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Doom Patrol: Therapy Patrol

"The person who deserves this is me."

After the revelations of the previous episode, our heroes take a morning to beat themselves up emotionally and then sit down for a long talk.

This episode really builds well off of the previous one without directly continuing any of its plot threads. A more or less self-contained episode which was primarily concerned with character work, it also manages to find its own well plotted puzzle box structure that serves the story well in a couple of different ways. In many ways it's what you would get if you had Quentin Tarantino plot out an episode, except that that would probably involve slightly more swearing.

Last episode, Mr. Nobody went out of his way to draw the current Doom Patrol across country to see what happened to the previous Doom Patrol when they crossed him. They were confronted with their own worst memories and then returned home to sit quietly and tear themselves up inside while they thought about them. Cliff, typically the most emotionally available member of the group, gets them together for group therapy so that they can all talk out their problems, which is not only the most mature and productive thing for them to do, it also seems to be working, right up until...

But let's circle back to that...

The episode follows a reasonably well known format of showing the end of a series of events, and then flashing back to show how all five of them got to that moment, telling each character's story of the morning and then rolling back to start again with the next character. Basically it's the plot structure of the movie Go, which if you haven't seen lately totally holds up, I might add.

After starting up 'in therepas res', if you will, we first see the morning as Rita experienced it. As with all the other repeats of the morning, we start with Cyborg calling everyone for a team meeting and end with Cliff shouting 'You think that's gonna stop me?' at someone. Rita, it turns out, spent the morning completely unable to hold her physical form and accidentally oozing down the heat vents into the furnace while monologuing to herself about how she deserves it and is a terrible person. This all relates back to whatever happened with Mary Beth which Mr. Nobody forcibly reminded her about via Mento last episode.

Next we see the morning from Larry, which involved some very interesting character development between him and the Negative Spirit. The revelation that the Negative Spirit is trying to force Larry to admit to himself not that he was a terrible person or that he did terrible things, but that life for him was really, really hard, and that he needs to stop torturing himself over the choices that drove him to make. Larry laying back to experience that peace while he lets the Negative Being fly off to catch up with the others was a profoundly transformative moment.

Cyborg's emotional journey that morning revolves around nobody showing up to his team meeting and spending time on a Certainly-Not-Tindr dating app, where he discovers that all his matches are just interested in him as Cyborg, and the one who isn't gives him a pass after she finds out that he is Cyborg. It's the same general character beat of 'I'm alone and not good enough', but honestly this part felt less engaging than the others.

Then we see Jane spending the morning spiraling out of control over last episode's news that the Chief was considering giving up on her and sending her to the asylum with the other 'broken toys.'  Diane Guerrero really got a lot of material to shine with here, as it's the first time the show has played the Gollum trick of different personalities of Jane arguing with each other in real time, and she absolutely crushed it.

And then we see Cliff's morning, strangely motionless when we see him in the earlier flashbacks, he appears to be spiraling out of control over the discovery that his daughter has been raised by his friend Bump, and considers Bump her father. This leads to increasingly erratic behavior and hallucinations from him, which go on just long enough for the viewer to gradually start to recognize the words he's saying to Bump as the things we've heard in the background of everyone else's story, which is a brilliantly executed reveal for his hallucinations.

With that we've brought everyone up to where we started, and the Doom Patrol sits down for self guided group therapy, per Cliff's suggestion. The wonderful payoff here is the way that the team reluctantly embraces it and actually opens up to one another. Rita reveals that she's being tortured by the memory of the thing she did – if not the exact details of the thing itself, Larry opens up about his guilt and regret over the man he loved, Cyborg opens up about killing his mom, and more than that his uncertainty about how reliable that memory even is. It's all going well, until Jane shares the portrait she painted of Cyborg killing the rest of them, which it turns out was not prophetic (pardon my earlier error), but was instead what Mr. Nobody showed her while she was in the Donkey.

It's expertly handled, because it both pays off the dangling plot thread of the painting, but more importantly distracts us from Cliff's increasingly manic and erratic behavior, so when we suddenly get to the moment when he says to Jane, 'I'm the only one here that can stand you, and I only like 1/64th of you', it really comes as the punch in the gut that Jane feels it as while simultaneously pointing out what we should have already noticed; something is very, very wrong with Cliff.

So, the final rug pull of an extremely rug-pully episode, out of Cliff's mouth climbs a rat named Admiral Whiskers, who's been controlling him all morning in revenge for the team running over his mother back in episode one.

No one was expecting Admiral Whiskers, were they.

A ridiculously well plotted episode with a lot of fascinating and uncomfortable character depth. This is such good stuff.

Bits and Pieces:

-- Despite not appearing at all in this episode again other than a few lines of voiceover at the end, Mister Nobody positively lurks over every second of the story.

-- Larry's description of being gay in the 60s was not inaccurate. Let me assure you, as someone who's gay and in the fire service, it's still accurate today.

-- I only just this second realized that the name of the dating app – Cazh – must be an idiomatic abbreviation of Casual. I wish it had been upswipes.

-- The little vignettes of the team members from when they were kids were touching. And in Jane's case, amazingly sinister.

-- All of the retellings of the morning's activities were littered with lovely little crossover bits that tied them all together. Just wonderfully handled.

-- The thing that makes Jane work as a character is how amazingly fragile she has to be while simultaneously presenting a tough exterior. Diane Guerrero is just so good in this part. They really struck gold with that casting.

-- I loved just how long they held the shot of Admiral Whiskers climbing out of Cliff's mouth. It really allowed the absurdity of the moment to have time to sink in.


Rita: "The person who is sick of having creepy baby imagery shoved in her face is me."

Larry: "Memories shouldn’t change just because I want a better ending!"

Jane: "Everything is fine. Everything is fine."

Bump: "You were alive this whole time, huh? Probably neck deep in Robo-pussy I bet!"

Rita: "What is going on?"
Jane: "Cliff’s having a psychotic break."

Rita: "I was stuck in a furnace and nobody could hear my screams."
Cliff: "See? A powerful metaphor for what we’re all feeling!"
Rita: "It was a literal furnace."

Larry: "Ok. Well. I’m.."
Cliff: "Gay!"
Cyborg: "Whoa! Whoa! Settle down, buddy."
Cliff: "What, come on! No judgement here, I just thought Larry was about to come out and that would have been so healing for him."

Admiral Whiskers: "My name is Admiral Whiskers. You killed my mother. Prepare for my revenge!"

Really solid stuff. A good story, well told.

Nine out of ten vengeful vermin.

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.

1 comment:

  1. Not loving the actor playing Cyborg so much. His "I killed my mom" line almost made me laugh it was so poorly delivered. Jane's flashback was really scary. Generally, people with Dissociative Identity Disorder have endured really horrific abuse. Not sure if I want to see what made her into who she is now.

    RIP Admiral Whiskers' mother. You were a good rat.

    Interesting the foreshadowing of Rita saying "no rats" while trapped in the furnace.


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