This week’s Doom Patrol touches on the last part of the “long story” from “Jane Patrol” and takes us on a trip to the Sunshine State. As I’ve said in previous reviews the quality of this show remains stellar and makes Doom Patrol an exceptional entry into DC Universe’s streaming catalog. There’s a lot to break down this week and I’m here to give some insight into the moving pieces of this episode. As always, you should beware of spoilers. Here are five thoughts on “Frances Patrol.”
1. Because I Love You
This is an emotional episode. While not having any moments that genuinely bring me to tears it is nonetheless a deep dive into the personal tragedies and regrets of the Doom Patrol’s members. The most touching of which is the resolution of Larry and John’s story and relationship. Throughout this series, we’ve been getting the “context” of their failed love story, and “Frances Patrol” brings us full circle.
At every turn Larry has fought to hide his feelings for John from the world, and even from John himself. That connection terrifies him, no matter how much John lights up his life. Even in the fantasy of the bar, he struggles to be open, afraid of others seeing him for what he really is. Even when there’s no one actually there. His desire to return to the motel speaks to his unwillingness to show John affection in anything but a private setting, “the back of a truck,” as John notes.
Seeing Larry finally take the step and travel to Erie to find John in the real world is a beautiful moment, delivering an emotional payoff to their story, giving Larry–and us–a sense of closure.
2. To Dad, You’re My Hero
On the subject of emotional payoffs, Cliff’s “tool shed” exterior is given further humanization in “Frances Patrol.” Cliff’s regrets over Clara being raised by Bump are explored with great care as he struggles to speak to her and takes off on a quest to return the watch which he left her, and she gave Bump before losing it to the belly of a gator.
Cliff is never going to be a man with a human body again, and thus feels he’ll never be man enough to be Clara’s father, but his actions make him more vulnerable than the entire cast in “Frances Patrol.” As he fights his own emotional core Rita pushes him, telling him he should do exactly what he rants about in his frustrations, but for Cliff it is easier to bear wrestle an alligator than to have a conversation with a young woman who has not seen him since his presumed death.
3. 63% Cyborg
Cliff isn’t the only robot boy struggling with his own diminishing humanity. Spurred by Jane’s painting and Grid’s malfunctioning, Vic cuts into his own arm to discover he is becoming more machine than man. Finally admitting this to Jane in the episode’s climax Vic is shedding his visage of a later and showing that he’s just a scared kid, afraid of what he’s becoming.
It is yet another layer being peeled from these characters like an onion, digging towards the center of what makes them who they are, and hinting toward what they may become.
4. You Reckon He Used a Heliarc or a Mig?
The scenes at Salty Bump’s are some of the most fun to be had in “Frances Patrol.” From the rednecks admiring what they believe to be Bump’s handiwork in Cliff to Rita sharing a basket of chicken with Big D, there’s a ton of character here, perhaps more than we’ve seen in all of the series so far. One of my personal favorite bits is the look April Bowlby’s Rita gives at Big D drinking straight from his pitcher rather than pouring the beer in a glass. It’s a fantastic representation of the juxtaposition between these characters and both actors play their parts with a great deal of chemistry and light humor.
Big D reminds me of many large but kind-hearted southern gents I’ve known in my own travels through bars between Florida and Tennessee, a good ole boy who could charm a lady so different from himself they might as well be from separate planets. While his part here may be small, Gary Basaraba delivers one of the most endearing performances in Doom Patrol to date.Continued below
5. Look at My Elbow
Vic and Jane also come into direct conflict with the Bureau of Normalcy, leading to Vic’s capture. With him placed in captivity while his body evolves into an ever-more cybernetic being, this is leading to a major clash, both of teams and of each member of the Doom Patrol’s personal tug-of-war with themselves.
There’s never been more television adaptations of comics than we have today. From the CW’s own DC outings to the now-canceled Marvel Netflix series and others across networks like Fox and ABC, we are in a zenith for nerd culture in general and especially long-form story-telling featuring superheroes. But Doom Patrol features some of the best writing I have seen in a series of this nature. Its character development has been on point and it shifts from dramatic to comedic with ease, never feeling jarring or like it takes us out of the experience.
This is a show you can get lost in, in the absolute best way. As we move toward a climax of this first season, I find myself lamenting that it is going to end, and that there is never any guarantee of how much more we’ll get. While it has already been renewed for a second season many shows often debut with an amazing first season, only to fall apart when the creative team runs out of steam and story to tell. I can only hope that these final episodes and a later follow-up season hold up to the level that Doom Patrol has so far; but, to put it in terms its own dialogue would, right now it is fucking great.