Following last week‘s donkey-related destruction, Robotman is determined to find the evil force behind it. Meanwhile, Victor Stone struggles to figure out who to trust.
This week, we’re introduced to this universe’s version of Vic Stone, a.k.a Cyborg. Much like his addition to Young Justice, I found myself questioning the choice to feature Cyborg on this show, especially since he’s never been a member of the Doom Patrol in the comics. However, his portrayal here won me over and convinced me that he’s in the right place. Presented as a bit of an also-ran hero, one who never quite made it into the Justice League and who doesn’t seem to have had much agency in his personal life, this adaptation of Vic is completely in-step with the Doom Patrol here.
Another thing that struck me about this episode is the sense of forward momentum. Yes, there’s the requisite moping around the mansion that one expects from the Patrol, but Cliff and Vic are active participants in unraveling the mystery of where (or when?) the Chief has disappeared to. One of the common complaints against Netflix’s (sadly defunct) Marvel shows is the glacial pace some of them take on. In this episode, the exposition is happening while action takes place. There’s no wasted space.
The implication of a government cover-up is interesting, as we hear Vic listening in on a transmission about how to explain away the destruction of quiet little Cloverton. In a very interesting moment for readers of Doom Patrol, there’s a reference to filing the incident with “the Ant Farm.” Could the Agents of N.O.W.H.E.R.E. be far behind? Or perhaps even involved with Mr. Nobody’s plans?
Mr. Nobody continues to be a thrilling villain. Existing simultaneously inside and outside of reality, he’s somehow more reliable as a narrator than Niles is as a mentor, as Niles always has some ulterior motive that drives him to edit the truth in regards to his team. In fact, it seems that all of our heroes have extra skeletons in their closets that have yet to be revealed. What happened to Larry’s lover? Did the energy inside him burn him up? What happened to Rita’s child? Who is pulling Cyborg’s strings? What did Flaming Katy see? Who was that damn roach?
Mr. Nobody knows, but it’s apparently not a juicy enough moment for the omnipotent campy god to reveal his trump card. That’s fine, because it’ll be entertaining to see Alan Tudyk continue to chew the scenery on his way to the inevitable big reveals.
If it seems like my analysis is all over the place, then you kind of get the idea of how it felt to watch this episode. It’s never boring, for sure. But there’s quite a lot going on at all points. It can be easy to miss some of the finer storytelling beats. There’s a trip to Mr. Nobody’s realm, a fight with Crazy Jane, multiple flashbacks to Vic’s past, Cliff trying to talk to Jane and experiencing his own flashbacks, and all of the fantasy sequences in between the rest of the action. It’s a hell of a lot to pack into one episode. Yes, the forward momentum is still quite welcome, but the few moments when the episode allowed itself to take a breath and let the characters be their own oddly-charming selves were much-needed.
On the effects front, this episode impressed as much as the pilot. Jane’s powers were all convincingly portrayed in the extended fight between her, Vic, and Cliff, with Silvertongue’s ability being especially interesting to see. Rita’s morphing still isn’t terribly smooth, but it did lend itself to one of the better sight gags of the episode (“I need a trash bag!”) and was used more sparingly this week. Also, there was one particularly goofy explosion effect near the end of the episode (you’ll know it when you see it, trust me), but that actually fit the silliness of the moment.
The makeup effects are pretty exceptional across the board, especially in regards to a few gory sequences involving Vic (again, you’ll know them when you see them). Speaking of Vic, I was struck by how much I preferred the practical applications used here to create Cyborg’s look over the big budget CGI in the Justice League film. There’s just something more tangible about it that helps ground the fantastical nature of the character.
This has quickly become one of my must-watch shows (and not just because I’m writing about it for AiPT!) and I found myself looking forward to this episode all week. There are so many reasons to dig this show, but I think the best way to describe it is how to tell readers how I felt finishing this week’s episode: after all of the wacky fights in the mansion and portals hidden in barnyard animals, the final minutes of the episode genuinely gave me chills.
This show has a tone unlike anything else on television right now. It appeals to that human feeling that even the most introverted among us share: a need to belong somewhere, to know that you’ve done well. For that reason alone, this show is worth your time and mine.
Next week, join me as we dive deeper into the history of Mr. Nobody in “Puppet Patrol!”
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