Doom Patrol: Danny Patrol

"Fabulosity incarnate stands before you, Darren. Show some goddamn respect."

This made me happier than any other hour of television ever has.

This is the episode of Doom Patrol that made me start reviewing the show for DouxReviews. I've been both looking forward and dreading the day when I'd get to reviewing it, because I love it, and I'm afraid of not doing it justice. So, there's that. It's not an exaggeration to say that if this episode had aired when I was 13 years old it would have changed my entire life. I hope that it's doing that now for other 13 year olds who are starting to realize that there's something different going on for them.

Doom Patrol, the television series, finally gets around to introducing my absolute favorite character from the comic series, Danny the Street.

Danny, back in the very early 90s, was introduced by Grant Morrison as a piece of sentient geography. Basically, he was an actual street that had consciousness and could teleport himself wherever he wanted on the planet. He'd just discretely insert himself into the local geography. In the comics he was being pursued by The Men From N.O.W.H.E.R.E. who wanted to destroy him, it was revealed, because his lacy curtains and frills revealed him to be a shameless transvestite. A charge which Danny cheerfully confirmed and felt no shame for.

It's worth taking a minute to consider that set-up as it relates to where we are today as a society. In the 90s, owning up to being a transvestite was a plot point reveal and terribly, terribly, fringe-culture. Now, not quite thirty years later, one of the first things that we're told as soon as our heroes arrive on Danny is that Danny identifies as gender-queer, and uses non-binary pronouns. Back in the 90s those words wouldn't even have meant anything, and yet today it's a throwaway line establishing who the character is. That is freaking amazing. There are so few little things in the world at this moment in time that give me any kind of hope or joy, but that definitely inspires both.

Which is good, because that's a lot of the point of this episode: Finding your way to hope and joy.

This episode doesn't just have an A and B plot, it also has about half of a C plot.  The theme I'm talking about is clearest in that half a C-plot, so let's start there. Cliff, a brain in a robot suit let's remember, is stuck on the front steps of a suburban house for reasons we'll get into in a moment. He's been rejected by the person he cares most about because he hurt that person just as badly earlier. He's lost, rejected and alone. A little kid rides by on his bike and stops to stare. Then, a few scenes later, that same kid shows up in a clearly homemade robot costume, and silently challenges Cliff to a dance battle. And Cliff just rolls with it. His immediate response isn't 'Get the hell out of here', or even 'Sorry, I'm in the middle of something.' It's 'Is that all you got?' and then the dancing is on. In the middle of pain he finds a moment of joy.



Meanwhile, in the Crazy Jane plotline, Jane (the personality) has vanished, leaving another personality named Karen in charge. Which isn't great because Karen is kind of an emotional vampire/stalker who's obsessed with 90s Rom-Coms and has the power to make people fall in love with her. This is bad news for random-guy Doug, who we're led to understand spends his life with Karen showing up every few years, mystically forcing him to love her, and then totally destroying his life before leaving him.

The thing to remember here is that dissociative personalities become who they are for specific reasons and to handle specific emotional cues that the core personality can't handle any longer. Karen obviously manifests in situations where Jane feels rejected and unloved, as a definitive icon of what 90s rom-coms told us real romance should be like. It's a pattern she adopted to fill a need to not feel alone. She's trying to create and force happiness into a vacuum of her own despair, and has the power to do so.

And then there's Larry and Vic and their adventures on Danny the Street. I don't know how much I need to underline this, but the entire plotline revolves around a military guy who initially hates someone for being 'not what's normal in society,' who finds himself in a particular place where everyone is free to be whoever they are and to love themselves for whoever they are. His initial hostility turns to fear, which goes hand in hand with a strange and inexplicable feeling of having found a 'home.'

So, it's every gay man's first experience in a gay bar. With superpowers.

Danny as a sanctuary, where all of the lost and forgotten, everyone that society says shouldn't be who they are, find a refuge, home and family, is not a subtle metaphor if you're anywhere near the periphery of the LGBTQIAA community. And the moment where Maura Lee Karupt, formerly Morris the soldier from the Bureau of Normalcy, offers to go back to her old life and live in pain so that Danny can escape, and Danny essentially says, 'The Hell you are. We are done fucking sacrificing ourselves,' is just about the most empowering moment I've ever seen.

Counterpoint to this is Larry's experience of Danny the Street. Where Maura found freedom to express who she is, the cruel reveal that his big musical number had been a lie shows that Larry still isn't there yet. He's also saying that no one gets to tell him who he is, but he's using that argument to say that he's allowed to stay closeted and isolated if that's what he chooses. And just a side note here – that is 100% true. There's a huge tendency to feel guilty after you come out for having 'lied' to people for so long. If you take nothing else away from this review or this episode, please take away this. Forgive the salty language, but Fuck That. The only one who gets to determine when the right time for you to come out is you. No one else gets to make that call for you. When you're ready, you're ready. Feel no guilt for your timing.



Bits and Pieces:

-- Danny reaches out to the Doom Patrol for help by sending a cake. I feel like this is just a really good policy. We should all adopt it.

-- Danny and the Chief have some sort of secret backstory, and Danny knows who Mr. Nobody is. And is terrified of him, apparently. Danny is right, the 'Dannyzens' who live on him do need his protection. I can't fault his call for not getting involved out of concern for their safety.

-- Nice little history nod, the clue Danny leaves for Cyborg is an issue of the comic 'My Greatest Adventure.'  The Doom Patrol first appeared in issue #80 of that comic.

-- I probably have watched the musical number of Matt Bomer singing 'People Like Us' at least a hundred times. It cheers me up when nothing else does. Interestingly, since we learn that it was all an illusion and Larry never got up to sing, it implies that Larry is a fan of Kelly Clarkson. Or is at least familiar with her work. Still, 'We are all misfits living in a world on fire' is kind of the Doom Patrol mission statement.

-- Alan Mingo, Jr, who plays Morris/Maura Lee, did a run in Kinky Boots on Broadway as Lola. Based on what we see here, I bet he was really good.

-- Nitpicking, but there's absolutely no way Maura could have gotten out of drag and back into it as quickly as shown. I mean, the tucking alone would take longer than that.

-- This shouldn't matter, but it does. Alan Mingo Jr. and Matt Bomer both being gay in real life makes the empowerment message of that song feel so much stronger.

-- Such a good setup for the next episode.

-- One of the many joys of this series is how it's recreating the visuals from the comics. Both Peeping Tom's Perpetual Cabaret and the little we saw of Jane's 'Underground' were amazing. And the way they recreated the way Danny communicates through physical objects was better than I thought we'd ever see.

-- The Ant Farm is apparently the base of operations for the Bureau of Normalcy, which seems to be a sort of 'X-Files, but evil.'



Quotes:

Cliff: "You ever get a rat stuck in you before?"
Vic: "No."

Cliff: "Hey, you remember when you thought not cursing would get you into the Justice League?"

Jane: "It’s okay. I get it. We all have rats in our heads sometimes."

Larry: "Follow the cake, Vic. Always follow the cake."

Larry: "‘Where’s Niles?’, asked the cake shop. That’s not weird at all."

Maura: "Oh, look at these two, serving us Terminator/King Tut realness Honey."

Maura: "This sweet little snack’s a bit salty. I like it."

Danny: "Know a lot of sentient, teleporting, genderqueer streets, Larry?"

Hammerhead: "Jane’s not around. How do you think we got stuck with Basic Bitch Barbie?"

Larry: "I’m done letting other people tell me who I am."

Danny: "We’re not. Running. Anymore."

Maura: "You know Darren, men as old as you really shouldn’t throw shade. You might hurt your back."

Maura: "No. You don’t get to tell me, or anyone else, who they are ever again. I am proud of the person I see in the mirror. My face is beat. My look is flawless. And I am dusted from head to toe. The only thing I am not, is scared of you."



I can't even begin to tell you how joyful and empowering this hour of television is. If you know anyone struggling with their sexuality or gender identity, find a way to get this in front of them.

It's too big, joyous and important to give a score. Just take three minutes and watch this music video. If you don't tear up a little with joy you might be dead inside.

They can't do nothing to you.
They can't do nothing to me.
This is the life that we choose.

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.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Fantastic review! I am so happy that you decided to review Doom Patrol and finally reached this ep because this is one of my favorites as well! I've been waiting to hear what you had to say because I liked this ep so much! This is just a fun ep! Great job!

I also have listened to People Like Us hundreds of times! It's so good and catchy! And the tone is perfect!

PS. I think Larry did end up singing (poorly) at the very end right before they're transported back to the manor.

Mikey Heinrich said...

I'm so glad you liked it and that the People Like Us thing isn't just me :)

You're absolutely right about Larry singing at the end, I should have mentioned that.

If you haven't watched the video I linked to, it's not just the clip from the episode, some brilliant person (Very much not me) edited in all the other moments of unexpected Joy (and some not so joyous moments) into it and it's just perfect.

Anonymous said...

You most definitely are not alone in liking People Like Us! I really like it! What's cool for me is that I hadn't heard the song before Doom Patrol, so I don't associate it with anything else, which is neat for me. And it fits Doom Patrol perfectly!

It was a nice video. Thanks for sharing. It amazes me how people can create videos! I most definitely cannot.

And thanks again for such an awesome review!

Mikey Heinrich said...

I hadn't heard it before either! It'll always belong to Matt Bomer in my heart