Home Featured TV Shows All TV Shows Movie Reviews Book Reviews Articles Frequently Asked Questions About Us

Doom Patrol: Dead Patrol

"I mean, if one ignored the fact that we appear to be dead, it’s almost... peaceful."

That is not the direction I was expecting things to go.

The afterlife has layers within layers. Like Russian dolls. I like it.

I was honestly surprised that we open with our heroes being comprehensively, literally, unequivocally dead. When they were all shot by Evil Red Billy Boyd at the end of 'Vacay Patrol,' I sort of assumed that they were knocked out or incapacitated or something. There still is, after all, the rest of the season to think of. Had I glanced ahead to see the title of the next episode I probably would have at least thought about the possibility, but I doubt even then that I would have expected them to actually die.

That said, what a great decision for the show to go this direction. One of the reasons that I was surprised that they did is that television shows, American ones at least, tend to avoid any literal depiction of what happens after we die unless that's explicitly what the entire show is about. The Good Place literally used that as its entire premise, and so if you're the sort of person who gets offended by the afterlife being depicted as something other than what your religious inclinations say it should be, well... you really only have yourself to blame if you get offended watching an episode. On the other hand, if Friends had trotted down an episode titled 'The One Where Monica Gets Hit by a Bus and Confirms Judaeo-Christian Orthodoxy to be Literally True As Regards Heaven and the Afterlife,' it probably would have raised some eyebrows.

The traditional way around this for any show that did actually want to explore post-death shenanigans is to leave it vague enough as to whether it really happened or was just a dream, or a hallucination, or something along those lines. Then you can hand wave it away as not being 'This is what Heaven is like' as much as it is 'This is what Sophia Petrillo thinks Heaven is like.' Which doesn't get you into hot water with the fundamentalists.

I was forgetting of course that Doom Patrol, the television program, has amply demonstrated that when it comes to offending people, the number of fucks it gives is not represented by a positive integer.

So, a great decision to open on the visual of Charon, the Ferryman of Chris De Burgh fame, taking the four of them across the river Styx. It's an instantly iconic image that we all immediately understand. Someone on a boat in a dark place being steered by a skeleton guy in robes? Ah, they're dead. Got it. Nice usage of the imagery to confirm what's going on.

The afterlife as we see it here is an interesting assortment of imagery that you wouldn't immediately associate with one another. There's a dash of Greek underworld, a soup├žon of Soviet era workhouse imagery, the tiniest hint of Freddy Krueger's rec-room. Apparently what generally happens after your death is that you get the aforementioned boat trip, pass out before reaching the other shore, and your physical form that was on the boat gets neatly stored on a series of meat hook racks while your consciousness, or 'soul' if you will, goes deeper in.

Your first stop is a freshman orientation week with one of your loved ones in their afterlife, where you can take a hot minute to acclimate yourself to the idea of being dead and work through any outstanding emotional issues that you might want to get off your chest. Cliff meets up with his father and finds out, amongst other things, that after his car accident his father and daughter developed what sounds like a fairly healthy relationship and that Pegasuses taste like chicken. He takes both of those revelations poorly. Vic, meanwhile, spends some quality time with his Mom accepting that he has feelings for Roni and doesn't have to be ashamed of them.

Jane's pre-eternity visit is with her Grandmother, and there were a couple of interesting details here. First off, Kay's Abuelita recognizes Jane and Kay as completely separate and valid entities in their own rights, which I really liked. Also, she seems to be completely up to speed as to what Jane and Kay's relationship is and doesn't make a thing out of it, which makes sense given where she is and the perspective that that would probably give you. We get the sweet detail that Kay's grandmother's name is Jane, which means she named the strongest part of herself after her, which was a really lovely detail.

But what really cements this as more than just 'our heroes wacky adventures in the afterlife' is the way this episode uses Larry. While Rita, Cliff, Vic and Kay are undergoing various degrees of emotional catharsis, Larry is our window into the pain. And now his little side quest into space, thus ensuring that he wasn't with the rest of the gang to be killed, makes sense. They needed Larry to be the one left alive. On a surface level this allows them to again underscore that the other four are seriously, literally dead. Having their dead bodies Fed-Exed to his front door and left without explanation? Kind of a dick move, Codsville Mountain Resort.

Larry gets an amazing blend of really funny comedy and genuine heartbreak as he processes the death of his friends, and Matt Bomer gives an amazing performance vacillating wildly between the two. Matt Bomer is generally considered too pretty to get to do a lot of comedy, which is too bad because he clearly excels at it. Credit must also go to Matthew Zuc playing the physical role of Larry. Just a great duel performance here.

Which brings us to the Dead Boy Detectives. If you were to pop back to the mid-90s and tell me that one day they'd have a live action show of Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol featuring characters from Neil Gaiman's Sandman I simply wouldn't have believed you. We live in magical times.

They're clearly shopping the Dead Boy Detectives as a back door pilot here. They've aged the two boys up a bit to facilitate both working schedules and a romance plot that at least one of them is feeling. They've added a plucky lady friend to work with them and have the virtue of still being alive for when that sort of thing might be required. And they've given that lady friend just enough of a mysterious backstory that it doesn't get in the way here but leaves a lot for them to build on in future adventures. If they do bring it to series, I'd probably watch it. From what we see here, they're snarky and fun. Plus, as a bonus, Payne's flashback to what his time in Hell was like is a direct lift from their first appearance in 'Sandman: Season of mists'. Which just coincidentally happens to be featured in the recently released Audible Sandman: Act 2 audio series, which I highly recommend. They actually reference the events in that story several times here in a very satisfying way.


Bits and Pieces:

-- Story-wise it makes sense why Rita didn't pass out – we've seen a lot of her emotional processing lately, and they were more interested in setting up the mystery of who the guy is that recognizes her and rescues them. But I'm trying to headcannon why she didn't pass out with the others.

-- I adored the trick of getting Larry to stare at one of those 3-D posters from the 80s to distract him from the more straightforward way of getting him to the afterlife.

-- Larry's back on Earth, but the Negative Spirit isn't in him anymore. It can't be gone forever, right? I assume this means he doesn't have any powers at the moment.

-- Dorothy being the voice of reason as Larry's cheese slides comprehensively off his cracker was a fun use of her character. Of course she'd call Danny to find help.

-- The sound effect person that added the cracking sounds as Larry moves Jane's hand to give everyone the finger – exquisite.

-- This is a churlish point, but the actress who played Crystal, Madalyn Horcher, looks and sounds too much like Diane Guerrero. I was super confused when we cut from Jane in Hell to Crystal with the boys.

-- RJ casually gutting and cleaning a Pegasus while he talks through some emotional issues with his son is very much this show in a nutshell.

-- I really love that the show keeps bringing back the sex ghosts for random cameos and that Charles and Edwin were so distracted by them.

-- Kay's grandmother has made dolls of all of her different alters and I totally want to collect them all now.

-- Cameo from Ruth Connell, aka Rowena from Supernatural! Her character was called Night Nurse, just to further complicate things.

-- It's just vomit! Hooray! Again, that's so this show in a nutshell.

-- Is shooting a Pegasus really worse than shooting a unicorn?

-- Finally, Madame Rouge has connected with the team. Let's get some explanations. Yes? No?


Quotes:

Cliff: "Actually, since you’re asking. Sort of became a minor superhero since you last saw me."
RJ: "Uh huh."
Cliff: "Didn’t think it would be Garguax the Decimator’s alien death ray that finally got me, but here we are..."
RJ: "Alien death ray, huh?"
Cliff: "Yup."

Dorothy: "Larry?"
Larry: "What?"
Dorothy: "Why did you arrange our dead friends at the dining room table?"
Larry: "Because leaving them jammed in shipping boxes was weird and morbid. Seriously, Dorothy."

Crystal: "Why would you do this?"
Larry: "I don’t know, comfort? Jesus, isn’t it clear that I’m not doing OK?"

Crystal: "All of your sex ghosts have the same safe word. Just FYI."

Charles: "Death’s quite nice actually. And she is super fit."

Cliff: "Who brought Judgey Harry Potter?"

Another great installment, although I'm hard pressed to see a reason that these first three were presented to us in one fell swoop this time around. Precedent, I suppose.

More like this, please.

Nine out of ten coins which you should not pay to the Ferryman.

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.

No comments: