"Return of the Joker" is an animated film in continuity with the "Batman Beyond" animated television series.
The tale it tells is of a future where an elderly Bruce Wayne has retired as Batman, instead mentoring from behind the scenes young hot-head Terry McGuinness who has taken up the mantle. A gang of 'Jokerz' are committing a slew of crimes as per their general modus operandi - but a spanner is thrown in the works when it emerges they are being led by a seeming impersonator of the greatest foe the real Batman faced in his prime - the Joker.
What follows is a visit into scars and sins of the past as Batman and Terry must unravel the mystery.
While I won't give all the finer points of the plot details away (it's REALLY worth watching and please try and find the uncensored version!), the film also includes a flashback to Batman's ultimate and final battle with the Joker.
This flashback reveals an especially significant chapter in Harley's life, as it signals her final one as a Rogue and the end of her relationship with the Joker.
Now that I've chilled you to the bone (seriously, WATCH IT! The flashback is one of the greatest animated scenes of the DC Universe and the uncensored version is on youtube!), what makes this scene so special as a commentary on the evolution and development of Harley Quinn?
Throughout her life of crime and place being the Joker's paramour, Harley always retained an element of humanity, an inconsistent but recurring desire to ultimately overcome her demons and live a normal life in keeping with the law. It is one of the key traits of her character that make her so appealing, for her struggle between her better aspirations and her base nature is one that we all recognise.
However, by the time of this scene in ROTJ, that Harley has gone.
The Harley that showed remorse, the aptitude for kindness, the glimmer of almost-heroism she was sometimes capable of, has vanished. She has become finally as malicious, remorseless and deranged as the Joker himself. She has willingly participated in the torture of a teenage boy and finds it funny, gleefully playing her part in the Joker's demented vision of his 'family'.
What's also worthy of note is how the Joker behaves in his manner towards her - it is clear that, with this final crossing of the boundary of her sanity, he is quite willing now to fully welcome her as his partner, accomplice and lover in all the madness of his life and philosophy.
Regardless of what happens next, for those moments Harley has achieved her true dream: to be fully united and accepted by the person that she loves, no matter that the cost was her soul.
Harley was supposed to die in this scene but Paul Dini snuck her in as an elderly cameo at the end. As much as I generally love Dini's work, I feel that was misguided self-indulgence: it was right and appropriate for her to meet her end in the flashback. But her survival did ensure one thing - that the Joker's lineage lives on in the Dee Dee twins, revealed to be Harley's granddaughters.
The movie was also adapted to a far inferior comic (which follows the censored version).
and intense chapter of Harley's life is an absolute must-see for any dedicated