Besides updating the main members of the Doom Patrol, Grant Morrison and Richard Case created several very memorable secondary characters in their run of the comic. This episode introduces one of them: Danny the Street. Danny is a living, sentient, transgender street that can teleport themselves anywhere in the world. Danny the Street brings some unfamiliar elements into the world the show: happiness and hope. Which of course is what Danny does; it’s inherent to what Danny is. The comic ultimately had a lot more to say about Danny‘ s origins. That may or may not ever be relevant for the world of the show so I’ll hold off on going into it here.
The show does an excellent job of representing Danny, leaving out only the old-fashioned gay slang that peppers their dialog in the comic. The script adds the fact that Danny and The Chief are old acquaintances, which smoothly introduces him into the plot: Danny turns to the Chief for help with a growing threat that pursues them. Vic and Larry follow up, not knowing what Danny is yet, but hoping for some more clues about The Chief.
Danny is being hunted by the Bureau of Normalcy, which we learn was the hinted-at black ops agency that Larry and the Negative Spirit were forced to work for decades ago. In concept and goals the Bureau is a very Morrison-styled element, the kind of thing that shows up often in his writing. In the comics “Mr. Jones” was a madman who took it on himself to destroy “quirks” and inforce his vision of normalcy on the world. Danny the Street, and the Dannizens who live on him, were the embodiment of such quirkiness. That his idea of normalcy was actually more like a Salvador Dali nightmare sit-com got the point of such hypocrisy across pretty bluntly. Mr. Jones was actually a rogue agent from a government/military organization with similar, if more focused and organized, goals. Never officially named, this group would become a main nemesis for the team in both the Morrison/Case and Rachel Pollack runs of the comic.
The TV show streamlines things and just makes Darren Jones a field agent of the Bureau. Unfortunately they then off as a bland, clichéd over-zealous military agency rather than the surreal occult/mystic/paranormal cabal that Morrison/Case would use. No Men in Green? No Men from N.O.W.H.E.R.E.? There was a passing mention of The Ant Farm (the second in the show so far I believe) but I don’t have high hopes that we will eventually get the hellish entity that expresses one of Grant Morrison’s most chilling visions of authoritarian evil. The show appears to have reached its weirdness capacity, deciding that going full-Morrison may be just too much.
Vic and Larry are in conflict over whether to help Danny and his residents. They meet the former Bureau Agent Morris, who original infiltrated Danny to destroy it, but was transformed by the liberating joy of life with Danny, and is now the drag performer Maura Lee Karupt. Vic, whatever doubts he has been facing lately, believes in his role as a superhero and is ready to save the day. Larry knows what the Bureau is capable of and wants nothing to do with it. From what we’ve seen of his inner conflicts, it’s probably not so much what the Bureau did to him, but what they made him do, that has left him traumatized. I completely fell for the song-and-dance number, where it seemed like Danny had convinced Larry that a path of hope and belief could overcome even the Bureau. The only thing I though felt off was Larry visualizing himself as “normal,” which seemed counter to the self-acceptance message of the fantasy. Still it was a shock to crash back to the reality of Larry’s despair.
It ends up being Maura who solves the deadlock by their willingness to sacrifice and fight to save Danny and the Dannizens. Everyone rallies together to stand up to an assault by a Bureau attack squad, led by Jones. We then come to something else that bothered me in the show’s adaptation of this story. We all like to see an evil bully get his comeuppance, but something about a violent fist fight, even a duel with willing one against one combatants, seemed off. Maura’s beat down on Jones isn’t a very Danny The Street thing to happen. In the comic Danny themselves finishes Jones off in a more appropriate, fitting, and “Danny” fashion, without direct violence.
With the Bureau out of the way for now, Vic and Larry can get to the main reason they came here in the first place. Unfortunately Danny knows about, and is terrified of Mr. Nobody, and insists they can’t get involved. I hope the reasons for this will be further developed. The one clue Danny can provide is a comic book, an issue of “My Greatest Adventure,’ the comic the Doom Patrol first appeared in, here in “real world.” It suggests an ongoing mixing of reality and comics that is both a common feature of Grant Morrison’s writing as well as DC comics lore as a whole. After all, when Barry Allen gained the power of super-speed he named himself The Flash after an old comic book character he read as a child. The character, Jay Garrick, was eventually revealed as the Flash from a parallel Earth, whose adventures inter-dimensionally influenced the subconscious of comic author Gardner Fox when he “invented” the Flash in the 1940’s. In light of those sorts of shenanigans, some of the craziness in Doom Patrol doesn’t seem quite so weird does it? That the comic Danny provided wasn’t titled “My Greenest Adventure” was a little disappointing, another case of the show dialing back on some of Grant Morrison’s wilder ideas, though we’ll see what that comic eventually means to the show’s plot.
I’ve been looking at the Danny storyline so far, but this episode actually had an A plot/B plot structure. While Larry and Vic have been off on their adventure, Cliff and Rita have their own problems to deal with. After Jane stormed off last episode, a persona named Karen has taken charge. Karen is the embodiment of a rom-com heroine, with the power to make people love her. I think Karen is an original creation of the show, though her name might have appeared in a list or diagram somewhere. She’s run off to live happily-ever-after with the poor sap she’s picked as her soulmate. The other personas are struggling against Karen and warn of dangerous consequences if she gets her way. Karen makes the argument that why shouldn’t she have a chance of happiness? That she is using her mind powers to gain that happiness is a big flaw in her case though. Karen insists she should be the primary persona, rather than Jane, whom she calls a “manic pixie dream girl.” That is a very interesting insult, particularly with the problems I have with Jane’s presentation on the show. In the Morrison/Case comics, I can see one making that accusation of Crazy Jane, given her quickly wardrobe and offbeat art projects. I don’t think it is accurate, but I can see it being made. That is not the Jane of the show though, who is more a brooding goth. I keep feeling that there is a disconnect between the show’s intent for Jane and how she ends up being specifically written.
The attempts to stop Karen don’t go well, as even Rita falls under her spell. Cliff though seems immune, and when chaos breaks out at Karen’s would-be wedding Hammerhead gets control and is almost murders Karen’s fiancé. The shock of this conflict throws Jane into a comatose state, setting up the next episode. How Jane got to this point in the comic was very different, but the end result is that same, leading to a pivotal chapter in the overall storyline
Besides these two storyline, there is a small third C plot, involving Cliff. A young boy spots Cliff, and at first seems frightened of him. Later he shows up again, now wearing his own homemade robot suit, and the two of them have a dance off, exchanging pop-and-lock moves. It’s a rare positive story beat for Cliff, and we see he has the potential, given a chance, to actually be a good father. For at that moment at least, in the way that really matters, Cliff too gets to be on Danny the Street.