Doom Patrol: Dumb Patrol

"And... I'm sorry to keep harping on this... but you guys are infected with bad ideas. So... any strong urges you might be having? Are probably not good."

The Doom Patrol gets a nasty case of The Scants – tiny creatures that feed off of your bad ideas. Something similar happened to me in college.

For an episode leaning so hard into appearing stupid, 'Dumb Patrol' has a surprising number of things on its mind. It's a zesty blend of classic cheese, emotional damage, and gleefully stupid looking 'monsters' who hop along saying 'beep.' This episode probably captured every positive thing about the spirit of The Doom Patrol as it's existed across the years better than any other episode so far.

Essentially we have four separate plotlines winding their way through this, only one of which is really concerned with 'Dumb'. Of the other three, two are concerned with 'Simmering storylines that will come together later,' and one with 'So you don't ask how Cliff got back to the mansion.' Amazingly, all four pieces feel like they're given exactly the right amount of screentime to accomplish what they're trying to do without any of them feeling rushed or stretched out. That happens so rarely that it might qualify as a capital 'M' Miracle.

Let's talk about that last one first and get it out of the way, as it's the least relevant. Cliff, having been pushed out of the spaceship last episode, returns to Earth the hard way, picks himself up out of his crater, and makes the long walk home from what appears to be my home state of Minnesota, going by the landscape and what we see of the license plates. Go Vikings.

All that we really accomplish with this plot thread is some quality comedic bitching on Cliff's part, a reminder of his rift with Clara and how that rift is largely down to his own lack of impulse control, and a further reminder that his robot body seems to be losing mobility. Most of this is the episodic storytelling convention of 'Hey, don't forget that this is a thing because it'll be relevant later.' Which is perfectly fine. If the script is simultaneously reminding us of important plot details while making us laugh as hard as the 'Robotman Video Shout Outs' he was forced to do in exchange for phone access made me laugh, then that's a script that's got its collective shit together.

Additionally, 'Robotman and the Long Walk Home' as a sidequest made a neat excuse for him to not be involved in either the Scant or the Chief's plots, as he needed to be free to be surprised by Clara's appearance at the end with the missing videotape of Niles' confessions. It was nice to have the missing tape confirmed as being important and not just a throwaway bit. Who sent it to Clara? The Chief? It doesn't seem like his style at all. Time will tell.

Ah, The Chief. Turns out I was correct, his pushing Cliff out of the spaceship was just a pragmatic 'You won't be needed in this storyline anymore and I know you can survive the fall' move. That's elegant in terms of plot mechanics, as well as being entirely in character for Niles, so I've decided I like it.

Less elegant was the reveal that Dorothy had just slept through the landing and would be peacefully napping through the remainder of this episode. OK, sure, the whole point of that plot thread was the reveal that Niles is apparently prepared to have Dorothy killed in order to protect the world from her and that Willoughby Kipling is fully aware of the fact and has indeed just been waiting to receive the call from Niles to do so. Which is hard to reveal if Dorothy is there tagging along, OK, I get it. But seriously, show? 'Oh, I'm so glad you slept through the landing. Catch ya later sweetie'? That's beneath you.

Of course, they never said out loud that the plan was 'kill.' But that sure as shiny buttons felt like the implication. Knowing this show it'll probably turn out to be more complicated and upsetting than that. Far more interesting for the present moment was all the new hints about the Candlemaker. He wasn't created by Dorothy's imagination? He was born of Dorothy's Mother, and is somehow tied to Dorothy's Mother's origins? I'm officially intrigued.

Meanwhile, Rita continues to follow her own journey of self discovery and day drinking as she visits the local beekeeper in order to dig up 'Beekeeper Realness' for her community theater role. I confess, I loved every single second of this plotline. The local beekeeper gives shockingly good advice, and it addressed the extraordinarily difficult topic of toxic mother relationships with dignity and respect. And look at that, Rita seems to have made a breakthrough and is now fighting crime at night as... The Beekeeper!

Seriously though, having Rita work through her issues over the last six or seven episodes by just trying to be emotionally honest with herself has been a real balm to how emotional damage often gets 'fixed' on television. She's not 'fixed,' but she's better. Refreshing.

Which brings us at long last to the Scants and all of the 'Dumb.' The wonderful, ridiculous, gloriously stupid 'Dumb.' Apparently the painting that ate Danny and caused so much fuss last season was shipped off to Switzerland, where they discovered it was infested with Scants: microscopic pink bug-like things that have a societal setup like bees with a queen and a bunch of drones. Once you encounter a Scant infestation, they infect you with bad ideas, and once your brain starts accepting the bad ideas as being good ideas, you begin to ooze a substance called 'Idyat' out of your ears. The Scants then collect this Idyat and process it into 'Uma Jelly,' which is the raw stuff of evolutionary potential and is fed to their queen. Once your brain is completely processed into Idyat, you 'shit your pants and die.'

Honestly, this explains so much that's been in the news lately.

Switzerland returns the painting to Doom Manor, where Vic has just brought Roni home for the first time to meet the gang. Vic, Roni, and Larry immediately get infected with bad ideas in the funniest way possible. Interestingly enough, Miranda – newly returned prime personality who has taken Jane's place – does not.

This is a great decision on two fronts. First, it puts a great big question mark over how much we should trust Miranda. They go out of their way to let us know that the other alters are affected by it, so why isn't Miranda? What's the great big 'bad idea' that the Scant Queen can sense beneath the surface but somehow Miranda can keep hidden from her? Second, and of more immediate value, it sets up Miranda as the straight man to Larry, Vic and Roni's increasingly ridiculous litany of bad ideas, which is just comedy gold. Worthy of special mention – Larry and Flit's attempt to sneak into the hospital by putting on lab coats and stethoscopes. In Larry's case, over the coat he's already wearing. So very funny.



Bits and Pieces:

-- It was surprisingly enjoyable to see Beard Hunter inside the painting. It's a point of interest that he appears to have been telling the truth about not being infected. since his 'paint myself white to blend into the background' plan actually works and he has the sense to stay quiet.

-- Beard Hunter mentions that Mr. Nobody is no longer with him in the painting because he got a voicework gig on 'some animated thing'. Alan Tudyk is indeed working on some animated series called ARK, or would have been when this was filmed. I felt compelled to check.

-- Scarlet Harlot, and her underground station have disappeared. The implication is that Miranda is behind that in some sinister way.

-- It's also worth noting that Miranda has some extraordinarily well developed interpersonal skills. No matter how crazy and off base the person she's talking to is at any moment, she always starts her response with either a compliment, a recognition of something positive about the way the others are behaving, or an acknowledgement of her own relative inexperience. Those are solid negotiating skills and are worth developing.

-- Why is Vic and Roni being together a 'bad idea'? They seem well suited to each other. Of course Roni stole that bottle of Uma Jelly, so maybe there's some stuff we don't know. Still, it felt very much like the Mayor telling Buffy and Angel they could never be friends.

-- Speaking of Buffy echoes, the Templar Knight slideshow about the Scants felt very much like Giles' overheads about Giles' overheads about The Gentlemen. Which is high praise.

-- They're very unclear when Willoughby got infected with the Scants. It would have been nice if that was clearer. And also we now know that he's sexually attracted to Baphomet, the blue horse head with the railway spike that sings prophecies. I have so many questions that I don't want answered.

-- Look, I really debated having a whole section in this one about trans issues and representation. But I ultimately decided it wasn't my voice anyone should be listening to on the subject, seeing as I'm not trans myself. That said, the billboard reveal that Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man's dinosaur half identifies as female, goes by the name 'Denise', and has written an autobiography called My Side felt... uncomfortable. Like, perilously close to making fun of trans people coming out uncomfortable. Sure, we don't actually know that the dinosaur wasn't always female, and you can pick nits about it all night long, but at the end of that night the fact remains that the whole thing was very 'trans-coded' and skewed too close to mockery for me to be comfortable with it. Maybe it was just me.

-- That's the short version. Imagine what the long version was like.



Quotes:

Rita’s Mom: "I hope you know, you weren’t Mickey’s first choice to replace that little harpy. But I changed her mind."
Rita: "...Changed her mind... how?"
Rita’s Mom: "I think we both know the answer to that." (Makes extraordinarily crass and graphic gesture with fingers and tongue)

Vic: "Hey Larry, you OK?"
Larry: "Not since the early 60s, no."

Rita: "The Cloverton Beekeeper has graciously agreed to let me shadow her today. I also had to subscribe to her honey of the month club."

Miranda: "What’s up?"
Roni: "Well, Vic’s just offered to perform surgery on me."
Miranda: "Like... Himself?"
Larry: "Oh. Anything we can do to help?"
Vic: "Hell yeah! You’re already dressed like doctors!"

Vic: "You’re right, Nicer-Jane. I have been acting strangely."

Larry: "First of all, nice butthole. Really makes your eyes pop."

Cliff: "Yeah. First I’ll eject him into space. Then I’ll find his stupid body, rip off his stupid head, and take the mother of all craps down his neck-hole. Except I can’t shit anymore. Shit. New plan. Eject him into space, find his body AND a Great Dane with giardia, and have it take a shit down his neck-hole! Yes! Revenge by Marmaduke!"

Willoughbee’s Note to Baphomet: "Baphomet, You. Me. A dewy glen. You suckle my baby carrot like a bashful foal in a world free of judgment. Call Me! W.K."



A lot of fun, some great plot developments, some really great teases of reveals to come, with an unfortunate side of a couple of plot points that were either too muddy or too convenient and some possibly implied transphobia which maybe only I am reading into it, but it definitely affected my enjoyment of the episode.

Six and a half out of ten bashful foals. I am judging them a little bit, however.



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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