Doom Patrol: Wax Patrol

"And my name? Is Jane."

Wow. Now that was a strong and unexpected end to the season.

Doom Patrol finishes its second season with a bang, and as a bonus gives us Crazy Jane's secret origin story. Really good stuff here.

Let's just start right up with the elephant in the room. They didn't actually get to the end of the season. I mean, they finished the season, but they obviously didn't get to the end of the season. Were I a betting man, I would guess that this was specifically designed to be the penultimate episode of Season Two, and when the COVID crisis hit and production had to stop they made the choice to just leave it the way it was and have the season end on a cliffhanger.

Which is a great decision, really. Having watched the mixed results of other series that tried to Frankenstein their way to a proper season finale out of whatever had already been shot, I wish more series had gone this route. But that might be unfair. Doom Patrol had clearly structured this episode to clear up the side issues, put all the pieces in place, and remove the one big obstacle to the confrontation with the Candlemaker moving forward so that in the final episode they could, you know, have the confrontation with the Candlemaker move forward.

But instead of a big jaw dropping cliffhanger that led into the season finale, we got a big jaw dropping cliffhanger that was the season finale. Totally fair way to go. There's certainly plenty of precedent. You may recall a certain Oil Tycoon getting mysteriously shot by an unrevealed assassin at the end of a season back in the day, and that seemed to work out all right for the show in question.

Before getting into the details, I just want to mention the two things that really convince me that they left this as it was, and didn't try to force any of the intended follow-up for the lost 'episode ten' that we didn't get to have. First, the way the plotline with Roni is so completely dropped. It's used to get into Vic's head a bit and undermine his confidence, but we don't spend any time here actually resolving that plotline. Roni is still out there. She's still all set to kill people, notably (probably) Vic's dad, but we don't spend any time circling back to that. It's just abandoned for the moment. Presumably it was going to either factor in to the defeat of the Candlemaker or circle back after the aforementioned defeat to set up something for Season Three. I have no doubt we'll get back to it next season. But for right now it's just unceremoniously dropped, which is a level of sloppy plotting that this series just doesn't do unless they're forced to do so.

Second, the way that Cliff was forced to miss his daughter's wedding was missing its emotional payoff in a clearly deliberate way. That feels like an amputation scar, if you'll forgive the analogy, for the missing final episode.



That said, let's look at what the episode is actually doing, and why it works equally well for a penultimate episode or a finale, in order of importance.

1: It engages all of the team members in smaller, build-up fights with lesser foes while they work their way toward what I believe in gaming is referred to as the 'Boss Battle'. Forgive me, I'm not a video game person. I apologize if that's not the right verbiage. It's taking out the team one by one in order to narrow both the field and the focus onto Dorothy. She starts the episode hoping that her friends will show up and take care of the problem for her, and is ultimately forced to confront the fact that no one is going to be able to fight this battle for her. That's pretty standard hero's journey stuff, and is really nicely and creatively executed.

Huge shout out to whoever came up with the idea that the Candlemaker would tap Dorothy's powers and make everyone fight their own childhood imaginary friends. That's simultaneously funny, weird as hell, and kind of sad when they start drilling into who their imaginary friends were and why. Vic imagined a version of his dad who cared about and supported him, Rita made a paper doll collage of who she wanted to one day be with her mother's eyes as the centerpiece, Cliff spent half a summer with Jesus as his dad-surrogate only to have his dad win him back over with false promises and let him down yet again.  And because we're building up to a cliffhanger, they all lose. All of their weaknesses get used against them and they are comprehensively put down. It's all up to Dorothy now.

2: In the B-plot, we get Jane slowly floating down to the bottom of the Well. While she floats down, she remembers via flashbacks how Miranda's time as the primary came to an end and Jane came into being as the new personality in charge.

This is just so well done and sensitively handled. Miranda's attempt to help the girl 'move forward' by trying to live a normal life with a normal boyfriend ultimately crashing down around her as she realizes just exactly what sort of 'party' he's thrown for all of his friends. Her terrified attempt to be OK with his 'Swingers party dreams' only to have the experience bring back all of the Girl's worst trauma, leading to the Girl rejecting Miranda, leading Miranda throwing herself into the well, leading to the creation of Jane, a woman tough enough to tell her douchebag boyfriend exactly how little he was worth before sauntering out of his life. Nice directorial touch that during the attempted orgy, everyone but Miranda was more or less naked while she was almost fully clothed, but when Jane took her power and walked out, they were all ashamedly in their underthings and she walked out the front door naked and unashamed. That's a pretty powerful statement about reclaiming power, particularly in that context.

This is all building up, kind of brilliantly, to the last minute reveal of Jane finding Miranda's body still in the bottom of the well, meaning that whatever has been taking over as primary for the last few episodes, it isn't her. That last shot seems to imply that it's her abusive Daddy taking Miranda's form. Which is creepy and horrifying, but I'm not exactly clear how that's supposed to work. Everything in that conceptual space is 'her', isn't it? Did a part of her personality split off to 'become' her abuser, or has she been invaded somehow? Can't wait to find out.

3: They establish pretty clearly here that Niles is, and always has been, the problem. Dorothy was always going to have to grow up and face the Candlemaker, whatever exactly he is. It's a crucial part of her becoming a woman. Niles has always been terrified at the thought, and so first he tried to prevent it by keeping her as a child so that the moment would never come, then when push comes to shove he's willing to kill her to stop it from happening. Niles doesn't want his daughter to grow up. That's been the story all along, albeit with superpowers and possible end of the world overtones. He's completely undercut Dorothy's ability to believe that she's up to the task along the way, and would have killed his own daughter here, if her mother hadn't shown back up at the 11th hour to say, 'No. Her life is not yours to control. She's going to fight her own fights and live her own life.' And so, finally empowered and with her father out of her way, Dorothy decides she's ready to face the fight to claim her own womanhood.

That's some seriously layered and powerful stuff, and I like the way they handled it here.

And so that's where the season ends. The side players are on the sidelines. The obstructions have cleared away. We're ready for the big season finale battle now.

To be continued...



Bits and Pieces:

-- Vic is dealing with his breakup with Roni by playing The Cure's 'Pictures of You' from the album Head on the Door on repeat. That is such a 1990 thing to do.

-- Miranda started her independent life in Milwaukee, in 1969. She's a waitress at a cafe called the Sandwich Factory, and appears to have been there a little while but not that long.

-- I like that Cliff is always aware of which personality he's talking to and immediately asks if he doesn't know. Also that he instinctively backs Jane against any of the others.

-- I get that making an excuse kind of takes away from Cliff's 'take ownership of your mistakes and failings' thing he has going on with his daughter, but 'I have to go stop the world from literally ending' is kind of important information as to why he can't go to the wedding.

-- Not cool, rest of the team, on hero shaming Cliff for wanting to skip the Candlemaker to go to his daughter's wedding. That was totally his call to make and they were kind of jerks about it.

-- I wonder why they didn't give Larry an imaginary friend? Time issues, I suppose. Plus he's had a lot of chances for emotional development this season already.

-- The Candlemaker was just hurting everybody to force Dorothy to fight him, right? It's not like he cares about invading or conquering or anything, right?

-- When Miranda is moving into Johnny the Douche's apartment, the lyrics of the song playing mention a ghost from a wishing well. Nice touch.

-- They made a big deal about not knowing where Niles was, but then he was just lying in one of the streets. How hard did you look, guys?

-- Interestingly as far as setup goes, Jane/Miranda/Kay's body is physically at the fairground where all this is going down, but nobody's driving at the moment. Also, Jane did a whole side quest to find Kay's 'imaginary friend' Harry the sheep, who we repeatedly see here floating in the well. Wonder if they were building anywhere with that.

-- I could watch foul-mouthed Jesus beating up Cliff all day long. Since Cliff's current body is pretty much destroyed here, does that mean we get the spider legged body next season? That would be awesome.



Quotes: 

Johnny: "You’re like a cat. You know that? Mysterious. Can’t tell if you want someone for petting or for scratching."

Cliff: "I’m having a hard time picking one out. I’m going for most clean and least offensive."

Cliff: "If it’s the end of the world, I deserve to spend it with my family."
Larry: "What the hell are we?"

Larry: "It’s funny, I never had an imaginary friend."
Cliff: "That is the saddest thing I’ve ever heard."

Cliff: "Jesus?"
Jesus: "Hey Cliffy, you piece of shit."
Cliff: "What the fuck? You were my imaginary friend for, like, half a summer at Bible Camp!"
Jesus: "Yeah, and then you forsook my ass."



A really fun and solid season finale, even if it probably wasn't intended to be one. Let's bring on Season Three, which will actually be reviewed punctually in real time. Nine out of ten inevitable rites of passage. 

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.

1 comment:

Billie Doux said...

Congratulations on finishing both seasons, Mikey!