Director – Wayne Yip
Writer – April Fitzsimmons
Perhaps this week saw the most emotional episode of Doom Patrol to date, as we got to see Larry deal with his past. Done in a tasteful, intimate manner, the story highlighted people kept apart by the prejudiced times of the past. Also on past re-connection duty was our favourite robot, Cliff Steele. His arc played out in a more comedic manner, particularly courtesy of the interplay between Cliff and Rita. But, true to form, their journey also didn’t skimp on the pathos. The episode was a multi-layered odyssey that delved deep into the themes of accepting one’s past and who you are/were.
First off to Larry, as, courtesy of a helping hand from the negative spirit, he reconnects with John, his lover from the pre-accident days of the 1960s. Connecting via a dreamscape, we see them sharing intimate moments via bedroom trysts in remote hotels to Larry’s unease in a gay bar. The two sides of his relationship with John are shown here. In the privacy of their motel room, away from judging eyes, Matt Bomer’s performance starkly contrasts with his performance in the bar. His uptight nature perfectly illustrates a man that is still struggling to fully accept himself in terms of his sexuality. Despite being in the relaxed surroundings of the bar, filled with like-minded people, his uncomfortable posture and lack of confidence show his unease. Contrast that with the motel room, where he becomes relaxed, confident and open.
I doff my proverbial cap to both Matt Bomer and Kyle Clements for their performances. The love the two men have for each other is very apparent indeed. Also apparent from their performances is the contrast between John, who is comfortable with who he is, and Larry who is clearly not. The sense of tragedy for Larry is really highlighted by the ensuing decades that he spent estranged from John. The best part of the episode for me was the eventual reunion between Larry and a now-aged John in the present. I feel that this may give Negative Man a sense of closure and allow him to move forward in less of a mournful fashion. Seeing these two lost loves share a moment was masterfully done, a perfect storm of acting, writing and direction.
Our other main plot thread saw Rita and Cliff take a trip to Florida for the funeral of Bump, Cliff’s former friend/crew member and surrogate father to Clara following Cliff’s “death”. This wonderful pairing provided some of the best comedic moments of the series so far. From Rita’s attempts to fit in with the rough and ready locals in Bump’s bar (she loves fried chicken with a G+T chaser), to their journey to the swamp in search of a monstrous alligator named called Frances. The interplay between the two was excellent, and I hope they get to share more fun times together as the season progresses. The source of Bump’s untimely demise, Frances is on Cliff’s hitlist. For reasons both altruistic and self-serving, he wishes to obtain a gold watch from Frances’ stomach to both comfort and attempt to gain some time with Clara.
This ties into the theme of accepting your past and moving into the future explored by the Larry story arc. In Cliff’s case, he hasn’t moved on. Understandable with a daughter there that doesn’t know he is alive (sort of), whose life was lived without her parents around. The first proper meeting between the two of them is likely to carry a lot of emotional heft, with so much baggage to unload between the two of them. When it eventually comes, it is likely to be a combination of the absurd and the heartbreaking.
One other little tidbit from this week was the teased introduction of Flex Mentallo, another Grant Morrison creation. I look forward to this eventual appearance from this “Man of Muscle Mystery”. It is the search for Flex from Vic and Jane that lead to the cliffhanger ending this week, with Vic in the custody of The Bureau of Normalcy and the nefarious Agent Johnson, last seen getting a beating from Maura Lee Karupt on Danny the Street. As we move to the last few episodes of the series now, the ending is in sight. Will the team find and rescue Niles Caulder? Will Cliff re-enter his daughter’s life? How will The Bureau of Normalcy affect matters? With this show, anything can happen and often does. Roll on next week and the intriguingly titles “Cyborg Patrol”.