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Doom Patrol: Subconscious Patrol

"This is all you ever were."

Excuse me, I'm going to just sit here and sob uncontrollably for a moment...

Note: Although the entire season finished airing quite some time before I write this, I have not yet watched anything beyond this episode. Any thoughts or suggestions as to what might be coming in the final two episodes of the season are purely conjecture. And are probably quite wrong.

The thing I'm most struck by while watching this episode and thinking about it for some time afterward is, 'This is what the Star Wars prequel trilogy was supposed to be.' Two people whose lives become inextricably linked together, becoming the closest of friends, then having that friendship destroyed by a combination of outside forces and character weaknesses. Choices are made that can never be taken back, and the friendship is destroyed utterly to be replaced by hate, betrayal, the thirst for revenge, and the ever-present grief lying just beneath the surface of both parties. There's no hate stronger than 'I loved you. You were the best part of me. And you took that from me. You stole you from me.'

Man, those would have been three pretty good movies if they'd pulled that off, wouldn't they?

But we're not here to rehash the Star Wars prequels. They're just a useful comparison because they were attempting to tell the same emotional story with Obi-Wan and Anakin that Doom Patrol is telling about Rita and Laura, and Doom Patrol tells that story so much better. Just a comparison of the 'fallen hero joining with their previous enemy and receiving their new 'evil name' illustrates what I'm saying. It's certainly helped by the fact that Michelle Gomez has about three thousand times the talent and presence of the actor in the corresponding scene in Revenge of the Sith. Or anyone in the Star Wars prequels, if we're being honest.

But everything about the scene in which Madame Rouge is born out of the ashes of Laura De Mille is the best possible version of itself. It's played largely for laughs, and yet the amount of pain she's carrying over betraying her friends, and the wound she's clearly nursing from having been kicked out of the organization which she used as a justification for her actions, directly as a consequence of those same actions, are as much characters in that scene as the French-speaking gorilla.

I thought that the emotion and energy between Rita and Madame Rouge during their 'farewell' scene in the dada party room couldn't possibly be topped. Both of them make valid points. Both of them have ended up where they are for completely believable and understandable reasons. Both of them have valid points of view. One of them made a choice that even she recognizes on some level was wrong, and as a result it's destroyed both of their lives. April Bowlby and Michelle Gomez have been just crackling with chemistry this whole season, and this scene finally allows them to pull out all the stops, then find a couple more stops and pull those out as well.

You could light cigarettes off of the energy between those two.

I say that I thought that scene couldn't be topped, but then they closed the episode on the two of them encountering each other in the present day and I'll be damned if they didn't go and top it without even a single word of dialogue between them. I cannot wait to see the encounter that's about to go down.

Meanwhile, the rest of the crew get to finally experience the 'Eternal Flagellation.'  Honestly, I don't hate the idea as a self-help concept for the world. Everyone, one assumes, on the entire planet gets swapped out with their subconscious image of themselves for long enough that the 'real' self has no choice but to really confront their deepest issues. Then they're allowed to go up to the real world, sit down with their self-image sub selves, and finally work their shit out. Rita refers to it as forcing everyone to stop lying about who they are, and while that's a description of it very much influenced by her own pain at the betrayal of Laura/Mme Rouge, it's not entirely inaccurate.

The real bonus here is that it allowed Brendan Fraser and Matt Bomer to be there on camera interacting with Riley Shanahan and Matthew Zuk, respectively, which is just wonderful. I was a little confused as to why Joivan Wade wasn't playing his 'sub' version of himself as General Tony, until it occurred to me that it was probably just a practical thing to avoid having to do split screen Joivan Wades for their big heart to heart. A similar difficulty was handled for Crazy Jane by having her appear in the form of a puppet, which both solved a number of logistic issues and was also very, very funny.

So, while we as audience members didn't learn a whole lot of new information about the characters, we did get to see them at long last really forced to confront their issues. This appears to be leading to some serious consequences. Does Kay really wish Jane was dead? That was a harsh moment. It's hard not to see Kay's point that everything Jane has done keeps bringing her more trauma, and if we're being fair, it IS Kay's body to exist in. But as an audience member we're conditioned to see Jane as the 'valid' driver of the body, and the threat of losing her as a character as a result of Kay's improving mental health is a fabulously complicated and emotionally fraught place to be. Again, I'm on the edge of my seat waiting to see what happens next.

I do have about a million follow up questions about the flagellation, and my concern now is that they won't have enough time to clear them all up. Did everybody in the entire world experience this process of self-judgement? It would certainly explain Clara's new clarity of attitude with her father in those final scenes. The TV Anchor had turned into a child and I believe he said something about the weatherman having become a buffalo (so many questions on that one) so it definitely wasn't limited to just our main cast. Did we have to wait for absolutely everybody to get their shit together so that the mist would lift? Is the flagellation actually over, or is this just part of it? Where's the rest of the sisterhood during all of this? Is Cliff actually dying? The whole Parkinsons diagnosis was never an official one. Is there a rabbit about to be pulled out of that particular hat?

I cannot wait to finally get to watch the next episode.


Bits and Pieces:

-- They've teased the Brain and Monsieur Mallah way too many times this season for them to not suddenly get way more important in the last two episodes. They just have to.

-- The timeline has been pulling together over the course of the season so exquisitely. There are still a few gaps, but the amount of discipline that they've shown during the storytelling has been so, so good. I feel sure the rest of the pieces are going to be slotted in place.

-- I've revised my opinion on the timeline of the time ship. It now appears that Rita stole back the ship she arrived in to return to the future. After a brief detour to make sure everybody gets killed back in episode two of the season. That means that Brain and Monsieur Mallah saw the ship arrive in 1916, reverse engineered the design based on their drawings of it, then sent Madame Rouge into the future to steal technology from Niles, at which point Rita stole the ship for the first time and traveled back to 1916 where she was seen by the Brain and Monsieur Mallah. Which means that the timeship isn't in a time loop exactly, but it did Bootstrap Paradox its own way into existence. I think. That's how it appears at the moment; they may clarify further in the next two episodes.

-- It must have been a great time for Matt Bomer and Brendan Fraser to act in person opposite Mattthew Zuk and Riley Shanahan.

-- Larry's attempts to come out to his mother on his wedding day are exactly how that news would have been dealt with at the time. It was interesting that his mother clearly already knew. I expect she'd walked in on something unwelcome at some stage. That's certainly how it read.

-- I loved how Vic's whole subconscious issue revolved around the very real and very tragic role that racial injustice plays in robbing young black men of their childhood. As I've mentioned before, I'm absolutely not the voice you should be listening to for that discussion, but we all should be listening to that discussion. I don't think I've ever mentioned it, but I live in Brooklyn Center, MN. Google that if you aren't aware why it's relevant.

-- As long as I'm making this about me at the moment, about fifteen years ago I gave up performing improv to become a firefighter. Rita and Laura's argument about what good does art actually do, and how do we actually help the world hit me hard. Particularly because, like Rita, art kind of saved my life back in the day as well. It gave me a community and an understanding of how to make a place for myself in the world. I get Rita's argument. Like I said, that scene hit me pretty hard.

-- The red yarn entrails from Harry the lamb were startlingly visceral. I love how they handled that effect. It was gruesome and adorable in a very strange way.

-- The detail that what really punished Cliff was the understanding that he could look at his daughter after having left her alone in a car all day long and feel absolutely nothing about it. Somebody on the writing staff understands addiction very well.

-- I don't know if it was in the script or a directorial decision, but the detail that, in the memories, everyone else was addressing Cliff and Larry where they would have been standing at the time, not where they were physically standing right now, was a really nice touch. It provided a nice alienating note to the scenes and made sense in context. Also, they didn't make a big deal of drawing attention to it, which shows a lot of faith in their audience. I liked it.

-- Nice example of how the pieces of the season are slowly being woven together – the distorted mask faces of the Flagellation Birds give a whole new context to the Cyborg face that Lloyd was sculpting back in 'Dada Patrol.'  He was working on the project.

-- I'm confused about where Rita was taking the team before they ran back to hide in a blanket fort. What was her plan there?

-- Part of why Laura remained looking like Malcolm while she told Rita that she had been the best friend she ever had is bound up in her own feelings that she doesn't deserve to have had friends and so admitting that while looking like herself would have been an internal schism.


Quotes:

Silas: "We don’t get to make mistakes."

Hammerhead: "Here’s the deal. We’re in Kay’s subconscious."
Jane: "I thought we’re always in Kay’s subconscious."
Hammerhead: "Do I have a Ph.D. in subconscious shit? How the fuck should I know??"

Larry: "So the plan is we just stew in our own shit and the world is saved?"

Brain: "My God, the accent on her."
Monsieur Mallah: "Very evil."
Brain: "Right??"

Brain: "So what do you say?"
Madame Rouge: "I’d say you had me at ‘Fuck Niles Caulder.’"

Madame Rouge: "Did you really think you were going to change the world with a jangly hat made out of serving utensils? Another word poem to stick it to the man? Art is bullshit. Art is a narcotic you suckle while life, ambition, purpose, pass you by."

General Tony: "We’ll be safe here. It’s comfortable. Secure. I’ve reinforced the cotton sheets with the flannel sheets."

Cliff: "Fuck this Freaky Friday shit."
Larry: "That’s not even close to Freaky Friday."

Cliff: "Which one of you felt fucks is Jane?"

Cliff: "OK, I think we can all agree that what happens in the eternal flagellation, stays in the eternal flagellation."


This season is pulling together so very well. Clearly a lot of thought and planning went into putting all of the pieces together, and it shows.

Nine out of ten flagellations. Bring on the next episode!

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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