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Doom Patrol: Youth Patrol

"Uh, actually we took care of the end of the world last week."

Doom Patrol season four continues to jump around in a strangely disconnected way. All the channels it's hopping between are really good, but it's still channel hopping.

OK, that's a little unfair. Particularly as this episode took some major strides toward tying together a number of disparate threads, many of which go all the way back to the very beginning of both the team and the show.

In fact, a significant amount of screentime in this episode was just the team sitting around the kitchen table while a guest character delivers a block of exposition that would sink a lesser actor. So, it's a good thing that Mark Sheppard is back this week as the always wonderful Willoughby Kipling to do the honors, because he's simply built for that kind of thing.

And so it was that over a fairly lengthy scene we learn: what Immortus is, what Immortus wants, what exactly happened to Rita a couple episodes back, what the implications of that are, and where the team keeps the booze in the kitchen. That's a lot of material to get out and explain properly, and if that scene wasn't loaded with actors who have enough charisma to sink a battleship all bringing their A-game, it very easily could have been unbearable.

I want to give a specific shout out to the chemistry between Mark Sheppard and Michelle Gomez which manages here to somehow overshadow Diane Guerrero, a feat that I previously would have sworn to be impossible. I particularly love the way Michelle Gomez leans hard into her Scottish accent as a way to make info dump dialogue more entertaining. It's a subtle touch, and I'm almost entirely certain that it's a deliberate choice on her part.

Another potential problem with that particular scene, outside of the amount of information that it needs to convey, is that they're playing with a trope that almost always goes badly. Yes, they've gone down the 'everything has been connected all this time, ever since the very beginning!' road. This is almost always a decision made retroactively, which means that it usually doesn't hold together and instead reeks of lazy plotting for the sake of pretending that you had everything planned out in advance. We all saw the film Spectre. We know how badly this can go.

Now, I have no idea if the plan was always to circle back around to the team's uncanny ability to not age at all over decades of time and make it the central point around which literally everything that's happened over the last four seasons has been pivoting, or if they've just done an exceptionally good job of retrofitting things, but man do they make it feel earned here. It does all seem to make logical sense.

-- Season one was about the reveal that The Chief had caused all of their accidents and had been using them as a cruel experiment.

-- Season two revealed that his motivation for the experimentation was because he was desperate to keep his daughter from growing up because he thought it would be the end of the world if she did.

-- Season three was about reaffirming that every show is improved by the addition of Michelle Gomez. Not strictly relevant at the moment, but I always like to bring it up.

Now we get the reveal of how that all ties together. And now that it's been pointed out, it is odd that I never stopped to think how strange it is that all four of the OG DPs coincidentally had 'never aging' as part of their power set. At the time it read well enough as a narrative convention, since them never aging meant that they could come from wildly divergent times and places, which is just more interesting. But the reveal here that Niles had deliberately added that to the mix by imbuing each of them with a little bit of the 'never aging' necklace that he'd been using to also never age himself makes solid sense, not only in terms of plotting and characterization, but also as a way to make the consequences of his actions feel inevitable. On some level, it feels like if we'd only ever stopped to notice that their immortality was a bit odd, then we could have foreseen that there would be consequences for it.

We couldn't have, of course, but it certainly plays like that now, and that's an impressive trick.

Beyond that, we have three disparate things happening in this episode, two of which dovetail while the other just sort of interrupts periodically.

What we can broadly call the 'wacky misadventure of the week,' i.e., the de-aging of most of the team, has a really nice balance between playing the situation for laughs and using the discussion of what it's like to be a teenager for some wonderful character work. Laura's use of her shapeshifting abilities to keep her body from showing that she's been as affected as the rest of the team led to the beautiful scene between her and Rita, in which her willingness to lose control and show what she really looked like gave me genuine hope that they might somehow heal the catastrophic rift in what was once a very touching friendship.

In opposition to that, we have the team dealing with the ramifications of Immortus wanting to take their immortality in order to restore itself to the universe. Which slots the events of this episode as one more logical step in the broader 'Immortus Rising' storyline.

As for the third thread, I'd complain about it being Larry's turn to not be part of the main plotline were it not for the fact that he and Rama, a.k.a. Mister 104, are clearly being set up as a romantic interest, and they're so damn cute together that I can't bring myself to complain. I do feel obligated to say that the scenes of them getting to watch one another's torture at the hands of the Bureau didn't really add much to the episode. I get that Keeg was trying to forge a connection between them, but it was too much screentime for too little payoff. But still, adorable. Can their couple-name be Llama?


Bits and Pieces:

-- It was weird that so much of the 'previously on' segment focused on Dorothy and the Dannizens, only for them to never appear or become relevant.

-- The whole 'It was all connected all along' thing feels troublingly like 'final season' material. Particularly given the current state of DC TV shows. I'm wondering if the disconnected jumping around between episodes is a sign that things had to be retooled a bit so that they could break up a twelve-episode series into two six-part halves, giving them a 'mid-season finale' and stretching a little more bang for the buck out of a series that they're already moving toward the exit.

-- What did Bunbury do to Willoughby to re-age him? It looked like he sneezed a lot of cocaine in his face. Also, did Bunbury just steal Jane's longevity? Is Bunbury working for Immortus as well now?

-- I didn't entirely buy Cliff suddenly trying to take the moral high ground so that he could continue partying.

-- Jane's meditation on the fact that she, as a personality, had never existed during a 'teenage period' led to the wonderful moment in which Kay affirms Jane's right to exist as a person, on her own. It's not Kay's body, it's their body. That was nicely handled.

-- I was very grateful that they found a way to fix the problem that didn't involve a clearly underage actor playing Willoughby having to have sex. That was starting to feel uncomfortable.

-- That said, I will feel enormously cheated if we never see or find out more about Miss April and her Teleporting Tea room in Toledo.

-- I continue to respect how much they aren't letting Laura off the hook for what she did to Malcolm and Rita. They even went so far as to say quite explicitly that she knows she can't ever be forgiven for it. She's trying to be a better person without hope of reward. I felt a lot of nostalgia for Angel.

-- Mark Sheppard with Fabio hair. Enough said.

-- Charlie, Jeremy and Winona were way more interesting than they needed to be.

Not pictured: Mark Sheppard, doing all of the heavy lifting.

Quotes:

Cliff: "Consider the Butts wiped. Front. To Back."

Willoughby: "This is an inter-dimensional deity capable of swallowing the entirety of existence whole! This could be the end of reality as we know it."
Madame Rouge: "Oh, fuck me senseless and call me Martha."

Willoughby: "There are no depths to your collective stupidity, are there."

Jane: "Look who got metal back."
Vic: "Shut up, Hot Topic."

Willoughby: "That, was a de-aging spell, you whatever the female equivalent of a dickhead is."
Jane: "Clithead?"

Cliff: "I kinda feel like pounding a metric ton of Taco Bell and whacking off."

Willoughby: "We’re getting into the car, without the cast of Freaks and Geeks After Dark."

Madame Rouge: "Under this, I am very much not fine, Rita. Believe me."

Cliff: "Who wants to put Molly in my tank hole!!"


This one was a lot of fun with a couple of missed opportunities. I can't wait to see how the rest of the Immortus storyline plays out, and that's not how I felt until this episode.

It is a little weird how completely unconnected the last couple of episodes have felt from one another, however.

Eight out of ten mystical warrior rabbits.

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.

4 comments:

  1. I'm pretty sure the "previously on" for this week and the last got switched. Last week's was all about the team and immortus plot which mostly wasn't relevant and this was all about Dorothy. A kind of bizarre mistake but kinda fascinating that it happened.

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  2. That makes so much sense. And it reinforces my belief that some behind the scenes re jigging was happening. Thank you

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  3. Reading your review also made me remember that I felt like there were vibes between Cyborg and one of the queer gas station kids and I was kind of disappointed they never followed up on that

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  4. I was too! I believe it was Charlie. And vic was not not into it

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