"Mad Love" is the last aired episode of The New Batman Adventures. It first aired on January 16, 1999. It provides the back story of Harley Quinn, the Joker's girlfriend, and was based on the comic book of the same name. Both the episode and the comic book were written by Paul Dini.
Commissioner Gordon goes in for a dental appointment, only to find the Joker in the place of his dentist. Harley Quinn ties him to the chair, and just as Joker is about to kill the Commissioner, Batman crashes in. He tosses a pair of chattering teeth to the floor with disdain, and tells the Joker that the clue was poorly done. Harley interrupts Batman's bashing and claims credit for the idea, then stuns Batman with a spray of gas. She tosses out a pun about it, much to the Joker's outrage. As they make their escape, Joker tosses a grenade into Gordon's lap, but Batman hurls it out the window in the nick of time. Gordon, having already hated going to the dentist regardless of whether it was mandatory for the medical plan of the police department, reaffirmed his displeasure of going there from the near-death experience.
In the Funnibones warehouse, Joker is poring over various plans to kill Batman (in an appropriately humiliating yet comedic manner). He is so obsessive that he fails to notice Harley prancing around behind him in an alluring negligee, and when she announces herself, he irritably orders her away. Joker laments that his trap at the dentist's office was, indeed too easy and he must try harder to come up with the "perfect" means of defeating Batman. Harley asks what if Joker simply shot him. The idea of murdering his archenemy in such a mundane manner enrages him, as it must represent his comic genius in any way possible.
Then Joker notices one of his old blueprints and becomes excited at his plan for "The Death of A Hundred Smiles" — lowering Batman into a piranha tank to be devoured — but then remembers why he dropped it: he couldn't make the piranhas smile, defeating the whole theme. As he slumps in dejection, Harley resumes her advances—to which the Joker responds by kicking her through the door into a pile of garbage, near Bud and Lou.
Alone, Harley bemoans the sorry state of her life: whatever career she had as a legitimate psychiatrist is long gone, she's a wanted fugitive all over the country, and hopelessly infatuated with a psychopath who treats her like dirt. She starts to wonder where things went wrong for her... but her thoughts quickly swerve away from putting any blame on her beloved "puddin'", and instead she concludes that Batman is the one who has always persecuted her happiness, as he has "from the very beginning..".
- Some years ago, Dr. Harleen Quinzel was a young, career-orientated psychiatrist interested in "extreme personalities", which led her to take an internship at Arkham Asylum. She met the Joker (who gave her a sly wink) on her very first day of work, and he immediately began to work his charms on her by leaving a rose on her office desk.
- Harleen confronted him later and threatened to turn him in for breaking out of his cell, but Joker waved her off, saying that she would have already done it had she really meant to. He teased her by saying he liked her name, which could easily be tweaked into "Harley Quinn," a spin on the word "Harlequin." Harleen was not amused, and walked away coldly, but then Joker said he would be willing to confide in her in therapy. The ambitious psychiatrist saw this as a potential landmark in her professional career, and grabbed the opportunity.
- After nearly three months of background research, Dr. Quinzel arranged a session with the Joker. She believed herself ready for any tricks he might pull on her—but instead she found him opening up to her. He confessed to having a traumatic childhood, with an alcoholic father who frequently beat him for no apparent reason. The Joker said that all he wanted to do in life was to make people laugh, and when he told her about some of his early routines, she found herself laughing helplessly with him—and then crying as he then said how his father responded to his jokes with more beatings. But, he shrugged, that's one of the inescapable truths of comedy: "You always take shots from folks who just don't get the joke". In a way, he mused, his father and Batman were a lot alike: their problem was, they just didn't "get" him.
- After several of these sessions, Dr. Quinzel became increasingly sympathetic to her patient, believing that his traumatic childhood had driven him to a life of crime, while Batman's continued persecution only prolonged his misery. Soon, Quinzel and her patient switched roles: she started to confide in him, and he reacted with understanding, explaining how, in her ambitious drive to make a success of her career, she had somehow forgotten how to have fun, and was needy for someone who could make her laugh. There was no question that now Dr. Quinzel had fallen head-over-heels in love with her patient.
- Shortly after his latest escape from Arkham, Joker was recaptured and brought back by Batman, badly injured. The sight of her beloved, swathed in bandages, sent Dr. Quinzel over the edge. She stole a harlequin costume and various trick gags from a novelty store, then sneaked back into Arkham, neutralized the guards and broke the Joker free. Dubbing herself Harley Quinn, she embraced a life of crime with her newfound love.
Harley decides that as long as Batman is around, she and Joker can never be happy, so she takes matters into her own hands. She sends a videotaped message to the GPD, warning them that Joker has gone totally crazy and is preparing a gas bomb that could kill the entire city. Telling the police that she has finally come to her senses, she promises to help them stop the plan, if they can protect her. Batman meets her at the docks, where she delivers a set of papers that seem to confirm the Joker's heinous plan. As Batman examines them, the Joker appears on a boat speeding towards the pier, calling Harley a traitor and opening fire with a submachine gun. Batman dives on top of Harley to protect her and hurls a batarang at the Joker, which cuts his head clean off. Batman looks again and sees that he's actually decapitated a robotic dummy, but his moment of shock is all Harley needs to inject him from behind with a sedative.
Batman wakes up to find himself chained from head to toe, relieved of his utility belt, and hanging upside down over a piranha tank inside the empty Aquacade aquarium. Harley explains that the story about the gas bomb was a fake: her real goal is to finish him off, using one of her beloved's plans. All it needed, she realized, was to have Batman upside down when he was lowered in, thus making the piranhas' downturned mouths look like smiles.
As Harley prepares to finish Batman off, she admits to some small regrets, since she's really enjoyed some of their escapades. But, in the end, all she wants to do is get Batman out of their lives so she and her "loving sweetheart" can settle down.
Hearing this, Batman, incredibly, begins laughing derisively. Unsettled by the fact that Batman never laughs, Harley tells him to stop. Batman then lashes out at her with scorn by calling her "You little fool!" and telling her that the Joker loves no one other than himself, and that he had her pegged for hired help the minute she walked into Arkham. Angrily, Harley rebuts that Joker trusts her, and that he confided secrets to her... to which Batman responds that those "secrets" are just sob stories he's told many times before, and to many other people in order to gain sympathy. Harley is severely shaken, but screams through her tears that Joker does love her, and killing Batman will win him back. Without further ado, she starts to lower him in, but Batman points out that Joker won't believe her, since the piranhas will leave no proof, only tiny scraps of flesh, bone, and cloth. She glances at his utility belt, but he reminds her that even the belt, without a body, won't be enough to convince Joker. Nervously, Harley ponders her next move...
Back at the Funnibones warehouse, Joker is still poring over his plan ideas, while the phone is ringing incessantly. Fed up, he grabs the phone, and hears Harley's voice on the other line. But when he hears what she has done, Joker is livid at being upstaged and speeds to the Aquacade in his car. On his arrival, Harley runs lovingly toward him... only for him to strike her viciously to the ground. Confused, she asks what is wrong, and he says that only he can be allowed to kill Batman. Harley starts to explain that it is his plan she is using, only she has improved it, only to have Joker snatch the blueprints away and rip them to shreds. He rants that any joke that has to be explained to the audience is no joke at all. Menacingly, he advances on Harley, counting her as just one more person of the many he's had to cope with, who "don't get the joke"—and knocks her out the window, causing her to plunge several stories down into a garbage heap.
Lying bruised but alive, Harley mumbles that it was her fault for not getting the joke.
Joker promptly swings Batman out from over the tank and lowers him to the table, while apologizing for Harley's impetuosity. He cheerfully proposes that they forget the whole fiasco occurred and take a rain check for their next confrontation. He starts to walk away, whistling, but then realizes that Harley has given him an opportunity too good to miss after all, and he'll go ahead and kill Batman himself. He flips the still-chained Batman onto his back and takes aim at his forehead with a gun.
Just as he pulls the trigger, however, Batman kicks the gun upward, so the shot shatters the piranha tank, releasing a flood of piranha-filled water that knocks Joker down. As Joker thrashes around, trying to pull off the piranhas nipping at his flesh, Batman flips to his feet, grabs his utility belt with his teeth, and manages to extract a lock pick and release his chains. Joker makes a hasty retreat, and Batman dashes after him. The Joker jumps out of the building, falling on the top of a moving train.
Batman catches up with him and confides that Harley actually came very close to killing him—much closer than the Joker ever has, in fact—and that his only way out was to trick her into calling him, knowing his ego would get in the way of Harley's objective. Batman then teases the Joker by calling him "Puddin'" — Harley's pet name that he so loathes. Joker goes berserk and launches himself at Batman, leading to a brutal fistfight between the two. As the Joker finally pulls out a knife, Batman delivers such a fierce uppercut that it sends Joker flying off the train and falling, screaming, down a smokestack. Batman stands silently on the roof of the train, knowing all too well the Joker will be back.
Back in Arkham, the inmates are watching Summer Gleeson on the news. She reports that Joker's body has not been found, but, although he has cheated death many times before, he is extremely unlikely to have survived this last encounter with Batman.
An injured Harley is wheeled to her cell, vowing internally to turn over a new leaf and leave the craziness behind her, finally seeing the Joker as the murderous psychopath he really is... but then she sees a flower and a get-well card signed "J". sitting on her nightstand, and that is all it takes to change her mind.
- Apparently, Joker's fish-specific toxin (used in Batman: The Animated Series, "The Laughing Fish") doesn't work on piranhas.
- The flower and card at the end indicate that Joker survived the fall, confirmed by his next produced appearance in the DCAU, Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker.
- Harley's survival of the fall is explained by the toxin antidote she was injected with by Poison Ivy in Batman: The Animated Series, "Harley and Ivy", which also increased her strength and stamina. Harley likewise survived a much greater fall in Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker.
- Joker's massive ego being used against him by Batman would later occur again with the latter's successor Terry McGinnis in Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker.
Home video releases
- Batman: The Animated Series, Volume Four (DVD)
- Batman: The Complete Animated Series (DVD)
- Best of Batman (DVD)
- Best of Warner Bros. 25 Cartoon Collection: DC Comics (DVD)
- Batman: The Complete Animated Series (Blu-ray)
- Batman: Under the Red Hood (Blu-ray only)
- This story is based on Timm and Dini's comic book Mad Love, which won an Eisner Award for "Best Single Story" in 1994.
- The DVD closed captioning of this episode spells Harley's real name "Harlene Quinzelle". Paul Dini has gone on record to confirm that her name is spelled "Harleen Quinzel".
- The flashback is meant to showcase Harley's origins, which took place during the continuity of Batman: The Animated Series, as Poison Ivy is quickly shown to be locked in Arkham. However, Batman and Joker are both seen in their revamped appearances.
- Harley's swordfish changes size between shots.
- When Batman and the Joker are standing on the train, the animation shows the train moving under their feet when they should be moving with the train.
- Batman was the only character to appear in every episode of The New Batman Adventures.
- Joker's exit line when leaving the dentist's office, "May the floss be with you", is a reference to his voice actor, Mark Hamill, being most famous for his role as Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars trilogy.
- In the comic, Joker's line as he tossed the grenade into Gordon's lap was "Watch those between-meal snacks!".
- The episode is mostly faithful to the comic, though the latter is more detailed. For instance:
- Batman briefly sketches Harley's life story before her employment at Arkham: She attended Gotham University on a gymnastics scholarship, planning to become a pop psychologist. The comic also showed that Harley seduced at least one of her professors to improve her grade.
- Also, the scene where Joker falls into a smokestack has Joker yelling "Not again!" in the comic, which was absent in the episode.
- The comic includes a couple of dream sequences in which Harley envisions her perfect future married to the Joker with children who turn out to be just as murderous as them.
- Lastly, the comic reveals the Joker's thoughts as he races to stop Harley from killing Batman, fearing the other Gotham villains will laugh at him if his girlfriend turns out to be the one who kills Batman.
- When Gordon walks into the dental office, the name on the door is "Dr. J. Reko", an anagram of "Joker". In the comic, his fake name is "Dr. Laffo".
- When Joker is going through his old papers, one of them, oddly enough, has the logo of The Fantastic Four.
- The "Death of a Hundred Smiles" is a play on the ancient execution method known as the "Death of a Thousand Cuts".
- When Joker first meets Harley, he whistles his own theme song.
- The exchange between Harley and Dr. Leland when she is starting at Arkham is adapted from a similar scene in the comic; the original version was reproduced, with Arleen Sorkin voicing Harley, as an extra feature in the video game Batman: Arkham Asylum, also written by Paul Dini. The initial conversation between Joker and Harley, as well as part of her breaking him out, were also reproduced as extra features on "Batman: Arkham Asylum."
- Likewise, several elements of Joker's first session with Harley were adapted into bonus content for Batman: Arkham Origins.
- In his book The Batman Handbook: The Ultimate Training Manual, writer Scott Beatty included Batman's escape from Harley and Joker (reproduced faithfully by the episode from the comic) in a list of his seven greatest and most memorable escapes: not only delaying his own death by psychologically destabilizing Harley, but also making use of the piranhas to distract Joker, followed by grabbing his belt, extracting a lock pick, and releasing his chains, using only his teeth.
- This is one of the only episodes of the series in which blood is seen. Harley, the Joker, and Batman are all seen bleeding from either their mouth or nose.
- As the Joker is going over his plans, he dismisses one of them as being "too Riddler". Strangely enough though, using the fake teeth, Harley sends Batman a clue to a crime he is committing, which is one of The Riddler's trademark gimmicks.
- In an early scene, Harley casually asks Joker, "Why don't you just shoot (Batman)"? This infuriates the Joker, who shouts at her about how he wants to kill Batman in elaborate, grand fashion to prove his "sheer comic genius." Later, when Batman is chained up, the Joker decides to take advantage of this "rare opportunity" by pulling out a gun and attempting to just shoot Batman and be done with it. These scenes also happened in the comic.
- Last appearances of Batman, Commissioner Gordon, The Joker and Harley Quinn in The New Batman Adventures.
- Joker's "nya-nya-nyanyanya!" taunt when escaping Batman was later used for the Joker teeth in Batman: Arkham Asylum.
|Kevin Conroy||Batman/Bruce Wayne|
|Bob Hastings||Commissioner Gordon|
|Mark Hamill||The Joker|
|Arleen Sorkin||Harley Quinn|
|Suzanne Stone||Dr. Joan Leland|
Joker: May the floss be with you!
Gordon: I really hate these check-ups.
Harley: Ah come on, Puddin'. Don't you wanna rev up your Harley? Vroom, vroom!
Harley: Why don't you just shoot him?
Harley: Face it, Harl, this stinks. You're a certified nutso wanted in twelve states, and you're hopelessly in love with a psychopathic clown! At what point did my life go Looney Tunes?
Joker: But, hey, that's the downside of comedy. You're always taking shots from folks who just don't get the joke, like my dad... or Batman.
Harley: Knock, knock, Puddin'. Say hello to your new, improved Harley Quinn.
Harley: Sweet dreams, sucker.
Joker: (examining his plans) Boring... lame... not funny... been done... too Riddler...
Joker: (to Harley) If you have to explain a joke, there is no joke!!
Joker: (after throwing Harley out a window) And don't call me "Puddin'".
Harley: My fault. I didn't get the joke.
Joker: You know what they say, "A bat in the hand is worth two in the belfry". I guess you're going out on a laugh after all!
Batman: She almost had me, you know. Arms and legs chained, dizzy from the blood rushing to my head. I had no way out other than convincing her to call you. I knew your massive ego would never allow anyone else the "honor" of killing me. Though I have to admit, she came a lot closer than you ever did... Puddin'.