Cliff and Rita go to find Cliff’s estranged daughter, Jane and Cyborg search for Flex Mentallo, and Larry tries to make peace with both John and himself.
Wow, there’s a lot to unpack in this episode. Several long-running plot threads of this season are either resolved or elaborated on in new and interesting ways. With only a few episodes left of Doom Patrol‘s first season, it certainly does feel like the series’ writers plan to do quite a bit of housekeeping before wrapping things up.
First of all, we have the odd couple of Cliff and Rita and their journey to Florida. The dichotomy here is interesting: while Cliff is desperate to not tell his daughter who he is and what has become of him, Rita is living her best life. Rita, who up until now has constantly been putting on an act, is telling people her real name (Gertrude) and pounding back chicken wings with a southern-fried suitor at the bar. It’s great to see her subtly reclaiming her own identity, especially when it’s juxtaposed with Cliff’s crisis.
April Bowlby crushes these scenes in the smallest ways; despite her over-the-top “coaching” toward Cliff, there’s a lightness to Rita in these scenes that we haven’t really seen before. It’s refreshing and Bowlby obviously enjoys playing that angle.
Meanwhile, Vic Stone’s Cronenbergian body horror storyline continues. After Grid’s overreaction towards the Beard Hunter in last week’s episode, Vic has mostly deactivated his operating system, running a diagnostic that gives him some unpleasant news about the continued transformation of his organic tissue. The subsequent scene, with Vic cutting open his arm to check for metallic parts (bringing to mind a more human version of the iconic Terminator scene), is incredibly well done.
Vic’s initial reaction of relief, followed by barely-contained horror, is a great moment of acting from Jovian Wade, who seemingly is given more and more from the writers to chew on as a performer with each episode. The practical effects in the scene are also exceptional, resulting in a much more visceral scene than would have been afforded by computer effects. It just feels so much more tangible, which makes Vic’s discomfort all the more palpable.
Jane, on the other hand, is dealing with her continuing fear of abandonment, a fear made all the more real by her discovery of the Chief’s plans for her. Though she doesn’t get the amount of screen time as her spotlight episode, “Jane Patrol,” Dian Guerrero really sells how Jane processes fear: by covering it with more sass. Jane compares the current team to Niles’ old Doom Patrol, which freaks out Cliff and Rita and brings up another interesting facet of this adaptation: the goal for this group is to not become the Doom Patrol, which has come to symbolize abject failure and misery to them.
However, the real heart of the episode involves Larry Trainor and his growing relationship with the Negative Spirit, which genuinely seems to want to help Larry break free from his self-imposed chains. The biggest revelation in this plot line is the fact that all of Larry’s dreams about his former lover John have been real.
What was once assumed to be the Negative Spirit trying to get Larry to open up was actually a link between the two lovers’ minds that the spirit had facilitated. The reason this reveal works so well is that the show has established Larry as a bit of a daydreamer, like with his song-and-dance number from “Danny Patrol.”
Larry not only finally comes to terms with the fact that he’s spent most of his existence hiding in one way or another, but he also finally realizes that the spirit does want to help him. This is a huge step forward in Larry’s character development, and Matt Bomer delivers a stellar performance that is equal parts longing and self-loathing, playing beautifully off of the sad optimism of Kyle Clements’ John Bowers. Negative Man’s suit actor, Matthew Zuk, likewise does a wonderful job in portraying Larry’s newfound sense of self and inner peace, swaggering just a bit as he walks away at the end of the episode.
Some minor qualms with this episode are a couple of tiny jumps in logic, feeling like a scene was missing. Jane finds “Flex’s wife” very quickly, without it being entirely clear how she knew where to look. Also, toward the end, we see Cyborg restrained in a way that shouldn’t be any problem for him, considering the strength we’ve seen from him in previous episodes. That one could be addressed at the opening of next week, but it did seem like a matter of budget over logic. Like I said, these are tiny nitpicks that I only noticed because the rest of the episode is so strong.
Doom Patrol is heading into the home stretch now. Join me next week for the infiltration of the Ant Farm in “Cyborg Patrol!”