This Doom Patrol review contains spoilers.
Doom Patrol Episode 13
A Man of Muscle Mystery arrives on the scene in Doom Patrol Episode 13, while Rita has a cathartic journey that propels her into a leadership role, and right into the hands of Mr. Nobody. “Flex Patrol” is another solid episode, but doesn’t have the same weight of the series highlights, even though it would appear the team is finally getting together.
Primarily, April Bowlby needs to be highlighted for her work this week. Her evolution of Rita this season has been compelling, gradual, and honest. It has felt like a hero waking up to acknowledge her purpose. Bowlby has grown the character without entirely abandoning her vanity, ego, and occasional pettiness, and the result is a Rita Farr that maintains her biting sarcasm but then is incredibly vulnerable as she was opposite guest star Ed Asner. Speaking of Asner, he is underused, which is a shame for an actor that can light up a scene. Still, as a listening post to Rita, it’s good to see him.
It is interesting that Rita’s big baby secret — revealed under the gaze of ominous art deco nurse paintings that overlooked an antique baby carriage – was less horrible than I somehow expected. I came to believe we’d learn Rita smothered her own child, or something of the like. Instead, her sin is far more relatable. She set up casting couch meetings between a slimy producer and aspiring starlets, while she got cast in more roles, and convinced herself the fortunes were win-win-win. That is, until Marybeth Wooten ended up with a child from the producer, instead of a career, and took her own life. Her line that “Looking the other way should be so much harder than it actually is” is incredibly self-aware for Rita, and also relatable.
It is somewhat curious that Mr. Nobody’s ultimate plan, to cause the formation of a true super hero team out of these “emo navel gazers.” To force a battle between good and evil, he has been a catalyst to each character’s development – well, except for Vic. He has just tried to screw him up, and take him out of the picture (which might mean Cyborg is the key to stopping him).
As much as I enjoy Alan Tudyk’s near-omnipotent toxic fan of a villain (decked out in all his Doom Patrol swag), and really hope the final two episodes heavily involve him, I worry about Darren Jones, and the Bureau of Normalcy. The secret government agency has emerged as a competing threat for the team, which means they’ll have to be further dealt with while Nobody is also squashed (and apparently the Nazi scientist Heinrich Von Fuchs may not be as dead as we expected).
So Flex Mentallo is prisoner 722 from the Ant Farm, and both Vic and Larry (and the negative energy spirit) ended up being his neighbor. Although Vic’s experience with Flex is way different than the Man of Muscle Mystery we meet this week, portrayed by Devan Long.
Flex is another character that Doom Patrol has gotten right from the source material. He just looks right in this TV universe as a good guy to the core, who happens to have a lot of swagger. It is hard not to like Flex as he goes from saving a kitten in a tree to determining to break out of Ant Farm with Larry. He’s a man of action, which makes it all the more depressing to see him break when he learns his wife has been held captive by the Bureau.
I credit Long’s range and nuance with Flex in the episode, going from hero to wounded man-child amnesiac, to reuniting with his love, and then losing her (in a Thanos-snapture scene that feels more painful and horrific than most of what we saw in Avengers: Infinity War). Now I want to see Flex mess crap (not scrap) up with the Bureau – and Mr. Nobody.
It will be interesting to see where Larry and his “pal” go from here. Larry has always had enough self-loathing verging on death wish, but he does honestly seem ready to release the spirit now that he understands their bond more. But I hope Captain Trainor decides to step it up more. Instead of running away, he (like Rita) needs to own up to his mistakes, and the fact that he essentially left Flex to rot. Also, now that Larry literally needs the spirit to live, but it can choose to leave, their entire dynamic can shift.
Finally, I happen to like Cliff and Jane more when they get along, and the final moment of him putting his hand on her shoulder seems to signal they could be headed back to a good place. And yeah, Cliff is kinda right that they should take a little pride in the fact that they actually accomplished something – even though it came at a cost of Vic’s sanity.