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

Doom Patrol: Casey Patrol

"OK, Sweetie, you’re up at a Katy Perry, and I’m going to need you to bring it way down to an Alicia Keys."

If this is a back door pilot for a Danny the Street series, I am totally there for it.

I'll admit, this one hit me sideways the first time that I watched it. I'm not sure if that's a 'me' problem or a show problem, so let's try to parse it out.

The main issue I had with it was that it was a complete departure from the cliffhanger that we ended on last week. Rita has been taken down by an emotional vampire! Is she OK? Has she regained consciousness yet? Are Larry and Keeg back in sync with one another? Did Madame Rouge follow through on giving Rita back her leadership position? Will Vic ever be allowed to be a part of the main plotline? Was that Shelley's eye on the puzzle piece, and if so, what does that mean? So many questions, and I was chomping at the bit to get more information on any of them.

And then this week came and completely ignored all of it, instead giving us an utterly beautiful meditation on what it means to be a part of the world, exploring the themes of 'safe spaces' and fictionality through their relationship with 'the real world' while also delivering a truly devastating and beautiful character piece for Dorothy on the role of anger in grief.

It was very much like someone had hit pause on a really exceptionally interesting film so that they could play for me a devestatingly beautiful piece of music. I found myself with viewership whiplash.

But is it fair to hold that against this episode?

To be fair, the show has done this sort of plot structuring before, way back during 'Jane Patrol'/'Hair Patrol,' in which both episodes were separate events happening at the same time and shared common opening and closing scenes. They're doing much the same here, but in this case, they only come together at the end, leaving the viewer with a moment of 'Oh. I see. That's how they're connected.'

While it's tempting to say that a lot of the disconnect between episodes could have been cleaned up by giving us an establishing scene at the beginning from Nostalgia Patrol and then segueing away from it to this story, in this case I think that would have damaged things, as the opening sequence here was kind of a masterpiece as it is and wouldn't have worked nearly as well with added material. So, again, I'm left with the question of whether my trouble connecting with this episode on first viewing was a me problem or a show problem. I suppose the only productive thing to say on the subject is, if you – like me – had trouble connecting with this episode due to the disconnect from the previous one, watch it again.

Because once you just accept that this episode is its own thing and meet it on those terms, it connects. Holy shit, does it connect.

As I mentioned, they're peeling back a lot of layers here. We open with some really lovely animated sequences telling us the 'fictional' adventures of Casey Brinke, aka Space Case. We then fade to Dorothy telling a story to the Dannyzens. At first my assumption was that she was telling them the story of Space Case that we'd just seen in animated form, but in reality, what the script is doing is something much more subtle.


They cut from the fictional adventures of Space Case to Dorothy's story as a very subtle thematic gesture which they will later drive home. Because the story that Dorothy is telling is also fictional. She's lying to the Dannyzens about how she got Niles' necklace back and how it allowed her to contact him in the great hereafter and get some emotional closure. Which is, we later find out, a complete lie. We've gone from one fictional narrative to another. Because the reality, for Dorothy is just too painful, and so she's sheltering in a comforting lie.

In a safe space.

See where the thematic mirroring is happening here?

The story really kicks into gear with the Dannyzens, also sheltering in a safe space, suddenly finding themselves under attack from outside forces that they can't be protected from. The story closes with Dorothy having the emotional shelter of her fictional story similarly broached. And it's interesting to me how the script is very deliberately conflating the concepts of 'Safe Space' and 'Fiction' and 'Lies.' All three are used here as ways that we protect ourselves from pain or harm, but the episode is challenging us to confront what exactly we mean by the three and whether our preconceived value judgements about which of them are 'good' and which are 'bad' really hold up.

- Casey Brinke's world of fiction and its relationship to the 'real world' that the Doom Patrol takes place in.

- Dorothy's comfortable lie that she stole back the necklace herself and already made peace with Niles versus the 'real world' in which she was too afraid of how angry she was with him to try.

- The safe space for the queer community that lives in Danny the Ambulance contrasted with the 'real world' in which you can't even paint a colorful mural announcing that you exist without constant targeting for mockery, abuse, and the very real threat of violence.

All three of those are the same thing.

Maybe, the episode is saying, none of them is intrinsically 'good' or 'bad.' Safe spaces save lives. If you don't understand that, you've never had the general public get to vote on whether you're legally allowed to exist. But, and this is a point that often gets left unsaid, remaining in a safe place does nothing to make the rest of the world safer. And eventually you're going to run out of room. Eventually, somebody is going to have to put in the work to change the unsafe spaces.

This is all impressive enough on a scripting level, but I can't speak highly enough of how they handled Dorothy here. I freely admit, she's never been one of my favorite characters. And in my notes, if you care to check them, you'll see that I initially dismissed her as 'having come down with a bad case of teenage girl,' because they deliberately did not tell us why she was so moody and irritable.

I do want to add - teenage boys are also horrible. Having been one, I can verify that I was a complete pain in the ass.

The angry side of grief doesn't get nearly enough discussion. It comes up a lot in discussions of suicide, because the anger in that form of grief looks more understandable from the outside. It seems to make logical sense. We're usually supposed to pretend that it doesn't happen for deaths from other causes. But nothing about grief is logical, and anyone that's ever lost anyone for any reason will have had moments just like Dorothy's. 'I want you to be here. You're supposed to be here for me, and you are letting me down and part of me hates you for it'.

And it's an amazingly skillful writer who can express what those feelings are like so directly and so honestly. The IMDb lists a few different writers involved, and I don't know which one of them crafted that particular monologue, but if it was you and you're reading this, I'm so sorry for whatever loss you went through that gave you that insight, and your work is amazing.


Bits and Pieces:

-- For anyone unfamiliar with the phrase, 'Bona to Vada' is an example of Polari. This was a coded language used by gay men at a time when homosexuality was both illegal and punishable by death in order that they be able to speak to, and identify themselves to, one another. It's a fictional language made to allow for the safety of marginalized groups in cases where 'real language' would put them in danger. Can't think what that reminds me of... If you're wondering, it means 'Nice to see you.' Polari is a fascinating study, if you have the time and an interest in linguistics.

-- So, how did Torminox and his army of metal bug things get into the 'real world' in the first place? Casey got pulled in by Dorothy, but they were already here. It's implied that it's thanks to the mysterious artist we see at the end, but I'm curious. He appears to know that he's in 'reality' and not in his comic book fiction, and seems to really be surprised by Casey being out as well.

-- Speaking of the artist, I don't know if it's foreshadowing or just a deep cut Easter Egg, but when we first see him he's drawing a Scissorman, one of Grant Morrison's early baddies.

-- I still love everything about Doctor Janus' look.

-- I really liked the way the animation sequences were 2-dimensional images moving around respective to one another in 3-dimensional space. Very cool. I know absolutely nothing about anime, is that an established thing there?

-- Fun fact about film language: In what we broadly call 'the west' we're trained to interpret anything we see that's moving from left to right as 'correct' and 'easy,' and anything moving from right to left as either 'villainous' or 'struggling against something overwhelming.' Mostly because that's the direction in which we read words. That's why, in movies, the army you're supposed to be rooting for is almost always coming from the left. I mention this, because the mural of Casey's father pushing her on the swing on the wall, painted specifically to reach the good man inside of Torminex, has him pushing her from the left toward the right, but the exact same drawing on the artist's desk is reversed, pushing her from right to left. Significance TBD.

-- Big props to the show for how much respect and dignity they consistently show to the Dannyzens. It would be so easy to make fun of them for their looks and lives, but the show consistently celebrates them instead. I love that.

-- We finally got the answer as to where exactly the Dannyzens started living after they became an ambulance. Portal to a magical realm in the back. Obviously. I wonder where Flex has gotten himself to? It was nice that he was at least mentioned.

-- Someone, perhaps several someones, on the writing staff has spent some time in or around the drag world.

-- Nice mirror to last week's episode in that here we have fiction being brought into the real world and last week it was the exact opposite situation.

-- If Danny and the Dannyzens were 'de-boxed,' does that mean that the Candlemaker is okay again too? I hope so.


Quotes:

Really, this section could be every single line that Maura Lee Karupt. Seriously. Alan Mingo Jr. absolutely owned this thing.

Maura: "If I promise not to ask if you’re OK, can I come in?"

Maura: "Excuse me, miss Thing. This Veruca Salt routine is getting real tired, so maybe pull it back a tad, okay?"

Space Case: "Do you have a hyper-speed capable, titanium alloy, intergalactic starship?"
Maura: "It’s in the shop."

Maura: "Is this Tampax?"
Dorothy: "Torminox."
Maura: "Whatever."

Maura: (Drop kicks a possessed Dannyzen out cold) "Sorry, boo!"

Dorothy: "I want to say all of these things to him. But maybe some things are better left unsaid. She needs her dad. Fuck you for turning your back on that."


The first time through I couldn't connect to it because of the expectations that I brought to it. Having spent the last however many words dissecting it, I'm going to go ahead and say that that's a 'me' problem. How can you complain about a curve ball when it's this damn good?

Nine out of ten safe spaces for as long as you need them.

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. It's always fascinating when shows break convention (in multiple ways this episode but most particularly via the lack of the entire main cast) but I especially enjoyed it here. Maura Lee and Dorothy are a solid pairing! (While Dorothy was a tad overwhelming in season 2, I've really enjoyed her guest spots in S3+S4.)

    ReplyDelete

We love comments! We actively monitor, and feed mean, nasty comments to our cats. It’s never too late to comment on an old show, but please don’t spoil future episodes for newbies.