This Doom Patrol review contains spoilers.
Doom Patrol Episode 8
It is a great time in genre television when I can talk about a teleporting, sentient, gender-queer street populated by outcasts that features a karaoke drag queen cabaret, but here we are with “Danny Patrol,” one of the sweetest, most heartfelt episodes of Doom Patrol – which also happens to have a musical number by a tuxedoed Matt Bomer.
“Danny Patrol” does not bring us any closer to rescuing The Chief from Mr. Nobody, even though the eighth episode does introduce the beloved Danny the Street character from the comics. However, while I am getting a little nervous about the inevitable season cliffhanger ending, I find my expectation for forward momentum to be slowly worn down because Doom Patrol consistently delivers enjoyable, surreal stories.
And this is one that I think has the potential to pop beyond fans of the genre, while serving as a nice example to the uninitiated about what comic book-based stories can achieve (and how beautifully weird and touching these stories of inclusion can be).
Running from one’s true identity and feeling abnormal are all elements we are used to seeing in superhero stories, but Doom Patrol literally introduces a Bureau of Normalcy, led by Darren Jones, that seeks to eradicate the camp-loving Danny. The episode also ties this to Larry’s backstory, and in flashbacks we witness his torture at the hands of the Bureau, and his first awareness of the Negative energy inside him.
The Bureau is underdeveloped. They are presented as straight-up bad guys, men from nowhere who all look the same, rank phenomena on a scale of abnormality, and unironically toss around words like “abomination.” And you know what? I am cool with us not having more time to learn about them, because they are basically Nazis. They are there to have their asses kicked, and that’s precisely what goes down – thanks to a crowd of “Danny-zens” and drag performer Maura Lee Karupt.
Played by Alan Mingo, Jr., Maura is the heart of Danny Street, and the headliner of Peeping Tom’s Perpetual Cabaret (which has to remain open to keep Danny alive). Shifting from bland Bureau Agent Morris to Maura, Mingo’s portrayal is imbued with sadness, then joy. As great as Danny is as a comic character, the street would be a hard sell in live action without someone like Maura to convey that Danny welcomes all, and allows them to feel more like themselves than they have ever been.
It certainly helps that Mingo has headlined as Lola in Broadway’s Kinky Boots. When he delivers the line “Fabulosity incarnate stands before you; show some goddamn respect” – followed by the aforementioned, and well-deserved, Nazi butt whupping – he earns a crowd pleasing “Hell Yas, Queen!”
It is such a good moment.
The mission to Danny Street (“Always follow the cake”) teams up Vic and Larry, who have some issues with each other. Cyborg calls out Larry for always running from action, and refusing to be a hero. And Larry has a point that, according to Jane’s prophetic painting, Cy might end up killing all of them.
I enjoy we are getting more nuance to Vic as he realizes he belongs more with the misfit toys as opposed to the non-swearing Justice Leaguers. We still need him as a voice calling for heroism, but he’s becoming more aware that heroism is not as simple as it seems. Meanwhile, I hope we’re seeing Larry come out of his own funk, and willing to step up. It would seem so, especially after the ebullient musical number at Peeping Tom’s alongside Maura Lee (and set to Kelly Clarkson’s “People Like Us”) where the “true” Larry performs. Sure, the number was in his own mind, as he repeats “I don’t sing” – but by episode’s end it would appear he really did take the stage before Danny apparates them back to Doom Manor.
As for the other members of Doom Patrol, Cliff and Rita set out to shut down Jane’s psycho love-spell-casting bridezilla Karen. While Larry continues to torture himself for his double life and homosexuality, Rita has made great strides towards self-awareness, and hopefully self-forgiveness. And Cliff is relegated outside, but gets a sweet dance-off with a kid in a robot costume who embraces our Robotman.
As it happens, a little Karen goes a long way, and I hope this nasty, manipulative alter won’t return anytime soon. It would appear she may have gotten sucked into the abyss of Jane’s core – but did her sudden departure short-circuit Jane?
“Danny Patrol” is another highpoint for a series that just keeps getting better. It is heartbreaking to see our characters grasp for any sense of normal life, yet often fail because of what life has done to them, and because they can’t let go of the traumas that seemingly shaped them. Still, if Maura Lee Karupt teaches us anything, it’s that there is hope. It is possible to finding a tribe of “people like us,” and you don’t have to run from yourself.
Doom Patrol is a weird show. But it continues to deliver. And as weird as it all gets, as Larry Trainor says, whether it’s a donkey dimension, or Decreator, it’s best to just “ride the wave.”