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Doom Patrol: Orqwith Patrol

"OK, I know you’re having some sort of dissociative episode right now, but could you please re-associate?"

The Doom Patrol has finally returned for the back nine of its fourth and final season. And by back nine, I of course mean six. Because that's how many episodes are... you know... left.

Sports metaphors might not be my strong suit.

Let's just establish the most important takeaway from this episode right up front.

Deric totally gets to be a member of the team. The man was being menaced by scissors while holding paper and immediately thought, 'The answer to this situation is "rock".' Honestly, he might have my vote for team leader at this point.

I know that I'd stated in previous reviews of this season that it felt like the mid-season break must have been a surprise to them as a lot of things appeared to have been re-jiggered to make the pacing work that way. I'm not sure about that anymore, as so much of the dialog in this episode is specifically geared toward reminding viewers of important details that happened previously. Rita spells out what happened with Malcolm for anyone who might not remember. Vic restates what his essential problem was with being Cyborg and indeed reminds viewers that he had his tech removed. We get handy reminders of the current status of everyone's longevity sprinkled throughout the dialog. It's all carefully crafted to bring viewers back up to speed after a break.

Which isn't a criticism. Casually reminding viewers of what's gone before after the show returns from being on break is a tricky craft and they handled it well here. But the fact that they were intentionally doing so makes me think that the mid-season split has to have always been part of the plan. There's just too much of this episode with 'remind the viewer' baked into it for that not to be the case.

I'd also like to mention, Rita's exasperated 'It's Larry. There's no question that things have gone as badly as possible for him' line made me laugh out loud. A great example of masking info dump dialog with really good character work.

So, having accepted my thesis that this episode was, at least in part, designed as a way to get viewers back into the Doom Patrol head space, let's talk about how they used the structure of the episode to do that.

This episode is a classic example of 'There's a lot of information to cover, so let's split up the characters into meaningful pairs all acting independently so that no one scene has to carry too much of the weight.' Which is almost always a good way to go. Clearly this episode was always going to be all about getting all of the characters into that same room for that big last minute twist reveal (more about that in a bit), and so they structured the action so that our five pairs of heroes each had their own journey to get there, during which they could helpfully discuss important aspects of what's going on. Well, almost. Sort of.

Maybe it would be useful to illustrate by looking at each pair individually, in order of importance.

5: Larry and Keeg:

The most telling thing about Larry in this episode is that the script itself made 'And we'll deal with Larry if we have the time' into a running joke. Keeg doesn't even appear, and Larry spends what little time we see of him lying in what appears to be a sand dune feeling sorry for himself. Self-pity is actually a huge theme throughout this episode. Larry gave up his longevity last episode in a bid to be more supportive of his 'son' Keeg, and that's basically where he stays in this one. Deric helpfully points out that if they stay in Orqwith they'll both die, since Orqwith is shortly going to cease to exist. And Larry seems to at least consider taking that on board, but that's as much as we get here.

Larry and Keeg are the only characters of significance that don't even bother to make it to the big 'Immortus rising' at the end of the episode. That says everything.

4: Casey and Dorothy:

In what appears to be yet another case of 'just don't have enough time to get into that,' Casey and Dorothy only show up at the very end of the episode without even a hint as to how they got there. Dorothy's connection to Wally and his motivations, however, are crucial to the shows continuing efforts to tie everything from the last three and a half seasons together. Which they're doing remarkably well. I can't imagine that they had this level of detail planned out when they included, just for the sake of example, the farting donkey in season one. And yet here we not only learn the donkey's name but also find out how he has a vital part of what was happening.

And I know I should find a way to care about Casey's relationship with her father, but honestly, at this stage, I just don't. It's not the fault of the scripting or the performances. It's entirely down to my knowledge that there are only five episodes left and I don't have the bandwidth to be interested in her with so much else going on.

3: Jane and Cliff:

Clearly, Cliff's story arc of giving into the temptation to be part of his daughter and grandson's life, betraying Jane when he knows full well that he's literally the only person in the world that she cares enough about to allow herself to be vulnerable to this exact pain of betrayal and choosing to do it anyway should have been its own entire episode. In the same way that Rita and Larry both got an entire episode to tell the story of losing their longevity. Obviously, this was a victim of not having more episodes in the season, and it certainly hits hard enough as it plays out here. But it could have been so much more.

Imagine if Larry or Rita had let Jane down in that exact same way. It would have frustrated and angered her to an extent, but at the end of the day, how much would she have really cared? No, it's Cliff who's earned his way inside her boundaries. The story of him choosing to betray that really deserved its own space.

As things are, Cliff, and by proxy Jane, serve as the fuse for the bomb that is the reveal at the end of the episode. Cliff is the last piece that Immortus needs, so structurally this episode has to play his giving in so that it happens at the right time for the climactic cliffhanger. And it does that well.

But if they'd had time, it could have been so much more.

2: Rita and Laura:

The addition of Michelle Gomez to the cast of this show was nothing short of miraculous. And the cherry on top of that miracle was the discovery of the amazing chemistry that she has with April Bowlby. Both of them are amazing actors, and the way they spark off of one another defies description. Here, they're given the task of reminding everyone of everything that's happened with Malcolm, and Wally, and in the Ant Farm, and all of the reasons that both of them have to feel like terrible people, and to recap their difficult interpersonal relationship, and show up for the final scene with drinks.

And it's all freaking amazing. The fact that the two of them can go from broad comedy like Laura blotting Rita like a bingo dauber onto their new Orqwith gate to Laura owning up to having been too afraid to even try to save Rita, to the drunken comedy about the beaver. Honestly, they're both just astonishing. The exchange about 'The universe seems to be conspiring to keep us enemies. And I don't think we should let it' was one of the most quietly moving things I've ever seen. I love them both to bits. Also, 'We were good. We were on the road to goodness.' Such good scripting.

And finally –

1: Vic and Deric:

I cannot say enough good things about Deric. He's positive. He's focused on the larger picture. He's emotionally available and also willing to call Vic out on his self-pity when he has to. I genuinely don't know if I'm shipping VicRic right now or just really enjoying the character work.

Vic and Deric do all the heavy lifting here on making the environment feel real and threatening. They establish all the important concepts about how the world works, and the way Deric takes to drawing his way out of all the group's problems is my favorite thing in an episode full of favorite things.

And so it was that, with all of these groups having made their way to the central chamber and heard Wally's backstory of woe, we finally reach the brink of destruction as Cliff sacrifices the last piece that Immortus needs to rise, and Immortus rises. And then turns out to be local community theater star and pee watching enthusiast, Isobel Feathers.

I'm almost certain that none of us saw that coming.

And Larry, if we have enough time.

Bits and Pieces:

-- I have serious beef with the good people at Max, formerly HBO Max. They kept us waiting in radio silence for eight months about the fate of these last six episodes and then just started dropping them without bothering to advertise it in any way. I've been actively monitoring the situation and yet still only found out that the episodes had begun streaming by tripping over a review of the first one. Not cool. Not cool at all.

-- There are a number of things from the previous episode that I don't recall particularly well. Normally I would have done a rewatch of the series thus far in preparation. But someone didn't bother to tell me that more episodes were coming and so I didn't have time.

-- Do we know what happened to Mister 104? I don't recall if we were already supposed to know that or if he just disappeared. (Note from Future Mikey: OK, I found time to go back and re-watch 'Hope Patrol,' and we do see Keeg kind of vaporize him when he kicks Larry back into Orqwith. I feel like the fact that I'd either missed it entirely or completely forgotten about it speaks to how quick and un-remarked upon it was at the time. See, it wasn't my fault at all for forgetting.)

-- I still love everything about Doctor Janus.

-- This seems to answer the question about whether Isobel Flowers knocking their time ship off course back in the season opener was significant or just a weird callback. Will we see her do it later this season to make sure the past happened? That feels so last season.

-- No mention of the escaped were-butt this week. I'm sure it will become relevant.

-- Rita's upset because she doesn't feel bad about the several people she's accidentally killed. That's interesting. As is her and Laura bonding hysterically over calling her a serial killer.

-- I applaud Laura's commitment to bringing the drinks cart with at all costs.

-- Cliff's brain cover seems disturbingly easy to remove at this point.

-- 'Hello General Samsonite.' Chef's kiss. No notes.

-- We not only learn the farting donkey's back story, but we also learn that its name was 'Peanut Butter.' Again, no notes.

I'd watch these two together in literally anything.


Rita: "Can’t you move any faster? We are completely exposed!"
Rouge: "I’m a suitcase!"

Deric: "Oh Yeah! Rock beats scissors, motherfuckers!"

Rogue: (reading note) "Gone to Orqwith... for J’s longevity and... rescue Larry... if there’s time."

Cliff: "How are we going to get past the beauty school dropouts. Also, how do they dress themselves? Or... pee?"

Rita: "I’m far too busy being unmoored and useless to build a portal today."

Vic: "You OK, D?"
Deric: "I think I broke my ass."

Jane: "Do you want to touch this weirdo’s shriveled up dick charm, or not?"
Cliff: "...OK."

Madame Rouge: "I wanted to help, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t figure out how. So I had a few drinks, to get the creative juices flowing. And instead, I came up with creative ideas on how to continue drinking. But, um... You’re right to remind me of that failure... too."

Rouge: "I would shove it right up my wee beaver-beaver."

Jane: "Who in the ginger fuck are you?"

I just love the whole look of the Scissormen

In an odd way, this is a fairly workmanlike episode, in that its job was both to build to the final reveal of 'the bad guy has the thing they've been after' as well as 'bring the viewers back up to speed on anything relevant to the rest of the story' and it does both of those well. But it accomplishes them both in such an effortlessly stylish way that it seems churlish to criticize it for being what it was designed to be.

I cannot wait to see where it goes from here, and I can't believe we only have five more episodes of this to look forward to.

Eight out of ten reasons to savor these last few episodes while we can.

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. Michelle Gomez and April Bowlby are just so so good together.

    I agree re: Casey. If it weren't the final season or if we hadn't had a year off, she might feel less shoehorned in but right now I'm missing the airtime for other characters.

    The Isabel Feathers twist was just so delightful and must be so fun for the actress as well!

  2. Oh my god, I bet she's having an absolute ball.

    Apologies for not have Fame Patrol's review up yet. I meant to have it done days ago, but I've been sick as a dog all week with a head cold. I'm not complaining though, I'm just happy it isn't COVID.

    That should be up very shortly


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