Director – Rachel Talalay
Writers – Tamara Becher-Wilkinson & Tom Farrell
Words to describe Doom Patrol and its tone are becoming a diverse array of adjectives. Hilarious, violent, touching, sad, grotesque, crazy and fresh are just some of the words that spring to mind. With each new episode, the show is producing content that ups the ante from the previous week. Just when we think we have seen it all, we see something new! Puppet shows, corridor fights against lederhosen-clad villains and a final frame that defies description.
Following on from last week’s donkey show, the Patrol seek to track down the nefarious Mr Nobody in the hope of being led to Niles Caulder, The Chief. Both were last seen heading into the vortex last week. Using archive photographs from 1948 that place both Morden (Mr Nobody) and that damn donkey in Paraguay, then the only thing for it is to embark on a road trip! This is the catalyst for an extremely amusing travel map sequence that evokes memories of the classic Indiana Jones aeroplane on a map shots, but these are taken up a notch. As our bunch of misfits struggle to navigate their way to Paraguay, doubling back through numerous states en route, their dysfunction is highlighted. They want to achieve their goals, but lack the competence to get there. When the penny drops and they start to click, then I think we are going to see a much slicker team, working in unison to defeat their common enemy.
Amongst the slapstick comedy, the character of Larry Trainor aka Negative Man gets his backstory fully fleshed out this week. In numerous flashback scenes set in the 1960’s, we truly get to see the tragic quality of the man. Credit has to go to Matt Bomer for his nuanced performance throughout, as he struggles to reconcile his life as a family man with a wife and two children against his love for John Bowers, his Air Force colleague with whom he is romantically involved. In the less tolerant and progressive times of the 60’s, especially for military personnel, there is a sense that their love is doomed. Bomer really sells the notion of a man that is trapped by his sense of duty to his wife, whom he clearly still loves, but is being pulled away by his true feelings for Bowers. The performance of Julie McNiven as Cheryl Trainor was excellent too, portraying a wife that is all too aware of what her husband is up to, without explicitly giving it a name. Referring to his extra-marital tryst as “late night drinks with the guys”, it is implied that he has done it before with other men in previous towns he has been stationed in. The scene between the two is acting of the highest calibre, as we are really shown two people that are together because they have to be, rather than because they want to be. Whilst still having love for each other, they would be much happier apart, but the landscape of the decade meant that they would both save face by sticking it out. Larry wouldn’t have to deal with the bigotry and small-minded attitudes towards homosexuality and Cheryl keeps her marriage and public face. I defy anybody to watch their exchanges and not find them riveting, especially the scenes set following Larry’s accident.
Back to the main narrative, and part of the Patrol (Larry, Cliff and Jane), find their way to Paraguay through one of Jane’s multiple powers, and things take a turn for the bizarre, even by this show’s standards. Whilst not wishing to jump head first into spoiler territory, some of the plot points are so far out there they are almost jumping the shark, but I love the show for that. Nothing is deemed too crazy for the script, meaning our principal characters could literally find themselves in any given situation.
The introduction of a seemingly peripheral character named Steve gives the show one of it’s craziest moments, and a final shot that has to be seen to be believed. Research has shown me that this is a villain origin story, served through the twisted prism of the show. Forget your A-list villains, enter Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man. (Look it up, I kid you not). Hopefully this character will re-enter the fold at some point, as there is much to be mined from him and his appearance, it could be solid gold.
I urge everybody to watch the episode without reading countless spoilers, as the Paraguay set-scenes are much better enjoyed cold. So, let’s just say that we get to see the return of Heinrich Von Fuchs, the Nazi scientist that changed Morden to Mr Nobody. The back story of Fuchs and Morden, and how it intertwines with Caulder, is told not via flashback, but by a macabre puppet show. Whilst it is a bizarre concept, it truly work brilliantly within the context of the show. Extremely funny, the marionettes work to tell the story in a highly original fashion. Fuchs’ work with metahumans is also fleshed out, as we see his work is still going on today, with his clinic still attracting the punters that want a power set, staffed by the aforementioned lederhosen-clad Nazis.
Lastly, the show throws up it’s best action sequence to date, as Cliff and Jane take on the Nazis in fight scenes that do not hold back on the blood and guts, as our Teutonic Terrors are eliminated by our misfit heroes in numerous gory ways. Certainly not for the faint of heart, The Raid this is not! But what it does do is show the powerful nature of Cliff and Jane, the former especially as, despite his placid and friendly persona, literally rips his foes to pieces. Don’t get the Robotman angry!
This was another wonderful episode and one that fans of the show are going to call their favourite, at least until next week that is. The bar has been lifted yet again and where will it go next week? Another dimension? The past? The future? Something else? All bets are off and we wait for next Friday with baited breath….