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

Doom Patrol: Nostalgia Patrol

"I really don’t need any shenanigans today."
The Doom Patrol goes to the movies.

Wow. Even for Doom Patrol, that was a lot of F-bombs. Part of me really wants to get a copy of the script, get a total word count, and then find out what percentage of those words were 'Fuck,' because my guess is that it's somewhere around 23-24%.

I have to start off by saying that I'm enormously relieved to get a break from the butt action this week. That was an unfortunate way to phrase that, but you know what I mean. Going by the first two episodes and the 'previously on' segment, one might have been forgiven for assuming that we were going to continue on in that vein as we move inevitably toward the oncoming buttpocalyptic event.

And maybe we still are, who's to say, but it was certainly a pleasant surprise to have nary a butt in sight in this one. They were fun at first, but it's definitely starting to feel like they've overplayed that particular hand.

Instead, what we get this week is a very well-balanced blend of episodic and serialized storytelling. It's hard to get the balance right between the two, and they mostly nailed it here. On the one hand we have this episode's story of Rita, feeling alone and abandoned by her friends, being lured into an elaborate trap by Dr. Janus, who's an emotional vampire. Having trapped Rita inside her own filmography, Dr. Janus needs to drain out Rita's emotions.

As a self-contained storyline for this episode, it's paced out perfectly. Rita, feeling sorry for herself, is easily lured into the trap alone. Her friends find out she's gone and go after her. All but one are caught in the same hallucinogenic trap in which they have to find one another, while one lone member escapes the trap so that she can helpfully track down and relay to the viewer exactly what is going on. Going by the traditional formula, that lone member would wrap things up by returning to the rest of the team with the secret of how to escape, and that would be that.

In this case, however, that lone information seeker is Madame Rouge, so once she's gotten the basic gist of the situation, she just gets drunk and contributes impressively to the aforementioned multitude of F-bombs.

And, side note, I could watch Michelle Gomez do that all day long. My only regret was that Peter Capaldi wasn't there with her to contribute.

So, yes, it's the Doom Patrol's take on that classic trope, 'Real' characters somehow get trapped inside a TV show/film.' I believe that ranks third in the big list of 'Thing every genre show is required to do at some point,' right behind 'Body Swap' and 'Star Trek parody.' And hey, we sort of get one of those as well. Now, this wasn't a new premise even before WandaVision made it its entire central conceit, but the way they approached it here somehow made it feel fresh.

I think that part of the reason it felt that way is the way that they had all of the characters react differently to the situation than we traditionally see. Usually, characters that have become trapped inside fiction come in one of two flavors. Either they're completely unaware of the situation and play along, or they make a million meta references to the narrative conventions of whatever genre of fiction they're trapped in. You know, the 'This is the part where THIS is about to happen, isn't it?' or, 'Oh my god, I'm not the hero, I'm the comic relief!'

Another side note, yes, that last one was from The Last Action Hero. I feel like we were all too hard on that movie at the time. Debate for another day.

Instead of that we got some much more interesting choices. What can loosely be called the non-player characters, i.e., Oliver and the creepy kid who pooped himself, were aware of what was going on, but playing along because they were terrified of the consequences if they disobeyed. This felt a lot to me like the final segment from Twilight Zone: The Movie. You know the one. The segment with the creepy kid who's all powerful and is forcing strangers that he's kidnapped to act like they're his loving family. That's the same sort of vibe. And it's used effectively here to really ratchet up the undertones of dread.

Larry, a fan of Rita's films, mostly just rolls with things. He doesn't go in for a lot of meta comments, he just makes observations about which film they're in and what the basic situation might be if anyone needs to get caught up. He neither pulls toward or against the basic premise, he just lets it sweep him along until he catches up with the rest of the team.

Cliff and Jane, being Cliff and Jane, just hide in a closet and talk about orgasms. They barely even bother to acknowledge the situation. Which was wonderful.

Which brings us to Rita, who was the entire point of the plotline. From a strictly character work perspective, the point of this episode was to lead Rita back from her lingering feeling of detachment from the team to a point where she, and by virtue of osmosis the rest of them, remember that they do actually care about each other. Dare we say, love each other and consider one another family. At first being in her old films was a comfort, and then gradually she came to understand that she'd outgrown who she used to be, and her friends were the reason why. That's a nice pairing of concept and theme. She was literally trapped in nostalgia until she realized that she didn't want to be.

This is what makes me OK with the way that the characters' plotlines broke out. There's one big exception, and we'll get to it in a moment. But the fact that it was Rita, Larry, Jane, and Cliff that were ultimately rescued-ish by Keeg meant that it was the core, original gang that was together to emotionally reconnect. That felt right. Rouge couldn't be there for that, because she hasn't earned it yet. Which the show clearly understands and is deliberately exploring.

And last side note, how wonderful is it that neither the show, nor Madame Rouge, are letting her off the hook for just how bad the things she did last season were.

Then, once we've reached an emotionally satisfying resolution to the current situation, we get the last minute (but let's be honest, kind of expected) reveal that the entire situation was just one part of someone named 'Immortus' doing that 'rising' that we've been hearing about. Nothing ominous about that at all. That was a lovely way to take what was essentially a self-contained story and use it as a foundational block of the larger, season long arc. It's not a new trick, but it's easy to get wrong and they got it right.

Which means we now have to talk about Vic. Sigh. I cannot, for the life of me, understand why the show seems to have this continual need to exclude Vic from the main action. Last season it was Roni, now it appears to be his old high school robot making buddies. Why? Just... why? He's part of the team. Let him be part of the team, for the love of Pete.

In fairness, the Vic plotline in this one wasn't bad. It was just a lot less interesting than everything else going on. We get it, Vic's friends, you're all kind of pissed that he just disappeared from your lives after he became Cyborg. I personally think you're being a little entitled about things, but I get that you have a valid point of view. That's fine. But it felt a lot like flipping back and forth between The Twilight Zone and This is Us, which just wasn't coalescing into one solid episode.


Bits and Pieces:

-- I'd never heard of him, but 'Not-Oliver', aka Mister 104, is a character from the comics. Funny story about science; his character was originally named Mister 103, because he had control over all the elements on the periodic table, and there were 103 of those at the time when the character was created. In later appearances his name was updated to Mister 104, because they'd identified a new one by then. This is all well and good, but we're up to 118 identified elements now, so calling yourself Mister 104 doesn't so much imply that you control every element as it does that you have some sort of deep connection with Rutherfordium. I spent nearly half an hour trying to figure out what that might be before it occurred to me to google the character name.

-- I love, love, love Dr. Janus' look. Everything about it. I also love that until I saw it written I assumed they were saying 'Dr. Janice' and was picturing the Muppet from Doctor Teeth and the Electric Mayhem.

-- We all instantly knew that the flyer was a trap, right? Mysterious knock on the door? Random flyer announcing a day all about Rita, to Rita, who is also all about Rita? I'm a little surprised that none of the rest of the team leaped to the same assumption.

-- So, are Larry and Zeeg okay with each other now? I have so many questions about what's going on with that little dude.

-- We're all assuming that Mr. Invincible the robot is going to be significant to the whole Immortus situation, right?

-- Was that Shelley's eye in the puzzle piece that gave Jane the orgasm?

-- Did I really just type that last sentence?

-- I kind of love the idea of Shelley as a love interest for Jane. I've got my fingers crossed.

-- There's an ongoing theme here of trying to find a new purpose for yourself. It was subtle, but you might have noticed it after the third or fourth mention.

-- I bet Joivan Wade is really enjoying not having to have the prosthetics applied. That has to mean at least a two hour later call in the morning. Maybe three.

-- It made me sad that no one but Rita went to her film fest, but then it occurred to me that Dr. Janus probably didn't bother letting anyone else know it was even happening.

Were you in Star Trek? You never told us you were in Star Trek!

Quotes:

Vic: "We stopped a testicle monster. It was crazy. Screwing up shipping lanes. People could get things like wood for their homes."

Cliff: "Seriously? Are you going to wait for your fucked up manipulative kid who abandoned your self-flagellating ass? Or are you going to support your best friend, Rita?"
Rouge: "Fuck yeah. Rita."
Jane: "Rita!"
Cliff: "Rita! Rita! Rita!"

Rouge: "I think Rita might be... IN... this movie."
Cliff: "No shit."
Rouge: "No, I mean... IN the movie."

Cliff: "Does anyone smell Nutella?"

Larry: "Yeah. Well. Everyone’s life is devoid of something."

Rouge: "Niles Caulder, you selfish, sex-deprived, son of a prick!"

Jane: "You can’t not watch Top Gun."
Cliff: "Hell yeah, Goose."
Jane: "Hell yeah, Maverick."

Cliff: "I’m sorry for blowing you off earlier. We can totally talk about orgasms if you want to."

Cliff: "At least you got to have a fucking orgasm before you died!"


I'm loving season four, and it's zipping by far too fast, considering the current long-term prospects of DC superhero shows.

Eight out of ten samples of Rutherfordium, which does not occur naturally and is presently only created for research purposes by bombarding Californium-249 with Carbon-12 nuclei. Yes, I looked it up, and now feel obligated to use the information.

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.

1 comment:

  1. Mikey, I always enjoy reading your reviews; this one is a hoot. And of course, now I know what Rutherfordium is, so that's a plus. My life has been enriched. :)

    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.