This Doom Patrol review contains spoilers.
Doom Patrol Episode 5
“Honey, I just traveled all the way from Jersey to Barcelona, cut open a priest, climbed inside him, and landed in a snow globe, and now I’m standing here talking to a friggin’ robot man.”
And that is Doom Patrol, friends. The weirdness, and dark humor, make it a fun ride, but the emotional arcs of these characters makes it a great show. After all, in this week’s hero/villain team-up – with a “bit wonky” plan to start a religion to stop a cult — we have prophetic cockroach Ezekiel debating the production of cheese post-apocalypse in the same episode as a younger Jane endures abuse at a mental facility, and Larry continues to unravel due to his own self-loathing, and identity crisis.
Somehow it all works in “Paw Patrol.”
While last week’s episode introduced us to the excellent Mark Sheppard as Kipling in a good magical episode, it felt like a departure from the main story of finding the Chief, and stopping Mr. Nobody. But the show benefits from the return of Alan Tudyk’s Nobody and Timothy Dalton’s Caulder.
Dalton gets a lot to do this week, showing different sides of his character, and reminding us why he’s so good in this show. The scene between him and Tudyk crackles as these two actors appear to be having great fun with their characters, and with one another. Dalton’s Chief is so charming and mischievous and it plays perfectly against Nobody’s meta-arrogance and (limited) omniscience. I want more of the Chief and his frenemy/drinking buddy Kipling (Dalton and Sheppard play perfectly off one another, and the history hinted at between them is believable).
Meanwhile, the moments of the Chief speaking tenderly to his new rescue Jane, and the sadness he feels at having to leave his family once more, offer another dimension to the character. Even the brief scene of Chief telling Vic he can’t be a hero and have the luxury of looking at the world in simple black/white terms was effective.
The plan to counter the Decreator and The Cult of the Unwritten Book by launching a cult of the Recreator, which involves Nobody manipulating Jane in the past while Caulder searches for their own book (on a pug, and not on some tattooed douchbag) is ridiculous, but also appropriately comic book-y, and perfect for the show. Plus, it requires spending a lot of time with Jane’s alter, Dr. Harrison.
Harrison’s power of insight and influence emerges in a tonally dark scene of Jane in 1977 as she’s abused in the sanatorium. The violence against Jane, the history of her core personality Kay, and the threat of the creepy doctor make the early asylum scene squirm-worthy. It almost makes you believe the Archon of Nurnheim when she says, “what peace nothingness brings.”
Diane Gurrero continues to have quite the task handling all of Jane’s alters, but Harrison is especially interesting, and I wonder if we’ll see her again. The montage of her spreading the good word of the Recreator, and interactions with the other patients as they workshop the particulars of the religion is especially zippy, and a nice balance to the dark asylum stuff.
The Archon of Nurnheim also states that “very few of us want to be what we are,” and while that can be said of all of these characters each week, it is especially true as this week. Cliff wants to be a father again, and view Jane as his menu-item of choice (and she accurately points how selfish this is of him. Vic doesn’t want to be a Cyborg, and project for his father to work on. Larry tortures himself in his own “s—tstorm hell” because he believes he ruins the lives of all he encounters.
Ironically, it’s Rita who transforms the most in the episode. Her attachment to Elliot encourages her to not simply step up as a hero, but as a human. I appreciate her terrible, beautiful world philosophy, but assurances to the boy that it is regardless worth living in it. Now that he has been Thanos-snapped by the Decreator, and doesn’t seem to be back, will she backslide to being self-absorbed, and removed?
Another lingering question is why did Nobody implant in Jane to find the Doom Patrol? Is this a group that pre-existed our current line-up, and might this reveal some of the Chief’s less altruistic motivations in the past? At least Nobody’s scheme doesn’t involve Jane puking every time she thinks of the Doom Patrol (which was a particularly mean booby trap to plant on the Chief).
And more importantly, when will we see more of Caulder flirting with the magical Baphomet? (Kudos to actor Chantelle Barry for imbuing such sultry personality into a computer generated blue horse oracular demon). Did Marilyn survive, because I kind of love her?
Though the final act was choppy, it didn’t detract from the overall strength of this week’s Doom Patrol. The team can operate on its own without Mr. Nobody and the Chief, but their re-appearance after a two-episode absence adds to the series. Hopefully they won’t be sidelined again, and the mission against Nobody ramps up.
Listen to the Sci Fi Fidelity podcast discussion of Doom Patrol: