This Doom Patrol review contains spoilers.
Doom Patrol Season 2 Episode 5
Well, that escalated quickly. After what seems like a fairly low-key episode where Doom Patrol lulls viewers into a false sense of security, all hell breaks out, and there’s no going back now. A stark shift from the party atmosphere of last week, “Finger Patrol” delivers betrayal, murder, and a severed finger. Oh, and a ‘70s-inspired opening credits for a show starring our robot cops.
The episode feels like a little bit of clean up after the Danny party, and at first it seems as if our characters will be processing the emotions and revelations from that episode. Rita goes to audition for community theater, Larry sets out to help his son Paul clean out his dead son’s home, and Vic basically stalks Roni (with Cliff in tow), and Dorothy seems content to be a little girl and play with Baby Doll. And Chief continues on his apology tour, currently with Jane.
This Jane and Chief scene is a strong character moment because she doesn’t forgive him, but does appear to believe him, and is amenable to his help. The shift from Jane to Baby Doll is both immediately touching and foreboding. Baby Doll is Niles’ adopted daughter, and he has been a very bad dad. Sure, it’s sweet to see Baby Doll and Dorothy have a BFF meet-cute, but as Hammerhead observes, all kids fight, and a skirmish is certainly to be expected.
Also, both Baby Doll and Dorothy are already immature for their ages due to lives locked away by grown-ups. Dorothy still wants to be taken more seriously, and all Baby Doll knows how to do is play. Their slights and moments of childish cruelty are almost understandable – except these little girls also possess immense super powers.
Meanwhile Cliff – who is less angry post-ecstasy – confronts Chief about the Robotman 2.0 sketches. I found myself wanting to believe Niles as he says he’s just clearing out some creative excrement, and that Cliff has to be patient. But lest we forget, there was Cliff’s vision of Chief dismantling the Robotman. Surely that has to be on Cliff’s mind as he asks Vic to take him to his dad (and Cliff’s speech about losing his memory of feelings is, without irony, touching).
It’s just too bad that Silas Stone is so damn arrogant and righteous. It is great to see Phil Morris back on the show as Silas, but after he became a slightly more empathetic character, Stone’s back to being a total jerk by refusing to assist Cliff. It is not that he can’t, but he refuses to fix one of Niles Caulder’s misfit toys. Still, Silas’ refusal underscores how the Chief seems to create a trail of destruction so much that it impacts his “children,” even when they need help. They are the doomed patrol as much as the Doom Patrol.
But the road trip to see Silas allows for solid character work between Cyborg and Cliff. It feels like it has been a while since we saw these two have so much time together, and it works. Cliff even (almost) gives good advice to Vic about apologizing to Roni, and I was expecting something way more machismo-fueled.
(Although the Roni stuff itself is not working. It feels like the Vic/Roni relationship is happening too quickly, and the character lacks enough substance. Perhaps she’s meant to be mysterious, and it’s just a set up for the mysterious Quorum, but it feels flat thus far.)
So how long was Cliff waiting in the car as Vic and Roni reunite and have sex? Apparently long enough for the robot daydreams of him and Cyborg fighting crime in a 1970s cop show called Steele & Stone. This whole grainy visual detour is classic “everybody into the pool” Doom Patrol storytelling. It’s weird, and funny, and pitch perfect (and I want to see more characters in wigs now, thanks).
But it also marks the episode’s shift.
Cliff wakes from his daydream (complete with theme song) to catch a car robbery in progress. Even if he just wants to blow off some aggression, his desire to fight crime is somewhat admirable. It’s too bad that his efforts result in a detached digit (which could come in handy for the Chief’s Robotman upgrades). The moment is cartoonishly violent, and I half expected Cliff to get himself into more trouble. But as it happens, this isn’t the big moment of the show.
Rather, the glimmer of hope surrounding Larry’s warm homecoming dissipates fast. The sweet, amber-hued hug from Paul, and the introductions to his grandson, and great-grandson, are accompanied by tension. Rita wisely, drunkenly, calls it out that there are still open wounds. It almost appears that Larry and Paul are sorting it out. The moment where he comes out to his son is real, and believable, but the promise of a life filled with family is immediately robbed as Paul reveals his betrayal.
What follows is a straight-up superhero genre show moment but imbued with more feeling than most. It is cool to see Larry’s negative spirit unleashed, and Rita behaves heroically in saving the boy’s life before the spirit swoops them all away. But they are also flying away from Larry’s chance of a new normal with a family. And now there’s also the issue of a pursuing Department of Defense, and Paul’s foolish notion that it was Larry that resulted in Dex being shot.
As if this doesn’t pull the rug out from a fairly chill episode, “Finger Patrol” ends on a brutal note. While Chief – who needs to stop leaving his schematics laying about — blissfully thinks Dorothy and Baby Doll are playing about, the children set about trying to kill one another.
The scene in the boiler room is shockingly dark. Dorothy orchestrated the nasty scare on Baby Doll, but the latter exhibits new powers by telekinetically lifting the other girl and tossing her in the furnace. It all happens so fast as the children’s anger, hurt, jealousy (and Dorothy’s refusal to believe her father is flawed) are unleashed with unchecked power. Interestingly, as powerful as Dorothy is with her imaginary friends, Jane might be even more so with the power to summon multiple alters at once. Flaming Katy’s devastating murder of Manny the Wendigo –Dorothy’s first, and best friend (and her mother’s friend) – sets up the wish setting Candlemaker free.
Suddenly, an episode where I didn’t expect much to happen alters the rest of the season with Candlemaker infiltrating the Underground and killing Baby Doll in the most ruthless fashion. It is a great introduction of Candlemaker after he’s been largely relegated to an episode 2 glimpse, and as a voice in Dorothy’s head. He is clearly a massive threat if he can enter the Underground, and there’s no way Jane can defend the Chief and young Ms. Spinner from the other alters.
It feels like war has just begun, and a big bad demon is now on the loose.
“Finger Patrol” ends on a shocker, and sets the stage for the rest of the season… although I still wish we had gotten to see that killer tea party Cliff missed.