Written by Tanya Steele and directed by Rebecca Rodriquez, “Subconscious Patrol” finds the Doom Patrol swapped with their subconscious selves and forced to relive painful memories (some of them with puppets!). As a result, much of this episode takes place in self-contained vignettes, which pay off long-gestating plot threads and allow the cast to shine.
It’s so great to finally get a chance to see the multiple actors who have brought these characters to life interacting with one another. As a fan of this show from the beginning, seeing Matthew Zuk and Matt Bomer share the screen, as well as Brendan Fraser and Riley Shanahan, was deeply rewarding.
Not only does it feel like we’re really seeing these characters being honest with themselves for the first time, but there’s just something purely magical about seeing Cliff and Robotman trade screechy F-bombs with reckless abandon. Also, it’s worth noting that Cliff has been trying to get the team to do group therapy together since the first season, and he finally gets his wish — sort of.
The performances from the main cast are achingly perfect in this episode. To finally telling Jane to go away is gut-wrenching, and Guerrero throws her whole body and soul into it. Matt Bomer once again gives a perfect face to Larry’s self-loathing, at once seeming totally unsure of himself and the very image of a put-together soldier. His speech about “letting love in” towards the end of the episode may be one of the character’s finest moments.
Joivan Wade continues to explore Vic’s determination to take his life back. He keeps his cool for a while, trying to suss out what’s happened and be the hero he’s always expected to be. When he finally breaks at the end of the episode, I found myself genuinely choked up. Cyborg’s arc has been slowly percolating over the last few seasons, but episodes like this have made all of that time and care feel especially worth it. Wade’s performance here is particularly strong, and the way the writers have handled Cyborg this season has been revelatory.
And finally, from his panicked monologues as Robotman to his confessional monologue about his fear of mortality and failure as a father, Brendan Fraser deeply moved me more than once. The tenor of his voice is one that we’ve become so accustomed to over the last few seasons — Cliff always sounds like he’s on the verge (or directly in the middle) of a panic attack — but it’s another thing entirely to see it. Fraser walks the line between vulnerability and fury at every moment.
Of course, this wouldn’t be Doom Patrol without some inventive and bizarre imagery, and we get plenty of that. The eerie Dada Birds from last episode make their return, but they almost seem benevolent this time around. When you learn their function in this trip through everyone’s subconscious, it’s almost a relief to see one of these li’l guys show up, and I love the touch of having a caricature of each team member’s face on the birds’ heads.
The makeup and costuming for General Tony are also rather impressive, giving the character a shiny plastic appearance and clothes that look like they’d really itch. Every design element comes together in this episode to produce a memorable trip through the Doom Patrol’s minds.
The thread that’s still not completely tying together for me is Laura’s transformation from optimistic wannabe artist to conniving and hateful shapeshifting supervillain. Could it be that this was always in her and she finally stopped lying to herself, just as the Sisterhood of Dada intended? Did something else occur in the 30 years at the Bureau that we skipped? Or is there something else at play here, something that still hasn’t been revealed? While this episode is still a triumph without all of those answers, I hope to get more closure on this front as the season comes to an end.
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