After Karen’s botched wedding plans last week, this episode of Doom Patrol focuses on “The Underground,” the manifestation of a system in which Jane’s sixty-four personalities live and exist when they’re not in the driver’s seat. As a result, Jane’s body is left catatonic while the team tries to figure out how to help. It’s a fun episode but tries to be a bit meatier at times than it really is. Here are five thoughts on “Jane Patrol.” As always, beware of spoilers .
1. I Don’t Understand It, Either
The plot device that drives this episode is skewered in its own dialogue to comedic effect. Vic’s offhanded comment of how he wishes they could shrink down like in the children’s cartoon The Magic School Bus to enter Jane’s head prompts Larry’s negative spirit to provide a similar solution. As Cliff puts it, “a negative spirit is touching my brain right now, as well as Jane’s brain, at the same time and…psjjhhh.”
Doom Patrol takes advantage of a lot of moments to poke fun at itself and its use of genre tropes. It’s self-aware and normally doesn’t take itself too seriously and it doesn’t bog its audience down with unnecessary info. As Driver 8 says “I don’t understand all of it, either.” Same, 8. Same
2. Memories Belong to Everyone ‘Round ‘Ere.
The trip through Jane’s mind also works, providing a narrative structure as they traverse through memories which carries the story as well as giving opportunities for interesting visual transitions, such as Cliff breaking out of his cell. Learning more about Jane’s inner-workings from the perspectives of other personalities like Penny Farthing adds depth and gravitas to the concept of the multi-personalitied Jane.
Penny runs, that’s her job. She’s not the one who goes searching in the dark for answers. Hammerhead exists to keep everyone in line, acting as enforcer and jailer. Jane is a primary, her function is to run the body in the real world. Jack Straw looks like a scarecrow and…exists to slip Cliff an ice pick, I guess. The personalities are distinct, serve specific purposes, but more importantly, help to maintain a balance. Jane’s desire to search for answers rather than return up top upsets this balance, and her various identities in the process.
3. You Gave Her Hope
This gives some reasoning to the personas angry disposition towards Cliff as an early memory of he and Jane is shown. This is a dark memory, and shows just how much this is not strictly Jane’s space, but exists as an extension of all of them collectively.
Jane has been fleshed out extremely well as a character—or host of characters—since the pilot episode and Diane Guerrero has really been given a chance to flex. Though it was a good choice to recast the personalities to help distinguish between them in “Jane Patrol.”
The relationship between Jane and Cliff does feel forced and interactions at times are clunky. While Guerrero does hit emotionally resonate notes when telling Cliff if he’s really her friend she needs him to go home, their conflicted feelings about each other fall flat much of the time.
4. Going to the Well
Doom Patrol has backed up on its use of CGI in many episodes, but any time they use it—like when we get Rita-blob—it appears to be somewhat cheap and out of place. The payoff of the puzzle pieces is somewhat squandered with this use and the choice to use it at all is questionable. Doom Patrol has touched on heavy themes already and competently, but the choice to make Kay Challis’s tormentor and sexually abusive father into a literal puzzle monster feels cheap.
This is difficult subject matter and it takes little to fall off the delicate tight-rope that is confronting a topic like sexual abuse of children, but this attempt to transform the metaphor of internal struggle into an action set piece feels tone-deaf and thoughtless.
5. You Shall Not Pass, Man
Beyond the bad CGI this show still has a lot of fantastic visual design to it. The editing and set design of Jane’s memories, the costume and makeup of the various identities, and the more fantastical design choices for Black Annis and Jack Straw are a delight to look at and add color to an often otherwise dreary production. There’s no practical way to make flying puzzle piece monster, but Doom Patrol has done excellent work with the practical effects it does use. Even aside from the appropriateness issue, should creators not start to realize some of these ideas just aren’t going to look good on screen and perhaps should be written differently or out entirely in scripting?Continued below
All in all, this is still a fun episode, while not being the best of the current nine episodes. The DC Universe has a real lack of content, but since its second episode, I have felt that Doom Patrol alone makes it worth the cost of the service.