Harley Quinn’s second season is bringing some big changes to Gotham City that are set to push its entire cast of heroes and villains to grow and change in fascinating ways. But co-showrunner Patrick Schumacker wants everyone to understand that what Harley and the gang are going through isn’t exactly turning them into different people, it’s just bringing out their inner truths that we only saw glimpses of in season one.
We caught up with Schumacker recently by phone to discuss what else is in store for Harley Quinn this season, and he explained that while it might seem as if the show’s going to do DC Comics’ classic No Man’s Land arc, that’s not quite the case. Gotham may be divvied up between the baddest of the bad, and Batman might be out of the fray for the moment, but the show is going in a slightly different direction that might surprise you.
io9: Talk to me about your production process, how soon after season one did you start on season two, or was this just a powering through both back to back situation?
Patrick Schumacker: The production was always back, to back, to back from the get-go because we were picked up for 26 episodes and we always knew that we wanted to break those up into two discrete 13-episode-long arcs. But also, we needed the production to be back-to-back in order to make it all affordable, actually. It’s kind of amazing what the cost difference between doing 13 episodes and then taking a break and shutting down production versus just doing them all together—it’s something like a six-figure difference per episode, and so it just made more sense financially to do it that way. So we never shut down the writers’ room, but there was a short lull where we had a chance to sit down and hammer out the details of what we wanted this second arc to look like.
io9: Season one did such a solid job of establishing what kind of people this take on Harley and her crew are, but what new aspects of their personalities did you want to delve into and develop in season two?
Schumacker: Harley and Ivy are the main focus of this season in terms of the lengthier character arcs. Their relationship goes through a pretty massive evolution this season. With Harley, she’s really tied to Ivy this season and beginning to develop different feelings for her than we portrayed in the first season. That was always the plan—to have their bond become more complicated. With Ivy, she’s the Cameron Frye to Harley’s Ferris Bueller. Harley’s able to open her up and allow her to be really vulnerable. Ivy’s kind of been that way with Kite-Man, and he’s well-intentioned, and she’s well-intentioned, but it’s a bit of an odd fit. They care about each other, even though it’s not quite working, and I think we’ve all been in relationships where people care for each other, but they know it’s not quite the right fit. We wanted to explore Ivy’s, well, her blossoming and opening up to her feelings and allowing herself to really love someone.
We delve a little into Harley and Ivy’s backstory in a flashback episode that takes place mostly in Arkham and it focuses on what made Harley fall for the Joker and how a lot of it was based on lies. Ivy’s there, and the entire thing reframes the whole Harley/Joker meet-cute if you wanna call it a meet-cute. I don’t want to spoil exactly what happens, but it presents Ivy in an entirely new light.
io9: And what about the other characters?
Schumacker: We explore quite a bit with Doctor Psycho and King Shark. With King Shark, we get to see his home situation and pressures that have been put on him by you know, his kingdom. He ends up having to make a big life decision that takes him home and there is a...song that’s part of an underwater musical that’s honestly one of my favorite episodes of the season. With Doctor Psycho, he’s a guy who was so reluctant to join Harley’s crew because honestly, he’s a misogynist who hates working for a woman. He’s become useful, but season two really sees him starting to rankle because he feels as if he isn’t getting the respect that he deserves. He feels like he’s being under-utilized and that the team could be so much more—world conquerors, essentially, but no one will listen to him.
Clayface, honestly he’s the comic relief guy. If we get a third season, I really want to dig to him a little more. Having this kind of ensemble cast really gave us an embarrassment of riches. We only have but so much time to explore all of them, but and there’s so much more we want to get into.
io9: You were talking earlier about this flashback episode that reframes and recontextualizes aspects of Harley, Ivy, and the Joker’s relationships with one another and I’m interested to hear about the process when you decide to center these moments that are, I guess a radical reimagining of the canon.
Schumacker: It changes from moment to moment, but things like the flashback episode, that was really borne from the overarching goal of developing Harley’s romantic affection for Ivy. We knew we could use that episode to show Harley’s ability to soften Ivy, who’s this cynical and at the time feral being who doesn’t trust humanity. When they first meet, nobody really treats Ivy like a full person and Harley’s the person who shows her empathy and recognizes Ivy’s humanity.
io9: I wanna pivot for a sec to talk about Selina. Catwoman’s one of DC’s characters that really lends herself to reimagination from story to story and in different mediums. Talk to me about Harley Quinn’s Catwoman. Like one, who is she? And two, where has she been this whole time?
Schumacker: Our Catwoman shows up in the third episode of this season. Sarah Peters is the extremely talented comedy writer of that episode, and I don’t know that she’s explicitly said this, but I feel like it’s safe to say that her favorite movie of all time is Batman Returns and Michelle Pfeiffer was the starting place, I think. We wanted to figure out what a good comedic angle for a character who gives zero Fs would be—I’m saying that because my four-year-old is right here. The interesting thing is that we already kind of had that character in Ivy, so we thought what if Catwoman had that apathy that Ivy has, but ratcheted up 1,000-fold, and what if Ivy looks at her as the coolest chick on the planet? Because Ivy doesn’t think anyone is cool, you know?
io9: Right, she basically hates everyone.
Schumacker: Ivy hates herself. She thinks Harley’s adorable and lovely, but she doesn’t think she’s cool, but Catwoman? She thinks she’s cool as hell and she just kind of melts in front of her. They have this history of Catwoman kind of using Ivy because she’s kind of a sellsword and selfish and self-involved and everything she does reflects that. We talk about her past with Ivy and how they’ve pulled heists together and schemed together but at the end of the day, Ivy’s been left hung out to dry because Catwoman’s really only about herself. But Ivy can’t see past that. She just admires Catwoman’s cool too much. The way Sarah put is was like, we all have friends who wear the coolest clothes and then you wanna be them, so you buy the same clothes, but you look terrible in them but you still wear them because you just wanna be that friend.
So Catwoman is an ally and someone that Ivy can call in to help them, but Harley just can’t get over how much being around Catwoman changes Ivy. She’s like “Look at you, you are NOT yourself around her. She did it to you before and she’ll do it again!” So it’s sort of this interesting role reversal thing where suddenly Harley is the voice of reason. So that’s the angle we went with and man, Sanaa Lathan just has the best apathetic take on the character. She just understands that Selina’s like a cat, but not campy in a Batman 66 kind of way, it’s a little subtler. There are a few hisses and meows in there.
io9: Selina’s in the mix, and so we have to talk about Bruce. Episode one establishes that he’s still out there, albeit a little worse for wear, but also there’s this really interesting way that the people connected to Bruce, like Damian, have just been soldiering on without him. What’s in store for Bruce once he’s back on his feet and in the thick of it?
Schumacker: Bruce really goes on a journey. We took this opportunity this season to have a bunch of episodes that are off-template, and one of them focuses on Bruce trying to be Batman before he’s really ready to get back in the suit. The episode also focuses on Alfred trying to nurse Bruce back to health and telling him to stay put because there are other vigilantes who show up in Gotham to protect the city in Batman’s absence. You start to see Bruce, you know, getting upset that there are others doing his work, and it gave us this chance to really play up the comedic aspects of Bruce Wayne as a character because he’s like this petulant teenager with Alfred who’s like “You broke your back once, do you remember that? It’s going to happen again.” He’s a teenager under house arrest trying to figure out how to sneak out of the house to fight crime.
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