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Doom Patrol: Butt Patrol

Jane: "Crisis of Infinite Ass."
Cliff: "Nice!"

Having received a glimpse of the post-apocalyptic future that's awaiting them, the team dedicates themselves to finding a way of averting it while making a lot of butt jokes.

A significantly less focused episode than the previous, 'Butt Patrol' shows us a team united behind a common goal, but hopelessly divided in their opinions on how to achieve it. Good thing that that only happens in fiction and is never a thing in real life.

The problem at hand: we know for a fact that we're on the cusp of an imminent uprising of zombie butts that will bring about the Buttpocalypse. Unfortunately, our knowledge is sort of limited to 'when' (any day now'), leaving large gaps which we might ideally fill with 'where,' 'why,' and most importantly, 'how.' As a result, with the lack of any tangible wires to pull out of the ticking clock, our team is finding themselves bogged down in all the standard 'how do we avoid this predestined fate' shenanigans. Still, while we've seen this exact scenario play out countless times before in genre fiction, they largely avoid the bigger cliches and get on with things without crawling too far up causalities butthole, so they just about get away with it.

The one page that they seem to all be on is that they have to make changes to their own behavior in order to avoid the future apocalypse. Now, that kind of supposes that the future is all about them, which is a little on the self-centered side, but it is their show, so fair enough. Rita appears committed to making lots of little changes, i.e., wearing flats instead of heels and getting Cliff to dial back on the F-bombs. The rest of the team is looking at a slightly bigger change in replacing Rita as team leader.

I get where they're coming from, but man that was a a difficult scene to watch. Her position as team leader clearly has become the center of Rita's self-image, and to have it taken away from her by unanimous vote obviously cut her to the core. Also, if we're being fair, she doesn't seem to have been a bad leader (despite what Cliff says) and she's clearly been putting in the work. Her lovingly hand-crafted anti-butt binders had to have taken quite some time to put together, and the plan they outlined was the same thing that they ended up deciding to do anyway.

The show is rarely guilty of this sort of thing, but it really does feel like removing Rita as team leader was much more about the plot mechanics of getting her alone with Larry than an organic plot development. Which is not to say that the material devoted to her and Larry isn't amazing once we get to it. It's just that the way we got to it felt forced.

Of course, forced or not it also gave us the power inversion of the team turning over leadership duties to Madam Rouge. The current relationship between Rouge and Rita makes everything about this the most painful version of itself, and it's hard to look away from. Not least because Madame Rouge, FKA Laura De Mille, AKA Dogshit McGivens is proving to be an effective and pragmatic leader. If you're going after zombies of any kind, only bringing the guy with a literal metal body that can't be bitten is the right call. It would have been nice if she'd been upfront with everybody about it, but you can understand why she takes the easier route of just pretending that everyone's taking naps first and then slipping off with Cliff quietly.

I haven't gone back and checked, but it feels like we haven't had a lot of solo interaction between Madame Rouge and Cliff (barring the giant robot body incident of last season's finale which has to qualify as exceptional circumstances) and it was nice to get some time with the two of them interacting. Oddly, Cliff opened up much more to her than he usually does to anybody which struck me as interesting. And indeed, the two of them got the job done, killing off Darren Jones neatly and efficiently and destroying what they thought to be the only zombie butt threat out there. It's hard not to see Rouge's leadership decisions on this one as anything but vindicated.

Particularly in light of the fact that leaving Vic and Jane behind allowed Vic to track down the existence of a second zombie butt, make arrangements to intercept said second zombie butt, and make off with it with reasonable efficiency. Honestly, there's an interesting 'everybody turns out to be good at their jobs today' thread in this episode, and I enjoyed it. I am left wondering if the Butt Hunter is the same character as the Beard Hunter, or if it's just the same actor as an inside joke. The internet seems divided. Theories in the comments, please.

All of the above of course means that Larry and Rita have the mansion to themselves to work through some issues. Sadly, they're not both working on the same issue, so they don't make a ton of emotional progress. Larry is worried about Keeg, since he saw that in the future Keeg is no longer living in Larry. Present day Keeg communicated with future Keeg, and has been acting wary of Larry ever since. Larry, of course, assumes that this means that the Buttpocalypse is all his fault and that that's why Keeg is disavowing him now. I'm betting the answer turns out to be rather different, but for the moment I can't imagine what that would be. The trope of Larry assuming that he's to blame for everything, only to find out that he's being much too hard on himself is kind of a thing with this series. I'd be surprised if they subvert it here.

Rita, unsurprisingly, is just incredibly betrayed that Larry not only voted against her, but also nominated her arch nemesis to take her position. She, not surprisingly, takes that as a violation of their entire friendship. Larry makes the solid counterargument that when she returned from spending thirty some years in the past, she told them directly that they were all strangers to her now, so who really let down who? It's impressive in these first two episodes just how many little details from earlier years are being brough back into play in meaningful ways.

Which of course leads us to:


A Brief History of Butts

The connective tissue in this episode is a series of vignettes revealing to us the secret origin of the butts. Now, I'm sure we all remember the awe and amusement we all felt back in 'Cyborg Patrol' when we first heard those immortal words, 'The Butts! They're loose!' and saw the onslaught of vicious hindquarters swarming in to kill. Who could have guessed then how much more there was to their story. I'm guessing none of us saw Meredith Wilson's role in events coming.

We're told the Butt saga through the introduction of Dr. Margaret Yu. With three PhDs including linguistics and anthropology, the US government has brought her in to help tame their latest weaponization project. The thing is, Uncle Sam has bred vicious, sentient butts as instruments of war, but they're too dangerous and untrained to be used. Can Doctor Yu help with that?

Now, the first thing I want to say here is that yes, I suspect the reason that you're thinking is exactly why they named her Doctor Yu.

But the second thing I want to say about her is that, while I've been critical of scientists on TV who are magically experts in every unrelated field that the plotline might require (I'm looking at you, Cloak and Dagger), linguistics and anthropology actually share a lot of interesting connections. I have no trouble believing that someone interested in one field would also be interested in the other. I'd be shocked if there weren't plenty of academics out there right now with degrees in both.

But the really interesting thing is that Doctor Yu also was just a couple credits shy of an undergraduate degree in musical theater, and that's the skill set that's going to come in handy, since the key to taming the butts turns out to be teaching them elaborate musical numbers. And while it seems a little naive that it never occurred to Doctor Wu that the US government would want the butts as weapons and not breakout Broadway performers, all is forgiven when she desperately yells the line 'Give me three days and I'll get you THE greatest talent show of all time!'

Never change, Doctor Yu. Never change.


Bits and Pieces:

-- The reveal at the end that Doctor Wu had secretly saved the butt named Nathaniel is undoubtedly going to come into play, vis a vis the imminent Buttpocalyse.

-- It pains me to admit it, but I'm totally unfamiliar with the musical Company, and had to look up where the 'Ladies who Lunch' song that we hear in the intro came from. Between this and Glass Onion, Sondheim is having something of a posthumous moment. Good for him. Well deserved.

-- It's heartbreaking that Cliff had gone to all that effort to cover his hand so that holding his grandson would be the first thing he experienced with his newfound sense of touch, only to have that experience replaced by the sensation of crushing Darren Jones' skull. Both Brendan Fraser and Riley Shanahan absolutely killed it with that final monologue about the fragility of life.

-- They really did a wonderful job making the butts feel like a serious threat in that opening sequence. This episode was directed by Christopher Manley, who did a stellar job.

-- Do they really only own one potholder?

-- Subtle one-upmanship that Madame Rouge had better snacks than Rita did for her team meeting.

-- They don't actually know that Madame Rouge didn't have a role in causing the apocalypse. They're just assuming that because she wasn't around in the future. I bet there's more to the story.

-- They're certainly giving us a heck of a lot of buildup to Vic's friend Deric. Are we supposed to assume something super important will happen at, or as a result of, Vic's meeting up with him?

-- Jane having the bag of all white pieces with no edges or corners is a powerful visual metaphor for personal identity. Also, it still appears that Kay straight up murdered Doctor Harrison last episode. I wonder where they're going with the 'the alters all need to find new purposes' stuff. There are some confusing metaphysical issues to parse out there.

-- The musical number that the butts perform is 'Shipoopi', from The Music Man. AKA, that weird slut-shamey number Buddy Hackett sings that everyone always forgets exists. I would love to sit down with the writers' room and ask about the selection.

-- The butts are officially identified as 'Glutious Morticus.' That made me laugh out loud.

-- Vic and Jane used the aliases 'Agent Wolfmann' and Agent Perez.' That made me think fondly of the running gag on Supernatural regarding easily identifiable aliases.


Quotes:

Rita: "Cliff, perhaps you could try swearing a bit less? You’re averaging a staggering number of fucks per hour."

Cliff: "In one hour, right? I’m going to go watch Rockford Files."

Rouge: "The car. I... uh... thought you were using the car as a... metaphor..."

General: "The butts have gotten upset with me!"

Jane: "We’re supposed to be posing as Bureau agents? You could have least told me to change my fucking shirt."

Cliff: "Fuck you, Darren. I came here to fight you and save the world, not commit some kind of weird ass mercy killing!"

Darren: (In Zombie) "Promise me you’ll make good use of my tomato crop. They’re ripe and juicy. Not as delicious as human brains."

Vic: "You must be... the Butt Hunter."

The Butt Hunter: "You know how this business can be."
Jane: "The... butt hunting business?"
The Butt Hunter: "That’s the one."


Okay, I've accepted that the Buttpocalypse is going to be a thing for the entire season. As long as they continue giving us dance numbers, I'm okay with it. Maybe next time something from Pippen?

Seven out of ten car metaphors. It was a lot of fun but felt a little unfocused at times. Can't wait for the next one.

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.

3 comments:

  1. I'm very glad this show and these reviews are back!

    ReplyDelete
  2. D'oh - sorry for not mentioning this in advance, but I've been out of town doing early family Christmas since last Thursday. The review for Nostalgia Patrol will be up tomorrow.

    I totally meant to mention that before leaving.

    ReplyDelete

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