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Doom Patrol: Amends Patrol

"Here we are. Home again. Partially safe. Mostly sound."

As much as I love rat-on-cockroach action, 'Amends Patrol' is easily the best season finale that Doom Patrol has given us so far.

This show just grows in confidence exponentially as time goes on, and it's a good look on them. In many, if not most, ways, 'Amends Patrol' isn't so much the finale of season three of the show as it is the finale of Volume One of the show.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's look at what's going on in this episode, specifically, before we move on to the big picture stuff. Let's talk about toxic relationships.

It actually might be more accurate to say 'toxic cycles,' of which 'staying in an unhealthy relationship' is just one example. This episode, and indeed the season, is explicitly about toxic cycles. How we end up in them, why we stay in them, how to get out of them. It's not for no reason that this episode opens with the team literally crawling out of the wreckage and having to decide whether to keep doing the same things or make different choices. It's surprisingly deep and emotionally resonant material for a series that literally ends with the Suez Canal being attacked by a giant, hairy nut-sack.

The purest example of what I'm talking about here is, surprisingly, Monsieur Mallah. So it's probably useful to start there. When we rejoin Monsieur Mallah, he's been sitting next to Madame Rouge, still trussed up on a hospital gurney and holding a jar containing Cliff's brain. And he lays out explicitly what everyone else is going to spend the rest of the episode grappling with. He's been sitting there all night trying to decide whether or not to kill Madame Rouge. Or, to highlight the subtext, whether he's going to continue the same cycle of codependent evil that he and the Brain have spent the last century replaying over and over again, or if he's going to finally make the choice to walk away.

And he makes the choice to walk away. He breaks the toxic cycle. And let's take a moment here to celebrate the 'Dear John' note that he leaves behind for the Brain. It's a thing of absurdist beauty, and I can't think of another show that could pull off making it also emotionally resonant. I do have some questions about the Alanis Morrisette CD, though. He probably just got tired of the Brain playing it on repeat.

And that's the basic paradigm for every other character in the episode. Do I continue to make the same choices and continue to be hurt by the same results, or do I make a different choice? For Larry it's a question of whether he's going to continue to just let things happen to him, allowing himself to be the victim and therefore blameless in his own story. And instead he makes the choice to actively change his relationship with the negative spirit, and the world around him. He's choosing to make an active choice, carrying with it the risk of negative consequences (no pun intended) for which he'll have no one to blame but himself.

For Cliff, he's choosing to own the worst parts of himself. At the risk of slipping into recovery lingo, he's making a fearless personal inventory of his own failings and weaknesses and confessing them to others. That would be steps four and five, if you're fortunate enough to not know the twelve steps. Put a pin in those steps, we'll be circling back to them in a big way. The only thing I can really fault Cliff on in this is that he fails to include Clara's wife Mel in the list of people to whom he owes 'better.' Seriously, Cliff. That woman's an angel for how she's put up with your tornado of bullshit. Do better.

For Jane things are a little more anthropomorphic. Dr. Harrison is pretty much the embodiment of 'Change nothing, make no new choices, remain stagnant.' It's ironic, in an interesting and probably intentional way, that a psychiatrist is the representation of 'not escaping toxic cycles.' As a side note – I love the way Kay's alters are used in this episode. Driller Bill's enthusiasm at getting her time to shine. Mama Pentecost being able to speak light and color, and therefore facilitating communication with Keeg, the negative larva. Pretty Polly's deathbed apology to Jane (although I really hope Pretty Polly isn't dead for good). The alters are used in cool and interesting ways here, and I'm here for it.

As for Vic – well, Vic's kind of the exception here. He already made his choice to break out of his cycle a few episodes back. His decision to carry Keeg for Larry until they can get him safely home does show him actively making the choice to find new ways to be a hero beyond being Cyborg, but that's possibly stretching the metaphor a bit.

Which brings us to Rita and Madame Rouge. Also known as, the entire heart and soul of the season long discussion.

At the start of the episode, Rita and Madame Rouge are more or less on the same page. They're both locked tight in a cycle of revenge from which there appears to be no escape. But then a few interesting things happen. Three things, specifically, to Madame Rouge.

- First, she's at the mercy of Monsieur Mallah, and... he shows her mercy. Declaring that she and the Brain are cut from the same cloth, he announces that he's washing his hands of both of them and walks away.

- Second, having experienced that reprieve from death she's put on the other side of the gun, metaphorically speaking. She's put in a position to kill Cliff to get what she wants, and she makes the choice not to.

- Third, having both shown and been shown mercy, she's given the opportunity to escape. She's got the time ship. She can go where Rita can never find her. She can fix all her mistakes and start fresh. She can escape the consequences of what she's done. She can start the cycle all over again. And she chooses not to.

Here's where we circle back to that fearless personal inventory. And at this point I'm going to resume calling her Laura, because by her choices here she very much proves that she's once again Laura De Mille. Her act of contrition sheds Madame Rouge like a snake skin.

The note that Laura leaves for herself before heading directly to the people she's hurt the most is absolutely brutal. Michelle Gomez gives a world class performance here, showing us a woman blissfully free of memory being told in the bluntest way possible of the worst that she can be, by herself. When she chokes out, 'Oh my God... Am I that horrible?' it could not be more devastating.

Or so you'd think, but then her confrontation with Rita comes up, and look at that, we found more devastating.

And here's a detail that the show got very, very right, and I want to make sure they get all the credit that they deserve for it. An 'Amends,' and let's remember that that's the title of the episode, is not the same thing as an apology. That's part of it, but there's more to it. The point of making an amends is not simply to say you're sorry, it's to demonstrate to the person you harmed that you understand the harm you caused them. That you take ownership of the shitty thing that you did. And most of all, that you make no excuses for your choices in the past. And Laura absolutely nails that. When pressed for a reason why Rita shouldn't kill her, she gives the most brutally honest one. 'I'm not worth it.'

I can't praise enough how clearly the show underlines that Laura hasn't, at this point, changed. She's made a commitment to try to change, which is both harder and truer to reality. That point often gets glossed over in villain redemption arcs, and I appreciate how clear they are about it.

And so, as I said at the top, we reach the end of Doom Patrol: Volume One. Larry appears briefly as the proper Negative Man. Rita has finally developed the ability she's most known for and can grow to be super giant size. But the real reason that we can tell that the producers intended this to be the conclusion of the first three season story arc is the dialogue between Cliff and Rita, lifted directly from the very first episode.

"Are you all right?"
"I want to go home."
"We can do that."

Welcome home, Doom Patrol. Bring on season four.


Bits and Pieces:

-- The structure of this season could not have been more elegantly handled. The story from Laura's perspective, for example, starts in episode 6, runs to episode 9, then jumps back to episode 1-5, then finishes up back in 9-10. Generally speaking, nonlinear storytelling generally either becomes a huge mess or is so invested in being clever with its story structure that it forgets to have any emotional underpinning, but neither of those is the case here.

-- Shelly is clearly into Jane in a romantic way. And it looks very much like Jane is reciprocating. I like it.

-- It's weird that we don't see or mention the rest of the Sisterhood of Dada. They never even explained what The Quiz' powers are. (She'd be the Japanese Woman with the germ phobia.) She has every super power that you haven't thought of, if you were wondering.

-- Shelly has a very powerful 'No one is completely lost' moment with Rita that was just beautiful.

-- The giant robot body that Cliff is currently inhabiting is the one from back in 'Penultimate Patrol.' Cute callback.

-- Apparently it's just a feature of the time machine that it narrates to you in third person as you use it. Interestingly, it switched to first person in the very last line to Laura asking where she was going to go, underscoring that Laura’s destiny has gone from being out of her control to being entirely in her hands.

-- I'm not convinced that Vic's story about Bo the dog really tracks with Larry and Keeg's situation. That feels more like a true story from somebody in the writers' room's childhood that they've always wanted to work into something.

-- I'm not at all clear on how OK we're supposed to be with Rita straight up murdering Brain like that. Also, not to be that guy, but the brain itself doesn't have any pain receptors. You can pretty much do anything you want to the physical brain and the person involved won't even feel it. The boiling water would have killed Brain, but it wouldn't have hurt him.

-- And as long as I'm being pedantic, Brain in Cliff's body should still have had Cliff's voice. Ditto, Cliff in Brain's case. I get why they ignored that for the sake of clarity, but I still want it on the record.


Quotes:

Rita: "We’ve been here before. Battered, bruised. But we lick our wounds and rise from the ashes, Stronger than ever before."
Larry: "Are you seriously trying to give us a rally speech right now?"

Madame Rouge: "I will have your hand for an ashtray."

Madame Rouge: "Well, you’re a giant robot now, and we’re about to extract revenge out of the little shit that stole your body and tried to kill us."
Cliff: "Uh, question. Was that the sound of my one and only body being pancaked?"
Madame Rouge: "Yeah. It was phenomenal. Next step, Doom Manor. And Rita Fucking Farr."
Cliff: "Remember when we all thought you were an ottoman?"

Facehole–Blake_the_Snake: "Of course there’s giant robots coming out of Florida" #redstateredbot"
Facehole–SparkySam3000: "I TOLD you fools the bots were coming for our jobs! #automationisreal"
Facehole–ItsAll4youDAMIAN: "Just got some dank weed, yo! I’m seeing Bots!!!"

Laura de Mille: (reading her note to herself) "You are Madame Rouge. You are... a terrible person. But trying to change. You will come across people who despise you. Jane dresses like a deranged sock puppet."
Jane: "Fair."
Laura: (reading) "And Larry... didididididi Boris Karloff." (looking up) "No... no Larry?"
Vic: "He’s indisposed. He just had a baby. It’s Larry’s story to tell."
Laura: (reading) "And Vic. Track suit. Stick up ass." (looking up) "Oh, it’s you." (reading again) "And everyone hates you. Especially Rita. You killed her greatest love." (looking up in shock) "Oh my God. Am I that horrible?"

Laura: "I destroyed it. You built a beautiful life with Malcolm, and I destroyed it all. I’m sorry, Rita. You have every right to kill me. But..."
Rita: "But what?"
Laura: "But I’m not worth it."

Cliff: "This has to be the most people I’ve ever had inside me. Came close at an infield party in Talladega back in the day."


This was a really wonderful finale to a really fantastic season of television. I'm so happy that Doom Patrol appears to finally be getting some of the attention it deserves.

Nine out of ten new beginnings and better choices.

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.

2 comments:

  1. Mikey, congratulations on finishing season three. I know it wasn't easy, considering you had two other shows to review on top of it.

    And may I say that I have no idea what's going on because I don't watch DP, but the details in your reviews are always very strange and interesting reading. Giant robot bodies. Brains and boiling water. :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. I admit, I often find myself writing doom patrol reviews and stopping to think, 'I wonder what on earth Billie will make of that. :)

    ReplyDelete

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