Doom Patrol: Cyborg Patrol

"They’re loose! The Butts are loose!!"

The Doom Patrol head out to rescue Vic in a mostly satisfying caper episode.

Caper episodes can be a lot of fun when they're done well, and whether or not they're done well almost entirely revolves around two things:

1. How they execute the big twist reveal regarding how the caper is actually working.

2. How satisfying or interesting the reveal itself is.

For an example of a film that nails both of those, I'd recommend Logan Lucky. Actually, I'd recommend Logan Lucky under any circumstances, it's just a really good film. It makes a great double feature with Knives Out, which also completely nails the timing of its reveals and the cleverness of what the reveals actually are, although that one's a whodunnit mystery and not a caper film, which is a different beast and thus not really relevant here. Still a great movie though.

For examples of when a film succeeds in step one, but fails in step two, check out the sequels to Ocean's 11, if you feel like that's a good usage of your time.

The basic structure of a caper film/episode can be basically boiled down to the following: Establish the thing. Establish why the people we like want the thing. Establish why the people we like can't get the thing. Show the people we like making a plan to get the thing. Show the plan to get the thing going wrong. Rug pull to reveal that the things we thought were going wrong were actually the real plan all along, usually through a flashback to earlier events that gives us information that was previously withheld. People we like get the thing.

Like everything else, there are exceptions to the rule, but that's the most common template. One variation is that the plan actually does go wrong and everyone has to punt to pull it back together. We get examples of both in this story.

The show has a bit of an advantage going in, in that they can skip the first two or three steps. The thing is Vic aka Cyborg. The people we like want to get Vic back because he's part of the team. We saw at the end of last episode that Vic was kidnapped by the Bureau of Normalcy and sent to the Ant Farm, both of which we already know about and are established as a threat. Perfect, we can jump directly to step four.

That's not entirely true, I suppose. They first spend a chunk of the time that got freed up in service to another element that's essential to making a caper story work, namely making us doubt the motives and reliability of the people involved. This was time well spent, because all of the discussion about whether or not to contact Silas because they don't know if they can trust him makes the viewer... well... not trust him. It helps that he arrives uninvited, having been tracking Victor remotely on his own – another action that calls his reliability into question.

At the same time they very cleverly cast doubt on Rita's dedication to being part of the plan, which is vital for the surprise reveal later on. They absolutely have to make us not question, or if possible even think about, why Rita isn't with the team when they break into the Ant Farm, so the time spent establishing that she has serious reservations about the idea is well spent.



So, all that emotional underpinning set up, they proceed to tell us a rather nicely put together double bluff. Peter Capaldi explained this kind of thing as a 'vanity trap,'which is a good description. You set up a 'surface level' con which is designed to be figured out by the target, who is then so self satisfied about having not been fooled that they don't notice the actual con going on on the next level below.

In this case the target isn't really Darren Smith or the Ant Farm, it's the viewer. We have to at least partially believe that Silas would double cross the team and sell them out to rescue his son so that we don't stop to think about what else might be going on. If your first response was 'Oh, Silas is a good guy, he'd never do that. It must be a trick,' then you've just ruined the execution of the big twist because you're already anticipating it coming. See priority number one, above.

So we get the reveal that this was all exactly what they wanted, and that Rita was in fact hiding inside Cliff's shell waiting to come oozing out and affect the real rescue was both well executed and a good twist reveal in its own right. Well done.

There's actually an interesting clue early on when Rita and Jane are both mildly surprised and discomforted when they realize they're both on the same side regarding what Vic would want done regarding his father. It's passed off as a joke at the time, but it's clearly there as an indicator that Rita's changed a lot from 'run and hide' Rita of the earlier episodes.

Another factor that helps sell our distrust of Silas is sadly the one element of the script that really lets the episode down, all in the service of that surprise tragic ending – namely Vic's growing belief that he's being overtaken by the cybernetics and that his father did it to him. This would have worked if it was clarified at some point whether Vic was entirely hallucinating, or what exactly was going on. Prisoner 722 next door can hear Grid, which implies it's really happening, but then Darren and the Agents can't, which argues the other direction. Then at the end Mr. Nobody shows up and takes all the credit while saying it was all hallucination, but then something made his arm cannon go off a few episodes back, didn't it? And why constantly harp on it being tied to the reset button if the reset button had nothing to do with it and it was just Mr. Nobody? A little obfuscation is fine, but it feels like the script thinks it explained everything at the end, and it very much hasn't.

Karen.  She's Cray-Cray.  
Under the tape her shirt says 'Tacos are everything', which is true.


Bits and Pieces:

-- Something just felt a little off in the CGI of Mr. Nobody's face in those last scenes. I can't put a finger on it, but it wasn't quite working the way it did in his earlier appearances.

-- We're all clear on who 722 is going to turn out to be, right? I can't decide if the show thinks that's going to be a surprise.

-- Rita was honestly indignant on Cliff's behalf that the Ant Farm technician was so rude about the quality of his robotics. That was sweet.

-- The guards attempt at Reservoir Dogs being interrupted by the accidental summoning of Karen by playing Tracey Ullman's 'They Don't Know' was a wonderful way to get out of that situation.

-- I can't pass up this chance to mention – 'They Don't Know' was written by Kirsty MacColl, singer, songwriter, and all around amazing person. Apparently Tracey Ullman was unable to hit the signature high note on the word 'Bay-bee!' as in the final mix that's very clearly Kirsty's voice from the demo mix and not Tracey Ullman singing. If you don't know the circumstances of Kirsty MacColl's death, they were heartbreaking, completely unjust, and we should never, ever stop being angry about it. If you want a rundown, ask in the comments and I'll put it there.

-- It's not just Rita that's grown into a more selfless person – Larry actually tells the Negative Spirit that they have to go back to the site of their worst memories to help Vic. And then is straight up presented with an opportunity to leave the Negative Spirit behind, trapped in the containment flask, and chooses not to. He's come a long way.

-- Darren keeps deadnaming Maura Lee when he reports to his superiors. I don't know why that pissed me off more than all the other evil stuff they do. Probably because that's the most real world evil that they perpetrate, so I can identify with it more clearly.

-- Darren's story about putting a fork in his wife's eye is a direct lift from the comics, although there they illustrated it as it happened over a two page spread. I was happier just hearing about it in flashback.

-- Cliff is wearing a T-shirt that says 'Turn on, Tune in, Drop dead.' That one was always my favorite in the comics. Somebody in wardrobe is clearly a fan.

-- 'The Operators' were a very cool and very creepy visual. The way they were all hoisted around the room was mesmerizing. I hope we see them again some day.

-- On top of being the most pleasingly ridiculous visual in the show thus far, the savage man eating butts with their razor sharp rectal teeth were pleasingly racially diverse. I thought that was a thoughtful touch.  I really just typed that sentence...

-- It's a minor point, but 'completely machine' isn't what 'fully cybernetic' means.

-- Regarding the technician and Cliff's discussion of Frankenstein, let me quote my friend, comedian Joseph Scrimshaw – "Actually, Frankenstein was the name of the scientist. I, the person correcting you on this trivial point, am the monster."

Can you spot the visual film reference?  It's pretty subtle...

Quotes:

General: "We mustn’t. Upset. The Butts."

Cliff: "I agree. Silas is a grade a douchenozzle. Is it possible this will just work itself out? Vic’s not like us. He’s f*cking Cyborg. A real superhero. He can use his computer thingie, bust himself free, I don’t know… send a text to Batman."

Cliff: "Uh, just wanna say, Snitches get Stitches."

722: "It’s not so bad in here. You get three squares a day, and all of them are sandwiches."

Cliff: "Uh, no. No, no, no, no, you might not realize this, dude, but I’m a functioning human brain in a robot. How many times have you seen that?"
Agent: "About a dozen. The BON got pretty Looney Tunes in the Nixon years. Stuffing brains into everything. We still have a super sarcastic toaster."

Jane: "I’m sorry, discount Dexter, did you say something?"

Jane: "We get it, Doucheflap. You saw Reservoir Dogs. Do me a solid? Chop off my ears already so that I don’t have to listen to another verse of Ace of F*cking Bass."



A fun and clever script that uses the strengths of the genre it's going for extremely well. It could have used some more clarity, if only at the end, as to what was really happening to Vic/Cyborg.

Eight out of ten texts to Batman.

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.

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