Doom Patrol: Jane Patrol

"Each of us has a purpose. A reason for being. We just want you to respect that."

Ladies and gentlemen, Diane Guerrero's audition reel for everything from now on, ever.

Wow. Remember last episode, when it was all about moments of joy and spontaneous happiness? Yeah, this week's not that.

It's a tribute to the show and everyone involved in it that they can produce two such radically different episodes back to back and make both of them so wonderful. This week we finally dig into Crazy Jane's back story, and as a result this episode belongs almost entirely Diane Guerrero. She does not miss the chance to amaze us. Indeed, Rita, Cyborg, and Larry are almost completely absent from this one, which gives plenty of room for Jane and to a slightly lesser extent Cliff to really spread their wings.

Before we get started, there are a few things we should have on the table up front. I am not a psychiatrist, psychologist, or any variation of that field. I've had no training at all in that area. So when we move on in a moment to talk about Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), I'm just speaking as a layman who's seen a couple of interesting documentaries. I apologize in advance if I get anything egregiously wrong or make any offensive assumptions. Also, I've just realized that I consistently call Rita, Larry, Jane, and Cliff by their names, but always refer to Vic as Cyborg and I honestly don't know why. I'm actually afraid that it might be an unconscious racial bias on my part, and I'm going to make an effort to stop doing it. I mention this in the spirit of the open and uncomfortable conversations about race that we in the U.S. all need to be having at this moment.

To talk about this episode, we need to talk about Jane, and if we're going to talk about Jane it's probably important to talk about where the character came from, in terms of what Grant Morrison was trying to discuss when we created her. I obviously can't speak for Grant Morrison directly, but this is the upshot of what I read him saying in an interview:

The character of Jane was created by Grant Morrison as a reaction to a book he read called When Rabbit Howls. It was published in 1987 and the credited author is properly 'The Troops for Truddi Chase.' It's an autobiography of Truddi Chase, a woman with severe Dissociative Identity Disorder, and chronicles the abuse that led to her developing that condition. The 'troops' in question are what her personalities refer to themselves as, en masse. The book was written by the troops, because they made the decision to not integrate through therapy, and continue to live as they were. Crazy Jane was his way of considering the idea of what identity might mean through that lens. How valid are 'you,' if you are only one of you?

It was also made into a TV movie in 1990 starring Shelley Long, but hey – not every artistic response is a winner.



This episode is pulled almost entirely from an issue of Doom Patrol called 'Going Underground.' The setup is the same, except with Vic substituted in for the role of the Chief, and the negative spirit being a slightly different form called Rebis, whom I desperately hope the show gets to one day. Two thing really struck me as I watched this one. First, the way they recreated the Underground was astonishing, and something I never thought I'd get to see in live action. Second, it was an absolutely inspired idea for some, but not all, of Jane's alters to be played by Diane Guerrero. This dodged a lot of complicated CGI doubling, and yet still allowed her to show her range.

Similarly, having Cliff be physically played by Brendan Fraser was a great way to get him involved, and set up an amazing physical metaphor for tearing away masks of self image to reveal painful memories inside. I can't actually remember if that was the case in the comic version of this story. I think it might have been. But whether or not it was, it works here. It's simultaneously a visual metaphor and a clever plot development at the same time which is impressive. 'No man can pass,' 'I'm not a man.' Clever.

Indeed, the visual metaphors used in this one are all on point and beautifully done. The recurring motif of the puzzle pieces tying into what little (thankfully) we see of an early instance of her abuse, tying into the image that represented sanctuary to Penny Farthing all hangs together beautifully, as does the use of puzzle pieces to represent the fractures of Kay Challis, of which Jane is only one, coming together out of a literal well of self destruction in the image of her abuser. It all just flows with a beautiful aesthetic logic.

The most impressive thing about the script to me, though, is the things that it doesn't try to explain. Like I said in a previous review, alternate personalities develop to address specific emotional needs. All of the plot logic here depends on the viewer instinctively understanding that, but the script never stops to expressly say so, it trusts that we're smart enough to figure it out. Penny Farthing exists to run away – a child being abused would desperately need some aspect of themselves to be able to do that. The three sisters are obviously a safety valve to protect the system from remembering the abuse. Anyone that begins to look into what actually happened to Kay Challis gets sent to the Well to destroy themselves. That keeps them all safe from the pain of the memories. Because fundamentally that's what all the alters are there for – to protect the woman who was once Kay Challis. Where the interesting stuff comes in is where the clashed arise between what various alters view as 'protecting.' That's some powerful internal drama.

They also only hint at what happened to Miranda, but they give us enough of the story for us to understand what's happening to Jane. It was spelled out a bit more in the comic, and I really think it works better this way.



Bits and Pieces:

-- It was a great decision to expressly have the moment between Jane and Cliff in the front yard as his good memory and her bad memory. Because he sees giving her hope as a positive and she sees it as a threat.

-- I loved that the Negative Spirit didn't bother giving anybody a heads up before leaping out and pouring Cliff into Jane's head. He was just like, 'Screw it, I'm handling this.'

-- Great directorial decision to have all the alters' names appear in different fonts the first time we meet them. I tried keeping a running list of them, but gave up pretty quickly. I think most of them were at least name checked in the comics, but not all.

-- Diane Guerrero did an amazing job with the alter 'Driver 8' particularly. Driver 8 is a purely utilitarian personality, never surfacing to take control of the body, just performing the function of facilitating travel for the others.

-- Driver 8... Look, it was the late 80s. REM was still totally a thing.

-- Kay was a little girl in Arkansas in 1957. Is it strange, or is it telling, that none of her personalities has an Arkansas accent? It's pretty distinctive.

-- The repeated motif of who memories belong to was just so well handled throughout this script. And God bless Cliff for respecting that Jane's story wasn't his to tell in the end.

-- When trying to describe the layout of the Underground in my notes, I coined the term 'Functional Emotional Architecture,' and now I really want someone to name a band that. I will absolutely buy a t-shirt.

-- So Miranda was a previous 'primary' and apparently manifested startlingly young. I wonder how Jane got the appointment to take over. It appears that nobody's too keen on the job.

-- Jane coming to the memory of herself of the little girl, Kay, and asking what she was supposed to be was an amazing scene. Essentially she was going to God to ask her purpose.

-- The soundscape for this episode was astonishingly well done and effective.



Quotes:

Karen: "F**k all you do nothing hater bitches!"

Cliff: "This is all my fault. I never should have pushed us into therapy."
Rita: "Don’t flatter yourself, Cliff. Therapy was the rat’s idea."

Penny Farthing: "Memories belong to everyone."

Penny Farthing: "The Well? Really? Was Russian Roulette not an option?"

Penny Farthing: "The fastest way to get around in the underground is through memories like this one. They’re everywhere. Deeper you go, darker they get. Sometimes the darker memories are stuck to the nicer ones."

Penny Farthing: "I need you to close your eyes."
Cliff: "Why?"
Penny Farthing: "Because behind this door is what’s left of Miranda’s station. Where she used to live."
Cliff: "Is that supposed to mean something to me? Because I didn’t even know that there was a Miranda until five seconds ago."

Jane: "Kay, I don’t know who you need me to be. I don’t know if I’m supposed to feel happy."



Moving, beautiful, heartbreaking, and so much more.

Ten out of ten valid identities.

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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