she gets a striking makeover and a renewed zeal for natural conquest, which leads to a zombie outbreak and an offer to lead the new Legion of Doom.

It's fun to see Ivy so driven after being Harley's support system for most of the show. Even Amanda Waller (Tisha Campbell) says that Ivy hasn't been an active villain for years at the start of the season. However. with the enhanced power granted by the Green and the endless resources made available by Lex Luthor (Giancarlo Esposito), she might be on track to become the most fearsome entity in all of Gotham.

The interesting thing about Ivy's villainous streak is that she's easy to root for. Her desire for a planet free of pollution and human corruption is, at face value, quite admirable. Though she reverses her zombie plague to save Harley and even lets the Joker go free despite Luthor ordering her to kill him, it's clear that she's ready to go to great lengths to make her dream of Eden a reality.

Harley Quinn: Superhero?

In an unexpected turn, Harley and Ivy are sent in seemingly opposite directions at the end of "Harley Quinn" Season 3. Though Harley's been the one shooting for the top of the supervillain hierarchy for the whole show, Ivy's the one who really makes that dream her own. Harley instead ends the season by joining forces with the Bat Family — a twist that's as shocking as it is earned.

For most of the first two seasons of the show, Harley is obsessed with becoming the baddest villain in Gotham. Joining the Legion of Doom, kneecapping the competition (literally), and causing general chaos are tasks at the top of her to-do list. Still, even when she's at the peak of her evil ambition, it's clear that this isn't really what Harley wants. Her bid for power and respect is mostly an overcorrection after her breakup with the Joker. When she finally gets together with Ivy, though, she's actually able to pause and reflect.

"I was alone for so long, carrying around all this trauma," Harley tells Ivy at the end of the season. "Then I met you and I fell in love, which helped me get past it. I'm finally in a place where I can actually think about what I want." It's fun to see her put her therapy skills to work to help Batman, and it's incredibly rewarding to see Harley blazing her own trail. Who knows where it could lead?

Joker's progressive crusade

While Harley and Poison Ivy both get great character arcs in "Harley Quinn" Season 3, no one changes more than the Joker himself (Alan Tudyk). After being temporarily transformed into a regular guy in Season 2, the Clown Prince of Crime re-dons the purple suit, but he's not exactly the same as he was before. Seemingly changed by his experience as a normal suburban stepdad, Joker finds new joy in his relationship with Bethany (Krizia Bajos) and her two kids. His efforts to get them into a Spanish immersion program at school lead to him running a successful campaign as mayor. Even more surprisingly, he appears to do a pretty good job after taking office.

Joker campaigns on progressive pillars like free universal healthcare, education reform, and accountability from Gotham's richest citizens. To that end, he arrests Bruce Wayne for tax evasion during the Season 3 finale, showing that the city's Caped Crusader isn't exactly innocent in the criminal activity department.

Aside from being an entertaining send-up of billionaire habits and a clear homage to real-world progressive politicians like Bernie Sanders, Joker's transformation into an inspirational leader is a fun twist on his traditional characterization. What would happen if he channeled all that "we live in a society" energy into actually making that society a better place for all? Hopefully, "Harley Quinn" will continue exploring the answers to that question.

A vacation behind bars for Bruce Wayne

"Harley Quinn" Season 3 puts Batman squarely in the spotlight. While he never usurps Harley and Ivy, he does get a lot of time devoted to his trauma, his shortcomings, and even his relationship with Selina Kyle (Sanaa Lathan). For the most part, these plotlines are played for comedic effect. Bruce Wayne is portrayed as an emotionally stunted man-child with few actual life or social skills. However, he also gets some genuinely poignant moments with Harley late in the season, who uses her skills as a therapist to help him process his past experiences.

It seems that the Batman of "Harley Quinn" is on the road to self-improvement, but he'll be doing that work while behind bars after getting arrested by Mayor Joker for tax evasion. It's an interesting twist on the age-old character that acknowledges the reality of the uber-rich in America. According to research published by The Washington Post in 2021, the wealthiest 1% of Americans evade close to $200 billion in due taxes every year, so it's not hard to imagine the Wayne family being guilty of the same crime. 

Will Bruce's time in prison wake him up to the more sycophantic aspects of his anti-crime crusade? Only time will tell. But with Joker as mayor and Harley fighting bad guys, it seems that positive transformation is in the air.

Clayface's Hollywood future

Clayface's arc in "Harley Quinn" Season 3 is a bizarre amalgam of fourth-wall-breaking meta-commentary. The mud monster auditions for a part in an upcoming biopic about Bruce Wayne's father Thomas, and while he flunks the read, he does manage to get a job as a chair for director James Gunn (yes, that one). Things go even more awry when Clayface accidentally gets star Billy Bob Thornton (again, yes) killed and decides to replace him in the film.

After the premiere of the movie in the season finale, Clayface attempts to come clean to the audience, confessing that he's the one who is really behind the leading performance. However, no one seems to take notice. "Billy Bob is a shapeshifter!" one audience member cries excitedly. Even James Gunn doesn't seem phased, despite having met Clayface personally earlier in the season.

Does this mean that the Batman villain will continue his charade in Hollywood? He could theoretically continue playing the part of Thornton and starring in big films, especially since his turn as Thomas Wayne seems to have been such a success. Regardless, the show has a lot of fun poking fun at the movie industry through Clayface's antics, and that trend seems unlikely to stop any time soon.

The King of Sharks

Like Clayface, King Shark has a relatively isolated arc in "Harley Quinn" Season 3, leaving Harley and Ivy to take centerstage solo. His storyline kicks off with the death of his father, which forces him to return home and voluntarily yield the throne to his younger brother. Tragically, however, King Shark learns that his sibling only intends to sell the Shark Kingdom to Ocean Master — the sworn enemy of their people. His resistance to this plan leads to one of the show's bloodiest and most intricate fight scenes yet, which ends with King Shark killing his brother and reclaiming his title as ruler of the deep.

It would be interesting to see more of King Shark's royal duties and how they impact his life in Gotham City, but as he's still more of a tertiary character, the show doesn't really have time to dive into all that. Season 3 plays fast and loose with the geographical limitations of his dual life as well, as he transitions from his undersea kingdom to Harley's various hideouts with ease. There's definitely potential for King Shark's aquatic politics to play a bigger role in the show going forward — possibly with an Aquaman return — but he's still played more for laughs at the end of "Harley Quinn" Season 3.

Batgirl in charge

With Bruce Wayne behind bars for white-collar crime, Batgirl (Briana Cuoco) is left in charge of his crimefighting crew. Damian Wayne (Jacob Tremblay) and Nightwing (Harvey Guillén) don't seem to have a problem with that, which makes sense since neither of them seems terribly fit to lead. Still, this is a big promotion for Barbara, and it seems like her arc in the show may play out very differently than her comic book counterpart.

In the comics, Barbara Gordon is famously paralyzed by the Joker. She transitions from being Batgirl to the role of Oracle — Batman's eye in the sky, so to speak. But with the Joker seemingly reformed in "Harley Quinn," that storyline would be pretty tough to replicate. The show has also seemed hesitant to put its lead characters through too much suffering, preferring to empower them and follow the fun.

That could mean big things for Batgirl in particular, who now might have the freedom to explore her superhero potential without the shadow of her usual doom hanging over her head. Her burgeoning friendship with Harley is another highlight of Season 3, and it should be interesting to see how their dynamic continues to develop now that the former villain is teaming up with her to fight crime.

An odd time for Gotham

All in all, the ending of "Harley Quinn" Season 3 leaves Gotham City in a pretty bizarre place. Joker is the mayor, Harley is a hero, Batman is behind bars, and many of the town's most dangerous criminals are dead. Yet, amid all that strangeness, it actually seems like things are looking up.

So far, Joker has done a bang-up job running the city — certainly better than the previous mayor or Jim Gordon would have done. With his penchant for rebellion and chaos now working for the people of Gotham instead of against them, there might be hope for the city yet.

The return of the Legion of Doom, as led by Poison Ivy, is the one big question mark looming on the horizon. Her mission of returning Gotham to a more natural environment is easy to get behind, but she's also made it clear that she's willing to go to extreme lengths to make it happen. The Season 3 finale has set a lot of interesting dynamics in motion between Harley, Ivy, Joker, and the Bat Family, which should be entertaining to see play out. For now, at least, Gotham seems to have a real shot at a bright future.

Growth and evolution

"People can be more than just one thing," Joker tells Poison Ivy during the "Harley Quinn" Season 3 finale. "They grow and evolve." It's one of those lines that reads like a lightning rod — a reminder of the show's core thesis. "Harley Quinn" has always been a story about self-improvement and change, kicked off by its titular protagonist finally dumping the Joker and focusing on herself for once. Since then, the series has expanded its theme of evolution to the rest of the cast.

Season 3 embraces this message even more fully, giving everyone from Joker to Swamp Thing room to explore who they really want to be. Sure, it's all done under the umbrella of comedic parody and ultraviolence, but "Harley Quinn" manages to strike a balance that really works. It's completely aware that comic book characters are rarely allowed to deviate from their preset parameters, and it crafts its most interesting moments by flipping that script. In this bizarre version of the DC world, Joker can be an inspiring politician and Harley Quinn can be a hero. The language with which the message is written may feel a bit absurd at times, but it hits home nonetheless.

A new world order for the DC universe

Seeing how far "Harley Quinn" is willing to go in Season 3 presents some interesting possibilities for the future. Big DC players like Superman, Wonder Woman, and Darkseid have all featured on the show in the past, and with the polarity of Gotham being turned upside, similar changes could be coming for them as well. What if Darkseid used his Parademons for good? What if Wonder Woman had a hot girl summer? These are the kinds of places that most mainstream DC stories are hesitant to go, but "Harley Quinn" has kicked the door down.

With spin-offs already theoretically on the way, it seems likely that the show's unique spin on the DC world could be expanded in multiple ways. In an age when IP is closely safeguarded, it's fun to see a series be so playful with established characters. "Harley Quinn" Season 3 focuses more than ever before on its core cast, but in doing so, it also paves the way for new stories in exciting ways. If this is the new world order for DC, it's certainly an entertaining one.

The stars of the show

While "Harley Quinn" Season 3 does do some exciting things for the broader DC universe, it also never loses sight of what makes it great. The show tightens its focus in its third installment, removing extraneous side characters in order to prioritize Harley and Ivy. Doctor Psycho, Jim Gordon, Sy Borgman, and others like them still feature, but they don't get as much screen time as in previous seasons.

This is ultimately for the best. The Harlivy ship becomes the center of attention, with a decent amount of time also spent on Clayface, King Shark, and the Bat Family. Even those more secondary plotlines are weaved into the main story in clever ways, however. For instance, Batman's story sets up both Harley's experimental heroics and Ivy's newfound power, while Clayface's Hollywood debut sets up the big events of the finale.

In other words, "Harley Quinn" feels tighter and more interconnected than ever in Season 3. By the end, Season 4 is practically written, and not because there's some big scheme looming in Gotham Harbor. The show builds itself into a compelling character drama by the end of Season 3 without sacrificing the irreverence that made it a hit in the first place. That's an impressive accomplishment, and it means that the series' best days may still be ahead of it.

Star-crossed lovers

"Harley Quinn" Season 3 ends the same way it starts — by exploring the depth and nuance of Harley and Poison Ivy's relationship. By the end of the season finale, they realize that their life paths are leading them in two different (almost contradictory) directions, but they do the mature things and have a real conversation about it. Showing a couple navigating mundane but relatable issues like conflicting career paths and personal goals is something that the comic book genre rarely does. Yet, "Harley Quinn" does just that with flying colors.

While they show immense support for one another at the end of Season 3, Harley and Ivy's new pursuits will almost certainly come into conflict with each other at some point. Ivy still doesn't really care about human life, and Harley seems serious about exploring non-villain career options. This obviously complicates their relationship, and it will be intriguing to see how they navigate future dilemmas while still standing by each other's side.

"It's exciting, and scary," Harley says to Ivy about her newfound sense of freedom. Both characters have a lot of exciting opportunities set before them, and by the end of "Harley Quinn" Season 3, so does the whole show.