Doom Patrol: Penultimate Patrol

"Stop narrating me, you shithead!"

The Doom Patrol finally takes the fight into enemy territory, and Flex unveils the greatest superpower of all time.

There's a bit of padding in this one as it makes its way to the final confrontation between the team and Mr. Nobody, but it's really good padding, so it's hard to count that as a flaw.

Case in point – and please stop reading now and go watch the episode if you haven't yet because this is an amazing moment and I would hate to spoil it for anyone – we have Flex' new superpower. Flex accesses his different powers by flexing different muscles. Right. We're all on board with that. Flex tells them that he has a specific flex that will send the team into the white space between comic book panels, which is where Mr. Nobody is holding the Chief. OK, that's all solid plot advancement. Flex then performs the aforementioned flex, but... nothing seems to happen. For an extended awkward silence. Which slowly starts to be broken by every single person present on Danny the Street having a spontaneous, extended, and apparently quite enjoyable orgasm.

Yep, one of Flex Mentallo's powers is the ability to flex one muscle and bring everyone in his vicinity to climax. If he had been present at the end of Avengers: Infinity War, that snap would never have happened. I know, Marvel, not DC. But tell me you don't want to see that now. I'm just saying.

This is a delightful sequence, and goes on for a startlingly long time, but it doesn't really have any effect on the plot, just kills a few amusing moments before they get back to their actual goal. So is that a flaw, or a feature? I'm coming down on the side of 'feature,' no pun intended, but it's definitely a sign of one inescapable observation about this episode. Namely, they had a very specific end point for that wonderful last minute reveal from the Chief and a cut directly to black. But to get to that end point, they really only needed about 15-20 minutes of actual plot mechanics. So they had plenty of run time to play with, and it shows when you start breaking the episode down.

Another symptom of this is the way the episode is afforded the time to restate the backstory and character development of every single member of the team. This is clearly done so that we know that they're very deliberately putting the characters in the exact same situation that they screwed up in the first place so that we can be shown clearly and in no uncertain terms how much, and in what specific ways, the characters have changed over the course of the season. Which is fine in and of itself, they certainly succeeded in drawing a nice big line underneath that point in a million little subtle ways. The way Rita has quietly assumed a proactive leadership role. The way Larry has begun calling the Negative Spirit 'pal.' A ton of other little examples of character growth. We'd already gotten that memo, it didn't really need to be rehashed here. It was well done and enjoyable, but there really wasn't any need for it.




This led to a growing concern that I'm starting to have about Danny the Street. This episode repeated exactly the same joke three or four times, wherein someone just flat out states the entire character arc of one of our heroes in as matter of fact way as possible. This is making sure everyone is up to speed on what's happened, sure, but I feel like at this point in the season we were already well up to speed on all of that. It comes across more as that one friend of a friend you see at parties who always goes out of his way to make sure everyone constantly knows how super crazy and off the wall he is. Look at my plotline! Isn't it just the wackiest?! Look how random this all sounds!

Why does that phenomenon raise a problem with Danny the Street, you might be asking. Because it made me suddenly aware of the fact that every single time they bring Danny up, even among people who all know exactly who they are, they give them the entire log line of 'Oh, you know, that Sentient teleporting gender-queer street.' Which is starting to feel uncomfortably fetishistic to me. Like someone who constantly finds ways to work into conversation that they have gay friends, just so you know how enlightened they are.

I'm probably reading too much into it. It's much more likely to be a case of them just going back to the same joke one or two times too many, which is an easy trap to fall into. Plus, no sooner am I thinking about that than Flex Mentallo is hugging one of those inflatable dancing person displays that you see in front of used car lots, and it's somehow the most touching and human moment ever because beneath the absurdity of the image we know it's one old friend comforting another old friend after the death of his wife, and they just let the image sit there breaking our hearts without feeling the need to beat it into the ground by explaining it any further.

So, a lot of great stuff because they had the space to let the episode breathe and took the opportunity to do some great stuff. I can't complain too much about that. The Groundhog-esque mini loop at the end was delightful and didn't overstay its welcome. Great callback to Perry Como's Hot Diggity as mentioned in 'Doom Patrol Patrol.' Excellent use of a classic fakeout in which we see a character leave to join the group, and therefore don't question if it's really them when they show up with the group later. The surprise appearance of Dr. Harrison to psychoanalyze Mr. Nobody, thus causing the rest of the team to feel bad for him and not want to fight anymore was a brilliant undercutting of genre expectations. And finally we get to learn what Mr. Nobody wanted all this time. He wanted to get them to the point where Niles was forced to confess that he'd caused all of their accidents which made them the freaks they think of themselves as. That is some next level deep and dark. Can't wait for the next episode to see how they all react to the news.



Bits and Pieces:

-- All of the props from Mr. Morden's final date with Milly made their way into that final loop sequence. That's a clever visual clue as to what was happening.

-- Diane Guerrero's performance as she argued with herself and assembled and disassembled a barricade was masterclass stuff.

-- Mr. Nobody's plan in this one openly contradicts itself like a hundred times. He's genuinely trying to keep the team in their little paradise boxes, or at least pretending to when there's no one around for him to be trying to deceive, but then the big final reveal of what he wants requires them to break free from them.

-- The reveal that Silas could have saved either Vic or his Mom and chose Vic on the Chief's recommendation was stone cold. I mean, the argument for it makes sense pragmatically, but damn.

-- Genius use of last episode's 'confronting your shameful past secrets will set you free' theme to walk the Chief right into confessing the unforgivable.

-- Mr. Nobody trapped Niles in the white space between panels, or as Flex cites it – the place with no content. He literally removed him from the story.

-- How is the Beard Hunter living happily on Danny the Street? Wasn't he imminently doomed last time we saw him in that sinister basement?

-- Mention of both The Brain and Monsieur Mallah! They're on my short list for folks I'd like to see next season.

-- Danny blowing out a fire hydrant during the orgasm sequence was not subtle. Funny. But not subtle.

-- Cliff faked his to avoid feeling left out. There's just a lot to unpack there.

-- Rita realizing what was going on and starting to narrate her own story was one of the most touching moments of self-empowerment I've seen in a long time.



Quotes:

Mr. Morden: "He replaced me with some gorilla."
Milly: "They decided to bring in some muscle?"
Mr. Morden: "No. An actual gorilla. He’s quite smart, allegedly. Speaks French."

Mr. Morden: "I am gonna be somebody."
Milly: "But you’re not. You’re just a nobody."

Cliff: "If we’re looking for the Chief, shouldn’t we be trying to figure out Captain Banana-hammock back there?"

Larry: "I’m sure they have a logical explanation."
Rita: "They?"
Larry: "Danny. Did I never mention the sentient, teleporting, gender queer street Vic and I hung out on while Jane lost her shit and tried to get married?"
Rita: "Vic mentioned it."
Jane: "You really keep to yourself too much, man."

Jane: "You! Pube Stalker!"

Rita: "We have searched two continents and up a donkey’s mustn’t-touch-it."

Jane: "Did you fake an orgasm?"
Cliff: "What? No! I have too much respect for everyone here. How could you even… ‘Cause I didn’t want to feel left out, okay?"
Rita and Jane: "Awww."
Cliff: "Don’t pity me."

Rita: "I’d become a monster long before my accident. I see that now."



When you nail the ending as solidly as they did here, I don't have a lot of heart to criticize the leisurely walk they took to get there too severely. But seriously, can we just call them Danny from now on?

Seven out of ten exciting new superpowers

Mikey Heinrich is, among other things, a freelance writer, retired firefighter, and roughly 78% water. You can find more of his work at the 42nd Vizsla.

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