Doom Patrol: Finger Patrol

"So you made some bad choices. Everyone does."

In which a foolish car thief gives Cliff the finger.

I'm so sorry about that. Honestly. There's a school of thought regarding drama that says that it functions best when viewed as a sine wave.

No, wait, come back. We're not going to get all math-y. I promise.

The sine wave is the one with a horizontal line representing zero, or 'no emotional response' for the purposes of our discussion. Over that you have a wavy line that goes to a certain height above the horizontal, then gently swoops down and beneath it, before gently curving back up. It's very soothing.

Now, above the line we'll call 'level of funny,' and below the line we'll call 'level of sad.' So, for what we'll call an arbitrary measurement of 'five' to the funny side, think perhaps of the movie Clue, or if that's not to your taste, perhaps the 'needs more cowbell' sketch on SNL.

Below the line we have the 'level of sad', for which the corresponding 'five' could be viewed either as the last ten minutes of Marley and Me, or living in the United States for the last three years.

The argument goes that for a drama to really 'earn' its emotional beats, the level of 'sad' must be balanced within the piece by an equal level of 'funny.' Now, I don't 100% buy into the idea that this absolutely true in all cases, but if you ever had to make an argument for it, this is your go-to episode.

The Steele and Stone 70s buddy-cop show fantasy absolutely could not have been funnier or more accurately observed. If you weren't alive and watching TV in 1978, let me assure you that if it was between the hours of 7 and 10 PM, everything had opening credits that looked exactly like that. Cliff in the wig was a perfect 'By my pretty floral bonnet' moment. Niles showed up as their ball-busting Chief. It was all there. And while it's true that it was at least partially there just to be funny and to work on a different theme that we'll get to in just a second, it's main job was to counterweight that last ten minutes with Dorothy and Baby Doll. And oh, sweet glittery Jesus, did it counterweight those last ten minutes.



So, clearly the theme this week is 'unintended damage.' Everybody is losing their temper and lashing out with disastrous consequences, only to immediately regret their actions afterward. That's why we get the slapstick dismembered finger to underscore how Cliff's fantasy of being buddy crimefighters with Vic could never be as innocent and straightforward as he imagines it. That's why Paul pays for betraying his own father to the US government with the life of his own son. And that's why the bulk of the plot development this week revolves around two pre-adolescent girls who both have near infinite power and no impulse control.

Honestly, Niles should have seen the final blowout coming. How could he think for a second that it was safe to let those two out of his sight.

The most heartbreaking thing about it really was how totally understandable each step of the escalation was, if you look at it from a child's perspective. Baby Doll inadvertently hurt (or at least startled) Dorothy's imaginary friend. So Dorothy doesn't want to be Baby Doll's friend anymore, which hurts Baby Doll's feelings. So she tells Dorothy all about what Niles did to the rest of the team to hurt her feelings back. Which makes Dorothy lure Baby Doll to the basement to scare her as revenge. Which leads Baby Doll to lash out and kill Manny. Which leads Dorothy to invoke the Candlemaker and kill Baby Doll, as well as possibly one of the other alters who looked a little like the Human Torch.

If you take away the superpowers, that pretty much how 46% of play dates go down.

Great cliffhanger ending at that point. I honestly can't begin to guess where this goes from here. Does Baby Doll's death affect the Underground in the same way that Miranda's self immolation did? Is this all a roundabout way to bring Miranda back through some wrong-headed attempt to mystically 'un-kill- Baby Doll? We'll find out.

Larry is a slightly different take on the unintended damage theme, in that the damage he did to Paul's life is all decades old and he's honestly trying to begin making amends through honesty. I get why Paul had already sold him out, but it was hard to watch. It was interesting that Paul seemed to honestly not have known that Larry was gay. I would have expected Sheryl to have let that particular cat out of the bag at some point. Lots of interesting new information about the former Mrs. Larry this week, actually. She lived with Gary for a time. There was a roster of guys who came and went in her social schedule. And at some point a guy named Wayne moved in and sent both Sheryl and Gary down the conspiracy theory rabbit hole. I have a strong suspicion that Wayne is going to come back into the story somewhere. That felt a lot like seeding information to me.




Bits and Pieces:

-- The opening sequence starts with the song lyrics 'Life is but a dream', which was a nice subtle tell that this was a dream sequence we were seeing. We find out later that Vic actually stood Roni up on their sub sandwich date, so it makes sense that he's having guilt based nightmares about it. Also, the words 'subway sandwich date' should never, ever be a thing.

-- Cliff gives solid relationship advice about how to apologize to someone you love. And then immediately ruins it by referring to the apology as 'verbal Astroglide.' That's Cliff in a nutshell, isn't it. So almost sweet.

-- The Sex Ghosts are still just hanging around going at it, and everybody is just sort of rolling with it.

-- It felt very contrived that the idea of making a map of the underground would cause Jane to go back under and let Baby Doll come up. I mean, she had to come up because she was the whole point of the plot later, but it really flew in the face of Jane's 'I'm the only one who can be up there' revelation of last episode. It felt forced to me.

-- I suppose Niles' suggestion of starting with making a map of the underground is more or less analogous to the AA step of taking a fearless personal inventory.

-- Cliff's VHS tape of Niles confessing to what he did to them all has disappeared. Was this just a plot contrivance to justify Cliff finding Niles' sketches for upgrades to his robot body, or is that going to be relevant later? Speaking of - great Easter Egg of the 'spider body' Cliff had for a bit in the comics.

-- Did Vic just forget that Cliff was waiting in the car while he had sex with Roni? Seems rude. Also, the huge #4 on Roni's apartment door was a super cool bit of design work.

-- I know it was innocent in context, but there was something deeply, deeply unsettling about watching Timothy Dalton infantilize Diane Guerrero like that. It creeped me out.

-- I can't bring myself to get too invested in Rita's new adventures in community theater, but I am starting to worry a little bit about her drinking. Speaking of that audition, was the monologue she did actually from something, or was it written for this? Anybody recognize it?

-- I really loved and appreciated that Vic was completely unashamed of attending Dorothy and Baby Doll's tea party. A lot, if not most, shows would have gone for the 'no homo' joke at that point.

-- When we were kids we used to play that same game with the original metal jarts. Probably why they got banned, I suppose.



Quotes:

Cliff: "Those two are cuter than shit."
Vic: "Man, you missed out on a killer tea party."
Cliff: "What?"
Vic: "What?"

Cliff: "They put stickers on us."
Vic: "Oh, I know. The puffy ones are hard to get off."

Hammerhead: "Kids fight, Jane. And when that happens, whose side do you think Dorothy’s own fucking father’s gonna choose? Do you think Baby Doll can handle that?"

Paul: "Wife’s idea. She got it from some TV show about a Japanese condo or something. If it doesn’t ‘spark joy’ it must go."

Rita: "There is a cute, absolutely mint pencil skirt in the ‘keep’ pile. Perhaps it could wind up in the ‘give to Rita’ pile."

Cliff: "I’m so glad you feel comfortable sharing this. There’s been this unspoken bet between all of us about whether or not you have a schlong."

Paul: "No one survives Larry Trainor."



A killer ending, a killer 70s pastiche, and a couple recurring characters killed. It's almost all good, but a couple of the setups still feel just a little contrived to get us there.

Seven out of ten apologies to the mathematician community for the first several paragraphs of this review.

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.

2 comments:

Unknown said...

Next season better feature Cliff's spider body. Doom Patrol #40 of the 2nd series was the first issue I ever bought and it was for that wicked Simon Bisley cover art.

And I don't think this is a major spoiler, but Paul's son didn't die.

Mikey Heinrich said...

One of the best covers ever. Totally agreed. I can still picture it without effort without having looked at it for probably 20 years.

I find that kind of reassuring, honestly. He seemed like a nice enough guy, if a little bewildered by Rita. And he was grilling them dinner.