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Doom Patrol: Frances Patrol

"You were my last real thing."

The Doom Patrol finally gets back to looking for the Chie... psych! It's profoundly moving emotional closure instead. Gotcha.

The Doom Patrol pulls a bait and switch in this one by implying that we're going back to the season's main plot, but then instead giving us a surprisingly elegant and moving meditation on love, loss, and closure.

This is a little gem of an episode. Its structure weaves a delicate through-line between the storylines regarding how we move on or don't from the loss of people we've loved, and it resolves Larry's relationship with John in a way that feels beautiful, and painful, and real.

I haven't really dug into it before, but it's worth noting how well this series uses the Negative Spirit as a metaphor for homosexuality. There's a strange and confusing 'something' inside of Larry which he doesn't understand, is terrified of, and desperately tries to suppress. But no matter how hard he tries to bury it inside himself, it keeps breaking out to the surface and causing him to lose control.

No, that doesn't sound familiar at all.

The genius thing that this episode does with it is that it leans into the so far blurry distinction of just how much the negative spirit and John are interchangeable symbols. When John speaks in the flashbacks we've seen so far, is that Larry's memory of what John would say, or is it the negative being speaking through John's image, or what? So we open with what we're initially supposed to assume is a flashback to one of Larry and John's illicit rendezvous. But then their conversation starts to get all meta and we think to ourselves, 'Oh, it's one of those visions that the Negative Spirit has been giving modern day Larry of his time with John for whatever reason. OK.'

We're given a huge clue to what's really going on almost immediately when John says, 'Oh, I'm dead, aren't I,' but we aren't given enough context to realize what it means at that moment. This is really great storytelling. It can be really difficult to manage 'deliberately confusing the viewer' without also achieving 'pissing off the viewer and making them change to a different streaming service,' but they nail it here. When we finally get the information that the Negative Spirit has actually been putting Larry's consciousness in contact with John's present day consciousness in the hope that Larry might actually deal with his regret and loss, a whole bunch of pieces fall into place in a way that's every bit as satisfying as when all of the post it notes left by the negative Spirit resolve themselves into the name of John's current hometown.

It now makes perfect sense why the Negative Spirit has pretty much spent the whole series so far screaming 'For Christ sake, figure it out! I can only spell it out for you so clearly!'

It all holds together through the repeated use of the song Moon River, which we're given to understand was Larry and John's song. Moon River is about the journey of life, and looking both back at your past and forward to your future. Using it to resolve Larry's feelings about John was a great choice. When their hands unclasp and fall away from each other at the end accompanied by the line 'Wherever you're going, I'm going your way'... well, if that doesn't kick you in the heart even a little bit, you might be dead inside.

So Larry gets to finally see John again, deal with the fact that John eventually got over him and lived the rest of his life, and finally does what both John and the NS have been screaming at him to do all season. Just be there. People leave your life for all sorts of reasons that you can't control. You can look back on them and still keep moving forward. Just beautiful melding of plotline and theme.

Intertwined with that, we have Cliff and Rita headed off to Florida to find Cliff's daughter and allow Cliff to reconnect with her. Great mirroring of Larry reconnecting with John all the way through. It's understandable that Cliff is that angry at Bump for getting to have all the time with his daughter that Cliff didn't get. It's understandable that he'd be that jealous of the father-love that his daughter shows toward Bump and not him. Which is why it was such a well judged moment for Cliff to be forced through Clara's eulogy for her 'dad' to see all of the wonderful and loving things that Bump had done for her. Bump really stepped up and was Clara's dad. It was right that they didn't just dismiss that.

The way they paired off the members of the group really worked here. Rita and Cliff are a less common pairing, but they really spark off of each other, and the image of Cliff stalking through the swamp while Rita floats behind him in the boat was really lovely. I did feel a little bad for Riley Shanahan inside the costume, though. I hope his waterproofing was good.

Rita is absolutely right that Cliff is just stalling because he's afraid to talk to his daughter, but it leads to the stunningly well handled visual metaphor of the inscribed gold watch representing the passing of Clara's fatherhood from Cliff to Bump. I don't know how I feel about them directly contrasting Larry being able to leave John behind with Cliff walking away from Clara. That's still your daughter, Cliff. That's messy and complicated, but clearly deliberately so. I hope one day he goes back to her.

And then finally we have Jane and Vic – another atypical combination. Their attempt to resume the search for Niles quickly morphs into a discussion about self control, which makes Jane the ideal person for Vic to be talking to about it. There's less character development here, but it serves as a counterweight to the themes in the other two storylines really well. And of course led to Vic being kidnapped by the Bureau of Normalcy, so there's our lead in to next week's episode handled.

Bits and Pieces:

-- As regards the line in Moon River about Huckleberry friends – 'Huckleberry' is old time slang for 'the right person for the job or situation.' That's why Doc Holiday uses the term in Tombstone, if you're wondering. A 'Huckleberry Friend' means a perfect friend. An exact fit between two friends. That applies all over the place this episode.

-- Just to round things off, we find out what Larry was doing while Cliff was – ahem – inside Jane and Rita and Vic were fighting the Beard Hunter. He was having the world's best sex dream, including post-coital meal. Larry so wins that one.

-- Rita can really eat a lot of chicken. And seems to be doing so just because she wants to. That makes sense, I suppose. She'd probably need the calories.

-- Jane is surprisingly competent and proactive in the Chief-search. She catches Flex Mentallo's name and tracks down his old girlfriend like it ain't no thing. Of course, she's doing it to keep herself from dwelling on the events of 'Jane Patrol.'

-- How much danger is Rita actually in from an alligator? Would she just go all squishy and catch in its teeth like a Flex Armstrong?

-- Rita is embracing her pre-Hollywood name of Gertrude Cramp. Nice detail of embracing your past.

-- 'Salty Bump's' is an unfortunate name for a bar. It sounds more like an embarrassing diagnosis. 'I'm sorry sir, your test results are in and you have... salty bumps.'

-- It was a little bit eye-rolly that Bump getting eaten by an alligator made national news, but it at least gave us another amusing sighting of Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man at the same time.

-- Jane asked Vic all of the questions that I wanted to ask him about the consequences of removing Grid's operating system from his body. I appreciated that.

-- Wait, Darren the agent is back with the Bureau of Normalcy? I thought they said last week that he'd disappeared?

-- Did we ever get confirmation that Bump was sleeping with Cliff's wife, or did she just fondle him at the racetrack that one time to make Cliff jealous?  I think Bump might be getting a bum rap.

You know, disregarding the name I would totally hang out at Salty Bumps.
I bet they have a regular meat raffle.


Rita: "Not since I understudied Bette Davis, have I been so monomaniacally manipulated, mind controlled, and emotionally abused. Karen!"
Jane: "Oh… yeah. Karen’s cray cray."

Jane: "Dear Chief, sorry we never found you. We have no excuse, other than we’re utterly incompetent. Oh. Oh, look! We got a clue from a teleporting gender-queer street. And based on Rita’s description, we are now looking for , and I quote, ‘A hunky fellow known as "Hero of the Beach".' Signed, the f*cking totally useless Doom Patrol."

Cliff: "Flit. Take me to Salty Bumps!"

Rita: "Now stand up straight. Repeat after me. Red leather, yellow leather."
Cliff: "Red Leather, yello… what? Why?"
Rita: "Blow your lips. Like a horse."
Cliff: "No lips. Part of why I’m, nervous."

Hick: "So, Gertie, you and tea kettle there an item?"

Hick: "No, Frances is the name of the gator what ended up eating his sorry ass. She’s a legend. A lot of folks figure she ate the Unibomber."

Rita: "I should have had another gin and tonic."

An elegantly crafted, well put together episode. Somebody put a lot of work and a lot of heart into this script.

Nine out of ten huckleberry friends.

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. So, the first three episodes of Season Two dropped yesterday, but I haven't watched them yet since I want to finish reviewing season one first.

    Just a courteous reminder to watch for spoilers if you'd like to comment.

    Now if you excuse me, I have four more of these to plow through because I'm dying to watch the new season!

  2. I have always wondered what a huckleberry friend was. I mean, not actively or full time, but now and then. :) Thanks, Mikey.

  3. "The Doom Patrol pulls a bait and switch in this one by implying that we're going back to the season's main plot, but then instead giving us a surprisingly elegant and moving meditation on love, loss, and closure."

    What I really like about DP is that ultimately it rejects modern TV conventions and is uninterested in its plot, it's always about character study first and foremost.

  4. Billie - I heart to help :)

    Diogo - Thank you so much! I 100% agree, and have never found a way to properly verbalize that. Yes, yes, yes!

  5. So many tears. Larry carrying an old John was the main shot that was shown/spoiled in that fan music video for People Like Us, and it was everything I hoped that scene to be. I am curious that everyone's storylines seem to be being paced to wrap up soon, because I can see there are still more episodes than we'd need, unless they really stretch (heh) out Rita's.

    This episode also gave me a lot more empathy for who Cliff is other than the bumbling dumdum. Talking to her is something he's incapable of doing, but fighting a huge ass alligator to prove his love? Sure.

    Hilarious Rita had a plastic cover for her hair, but more seriously, I was pleasantly surprised her wailing when Cliff shut down was, "How are we going to get you out of here?" rather than "How am *I* going to get out of here?"


  6. Yeah, I can't re-watch the John and Larry stuff without an emotional support animal. So, so moving.

    Without spoiling anything, the pacing for the rest of the first season is really well handled.

    I'd never noticed that about Rita's comment. That is a really nice detail

  7. It's been interesting on rewatch to see them figuring out what works and what doesn't. I feel like this episode is one of the first where April Bowlby's work and the writing for Rita really dovetail perfectly in a way that lets you see how she's going to become one of the strongest parts of the show.

  8. I should go back and re-watch these from the beginning before we get the last six episodes. I suspect - not having watched them recently - that you're correct. I remember she was particularly good in this one.


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