The most difficult part of reviewing this episode is that it feels incomplete in many ways. We’ve known for some time that the production shutdowns caused by COVID led to the episode count for this season being reduced by one. However, it has never felt quite so obvious as it does in “Wax Patrol,” which occasionally feels like two different half-episodes put together. That may not be the case, but there are times when this episode feels quite incomplete.
The first of these episodes is the big “showdown” with the Candlemaker. The concept of facing the big bad who has been hiding in the shadows all season is an exciting one, particularly with the premise that each of our heroes will have to face their own imaginary friends. This also brings with it some fantastic visuals, including a living paper doll, Phil Morris in a cowboy getup, and a particularly blasphemous smackdown involving Robotman and an ornery Jesus Christ. It has all the makings of a classic Doom Patrol battle, but it doesn’t quite come together.
Let’s start with the good. The cast is clearly game for these more ridiculous sequences. Riley Shanahan gets to really throw down as Robotman in this episode, which is always fun to see. Adding in the extra dark physical comedy of Robotman’s failing body make this extra fun.
The same goes for April Bowlby and Joivan Wade, who both dig into the inherent sadness in having proxies for their parents as their imaginary buddies. On the other hand, Negative Man is sidelined with a quick line about not having an imaginary friend and a seemingly arbitrary wax trap. This sequence sort of undermines the Candlemaker’s whole “imaginary friends” plan, doesn’t it?
The visual effects in this episode are particularly impressive (that paper doll is wild) and the production design is top notch yet again (the wax-covered carnival looks so cool). Also, the soundtrack to this episode is fantastic. There are some really interesting pieces of the score from Kevin Kiner and Clint Mansell. I particularly love that each one of the team’s imaginary friends seems to get their own unique music cues.
There are also a few choice needle drops that really set the tone for certain scenes. I have to admit that I got a real belly laugh from Vic listening to The Cure, which is something that I also identified with wayyyy too closely.
The other storyline that makes up more of the episode than the goings-on at the carnival concerns the original fate of Miranda. We get a look at the origins of Crazy Jane becoming the new Primary, but it’s never entirely clear who is experiencing this flashback, or if that is what it is. Regardless, it must be mentioned that Diane Guerrero absolutely steals the show in this episode. Her performance as Miranda shows us a time when it looked like things would really work out for her and the women of the Underground. However, it’s the emergence of Jane that seals this storyline’s strength, showing us why the others in the Underground put their faith in her for so long.
Still, it does feel like these are elements of two vastly different episodes. It’s hard to say if this was always the intent, but the absence of a 10th episode is really felt in all of the subplots that seem to have fallen by the wayside. What was the deal with Cliff’s finger? Is Rita still working on the play? Would Vic really just let Roni run off like that?
All in all, there is a lot to love about “Wax Patrol.” Cliff trying to pick out the right t-shirt for the wedding, Kipling battling a Punch doll like he’s fallen into a Full Moon Feature, and the very concept of Doctor Cowboy are some wonderful moments. However, the episode as a whole feels unfocused and rushed in many key areas. Hopefully we’ll hear some news about a season renewal soon. As much as I’ve loved this season, it would be a shame for the show to end on this episode.