Doom Patrol: Paw Patrol

Mr. Nobody: "This can’t be the end, I refuse. I haven’t even been in the last two episodes."

There's lateral thinking, and then there's lateral thinking. And then after that you get to this.

They saved the world with a pug.

Let's all just take a second with that.

OK, so Doom Patrol returns for the second half of the 'De-Creator' two-parter. When last we saw our heroes, they'd completely failed to save the day and the world was literally vanishing, one piece at a time. This is actually the zone where the Doom Patrol spends most of their time; trying to deal with the wreckage left behind from their failures. It's a different aesthetic from the usual superhero 'saved things just in the nick of time' vibe, and it serves both the team and the show well.

More specifically, when we last saw our heroes, Jane and Cliff were trapped inside a cult headquarters castle inside a snow globe, while the rest of the gang failed to prevent the Cult of the Unwritten Book from finding the boy named Elliot, on whom the book happens to be written, reading it/him, and summoning a giant eye in the sky which de-creates everything it focuses its gaze on, as happens. Mr. Nobody and Niles Caulder were no-shows for the last couple of episodes, but they finally pop back in here once they notice that the world is ending before their plotline has gotten a chance to really get cooking.

A couple of things here. First of which is that Alan Tudyk and Timothy Dalton have absolutely amazing chemistry together. They're literally the only two things in a featureless white void for most of their scenes here and yet you can't take your eyes from the screen. The 'hero makes a truce with the villain to work together to stop a larger threat' can be a tired saw, but everything about the way they handled it here felt so dangerous and unpredictable and fun that it was never less than riveting. The sight gag of the Chief violently vomiting anytime anyone said Mr. Nobody's name was worth the entire episode all on its own.

The second thing I want to talk about is the plan that the two of them come up with to fix the problem, because it's kind of amazing, and it ends up making the whole episode say some interesting things about religion.

They make it pretty clear that the foundation of religion is belief, and that belief itself is what causes the religion and its precepts to become reality. This is an idea a few people have played with before. It's how Gods exist in American Gods, just for starters. It's a bit of a thorny philosophical stance, because it's fundamentally saying that there are no divine truths or objectively 'correct' religious views, there are just related clusters of beliefs and practices that have metastasized into various 'religions,' and that it's only the fact that enough people believe in the existence of – say – Odin, that Odin exists. To quote XTC, 'Did you make mankind after we made you?'

Like I said, it's not a new idea, but it's an interesting one. It's also not particularly popular among the more fervent believers of most organized religions, but you can't please everyone.

This view of how religion works explains how completely batshit crazy the cult of the De-Creator's beliefs are with their Little Sisters of the Razor and Dry Gentlemen and plastic German castles in snowglobes that you enter through Spanish Priest's stigmata. They're crazy, because the people that came up with them were crazy. And then the faith of the believers made them real.

Here's where things get interesting, though. Generally speaking, when people explore this line of thought, it involves some level of questioning if not directly attacking the validity of religion. If it's all just stuff people made up, what's the value of believing it? We don't get that here.

Which brings us to the Chief and Mr. Nobody's 'fix' for the situation: go back in time via Mr. Nobody's ability to weaponize narrative conventions and form a different cult to put things back together again. Mr. Nobody rifles through the flashbacks, finds a moment in Jane's past where she was in an insane asylum with lots of cult recruits, finds her personality that has the ability to 'push' people a la David Tennant's Kilgrave over in Jessica Jones, and bish bash bosh, we have the Cult of the Re-Creator, who exists to believe that after the De-Creator shows up and destroys everything, the Re-Creator will pop in and put it all back tidily. And the faith of the believers will make it real. Problem solved.

Of course, they don't take into account that both the cult's followers and its founder are in a mental institution, and so the rules of the cult get taken on a few whimsical redrafts. It will be cooler if the book is on a dog! The words should be invisible until a signal! That could be a big bell, and then we'll all dance! Wheee! And so instead of a simple re-creator appearance we end up firing magic love beams out of a pug into the sky while a bunch of aging mental patients dance to 'Ring my Bell.' And it's the most joyous thing you'll ever see.

Which is the point. Just because this religion, like all others, is just a bunch of random beliefs that someone thought up, that doesn't mean that it doesn't have value for the people involved. That's the whole point of Marilyn, flying to Spain with her oxygen tank to crawl inside a priest to get to a snowglobe to remind Jane to ring Nurnheim's bell, which triggers the words to appear on the pug which creates the recreator which saves the world. The faith gave her purpose. It shaped her life in a positive way. Her faith saved the world. That's a kinder take on religion than a lot of shows are willing to give and I adored it.



Bits and Pieces:

-- The opening punk concert with Jane made me really wish that John Constantine and Charlie could pop over from Legends of Tomorrow to party with Jane, because that would be amazing.

-- 'Teenie weenie peenie.' Where do I even start with that Doctor and his mother issues?

-- Elliot being de-created just as Rita finished her pep talk about the world to him was heartbreaking. April Bowlby is kind of this show's secret weapon. She doesn't get as much of the flashy stuff to do, but she's consistently great.

-- I really liked that Penny Farthing called Cliff out on the fact that just because she's not the personality of Jane that Cliff likes doesn't make her less valid as a person. That's a complicated issue.

-- They're drip feeding in the clues about Jane's past. Kay Challis carried Cliff's brain out of the castle.

-- The post-recreator stuff dragged on a bit too long, given how solidly structured everything up to that point had been, but they needed to keep things rolling, I suppose.

-- Jane was the only one who wanted to respect Cyborg's choice to die rather than call his father.

-- Jane got her powers by being injected with something in 1976. That's as much info as we get. That's a hard call for them. In the comics she got them as a result of the events of the 'Invasion' crossover event that they already did as the big CW crossover three or four years ago.

-- They demonstrate that Mr. Nobody can affect the world through narration by saying ‘Suddenly her restraints came loose.'

-- Diane Guerrero really is amazing. The range she has to get through from one second to the next is astonishing.

-- It was a nice touch that the remains of the Dry Bachelors were still all over the floor of the mansion.

-- Using Marilyn as the through line to tie everything together worked really well.

-- The Chief suggests that the Negative Spirit feels tortured because Larry tortures himself, and that Larry should try talking to it.



Quotes:

Ezekiel the Cockroach: "The rapture begins! And I, the thorn growing in the wilderness will flourish in their absence! I… (To Rat) What are you talking about? (Rat squeaking) Cheese? Well of course there’ll be cheese in the promised land (squeaking) …You don’t need people for cheese. We can make cheese."

Rita: "I wasn’t a lousy bitch for one. Turns out a snake can change her stripes."
Larry: "Tiger."
Rita: "Doesn’t matter."

Larry: "All right, how long do we have until the world’s... you know... gone?"
Kipling: "Nineteen minutes."
Larry: "Really?"
Kipling "I DON’T FUCKING KNOW!"

Mother Archon: “Very few of us want to be what we are.”

Cliff: "This is not my fucking life. I didn’t get turned into a robot who turned into a brain who gets trapped in a snow globe!"

Rita: "Maybe you haven’t seen the world, Elliot, but I have. And trust me, it’s garbage. People lie, and they hurt each other. And they wear these things on their feet called crocs."

Mother Archon: "You think you can spit in the face of God!"
Marilyn: "Lady, the only God I worship is Springsteen. And I’ve spat in his face twice."



So much fun, so solidly plotted. My only complaint is that the end dragged on a bit while it set up the next episodes.

Seven out of ten world-saving pugs.

Mikey Heinrich is, among other things, a freelance writer, volunteer firefighter, and roughly 78% water. You can find more of his work at the 42nd Vizsla.

2 comments:

DebG. said...

So glad you’re continuing your reviews! Just found them today while I’m finally catching up with Doom Patrol. Thanks!

Mikey Heinrich said...

Thanks! I'm hoping to have Penultimate Patrol up today.

I've been putting off watching the first few of season 2 until I'm caught up with Season one, and it's killing me :)