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Doom Patrol: Evil Patrol

"Those weren’t lies. They were just truths that changed over time."

Wait, is Rita the bad guy now? Because it kind of feels like Rita is the bad guy now.

Starting this episode with the flashback scene of Rita, Shelly, and Laura in 1917 was absolutely heartbreaking. And was absolutely the right choice for what this episode was trying to do.

It viscerally hurt watching the three of them love and support each other as they planned their art and their dancing, because we know how it all ends up now. The harsh cut from that idyllic memory to the stark hatred of their present-day showdown is brutal. And I mean that as a compliment.

Obviously, we can't have the resolution of the Rita/Laura fallout quite yet, and so after a few terse words that mostly exist to confirm that both Rita and Madame Rouge have their full and complete memories back now, Mme. Rouge flees the scene, convinced that Rita wants to kill her in revenge, and assuming that the Doom Patrol as a whole will be on board with helping her do it.

And it's more or less at this point that the only thing that could objectively be called a flaw with the episode starts to rear its head. We've had the Flagellation – turns out that 'eternal' was a bit of an overstatement, but it probably sounded better than 'a solid afternoon-ish flagellation.'  The Sisterhood of Dada achieved their goal, but we still have two episodes left. The Sisterhood doesn't even appear in this one, barring Shelly being in the opening flashback. Where did they go? Are they out for post-flagellation drinks? Their complete absence seems strange, unless maybe I've forgotten something from the previous episode, but I don't think I have. So, flagellation accomplished, where do we go from here? What's even the point of anything at this stage?

And indeed, that seems to be the point that they're going for. Surprisingly, it seems like the flagellation basically did what they were hoping, and now everyone's resolved their issues. Kay has ditched the need for alters and is driving the body herself. Larry's made peace with taking a second shot at fatherhood with his bouncing baby space larva. Vic has had the surgery to remove all his Cyborg-ness, and is now basically just the same as any other guy. Although it bears mentioning here – holy crap, is Joivan Wade ridiculously jacked. I had no idea.

So when Rita attempts to re-establish normal service by going back to making flip charts for 'her team' to get them on board 'Mission Killy-Killy-Rouge,' she's more than a little frustrated to discover that everyone has voluntarily lost their powers except for Cliff, who's then immediately distracted by the arrival of his daughter and grandson, so he's out as well.

April Bowlby, by the way, proves again that whatever they're paying her it isn't enough. Her pretending to be happy for them all as one after the other reveals that they're not able to help her anymore is just masterclass comic timing.

It's all building to the moment on the bus toward the end of the episode in which Rita is forced to say out loud what we as viewers have more or less been assuming. The reason that everything is slightly 'off' between her and the rest of the team is that she stopped thinking of herself as being one of them thirty years ago. From their perspective they just saw her a couple days ago, but she's had long enough to literally forget all of them. That's why the scenes between her and Larry, usually the strongest connection between any of the team, feels strangely unconnected.

The goal of this episode is to show us the emotional journey necessary for the reveal that Rita has drifted away from the Doom Patrol in exactly the same way as Laura de Mille drifted away from the Sisterhood of Dada. And it's a gut punch.

So, is Rita a bad guy now? I don't think that's necessarily where they're trying to go with her, but they definitely want us to see the mirror between her betrayal and Laura's. And that's interesting. I'm emotionally invested enough in all of these people that one of them callously using the people that used to be her friends is painful to watch. As it's supposed to be. That's just astonishingly good storytelling.

Meanwhile, Madame Rouge.

Just as Rita is trying to get the team behind her for her big 'kill Madame Rouge' plan, Madame Rouge has tracked down her old gang, The Brotherhood of Evil, in order to get them behind her for her big 'Stop Rita from killing Madame Rouge' plan. Neither effort is particularly successful. It's nice that they've put in the time this season to establish what amazing chemistry April Bowlby and Michelle Gomez have together, because it underscores the mirroring of their character arcs in this episode to great effect.

It makes a lot of sense, given what we know of Laura de Mille, that Madame Rouge's first instinct would be to track down and join back up with the Brotherhood of Evil. They were, after all, her fallback position last time she was excommunicated from her peer group. Madame Rouge has consistently had a sense of 'Fine, I'll just be evil then' about her, rather than feeling like an intrinsically evil person at her core. And she has a legitimate fear that Rita will try to kill her, so tracking down some backup is perfectly understandable. The fact that she just takes it as read that the rest of the team will help Rita to commit murder indicates that she never really got to know them that well, but it tracks.

The concept of The Brain and Monsieur Mallah living in a retirement community in Boca Raton was a stroke of genius. Rouge, with her sun umbrella, trying to persuade a petulant French gorilla through the entry gate speaker is a thing of absurdist perfection. To say nothing of the cardboard box once labelled 'Winter Linens' but now having that struck out and replaced by 'Teleporters.' That's both very funny, and a very sly foreshadowing to how Madame Rouge then goes on to kidnap Cliff as one last mission to prove her worth to The Brotherhood. Really nicely scripted.

And then we get one more piece of the interlocking puzzle that's been Doom Patrol season three. It turns out that the online buyer to whom Cliff sold his blueprints back in '1917 Patrol,' the sinister and mysterious 'FuzzyRimJob42,' was none other than The Brain himself. He's spent his life trying to build a robot suit for his own brain and failing, so he just had to see how Caulder had achieved it.

I'm not sure why it never occurred to me that if Niles could build Cliff's body then it made no sense for The Brain to still be in sinister watercooler. But the explanation here totally worked. As did the reveal that The Brain was manipulating the whole situation in order to steal Cliff's body with the ultimate end goal of hitting on the widow in Unit J. That's just such a glorious blend of mind bogglingly fiendish and ridiculously trivial that I love it to pieces. Finally, it looks like we've gotten most, if not all, of the pieces that we'd been missing and we can now see how all the disparate pieces of the season were telling the same story all along.

And it feels like that's a large part of what this one was trying to accomplish. They're taking a step back now that we've seen how the pieces of the story all fit together to let us just take in the finished picture. So we get another confirmation of why Brain and Mallah sent Garguax to that resort to randomly kill Rita. We get the timeline from the time vehicles perspective clarified a bit. We get at least a strong indication that that was Malcolm in the afterlife helping Rita out before she'd met him from her perspective.

It's truly impressive how well handled the structure for this season has been now that we've seen what was actually happening throughout it. This sort of time travel + amnesia shenanigans could have been just a tangled, confusing nightmare in less disciplined hands, but instead it's felt like one of those magic art posters that were big in the 80s, where it appears to just be chaos until your eyes focus in correctly and you can suddenly see the picture.

Bits and Pieces:

-- I'm not at all sure what's happened to all the other alters or what's roaring in the underground, but it can't be good. Did Kay just reveal a new sonic scream power? Will Jane not have any superpowers at all moving forward?

-- The space larva reacts to strong emotions in its presence. I'm not clear if it's just strong emotions from Larry or if it reacts to the strong emotions of others in its vicinity. I'm more worried than I should be about the safety of the space larva in the bus crash. I really, really want them to be building to Rebis. Have they announced casting for any character named Eleanor Poole?

-- I'm loving the direct way that the show is talking about race this year. You have Joivan Wade and Phil Morris in your cast, you'd be crazy not to give them strong stuff to work with. They're both too good to waste doing anything else. Their respective views on the Black experience in America seem very generational, from my 'completely not qualified to talk about this' perspective. As I've said before, mine isn't the voice anyone should be listening to. But their voices are, and I'm so glad the show is using them.

-- 'Love me, don't look at me' might be the most concise character analysis of Rita possible.

-- I do hope the Sisterhood is back for the finale next episode. It would be odd for them to have just disappeared entirely.

-- I wonder where Rita hid the time machine in the present day. I also wonder if we'll see it again.

-- I adore how passive aggressively belligerent Monsieur Mallah is. The entire bit about turning up the blender to stop people talking to him was priceless.

-- There aren't words for how much I want an LP copy of 'The Brotherhood: Live!' I couldn't spot a track list, was there one? Regardless, Brain and Mallah's cover of 'Les Champs Elysees' might be the greatest needle drop in the history of television.

-- Silas confirmed that the Flagellation had indeed happened to every single person in the world. I wonder if that will ever get brought up again. It feels like it would be kind of a world changing deal.

-- Vic agreeing to interview Kay a la Niles Caulder was sweet. And allowed Joivan to use his English accent. Although it was a little too RP to be his actual accent.


Laura: "That said, I will not be turning into a cat. I will be turning into a bird."
Rita: "A bird! Why?"
Shelly: "Because I’m allergic to cats."
Laura: "Shelly’s allergic to cats."
Shelly: "I can’t be near them."
Laura: "And neither of us could be fucked changing the title."

Larry: "When you’re raising a space parasite, are you ever really ready?"

Silas: "There are wings of that building that will be named after me. And in less than a millisecond, everything I had earned meant absolutely nothing."

Vic: "That might be your answer. But that is not the solution."

Mallah: "Your absurd and overly complicated problems are not welcome here."

Cliff: "Kay? Holy shit, has everyone fixed their shit??"

Brain: "That sounds like more of a ‘Rouge’ problem than a ‘Brain’ problem."

Rita: "There are no small roles, only small actors. And stage crew."

Brain: "Nice to meet you. Big fan. Not of you, per say, but of your design."

This was a really satisfying coming together of so many elements that had previously felt unconnected. I have a ton of respect for the structural creativity and discipline they've shown this year.

Eight out of ten singing French gorillas. There were some parts that felt a little aimless as they were happening, but it all pulled together in the end.

Onward to the season finale!

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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