It’s repetitive to keep saying, “Of course Doom Patrol does…” or “Only Doom Patrol could do something like…,” but that is absolutely the case for an episode like “Sex Patrol.” In a sense, the episode is Doom Patrol’s way of asking, “What if we just did Buffy’s ‘Where The Wild Things Are’ but more … and also less?” And somehow, it works. In terms of being “less,” “Sex Patrol” isn’t as debaucherous as one would assume a party set up to revive Danny would be. In fact, the “sex” part of it all is just Flex Mentallo using his abilities to give Rita professionally necessary orgasms, while also facing the wall the entire time, per her request. But the “more” is that it leads to a sex demon named the Shadowy Mr. Evans, sex ghosts, the SeX-Men, and a demonic sex baby that ends up taking Jenna Maroney’s advice literally.
And yet, an episode this bizarre is also the most tightly plotted episode of the season so far, and one that explores the characters’ motivations and mindsets in a way that doesn’t shortchange anyone. Arguably, the strength of this episode stems from the very strength of the Danny character/concept. Danny is a nonbinary, sentient being without a physical form, yet their characterization is clear and consistent, which in turn provides a clear and consistent characterization for the Dannyzens. Which is why it makes sense that the Dannyzens would all come to Doom Manor to try to revive Danny and fix what has been broken. Which is why it makes sense that Flex Mentallo would be able to comfort Dorothy, if only for a moment, in her distress over breaking Danny, and then try to help Rita control her abilities (despite the outcome). Which is why it makes sense that Maura Lee Korrupt would get Vic’s head on straight about the whole Roni thing. In fact, “Sex Patrol” gets the Vic/Roni story line back on track after “Pain Patrol” awkwardly accelerated things, focusing more on the power of finding your people in a world full of hate and ignorance.
At this point in the season (and series), Larry has faced the issues in his past that he’d been avoiding. He spent the first season facing his sexuality and all the pain that came as a result of his hiding, and the past few episodes have had him facing the kind of father he was (or wasn’t). While he pulled a classic Larry and decided not to attend his son’s wake in “Tyme Patrol,” he was seemingly able to put the past behind him. Or at least get past the questions he still had about all of it. But now, the question is of his future. That’s something Larry has never actually had to wonder about, until now, as an attractive male Dannyzen dances up on him. In that moment, it’s not that Larry is uncomfortable on a sexual level — he tells himself to “be cool,” because he knows how he can be — but because of the fact that if he were to remove his bandages, he’d kill the guy and everyone at the party. It’s not exactly flirty talk, but it’s Larry’s truth that he needs to process now. Is there a possibility for him to ever be with someone again?
When Cliff and Larry talk later, Larry points out, “I couldn’t do a single thing that I was supposed to do. What the hell am I supposed to do after that?” He’s talking about going to space, being a father; he couldn’t do any of that when he was supposedly better equipped to do those things, but he’s confronted that past over the course of the series. So now what? Larry also makes a good point about how parents (like himself and Cliff) mess up their kids’ lives and then their kids just have to live with it, which is something that applies to Jane, Rita (especially in this episode), and, of course, Dorothy.
While Dorothy spent a good chunk of her 100 (and three-quarters) years of life living in Danny, this episode makes completely clear that she never had a chance to be out and about, spending time with the Dannyzens: She was stuck under Danny, only getting to hear all the fun and merriment upstairs. “Sex Patrol” explores the idea that Danny was her prison, not her sanctuary, and while it’s easy to try to deny that at first — because Candlemaker says it and because Niles seems to be a “good” father, relatively — it’s true. Danny even admits it themself, while Niles continues to try to deny it. (“I think as a father, he should know,” Niles says. But he was an absent father and one that made and continues to make excuses.) While Dorothy’s forever 11 years old — also that age mentally and emotionally — that 100 (and three-quarters) years of life does make things murky. Should she be treated like an adult by Niles and everyone else? In theory, yes, but again, she can’t actually handle it mentally and emotionally. But Candlemaker attempts to convince her that she can, preying on her insecurities because of her age and her fear of being imprisoned again in order to get her to defy her father and destroy Danny (which she refuses to do at the last second). There’s a moment in the episode where Herschel attempts to argue on her behalf against Candlemaker, which is admirable — because Herschel rocks — but it backfires, as Herschel is coming at it from the perspective of her being a child. Dorothy understandably doesn’t want to be seen as a child because children get excluded from everything, and she’s been perpetually excluded from everything.
“Are you sure I should be seeing this,” is a pretty funny line from Dorothy when it’s about an hour past bedtime and Scarlet Harlot is grinding on the dance floor, but it also connects to Rita’s story line and the fact that her mental block is based on repressing something she shouldn’t have seen when she was a child. There is nothing less surprising — or more stressful —than the fact that Rita had not had an orgasm (until Flex’s accidental flexing back in Danny) since the Hoover administration. But that leads us toward a mental block in the form of the repressed memory of her mother sleeping with a producer to get a young Rita a role. This, of course, goes back to Larry’s line about parents messing up their children, even though Rita’s mother obviously didn’t want her daughter to see this; but like Dorothy, Rita just couldn’t take being excluded and decided to peek, catching a glimpse, with her mother seeing her see her in this demoralizing position. But it just goes to show you that Niles was right: “Nothing good happens after bedtime.”
Where Dorothy and Rita continue to intersect is in how Rita subconsciously replicates mothering for Dorothy based on what her own mother used to do. It’s innocent at first — Rita chats with Dorothy and puts lipstick on her, treating her like the adult she longs to be. But it takes an unfortunate turn when refracted through the lens of how Rita’s mother would treat Rita, and then it blows up completely when an exhausted Rita parrots her mother’s words to Dorothy, after Dorothy asks if Rita truly thinks she’s beautiful: “Darling, please. You have other talents. Focus on those.” It’s the absolute wrong time for Dorothy to hear those words, and it’s followed up by Candlemaker negging her, telling her to talk to her “little girl friends” about it.
“Sex Patrol” is framed in terms of “bedtime,” but it’s also broken down in terms of which Jane personality is on the surface, as “4 HOURS TIL BEDTIME” coincides with the introduction of the Jane part of the episode. As Jane is imprisoned in the Underground, she tries to explain to Hammerhead that it won’t be so easy for whatever personality is on top to leave Doom Manor, because the allure of being up there is pretty strong. Hammerhead elegantly explains that Kay is the only thing that matters, “and she deserves better than your fucking friends.” Which segues into the first attempted primary personality of the episode, the painter, the Hangman’s (Beautiful) Daughter. It’s the character’s first return since the Doom Patrol pilot, and her motivation is quite simple: She just wants to paint, and she can do that anywhere.
Unfortunately for her (and the other personalities), her confidence is immediately shaken by Cliff, who explains how just wanting to paint won’t account for things like money and shelter and food. Cliff isn’t intentionally attempting to bring her into an existential crisis — it just happens, because her motivations are truly nothing more than wanting to paint. So he attempts to comfort her by saying, “You’ll figure it out. Jane always did.”
Which leads to the next personality (at “BEDTIME”), Scarlet Harlot, who is at least on the way to walking right out of Doom Manor altogether, since it’s full of “unfuckables” (her word) and just plain boring … until she realizes there’s a debaucherous party going on. So, again, a Jane personality sticks around, only leaving when Dr. Harrison — a responsible personality — takes over a couple of hours past bedtime. While that seems like it would do the trick, Dr. Harrison is immediately sucked into why the SeX-Men think world is doomed … and then Hammerhead is brought to the surface by the threat of all children (including Kay, of course) being in danger. Once Hammerhead saves the day — by shoving a baby back up a sex demon’s orifice, because this is Doom Patrol — she concedes that Jane was right about how difficult it is to leave (and how they’re actually doing the world a solid, in their weird way) and puts her right back up top. At least “for now,” as she even says when Niles asks; while this could be a happy ending for Jane, it’s worth noting that despite all the talk of returning Miranda as primary, that’s not the case here. Yet.
Doom Patrol Patrol
• Flex Mentallo has always found it easy to control his powers, because all you have to do is “clear your mind.” He then proceeds to show Rita how he literally clears his mind. Bless this glorious meathead.
• The SeX-Men are Kiss (Michael Tourek), Torture (Tracey Bonner), and Cuddles (Michael Shenefelt), and their van is called the SeX-Machine. Yes, they are actually from the comics. As is the Shadowy Mr. Evans. They are also probably now the best way to convince your friends to watch this show.
• This week, in “I’m Cyborg”: The SeX Men tell Vic to leave once they see the sex ghosts, to which Vic says, “I’m Cyborg.” Yes, it is hilarious that Vic thinks being Cyborg means he’d be useful in a sex-ghost situation. (He is not.)
• We actually get a new version of Cliff in this episode, which is high-on-ecstasy Cliff. (“Chief has drugs.”) Cliff is still, of course, upset with Niles, but he’s more mad at himself for how Florida went. Then Cliff gets high and he’s doing the robot, dancing with a shadow demon, and being more confused than ever about what’s going on on this show.