This Doom Patrol review contains spoilers.
Doom Patrol Season 2 Episode 7
As its title suggests, Doom Patrol gets pretty dumb this week when the manor experiences an infestation of microscopic beings that feed off of bad ideas, but which reveals Miranda to be an effective primary. Meanwhile, Cliff rockets back to Earth, and vows endlessly to kill the Chief, who is seeking answers in the Yukon, and Rita decides to shadow the Cloverton beekeeper for her community theater role. And once again, Doom Patrol hits us with a silly episode that still manages to push character development forward – even for Willoughby Kipling — and unveils more of Chief’s plan for Dorothy.
“Dumb Patrol” introduces the pink-skinned microscopic beings the Scants which, as a 1950s health class PSA from the Knights Templar explains, implant very bad ideas into infected humans, who then produce “uma-jelly” upon which the creatures feed. Bad ideas as a weapon is incredibly effective, it turns out (and is quite tasty, if the Scant Queen played by Jhemma Ziegler is to be believed).
After some Scant mist inspire Larry, Vic, and Roni to open a crate from the Eismann Gallery marked “Do Not Open” on the front, the back, and the sides – all caps, underlined – we’re treated to great comedic moments where our typically dour characters can get goofy.
(As an aside, the Eismann Gallery “somewhere in Switzerland” is likely a reference to Horst Eismann from the Doom Patrol comics who collects bizarre objects, and who Kipling claimed in the first episode of the season to possess enough magic to return the team to normal size.)
Despite Miranda’s fairly sound advice that Captain Trainor should give his family space, he asks for her to ring up Flit from the Underground – where they both teleport into the hospital where Larry’s grandson was held. The normally morose Larry goes from Negative Man to Positive Man as he chipperly announces himself as “Doctor Trainor” with a lab coat, and almost gets captured by the Bureau of Normalcy.
Meanwhile, Vic and Roni’s relationship, already moving way too fast to be believed, shifts into a whole new gear with them agreeing Vic should just perform surgery on her to remove her tech (an idea Larry is more certain of than anything in his whole life; and he should know since he is already dressed as doctor). Oh, and Cyborg confesses his love to her, which leads to a sweet “booyah” between couples.
Since Vic and Larry are two of the more downer characters on Doom Patrol, this foolish optimism fueled by the Scants is a refreshing breather. This is especially true for Vic. Larry’s arc is often heart wrenching, but meaty, whereas Vic doesn’t typically have as much to do. I have to say, I am like Vic overall more this season.
Kipling also benefits from being a dum-dum. Already a likable smartass, it’s nice to see the drunk wizard taken down a peg. Even he isn’t too smart to avoid getting infected by the Scants, and the Scant Queen prods him about his secret love for Baphomet, the horse-head demon without a body. It makes one almost feel bad for Willoughby, who uses a first edition The Catcher in the Rye for some papercut blood magic to send a message to her.
Rather than the Scantoverse from the comics (created by artists Mike Allred and writer Gerard Way, musician and creator of The Umbrella Academy), the Scants are hanging out in the painting that had trapped Beardhunter and Mr. Nobody. Sporting some Beast Boy Teen Titans Go! undies, Beardhunter mentions Nobody skipped out of the painting for another gig, cheekily referenced in a meta onscreen promo for the animated Harley Quinn series where he plays Joker and Clayface. Along with the Scant Queen’s self-referential magazine, these kinds of jokes work on Doom Patrol because the show has set up the expectation of weirdness, and they allow the viewer to revisit characters like Beardhunter and Nobody (though, for now, in absentia).
But the show also plays with expectations by making Miranda a calming, rational persona as primary. Sure, she seems to be trying hard to be well liked and learn how things are done around Doom Manor because she’s the new kid. Indeed, making breakfast, fawning over Rita as her biggest fan, and offering help from the other alters – not to mention saving the day by killing the Scant Queen – go far in winning the team over. And she appears less chaotic than Jane.
However, Miranda appears to have her own agenda underway in the Underground, and it looks like Jane will be stuck down there investigating. Who will be the one topside to ask for Jane back? Probably Cliff.
That is, unless Cliff isn’t too absorbed with his newly arrived daughter.
In classic Chief fashion, he rocketed Robotman back to Earth (and right through a billboard for the autobiography from the dino-side of Animal-Vegetable-Man, which received accolades from Gerard Way, Doom Patrol writer Jeremy Lambert, and, of course, supervillain Kite Man).
But it turns out he wasn’t trying to kill him, as it initially appeared at the end of last episode. Cliff has a literal journey walking back to the manor, vowing to kill Niles along the way, getting shat upon by a bird (who he also vows to kill), and subjecting himself to pathetic shout-outs as a talking statue in exchange for cellphone use. But Cliff literally wills himself forward and is eventually rewarded with Clara waiting for him – and holding the missing tape of Niles’ confession of what he did to Cliff. I had a suspicion the Chief was out to betray Cliff again, and it seemed confirmed last week, so this reveal was a welcome surprise. The Chief is no saint, but I want him to ultimately be a good guy, perhaps because I can’t help but love Timothy Dalton’s performance so much.
And it does appear that Dalton will have more to do as Chief coming up. His venture into the Yukon, searching for Slava, instead leads to a vision of Candlemaker who suggests he is a creation of Slava’s ancestors. I don’t know if I buy it; Candlemaker has already proven himself to be a manipulator. But the vision is enough for Niles to call upon Kipling, wherein the episode closes with the two appearing to discuss a plan to dispatch Dorothy because she is too powerful to be contained. It’s a dark episode finale for the remorseful Chief to be pondering killing his beloved daughter.
Finally, Rita had her own parental issues to work through this week. While shadowing the Cloverton beekeeper who she is portraying in the community theater show “Our Town” (but not the Thornton Wilder one), she seeks to find inspiration for her one line: “My Bees!” Rather, she ends up drunk with the beekeeper, talking about how parents are sometimes full of their own ideas in an attempt to protect their (potentially also dumb) kids. Rita may think she has found catharsis by talking to the bees, but something inside her might be fixed after all. She demonstrates control over her powers to thwart a mugging, and potentially becoming a real superhero: The Beekeeper? Does Cloverton have a new avenging angel buzzing about?
OK, a final petty thought that is driving me a little bonkers about a show I think is legitimately great, but Rita seems to have a disappearing parasol at the beginning of the ep when she walks up to the beekeeper’s porch. The sudden vanishing act had me wondering if Mr. Nobody was operating behind the scenes after all.
That said, an episode about our heroes having a lot of dumb ideas ended up being a smart story that allowed the actors to stretch a little and have some out-of-character fun in their roles.