This Doom Patrol review contains spoilers.
Doom Patrol Episode 11 Review
Doom Patrol is something really quite special. More than any other superhero show on television, this series manages to elicit some sort of reaction from me each week. And with “Frances Patrol,” the series now offers up a beautiful story about moving on, and letting go of a loved one – and it involved a giant friggin’ robot-eating alligator. How’s that for variety?
When this series began, I was concerned if Matt Bomer and Brendan Fraser would be relegated to cameos and voice work, but that has thankfully not been the case. Especially with Bomer’s Larry Trainor, the series has allowed him and Matthew Zuk (who plays the bandaged Trainor) to be a tormented self-loathing gay man slowly coming to terms with the negative energy inside him, and with his own sexuality.
It is not too spoilery to mention that in Avengers: Endgame a character says to a hero it is important to let go of the illusion of who we are “supposed” to be, and embrace who we are. That’s something Larry wasn’t able to do before, and even in the highlight episode “Danny Patrol,” he dreamt of being a man who could sing on stage, and feel joy. But it was just that: a dream.
This week, his vision of a life with John – his lover he emotionally abandoned even before Larry sent him away after his accident with the negative spirit – appears to be another dream. Even within that apparent dreamscape, he cannot fully admit who he is, but he does tell John he loves him. But instead of a dream, this is shared fantasy with the real John, on his deathbed in Erie, Pennsylvania (hence why, in the opening scene in the motel, John questions if he is a fever dream, or is dead).
From that tender love scene to the post-coital meal of steak sandwiches, right through to the end where Larry reunites with the older John, the episode is a wonderful love story about people prevented from being together by the time they lived in, but also kept apart by Larry’s own inability to love, and be loved.
Time again was an enemy as it passed over six decades, with Larry forcing himself to be alone while John moved on, and made a fulfilling life for himself. The Negative Man’s arc has been heartbreaking, but also now heartwarming to see him reconnect, and reconcile, with John (and perhaps finally come to terms with the spirit inside). And I am so happy Larry’s tale this season didn’t end in tragedy.
Meanwhile, Cliff and Rita head down to the Sunshine State after the racecar driver’s former pit crew boss Bump became a Florida Man, and died at the jaws of an alligator named Frances.
Cliff’s evolution has also had some fits and stops. He has tried to become a better father via (oftentimes unwanted) attempts to protect his surrogate daughter Jane. But Cliff is also incredibly immature. He says his desire to reconnect with birth daughter Clara, raised by Bump, is about providing her comfort. But it has more to do with him winning his old life back. Like Larry, he hasn’t processed his past, and moved on. And so he trudges into the heart of darkness of the Florida swamp to slay a dragon, and win back the heart of his little princess.
I wish we had gotten face time with Brendan Fraser as Cliff in the episode, but his voice acting is still great as he stumbles, rages, roars, and eventually lets out a moan (or “Om”) of acceptance. But he has to kill that damn gator anyhow, but this time because it tries to eat him.
In a story that already had a lot of heart, Clara’s “Carpe the fucking Diem-ing” eulogy about Bump taking her in, and teaching her not to waste life (like Larry had) is touching. And, despite the quirk of the swamp folk setting, Cliff’s slow realization that best thing he can now as a father is perhaps walk away, is an honest moment.
Doom Patrol handles the fish out of water stuff (and fish in the swamp) stuff with Rita Farr/Gertrude Cramp and Cliff quite effectively. I continue to appreciate how people Average Joes perceive Cliff to be an oddity, but since this is the DC Universe – already populated by gods and monsters — they don’t typically seem so entirely shocked to encounter a rusty robot. And it’s fun seeing Rita, who only a couple episodes ago might be appalled to be hit on by a bubba like Big D, lean into the moment with a G&T, and a whole lotta chicken. The old, petty Rita is still there, though, as we saw when she pestered Jane for an apology for Karen’s actions.
Finally, I’m interested to see how this new Jane works out, with her acting as a leader, and trying to contain the alters in the Underground. The team-up with her and Vic makes sense as he struggles with Grid, a personality within he cannot control – and which is slowly taking control of him with “upgrades.” It will be curious to see how the Bureau of Normalcy toys with Cyborg, and how the elder Silas Stone may be involved.
Again, for the Larry plot alone, this episode is a beautiful one for Doom Patrol.