Is Harley Quinn (In Birds of Prey) Good or Bad?

Directed by Cathy Yan, Birds of Prey (2020) is superhero film starring Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn.

harley quinn character analysis good or bad

This post includes a brief plot summary of Birds of Prey and a character analysis of Harley Quinn. Is she good or bad?

Birds of Prey (2020) – Plot Summary

The story of Birds of Prey takes place after the breakup between Joker and Harley Quinn.

Without Joker’s “protection”, Harley becomes the new “target” in town. Everybody is after her, including the police, local gangs and basically anyone she has wronged in the past.

A heartbroken Harley drowns her sorrows at Roman Sionis’ nightclub. The owner is a notorious crime lord. After she leaves the place, two men appear to abduct her. However, they do not succeed. A woman (Dinah Lance, “Black Canary”) steps in and knocks the men out. Roman watches the whole incident from afar and decides to hire Dinah as his new driver.

Meanwhile, there is a new vigilante (Helena Bertinelli, “Huntress”) in town. Her targets are mostly mobsters, who she usually executes with a crossbow. During the investigation of these murders, detective Montoya finds out about Harley new “status”.

Roman asks his right-hand man (Victor Zsasz) and Dinah to pick up a diamond. The gemstone contains all the account numbers linked to Bertinelli’s fortune. The head of the crime family was once one of the most powerful gangsters in town. His reign didn’t last long. One day, a group of individuals stormed into their mansion and killed the entire Bertinelli family.

Out of nowhere, a young pickpocket (Cassandra Cain) appears and steals the diamond from Victor. He doesn’t notice it until the police arrives and arrests the girl. While she is under arrest, Cassandra swallows the diamond.

Harley is on the run, but Roman’s men get to her first. In exchange for her freedom, Harley agrees to retrieve the diamond for Roman. Concerned about Cassandra’s safety, Dinah informs Montoya about the whole ordeal.

As agreed upon, Harley goes looking for Cassandra. She finds the young girl at the police station. However, the task of freeing Cassandra becomes extremely difficult for Harley as Roman put a bounty on both of them. After escaping the police station, Harley brings Cassandra to her apartment. The two bond rather quickly.

Shortly after, criminals bomb Harley’s place. She and Cassandra manage to escape. It was “Doc” who sold her out. The betrayal leaves Harley incredibly upset, as she viewed “Doc” as a true friend. In order to appease Roman, Harley calls the mobster to meet her at an old amusement park.

Victor tells Roman that Dinah is not trustworthy. Montoya gets to Harley before Roman’s men do, but she kicks the detective out of the window. When Victor arrives, he sedates Harley. At this point, she is still conscious but unable to move her body. Before Victor gets to shoot at Dinah, Helena shows up and kills him with her crossbow. Then, she reveals that Victor took part in her family’s massacre.

Montoya informs that Roman’s gang is coming. The women decide to join efforts to fight the crime lord and his henchmen. Although the ladies try their best to fight the men, Roman still manages to snatch Cassandra away. Dinah uses her powers to help Harley escape so she can save Cassandra.

Harley chases Roman on roller skates with the help of Helena. For a moment, Harley loses sight of Roman and Cassandra. Out of nowhere, the crime lord appears and threatens to kill Cassandra. However, the latter sneaks a grenade into Roman’s jacket and pulls the ring. Harley ceases the opportunity and throws Roman into the water. During the fall, the man explodes into pieces.

After the Roman’s death, Montoya quits the police force. Helena regains access to her family’s fortune and forms her own vigilante group (Birds of Prey), together with Dinah and Montoya. After selling the diamond, Harley and Cassandra plan to start their own business.

birds of prey 2020 plot summary


Birds of Prey (2020) [DVD]


Character Analysis – Is Harley Quinn Good or Bad?

After watching Birds of Prey, one might get the impression that Harley Quinn is not that bad. As matter of fact, some might even say that she is hero. However, is that true though? Did Harley Quinn really save the day in Birds of Prey?

Before getting into that discussion, let’s take a closer at the protagonist of Birds of Prey. Who is Harley Quinn? As expected, troubled characters often come with problematic childhoods and Harley is no exception to this rule.

Harley had a difficult upbringing. The parents abandoned her at a very young age. Life at the orphanage wasn’t easy either, Hailey experienced a lot of bullying during her time there.

For a very brief moment Harley actually got her life together. She pursued higher education and obtained a degree in psychology, which landed her a job in a mental institution. Actually, Harley Quinn was a very good psychiatrist, that’s how she met her future ex-boyfriend “Joker”.

Needless to say, her life begin spiralling out of control when she fell for Gotham’s criminal mastermind. The story of Birds of Prey takes place after Suicide Squad and after Joker broke up with her. After her split with “Puddin”, Harley was a complete mess.

To be honest, Harley has always been emotionally unstable. Otherwise, she wouldn’t have fallen for an individual like Joker. Now, there were some perks of being Joker’s girlfriend. For instance, Harley could do almost everything that she so desired, without thinking about the consequences. No matter, who she pissed, she was practically untouchable just for being Joker’s girl.

Harley lost her “privileges” when Joker decided to dump her. Consumed by her negative emotions, Harley did something truly reckless: she announced to the world that Joker left her. Without his protection, Harley is just another regular crazy individual walking the streets. That said, singleton Harley is a very easy target for anyone that hates. Apparently, there are many people who don’t like her.

Now, back to our original discussion. How did Harley Quinn save the day? Well, did she or was she just cleaning up the mess that she started? Had Harley lay low about her breakup, her life would’ve been much easier.

Harley Quinn’s only good deed in Birds of Prey was saving Cassandra Cain from Roman Sionis. However, how did the crime lord get his hands in the young pickpocket? The answer is simple, Harley was the one who hand her to him. She did it to save herself.

Just to recapitulate, Harley made a deal with Roman: she would get him the diamond and in exchange, he would to let her roam free. Since the diamond is inside Cassandra (literally), she had to hand the young girl to Roman.

All that said, it’s safe to conclude that Harley Quinn is not a hero. Her lack of emotional control is the main reason why this woman often gets herself in trouble. Saving Cassandra, doesn’t make her the “good guy” in Birds of Prey. Nonetheless, it does make Harley a little bit less “heartless”.

Final Thoughts

Birds of Prey is a fun film to watch. However, it’s important to separate good entertainment and characters with good values.

Harley Quinn is a great character, she is complex and unpredictable. Her rough start in life, definitely conditioned who she is nowadays. Despite of having a strong desire to do good, Harley wasn’t able to escape her past demons. Joker exploited her insecurities and used them to his own benefit.

The unaware might look at Joker and Harley and think that they are “couple goals”, but they are not. As a matter of fact, Joker and Harley are most likely in a toxic relationship.

Joker never had Harley’s best interest in mind, quite the opposite. Meanwhile, the latter is willing do anything for her “Puddin”, even if that puts her own life at risk. That’s not love, sounds pretty much like “co-dependency” to me.

Who is worst: Joker or Harley? Maybe, Joker. Although, Harley is pretty reckless, she hasn’t lost all her humanity. In crucial moments, Harley still tries to do the right thing. However, she still has a long way to go until she becomes a somewhat decent human being.