Having escaped the clutches of the Eternal Flagellation and found some idea of what they want to do next with their lives, the Doom Patrol find themselves at a crossroads. With Madame Rouge still on the loose and looking to reconnect with some of her former partners, have our heroes escaped one trial only to find themselves faced with another?
This episode continues the process of linking the entire season together into one fixed point, and it’s exciting to see so many different pieces paying off at last. Of course, the drawback to having all these threads pulled together in the final episodes of the season is that there is quite a bit of exposition throughout.
As cute as it is to have Rita try to re-explain the threat of Madame Rouge to Kay and to re-evaluate the Doom Patrol’s set of skills, it does feel a bit like we’re having to hear a lot of people talking about things they (and the audience) already know. A recap is always handy, but this time may have been better spent elsewhere — like digging into what exactly happened to the Sisterhood of Dada. They sure seem to have disappeared as quickly as they arrived, didn’t they?
Still, this episode is dialed into the emotional ramifications of the season. Everyone has made decisions that they regret or have otherwise changed them fundamentally, and that’s all brought to the forefront here. This has been the season of Bad Dads, as Cliff, Larry, and Silas work through their baggage and misgivings about their place in their kids’ lives. Larry finally has someone to care for, a second chance at doing the right thing by caring for this misshapen electrical space slug. Cliff, meanwhile, has to tread very lightly if he doesn’t want to absolutely demolish his next-to-last chance at being the father that he never was for Clara.
In Silas’ case, this thread results in one of my favorite scenes of the season. Silas attempts to explain to Vic why he turned him into Cyborg in the first place. Like all good fathers, he only sought to protect his son, to give him a means to avoid ever being hurt again. But he acted impulsively and out of fear; in doing so, Silas took Vic’s agency away from him and made him a weapon.
The acting between Joivan Wade and Phil Morris in this scene is exceptional, with each actor capable of swaying the audience to the way they see things. It’s a talk that these two have needed to have since the beginning of the series, and there’s a sense of release to see it finally happen.
April Bowlby once again gives a strong performance, showing the scope of just how much she’s been changed by her time in the past. Rita is broken, but hanging in there. She’s finally come into her own as a leader, as well, and you can feel Rita almost trying to will the team into being an actual team. When it comes down to it, though, all Rita really wants is revenge for the loss of her love, and there’s a quiet, unnameable fury etched all over Bowlby’s face when she finally reveals to rest of the team what she’s been through.
Of course, it’s not all heavy conversations and familial reckonings; this is a show featuring the Brotherhood of Evil and Michelle Gomez doing the absolute most as Madame Rouge. The sequences with Rouge meeting back up with a retired Brain and Mallah are hilariously off-kilter, juxtaposing wacky sci-fi villainy with the dull setting of a retirement home in Boca Raton.
This little village is also the spot where Robotman actor Riley Shanahan gets to show off some more skills, which I won’t spoil. Needless to say, every moment spent in Boca Raton in this episode is a delight. The sight gags here are excellent, including one particular moment when Michelle Gomez picks up a laser cannon that should look mighty familiar to fans of her previous genre work.
Gomez (or at least, an animated version of her) is also the centerpiece in one of the wildest action sequences the series has ever had. Rebecca Rodriguez directs the ever-loving hell out of a fight between a mid-transformation Madame Rouge and a flummoxed Doom Patrol, spinning the camera every which way and making sure we see every little punch, kick, and tackle connect. The effects here may look pretty cartoonish, but that’s honestly the charm of it for me. It hits just enough of that uncanny valley to give it a menacing (and hysterical) edge.
There’s only one episode left in the season, and a lot of ground (and time) still left to cover. Join me next week for the season finale of Doom Patrol!
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