Laura De Mille may not know who exactly who she is, but she does know that she needs to save the world from the mysterious Sisterhood of Dada. Unfortunately, things take a turn for the absurd when the Doom Patrol is dispatched to find and infiltrate the Sisterhood.
Whereas last week’s episode, “Undead Patrol,” provided viewers with some grotesque gore effects and wild physicality from the cast, “Dada Patrol” takes a decidedly different approach to body horror. This episode shows how each character deals with not being able to trust their own bodies or what is happening to them.
Cliff continues to struggle with the onset of Parkinson’s disease and takes increasingly dangerous risks to combat it, Jane is receiving pushback from everyone in the Underground (including Kay), Larry quite literally has something under his skin that is fighting to get out, and Cyborg’s father has given Vic back his autonomy — leading the young hero to question, yet again, how much of his life is actually in his own control.
It’s this last plot thread that leads to some of my favorite moments in the episode of Doom Patrol. Cyborg is coming apart at the seams, rebelling against the expectations of superhero life and the world that puts him on a pedestal while simultaneously reviling him for his appearance. The confrontation with Lloyd of the Sisterhood (guest star Miles Mussenden) is a real standout moment, and easily one of Joivan Wade’s finest showings in the series, revealing an even greater righteous fury and depths to his feelings of alienation that have only been hinted at before now.
The dialogue Shoshana Sachi gives these two is poetic and heartbreaking, leading Cyborg down a path of self-discovery that may prove to be the young hero’s greatest challenge yet. Wade plays all of the levels of this scene perfectly, moving from annoyance to shame to snarling indignation as Lloyd’s speeches become more barbed and cutting. This perfect storm of emotion is brilliantly accompanied by the rising winds, making for a gripping scene that continues to heighten in more ways than one.
Meanwhile, Wynn Everett’s first appearance as Byron Shelley is a revelation. Wynn plays Shelley with a kind and familar sort of menace, which perfectly plays off of Diane Guerrero’s guarded Jane. There’s a smoothness to the way Bryon draws in an audience, making the viewer almost want to believe and sign on for whatever the Sisterhood has planned.
The fact that Jane actually lets Shelley get close, let alone lay a hand on her in any way, is a brilliant visual cue for viewers. Not only does it show the power of Shelley’s poetic words, but it also shows how effective they are at lowering Jane’s defenses. It also opens up some interesting possibilities for Jane’s character, as it shows that she’s finally willing to let herself feel something again.
Of course, the episode isn’t all intense philosophical discussions and dadaist proclamations. There are also a number of laughs to be had here, particularly when it comes to Cliff Steele’s misguided plan to down way too many pills he bought off the internet. Robotman actor Riley Shanahan makes some absolutely bananas choices with Cliff’s physicality in this episode, selling the completely absurd concept of a stoned robot.
Brendan Fraser voices Cliff’s confusion beautifully, going from comedic befuddlement to stark emotional honesty with ease. The scenes between Rita and Laura, during which the two get drunk and try to make peace with their own insecurities, are also a fantastic showcase for April Bowlby and Michelle Gomez. If you don’t leave the episode wanting to drink gin and sing The Andrews Sisters with them, then honestly, I just don’t know what to tell you.
“Dada Patrol” is full of dialogue that is simply a gift to these performers, and the story as a whole embraces the tenets of dadaism in unexpected ways, leading to some refreshingly nonsensical visuals and bizarre exchanges that hide a much deeper meaning. And if this first encounter with the titular Sisterhood is any indication, the remainder of this season is going to bring out a whole new side of our favorite misfit superheroes.
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