With last week’s “Space Patrol” functioning as more of a setup episode, this week’s “Dumb Patrol” bears the fruits of that setup. Those fruits? A Doom Patrol episode that somehow features even more expletives, some much-needed team action, bees (yes, bees), and melodramatic snow monologues. And in true Doom Patrol fashion, all of that makes much more sense in action than simply listed out.
Naturally, the expletives component of the episode falls squarely on Cliff’s metal shoulders, as he crash-lands on Earth and returns to his regularly scheduled hatred of Niles. Brendan Fraser screaming F-bombs over and over again as Cliff trudges his way through the middle of nowhere should probably get old — and yet, it never does. The image of a weird robot man walking country roads while shouting about how he’s going to murder “the Chief” is a bizarrely sturdy brand of hilarity. Again, Cliff has every right to be angry at Niles, and after the stunt that Niles just pulled — after Cliff finally decided to get on board with him regarding the whole Dorothy thing — that’s not changing. But in the ridiculousness that is a pissed-off Cliff making his way downtown, walking fast, faces pass, etc., it does eventually lead to an actual place of healing. The bit of Cliff and the douchey guy he meets while literally stuck, statue-like, is an added beat of humor mixed with frustration, ultimately leading to Cliff leaving a very angry voicemail for his daughter, Clara. While he ends up screaming “ONE MORE CHANCE” as he continues on his way home, that doesn’t look like it will happen … until he arrives to see Clara at Doom Manor, having watched the VHS recording of Niles’ confession that Cliff forced out of him earlier in the season and realizing the truth about what happened to her family.
As it stands now, it’s a happier family reunion than Larry has had and seemingly will have. (It helps, though, that Cliff was under the impression, until recently, that his daughter was also dead, whereas Larry’s self-loathing was the only thing preventing him from going back to his family.) Prior to going full titular Dumb Patrol, Larry is in a Larry mood because he’s dwelling on his decision to try and fix his self-inflicted broken relationship with his family. The first step that he’s mulling is going to visit his grandson Dex in the hospital, as he blames himself — and not his son, whose fault it really is — for Dex getting shot. It’s a pretty dumb and bad idea, which of course is why he actively pursues it upon the Scant infection.
The Scant infection, by the way, couldn’t have come at a better time in this season. The Scant Queen makes a great point when she notes that the team is even more full of bad ideas than her past victims have been. Bad ideas are the Doom Patrol’s bread and butter, after all. See: Vic and Roni as a couple, as Dr. Stone tried to warn Vic, or Larry’s negative spirit sticking around due to all of Larry’s human attachments, as Valentina tried to tell Larry. With Miranda, the queen can’t get to her, but she’s able to sense that bad ideas abound with all the other personalities — which is why the Scant infection only works on them. Even Willoughby Kipling has the bad idea to be in love with a horse head. The Scants simply capitalize on these bad ideas, which is the highlight of Jessica Lowrey’s direction in this episode, especially when it comes to Larry and Flit (the first sign that the Jane personalities are affected) attempting to pull off the fake-doctor bit.
Somewhere in between the expletives and melodramatic snow monologues is the Miranda/Jane storyline. Based on flashbacks, we know Miranda isn’t just some nice and normal primary with flowy dresses: She knows how to play the game, and she knows when to stop playing and reveal just how dangerous she is. Her official reintroduction in “Space Patrol” depicts her as someone who found enlightenment after trauma, but anyone watching — and, of course, Jane — wouldn’t think to trust her, even if Jane’s other personalities do.
For her to be shown as basically “Nicer Jane” in this episode — tentatively following the lead of the team — is a clear matter of when the other shoe will drop. Miranda’s ability to avoid the Scant infection (though the other personalities can’t) allows Tamara Becher-Wilkinson and Eric Dietel’s script to function and move the story along. It also makes the resolution work, as Jane’s personalities’ version of bad ideas comes with the added benefit of being supremely powerful, while also adding to the growing question of what Miranda’s deal is. The short return to the Underground at the end reveals how things are going down there (with everyone celebrating a job well done by Miranda, without Jane’s signature brooding) and that Miranda really is up to something, as Jane discovers that Scarlet Harlot’s station was closed. In Miranda’s “Space Patrol” grand entrance, she mentions how Baby Doll and Flaming Katy’s stations closed as a result of going down the well. But while those were seismic-type events that they all felt, Scarlet Harlot’s disappearance almost goes unnoticed.
As for the bees, there’s perhaps nothing more appropriately Rita Farr than the fact that she can somehow turn the two-word line “My bees!” (her only line in “Our Town!”) into a monologue. As Rita shadows the Cloverton beekeeper in this episode — which boils down to day drinking — she’s taken to the root of her now-constant dwelling on her mother, her own twisted form of imposter syndrome. Rita questions her entire acting career because of what her mother did (sex), as opposed to looking at what her mother did as the only thing she could do to make sure Rita’s talent got noticed by the right people. Since her mother is dead, she can’t confront her about it, and the attempt at using the bees as stand-ins doesn’t quite work. But Rita’s final moment of the episode, where she uses her abilities to stop a mugging, does bring back into context why Rita’s so gung-ho to be a superhero: It’s something she can actually control. She won’t have to worry about her mother or anyone else (unless you want to bring up mad scientist Niles) being the one to credit for her superherodom, and specifically her control of her abilities. It’s something she can know for certain she’s good at when the time comes.
Now, in an episode with dumb ideas, bees, and a failed hitchhiking robot man, the biggest surprise of the episode is actually that Dorothy sleeps a lot. She sleeps through Cliff getting kicked out of the spaceship, the spaceship’s landing, and Niles’ entire polar vision quest and subsequent deal with Kipling. To be fair, it could easily be revealed next episode that she didn’t sleep through that last part. But for Niles to believe she did without ever wondering if she’d wake, that’s impressive in its own right. Timothy Dalton’s work as Niles Caulder continues to be great, but Doom Patrol seems to reach its limit as to how much he can make work in this episode, with him shouting at a snowstorm (and sometimes a CGI candle monster) about Dorothy. It’s essentially the opposite of everything about the entity known as Danny, as nothing about that should work, yet Danny is somehow one of the best and most sympathetic characters on the series.
Part of it is that Doom Patrol has made pretty clear from the jump just how dangerous Dorothy — and the Candlemaker — is, so nothing new really comes out of this, other than the revelation that the Candlemaker was created for a reason by Dorothy’s mother’s people. But the same arguments and concerns about Dorothy are being had and discussed over and over again, in preparation for when (or even if) things finally start to get real. “Dumb Patrol” ends with Niles giving up and preparing to give Dorothy to Kipling — presumably to have him get rid of her, somehow — a moment that is supposed to hold so much weight, as evidenced by the sound of the snowstorm continuing to play over the end credits.
“I thought I needed to protect her from the world,” Niles says. “But now I fear I must protect the world from her.” While Niles first came across his daughter in that horrific carnival, it was pretty soon after that he realized how dangerous she was — he was seemingly always thinking from the perspective of the latter at that point. Which speaks to one of the larger issues with this story, which is the lack of Mr. Nobody this season. Or really, anybody who’s actively attempting to collect Dorothy. The concept of an all-powerful being who could easily destroy the world is typically the kind of thing that leads to folks from all sides coming to claim the being for themselves, but that’s not been the story this season. Perhaps it would have been had Alan Tudyk stuck around — though his absence leads to one of the funniest bits of this episode — and there’s still the possibility that it’s what the teasing of Horst Eisman will provide. But in these seven episodes, the story has simply been that an all-powerful being who’s stuck as a little kid (physically, mentally, and emotionally) forever is a threat to everything and everyone, because they’re a little kid … and that’s really something Niles should have realized was an issue a long time ago, not just recently, right?
Really, despite not having any contact with the Scants, Niles just continues to have bad idea after bad idea when it comes to his daughter.
Doom Patrol Patrol
• It says so much without saying anything at all that the actual Cloverton beekeeper is a sensible, no-nonsense Black mother. She’s not even a little Rita-like.
• Unfortunately, at no point during the episode “Dumb Patrol” does anyone say the phrase, “Doom Patrol? More like Dumb Patrol!”
• Denise, the animal part of Animal-Vegetable-Mineral-Man, has a new autobiography out and it’s called “My Side: A True Story.” It’s apparently a best-seller. Also, the magazine Fivbes (which is like Forbes … but Fivbes) has Cliff on the cover and asks this question of Doom Patrol having a second season: “Why???”
• Beard Hunter returns, proving he’s not as dumb as he seems: Not only does he wear Teen Titans Go! version Beast Boy underwear, proving he has taste, he comes up with a smart plan of painting his whole front white, so the Scants can’t see him in the painting …
• … which is why, because of the type of show that Doom Patrol is, there is a moment where it would make sense if there’s a weird comic book principle at work where no one at the hospital can tell who Larry is once he gets his doctor disguise on, despite being a “mummy” playing doctor. That brief moment makes it even funnier when guns are drawn on him and Flit once again.
• This week, in “I’m Cyborg”: “Name’s Vic — a.k.a. Cyborg. We’re a ragtag group of misfit superheroes hoping to kill your queen. Can we follow you to her?” To be fair, this plan does work, right down to the Jane personalities killing the queen.
• Post-Scant, everyone continues to live with their natural inclination for bad ideas. Vic and Roni continue to date — and Roni secretly takes the powerful jelly harvested by the Scants back home with her — and Kipling continues to be in love with a horse head. Larry goes back to the hospital, though he’s lucky that his grandson has been released.