The closing minutes of Doom Patrol’s latest episode, “Flex Patrol”, might be the perfect microcosm for my feelings toward this first season. At first, bubbling over with tremendous potential and presenting a property that was truly unique to the DC Universe. A show that could be their Umbrella Academy which is interesting when you consider that My Chemical Romance frontman Gerard Way has written both. What followed was a season filled with inconsistencies, weirdness for the sake of weirdness, and the inability to truly advance characters. It quickly grew frustrating and tiring as the episodes focused more on monsters/weirdness of the week at the expense of character work. So when Mr. Nobody claims at the end of “Flex Patrol” that this is the show we’ve been waiting for he’s one hundred percent correct, but not for the reasons he may think.
Of course, we’ve known all along that Doom Patrol is a superhero show. Come on, it’s housed by a streaming service that dedicates its existence to comic books. We never forgot the fact that this was a superhero show, and with the first season of most superhero shows, this story is about the origin. How the Doom Patrol comes together to save the day. To be a group to battle the weirdness of the world in the shadow of the Justice League. It’s a cool premise but the group coming together to finally form their supergroup isn’t what makes “Flex Patrol” the episode we’ve been waiting for. It’s the fact that Doom Patrol seems to have finally figured out how to pull everything together in a matter that not only serves the season-long narrative, finding Chief, but actually allows there to be some excellent character work and growth along the way. For far too long Doom Patrol has dragged its feet when trying to advance the characters that live within this universe and has often relied on us believing that there has been growth only to ignore it the following week. With the season almost reaching its conclusion we finally get to see Doom Patrol flex its ability to give us a complete package episode and the results are excellent if not slightly frustrating. Why did we have to wait so long into the season for this?
All season long we’ve watched as Rita has been pushed aside and often discarded by her male counterparts for not being capable of adding anything to the group. It has been a reoccurring theme that has been celebrated the most from Cyborg that has diminished the character at every turn. How can we expect her to grow when those around her clearly don’t value her? It’s especially annoying when there is clearly depth to the character begging to be explored. Just give me a reason to care and “Flex Patrol” finally delivers on the promise of Rita Farr through an incredibly strong and emotional performance from April Bowlby. Rita goes from being the coward, self-centered character being pushed around to an emotionally complex woman who clearly has suffered tremendous amounts of guilt and self-loathing. After finally telling her story do we get to see a Rita that seems a little bit more sure or confident. The old man who prompts Rita to let it out provides her first real audience of the season and validates her as worth the time which is more than any of her other Doom Patrol companions have done. The odd thing here is that this old man is actually Mr. Nobody in disguise which begs the question, what purpose does a more confident and free Rita serve to his dastardly plans?
Perhaps it’s the fact that Rita finally gets Cyborg to realign himself with his grid. Something he’d been pushing off because of massive trust issues he has with his father. Reinstalling the grid takes Cyborg off the board but it also puts him at ease. Seeing how Mr. Nobody had manipulated him into beating his father half to death was a bit of an eye-opener for Cyborg and it’s allowed him to stop being so defensive and finally listen to those around him. Most importantly Rita, who has tried to be a bit of a mother figure to a Justice League member who has some serious mommy issues, finally becomes someone worth listening to as she becomes the first person that Cyborg really trusts all season. Of course, I’m sure this will backfire because Mr. Nobody doesn’t want to contend with Cyborg and him reinstalling the grid makes him sort of useless. Let’s just hope he doesn’t blame Rita once he’s back online again.
As for the rest of the gang, Larry has seemingly found an understanding with the force that now lives inside him and in his first real display of growth and acceptance, is willing to die so the force can be free. It appears that Larry’s life is dependent on the being that lives inside him and his would-be sacrifice speaks volumes of how far Larry has come this season. I was happy to see the two reunited, obviously, and that Larry is actually taking shape as he shares a legitimate partnership with the power within him.
Speaking of sharing a moment, Cliff and Jane might finally have reached some sort of understanding after a season filled with tension. Cliff so desperately wanting to be a father figure and Jane so desperately wanting to reject that especially after what Cliff has seen in the Underground. After a heartfelt apology from Cliff, it seems that Jane might possibly be warming up to the tin can. The timing is especially good with the group united to confront Mr. Nobody and reclaim the Chief.
After fourteen episodes it looks like Doom Patrol is turning into the show that it promised to be at the start. I’m not sure if it’s enough to bring me back for next year but it’s good to say the show finally make some progression and cash in a great deal of the promise that’s been on the board. What did you think Geeklings? Were you happy with this episode? Do you agree with Mr. Nobody that this is the show we’ve been waiting for? Sound off in the comments or if you’d like to talk more Doom Patrol with yours truly then throw me a line over on Twitter @iamgeek32. I’ll see you all here next week for another review, stay weird!