Doom Patrol, Episode Eleven: “Frances Patrol”

Doom Patrol TV continues its trend of telling its own stories about its own versions of the characters, taking only occasional inspirations and ideas from the comics. That’s a good direction for the show to move in. One of the interesting things about Doom Patrol as a story concept is how each team of creators have developed their own visions and styles, even when starting from some of the same ideas. The TV show’s version of Mr. Nobody is different from Grant Morrison’s, as Keith Giffin’s was different from that, and Gerald Way’s version was different again. As these posts are primarily about examining how the show develops and transforms ideas from the comic, I have (relatively) less to say about episodes such as this. There are four ongoing plots at this point, so I’ll start with a few comments about the main two, which are original to the TV series: in the comics, Cliff has no daughter, nor did Larry ever know a John Bowers.

Larry

This was a nice step forward for Larry, finding out that his dream visits with his lover John have not been dreams, but psychic rendezvous orchestrated by the Negative Spirit. I was expecting that the Spirit was trying to communicate through the memories of John, so this was a pleasant surprise. It makes sense too, since Larry has to resolve his relationship with John before he can move on the address his relation with the Spirit. There was also a quick reference to Larry attributing his life extension to the radiation that fills his body. At this point the characters’ apparent immortality could be attributed to either The Chief sharing some of his secret or to their own unique natures. It was also a nice touch to show some of Larry’s experiences overlapping with what was happened to the others the past two episodes. That strengthens the show’s storytelling philosophy that there is always more going on than one might think, and that each character is the main character of their own lives and stories.

Cliff and Rita

While Cliff’s chapter had some nice elements, on the whole I thought it was too contrived, the circumstances too much “TV plotting.” While not much is really resolved for the Cliff the way things were for Larry, I hope this is the ending for the Clara storyline and they don’t keep dragging it out. Rita’s growth was more engaging to me. She’s come a long way from the first episode, where she lost control after just a few moments of interaction with the outside world. Trying to remake herself as who she really is, rather than the screen illusion of “Rita Farr” seems to be giving her strength.

Grid

Moving to what the other characters are up to, Vic’s dilemma over “Grid” and what is happening to his body is not quite what I was expecting. It might be drawn from ideas found in comics, but I have only a little familiarity with all the storylines Cyborg has been involved with over the years. It hasn’t been made clear what information Vic accessed when he stole the thumb drive from his father. We can assume that might be what is helping him keep Grid under control for now. I found the body horror of Vic cutting open his own arm to see what was inside a bit over the top. Couldn’t he have found an x-ray machine in The Chief’s lab? It did introduce the idea that Vic might not be able to trust even what his own senses are telling him, since we did not glimpse the encroaching machine parts until the second shot of the wounds.

Jane showed the most striking difference in behavior after her recent experiences. This was a much more pro-active, angry with reason and intent Jane. She was the one showing leadership and organization this episode. It was notable to hear Jane criticize Vic for having agro attitude. It does not, so far, look like her experiences in the Underground with Cliff have led to the emergence of the new persona of Liza Radley, as they did in the comic. This is a changed Jane, but still Jane.

Liza Radley The clues for search to find Flex Mentallo were a bit clunky. I guess it’s reasonable to assume that the fact that the image was missing from the comic was the point of Danny giving it to them..? And that Jane knew that the missing cereal mascot was based on a real person? Jane did refer to Flex as “Hero of the Beach,” which touched on a question I had since we saw the cereal advertisement. In comics, Flex is connected with an homage to the old Charles Atlas body building ads, where a skinny kid is bullied by having sand kicked in his face, but takes the body building course advertised and becomes “Hero of the Beach.” I’m guessing the health promoting properties of “Mentall-O’s” cereal is going to fill in for the exercise techniques originally alluded to? We see in a couple episodes from now it seems.

Tearoom of DespairThe other Morrison/Case comic reference in this episode is the ambush by the Bureau of Normalcy. As in the comics, Flex’s wife Dolores is a lead to finding him – but upon contacting her, she has already been compromised by the agents of normalcy. The Bureau did a very good job of researching and preparing to take advantage of Vic and Jane. Truly competent villains can be quite scary. When Dolores raised her arm and said “Look at my elbow” I must admit to an audible gasp. These agents may be as close as the show gets to The Men From N.O.W.H.E.R.E. and the weapon in their elbow looks no more than a Men In Black mind stunner, rather than the entry to the Tea Room of Despair, but it’s something.

In this episode we see how most of the characters have had some important growth, moving away from being the next Doom Patrol, that is, the lost individuals we saw in “Doom Patrol Patrol.” Nigel Caulder brought them together in a place of refuge and protection, but their growth has mostly occurred in the weeks since The Chief has vanished. Was he, for all his good intentions, the thing that was most holding them back?