Doom Patrol: Tyme Patrol

"It’s every man, woman and brick for themselves now."

For those who may have wondered, human society reached its highest point at about midnight on August 8th, 1980.
Speaking for myself, I wholeheartedly approve of that revelation, as that was my 8th birthday. I probably even went roller skating.

When details about the new season were first released, they included a couple of interesting choices. The first being that they'd be releasing three episodes at once, and then following up with one a week after that in sort of a hybrid release model. That seemed like an odd choice at the time, but this episode definitely benefits from being the middle section of a three episode binge.

As I've mentioned before, the way in which a show is going to be presented to the viewer absolutely affects the structure of how the story is told. The pace and structure of the storytelling is different for a show in which all 12 (or however many) episodes are available all at once, because the viewer is in direct control of how rapidly the story is told to them. In a weekly series you have to be aware of what reveals can be teased for most of the season, and what reveals need to be paid off more quickly, and you structure accordingly.

Another difference is that individual episodes on a weekly release schedule tend to need a feeling of being one complete story unit, as opposed to – for example – a daily soap opera where individual storylines can ebb and flow independent of one another and there's no need for any given hour to feel like a complete story in its own right.

The point that I'm tediously circling around is that this episode is clearly three disparate storylines that remain unconnected to one another by plot or theme, and so whether or not this was the cause of the decision to air the first three episodes at once (and it probably wasn't) the structure of this one works as a bulk experience, whereas it wouldn't work as well as a solo weekly release.

The primary plotline is the ongoing concern about the Chief dying now that he's given up his 'longevity talisman' in order to get them re-embiggened last episode. Nicely done clearing that point up, by the way. I don't think we've had it explicitly spelled out for us before that the talisman was what brought the Chief to Paraguay in time to help create Mr. Nobody back in the day. As recently as last episode they were still being coy about what the thing around Niles' neck was that he traded away, so I think that was a reveal here, but was done in a very casual, 'Oh, didn't you know that?' kind of way.



Dorothy, obviously, isn't taking the idea of her father dying too well, and so Niles is desperately trying to find another way to extend his life, which of course serves as a huge reminder and underscoring to the rest of the team that he ruined all of their lives deliberately to solve that exact problem. No wonder Cliff couldn't care less and Jane's on drugs. No, the heart of this storyline interestingly enough isn't either of them, or the Chief – it's about Rita. The real takeaway from the mission to confront Dr. Tyme and steal his precious Continuinium was the way that Rita is so desperately trying to help lead the team and make some good come out of her situation. The heartbreaking way she finds out that she's been played by Niles yet again, and that the mission fails because she can't bring herself to murder someone whose only crime is to want to roller disco, hits her hard, particularly after what Dr. Tyme says to her about being a failure just like her mother said.

Meanwhile, in the B plot, Larry attends his son Gary's funeral and confirms that Gary did in fact kill himself after spending his life trying to find out what had happened to his father. They made a point of having Larry mention that Gary probably hadn't known that he existed, only for him to find out that Gary's entire life had been devoted to finding him. It was a small arc, and I suspect it was much more about setting up the next episode than anything else, but it was well handled, and I'd been wondering for ages whatever happened to Larry's sons, so that was nice. And, not to belabor a point, but you don't have to explain the menacing cloud of butterflies when the viewer is at perfect liberty to immediately go on and see what's up with the butterflies, so that was fine.

Which leaves Vic, out on his own attending trauma support group meetings in what appears to be the basement of a VFW. That's Veterans of Foreign Wars, for non-American readers. Initially private clubs for veterans who had served overseas, they still nominally have 'membership,' but they're mostly open to the public. There's usually a bar and a kitchen with limited menu. Inevitably, one night a week will host Karaoke, and another will see them hold a meat raffle, which is exactly what it sounds like. They inevitably have community use rooms a level below the bar, where an ironically large number of AA meetings are held, but are also available for rental for things like local wedding receptions and the like. This is why Roni is cleaning up behind a bar after their meeting.

I don't have much to say about Vic and Roni's plotline such as it was, beyond she's clearly potential love interest with a dark secret of some kind, and neither of them were really wrong in the argument about what to do with the mugger, which is always a sign of good scripting.

I said earlier that there were a couple of interesting details in the initial information about this season. The second of these was the announcement of classic 60s era Doom Patrol villain 'Doctor Tyme.' This had a pleasant 'respecting all the eras' sort of vibe to it, and as things played out really allowed them to lean into the goofier storytelling tropes of the time. But its real value wasn't clear until watching the episode. His presence as an established villain from the past allowed them to set up the gigantic rug pull that he wasn't a villain at all, he just wanted to stay forever at midnight, August 8th, 1980, because after an extensive search of the timeline he'd determined that that was as good as things got.

While I question his choice of 'Bad Girls' by Donna Summer, when Diana Ross' 'I'm Coming Out' was right there, I can't entirely fault his sentiment.

No, the real reveal was the one two punch of Niles' probably having known full well that the continuinium was his head and not just his helmet, and that therefore he was sending the team in for a straight-up murder (although I appreciated that they left that point vague) which makes us realize that Niles himself is the villain, followed immediately by the stone cold videoclip of him stating that there was nothing he wouldn't do to save his daughter, which leaves us thinking... well, is he the villain? That's a nice morally ambiguous place to leave things, and I liked it.

Leave them kids alone.

Bits and Pieces:

-- Lots of questions I posed last time got answered here. Niles had no idea Dorothy existed before seeing her in the circus, he was tracking the creature we shall now call Ted. The Candlemaker didn't kill him, either because he wasn't being cruel to Dorothy, or because it possibly recognized him as Dorothy's father.

-- We may now safely call Stag/Wolf/Bear Ted, as they clearly established here that Herschel was the giant spider. Thank you, show.

-- A lot of interesting errors in the closed captioning this week. For example, they called the act that was clearly 'Smalls and Talls'  'Snows and Toes.' There were many other examples.

-- I don't know that I buy Paul recognizing his father's voice after one short sentence after sixty years absence.

-- I'm curious where Dorothy picked up her distinctive elocution. It was before she met Niles or Danny, and I can't imaging the grotesque carnival guy investing the time.

-- I get why Jane has issues with it, but Niles' initial plan to hide Dorothy and Danny the Alleyway was actually a really good idea to protect her. Although he probably should have stayed on Danny with her and done his researches there, as opposed to abandoning her.

-- Jane is now out of super-heroin, and has moved back into the mansion to stay close to Niles in the hope he can help. After a helpful flashback in which we see what a badass Miranda was back when she first took control of the body to protect the girl, Jane is coming around to the idea of giving up control and letting someone else be the primary.

-- Finding out what the Chief said to Cliff afterwards explains a lot about how little Cliff cared that he was dying.

-- Rita's flip chart repays some pausing over.

-- OK, it's not an important detail, but apparently I have no idea how IV drugs work. I get what the spoon is for, but what's the deal with the cotton ball? Where's that come into play? Answers in the comments, there'll be no judgement.

-- I get that the support group is anonymous, but is Cyborg's secret identity common knowledge? They clearly know who he is and call him Vic. Is he just being super trustful of the group, or is secret identity not a thing with Cyborg?

-- The script deftly handled not running the running jokes into the ground. Both the spelling of 'Tyme' and the difficulty of pronouncing 'Continuinium' were dropped exactly at the right point.



Quotes:

Cliff: "So, you shot up the Nazi lab, stole the dumb monkey paw, and Morden became Mr. Nobody. I saw the puppet show!"

Darling: "Good morning! Rise and Shine! Our father is dying!"
Jane: "What in the Doris Day Ikea fuck was that?"

Rita: "Oh for the love of god, what is or is not true?"

Rita: "You don’t have to tell old blobberstiltskin here that Niles Caulder is a flawed man. But now he is also a dying man. His teeth are probably loosening as we speak. Soon he’ll have no memory of how to take care of himself or Dorothy. We could be mere days away from daddy diapers."
Niles: "Rita!"

Cliff: "Will he yank out that very special brain of his and become the tin man? And Chief, if that’s your best option, then you better go smell some roses, shotgun a Bud Lite, fuck a watermelon, eat a double-double and take a big ole shit, because all of that is gone!"

Larry: "My son is dead."
Cliff: "Oh, did Chief get him too?"

Jane: "You... can do whatever the fuck you want. Birthday party entertainer, trash compactor. Your options are limitless. But also less than five."

Cliff: "I was in Tampa in the supply closet of the Peking Noodle, up to my nose in boobs and ground up Sudafed with Jalinda the waitress."



A fun episode, albeit one that feels slightly inconsequential, which is the risk you run leaning into the serialized at the expense of the individual episode

Six and a half out of ten couples' skates.

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. If you'd like to see his raw notes for this and other reviews, you can find them at What Was Mikey Thinking.

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