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Doom Patrol: Portal Patrol

"I am your incredibly imperfect friend."

Our heroes, at least most of them, brave the dangers of the time stream for one last side quest before the end.

They find a surprising amount of emotional baggage to unpack there.

You know those times when the Doom Patrol establishes what appears to be a classic genre setup for an episode and then, just as they appear to be following the standard template, they instead do something totally different with it?

Yeah, this is one of those.

When last we saw our heroes (and by God I am going to miss saying that) they had finally pushed Isabel/Immortus too far and been flung into the time stream. That same time stream in which she herself had been trapped for eternities.

In the interest of strict accuracy, only five members of the Doom Patrol find themselves trapped in the time stream. Rita, one assumes, remains lying unconscious on her literal death bed back at the manor, while Dorothy and Casey are still nowhere to be seen. None of those three appear in this episode. In fact, Rita's the only one who even gets a brief mention, and that's only in service of bringing Vic up to speed vis-a-vis the whole 'death bed' thing.

So. When we last saw our heroes, 62.50% of them had pushed Isabel/Immortus too far and been flung into the time stream. Fortunately, thanks to Vic's recent re-Cyborgification, he's able to activate 'Pod' protocol, the upshot of which is that he manifests a portable shelter out of himself. I briefly got excited thinking it was a dodecahedron, but closer examination proves that to be incorrect. Which denies me the opportunity to lovingly describe what a dodecahedron is, and so we all lose in this scenario.

My personal disappointments – of which there are many – aside, this give the group a more or less stable environment in which to try and figure a way out of their current prediciment. And what they come up with appears, at first blush, to be a classic 'plot coupon' scenario. Which would absolutely fit with where they are in relation to the oncoming final episode.

A 'plot coupon,' for those playing along at home, is one of a series of items that the plot of the show requires the characters to 'collect' in order to achieve their final goal. They're the Infinity Stones, to cite a popular example. They're not as important in and of themselves as they are as 'the next step in the hero's journey to success.' Interestingly in this case, while we have five heroes on hand, we're only presented with three 'plot coupons' for them to quest after. One hero remaining behind in the base while all the other go after individual coupons is fairly standard, but to deliberately short themselves an additional one and thereby force at least two of the available heroes to pair up after the same coupon is downright odd.

Which is our first significant clue that we're not dealing with a plot coupon situation. Not really. The trappings are all there, but when push comes to shove they don't matter at all. In fact, skipping ahead to the spoilers, all three of the attempts to collect them completely fail. Which is kind of unheard of for this plotline setup.

We're conditioned to expect, 'It's the penultimate episode and all appears to be lost. Next week they have to miraculously win. So, in this one they simply MUST happen upon the means to make that "win" possible. By successfully collecting the newly introduced plot coupons.' That's just how these things work.

And Doom Patrol, being the show it is, it doesn't even bother trying. Instead, it makes fun of the idea while saying 'fuck' a lot.

There aren't words for how much I'm going to miss this show.

What it does instead is throw all three of the plot-coupon-questing teams dead smack into the person they hate most in the world and force them to sit with them for a good long while and deal with it. And without exception it refuses to give anyone any easy answers or moral high ground. It's messy, and it's real, and nobody comes out of it intact. That's what Doom Patrol does.

Taking them by relative chronology, we'll start with Cliff. Having leapt into his portal he finds himself in Paraguay, 1948. The Chief has only just stolen the skin tag of immortality from Heinrich Von Fuchs (no relation) and is rendezvousing with an amusingly drunk Willoughby Kipling at a local bar to make his escape. Enter Cliff, who let's not forget is based on drawings that the Chief has already drawn. Cliff makes the situation clear in the cruelest way possible, and the Chief is... actually pretty cool about the entire thing. He accepts that one day he's going to wrong Cliff but hasn't done it yet and recognizes that he'll have to deal with that once it's happened.

Which is actually an amazingly well adjusted reponse, really. And the capper to the situation, in which Cliff gets to firmly tell the Chief that he's a monster, only to immediately afterwards accidentally break the Chief's spine, thus causing him to use the wheelchair that Cliff always knew him to use, is a really wonderful example of time travel used to dramatic effect. In many ways it's the same situation that Rita and Madame Rouge had in season three. Which of them technically hurt the other first? All we can say is that Cliff made the right choice to not steal Niles' longevity when he had the chance. It was the right thing for him to do, even though every 'plot coupon' story ever is screaming otherwise.

Then, in 1949 at the Ant Farm, Madame Rouge is driven head on into the person she hates most. Herself. The most obvious thing to say about these scenes is that Michelle Gomez shows clearly why she's one of the finest actors currently working. The subtlety she shows regarding the things that have changed in her between 1949 and 2023 and the things that haven't deserve an entire essay on their own.

Larry and Jane, in their turn, end up in Doom Manor in 1996. Cliff is conveniently catontonic that year, so we don't have to deal with him for the moment. We do, however, get to see Larry deal with the being he hates most. The negative spirit. There's just so much to unpack in their interaction. Larry's hurt at having been abandoned. His greater hurt at having been shown joy with Keeg only to have that threatened. The negative spirit's final warning to Larry about passing on his fear to Keeg and how cruel that feels in the moment.

It makes sense that Larry would hope that the Negative Spirit could be Keeg's salvation and it makes equal sense that the Negative Spirit has to turn him down. No one has the high ground here. Everybody's just doing the best they can.

Which brings us to Jane and the person she would have said she hates most, but who turns out to be the only person she can turn to. The Chief, circa 1996. I adore the choice they made here to have Jane acknowledge that they've already done all the fighting they need to do. Now they can simply sit down and talk. She can be honest with him about how it made her feel to learn that he'd prepared a place for her at Josh Clay's home for broken dolls, and he can be honest with her and not deny that he had done so.

It just all feels so emotionally honest and healthy that I can't help but mourn how close that means we all are to the end.

The revelation of what exactly the alters have been trying to get Jane to say was very respectfully handled. Of course, it also happened to her. Of course, they were all affected, Of course, admitting that was the last piece of the puzzle, the last step toward allowing her to become part of a whole.

And so, they all return to Vic's 'not-a-dodecahedron,' none of their plot coupons collected, no closer to a solution as to how they're going to survive the series finale.

They... they are all going to survive the series finale... right?

Not a Dodecahedron.

Bits and Pieces:

-- The reveal that Vic's SOS had reached Deric in the future was nicely seeded in so many ways. The mention of a robot ruled future thrown out as a joke in the pod. Deric's slightly different hair and reference to Mr. Invincible as 'ancient.' They just handled that so well.

-- I'm very much afraid that this is the last we'll see of Mark Sheppard's Willoughby Kipling. He'll be missed.

-- United Jane at the end refers to herself as 'The Kaleidoscope.' Is that going to be her new superhero name? Can she access all of the alters' powers now?

-- It's interesting to speculate as to what would have happened to the other DP members if one of them had suceeded in stealing Niles' longevity totem. It was the same totem in all three time zones. If Cliff had gotten it in 1948, would the future have changed for the others?

-- Watching Rouge beat herself with the 'Weapon' stamp was almost too brutal to watch.

-- What are we supposed to make of the Negative Spirit's talk about 'new life in the sun'? What's that supposed to mean?

-- The brief tidbits we get here about what turned a young Laura De Mille into Madame Rouge are truly heartbreaking.

-- Keeg turns out to be a surprisingly efficient method of communicating plot information without wasting screen time.


Cliff: "So... Technically we’re inside you?"

Larry: "You should know that everyone deserves second or third chances."
Cliff: "Boo."

Cliff: "What, my mitt’s not good enough but you’ll grab on to a used maxipad wrapped in a trenchcoat?"

Willoughby: "Tell me, barkeep. Have you ever had your heart shat upon by a horse?"

Willoughby: "What in the name of good king Christ is that?"
Cliff: "Drunk Merlin is here? Fuck this."

Grid: "You are doing a great job."
Vic: "Grid, turn off positive reinforcements."

Willoughby: "Where the Hell are you from, anyway?"
Cliff: "Oh, I just got here from fucking your mom."

Rouge: "Ah. Well. I kinda hope that hurt."

Cliff: "Newsflash. The Nazis are here."

Niles: "If I’m the man that builds you, then I’m a goddamn genius."
Cliff: "No. You’re a monster."

1949 Rouge: "I am a good person, you fucking bitch."
2023 Rouge: "No. You’re not."

Jane: "I’m so tired of being me."

This is all so unexpected and wonderful and moving and raw, I don't even know how to begin scoring it. Maybe I just don't want to because that will bring the end one plot coupon closer.

The episode is a secret number of plot coupons out of ten.

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. I had mixed thoughts on the use of the Chief. On one hand, his scenes with Jane seemed unexpectedly warm given his actions. On the other, Doom Patrol has always been in favor of providing grace even in the most difficult moments.
    There's also the fact that Timothy Dalton has always played the character with such undeniable warmth and humanity that it's hard not to want to love him. There's real guilt and shame behind his actions and yet you find it so understandable why the team has such complex feelings towards him.

  2. I totally agree. In almost anybody else's hands the chief would be completely hateful, but you're so right about the warmth he brings to the character.

    It's so complicated and conflicted in such a good way


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