Despite adding “going to space … successfully” to its wacky bag of misadventures with “Space Patrol,” Doom Patrol doesn’t exactly build too much on the explosive ending that “Finger Patrol” provided last week. Instead, it takes things relatively easy, providing more setup than anything else. The whole team is scattered — Jane in an Underground coma, Rita at her first rehearsal, Larry with the Pioneers of the Uncharted, Vic with Roni, and the unlikely partnership of Cliff and Niles on a mission to find Dorothy — all fending for themselves. For that, “Space Patrol” isn’t the most exciting episode of Doom Patrol, nor does it have the biggest character moments, as it is merely setting up for those moments down the road.
But still: It’s Doom Patrol, so there is fun to be had.
Jane’s Underground coma — meaning, Jane seemingly in a coma … as she’s stuck in the Underground — is a plot that feels like it only exists to get to the final beat. Most of the plot is going back to see the funeral procession for Baby Doll and Flaming Katy, which features a lot of walking and singing and somberness. Of course, that’s understandable, especially after how “Finger Patrol” ended, but Neil Reynolds’ script includes something that probably wasn’t the first thought on anyone’s mind when the Candlemaker popped into the Underground and got vengeance for Dorothy: Jane refuses to believe that Baby Doll and Flaming Katy are dead, as the Underground is just a “construct.” It’s a fair point, but considering Candlemaker — who, like Dorothy’s other “imaginary” friends, is technically a construct as well — was able to manifest into the Underground due to the power of Dorothy’s wish, it doesn’t hold up all that well.
However, that question isn’t exactly answered in this episode, even as Jane — who really doesn’t want to accept these deaths — goes directly to Kay to try to figure out what to do and what she wants. What does happen, though, is the return of former primary Miranda (Samantha Marie Ware) from the well, claiming that the well will allow them to be “reborn,” just like she was. And after threats of a new primary before and the various personalities even telling Jane they’d prefer Miranda back in charge, despite the whole dead-in-a-well thing, Miranda is finally back in charge as the primary. As promised, it was time for a change.
In the aftermath of his terrible reunion with his son, Larry ends up babysitting the Pioneers of the Uncharted, a trio of space explorers who Niles used back in 1955 to figure out the negative energy he ultimately used on Larry. (So that wraps that particular plot thread.) It’s a lot of literal grab ass between “Specs” (Jason Burkey) and “Zip” (Derek Evans) — who end up not actually being alive — with the meat of the story coming in the form of Larry’s interactions with “Moscow,” a.k.a. Valentina Vostok, a.k.a. the Negative Woman to Larry’s Negative Man (Mariana Klaveno). Valentina contrasts with Larry in that she embraced her negative spirit and reached infinite harmony with it in five years, to the point where she refers to herself as “us” and “we” for the most part. It’s not exactly kicking Larry while he’s down, but it does allow him to process how he’s treated his negative spirit for all this time — as he’s only just recently started treating it like a partner — and to make the decision to go back and confront his son. The second part might not be the best idea, but there’s definite gusto behind it.
The same could be said about Vic’s story line with Roni. (Cliff made it back to Doom Manor, but it seems Vic never went to check on him at all after reuniting with Roni. So much for Steele & Stone.) After the revelation that Roni was suped-up with top-secret government tech that the top-secret government organization then took away, this episode drops the bombshell that whatever they did to her, she’s slowly being poisoned. This leads Vic down a hacking rabbit hole that reveals that the top-secret government tech was the work of S.T.A.R. Labs (and Caulder Robotics, because Niles really is responsible for everything), which leads to Vic attempting to get any information about this from his father and failing. (But he does get solid dating advice, which is to slow this whole thing down. He most likely will not listen.) Vic remains somehow more naïve than Dorothy, if that’s even possible, in his indignation that S.T.A.R. Labs would be working with a shadowy organization, despite already knowing that S.T.A.R. Labs has worked with shadowy organizations.
But he does give Roni a quick rundown of all the freaky stuff Doom Patrol gets up to, which is honestly the best use of this story at this point. Though it is somewhat disappointing that Vic’s genuinely interesting PTSD story is just kind of steamrolled through, after the way the first couple of episodes of this season handled it. At the same time, it does fall in line with Vic not heeding his father’s advice and just rushing through all the steps of a relationship, without allowing for anything real to really sink in. Vic doesn’t have to deal with his trauma if he’s trying to save Roni’s life, after all.
Steamrolling through someone’s trauma makes for a funny beat in Rita’s plot, at least. The entire concept of the town play sets the stage — both literally and figuratively — for what is sure to be a major moment in Doom Patrol season two, as Rita almost immediately comes to the realization that she won’t be performing the Thornton Wilder play Our Town but instead a Mickey Harris (Irene Ziegler) original production called Our Town! … all about the day the town of Cloverton was sucked into the ground. And Rita doesn’t even get to play herself, “the blob lady.” (She plays the beekeeper.) Just a taste of the play from Isabel Feathers (Charity Cervantes), Rita’s new nemesis, is all that’s needed here, along with Isabel’s unintentional (and spot-on) psychoanalysis of Rita.
Then there’s the Cliff/Niles/Dorothy story. Niles literally goes into space to save his daughter, revealing that he had a second spaceship just chilling in the garage. This plot marks a turning point for Cliff, who is really just trying to figure out a way to help Jane (he is “Team Jane,” after all) and couldn’t care less about Dorothy (he’s not a fan). But as the episode progresses and he has to listen to Niles’s frustrated rantings about his powerful daughter, and then has a one-on-one moment with Dorothy, Cliff is able to be mature and agree to pretend to be a real family, for Dorothy’s safety. It’s a choice born out of the realization of just how sad this all is and how dangerous it is — perhaps more the former, surprisingly — that is immediately thrown away by Niles tossing Cliff out into space and taking the spaceship elsewhere. It’s an unexpected twist in a sense, but considering the way Niles is ranting — basically to himself, not even to Cliff — about how dangerous Dorothy is when they’re on their way to get her, it’s the natural progression. While Dorothy and Cliff have a breakthrough in this episode, Niles has a breakdown, technically fueled by what Dorothy did to Jane, but also fueled by everything he’d worried about coming true.
“Space Patrol” is a setup episode, but it’s also one that reaffirms certain beats that have been central to this season. Because of these retreads, the episode isn’t the most exciting, save for the way the Jane and Cliff/Niles/Dorothy stories end and the possibilities contained in the Rita and Larry stories. But it still does its job, reframing these characters’ perspectives moving forward, and it has casual space travel to boot.
Doom Patrol Patrol
• Is it safe to call Cliff’s newly acquired and freezered finger “Chekhov’s finger?”
• Rita: “Well, I’ve found my nemesis.” Poor Isabel Feathers.
• Niles sent a research team to space in 1955. “To do what?” “Research.” It’s not even necessarily a deadpan joke when Timothy Dalton says it, but the matter-of-fact way he says it — and the way no one even questions it — is pretty brilliant. Of course, it’s another instance of Niles’ duplicity, as Larry later learns it was the research that turned him into what he is now.
• Zip: “The name’s Zip. Hot shot pilot, nothing scares me — ‘cept marriage.”
Specs: “The name’s Specs. I’m the brains of the op. And a heartbreaker to boot.”
Moscow: “And my name: Moscow”
Zip/Specs: “THE RUSSIAN ONE!”