The gang takes a road trip this week in “Puppet Patrol”. This is the third episode of DC Universe’s second series and it is really hitting its stride already. There’s a lot of fun to be had in “Puppet Patrol” and I’ve got some thoughts on it. As always, beware of spoilers.
1. Somebody Snuck in the Punk Rock
Despite being a very Larry-centric episode, “Puppet Patrol” gives Crazy Jane a wealth of scenes in which to shine. The very opening of those scenes also features Bikini Kill’s “Rebel Girl” as its soundtrack to Jane’s stapler vs the townies. Punk is an aesthetic that fits Jane and all her many personalities so these soundtrack choices are a plus.
We’re further treated to some Dead Kennedys as “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” plays while Jane and Cliff fight off the many Von Fuchs family members. This scene is particularly brutal but fun, with Cliff actually tearing off a lower torso to beat another Von Fuchs with. As another little easter egg Cliff is also wearing a Black Flag t-shirt when the gang is waiting for Victor and the bus. Though I find it hard to imagine Cliff enjoying the dulcet tones of a Keith Morris, Dez Cadena, or a Henry Rollins.
2. The Humor
I noted last week that this showed really needed to lean more into its weirdness and this episode is a major improvement over the first two. Banter between characters feels organic but also relevant to the plot and their world. Jane and Cliff tease Cyborg about how he’s printing photos off with Jane getting the line of the show “where do you get toner for your butt printer?” The self-referential humor, while some of it does land, can feel forced at times. Cliff mocking Cyborg with “Justice League 2020!” and “I bet Aquaman never loses his keys” both play for good laughs, but the interaction between Cyborg and a motel-goer who asks what Batman is like feels unnecessary and contrived.
3. Character Development
As mentioned above much of “Puppet Patrol” centers on Larry’s past and his issues with the entity inhabiting him. We’re shown more of his secret relationship with partner John Bowers and his failures at balancing that with his family life. These scenes paint a fairly negative portrait of Larry, which is later expanded upon when he enters Von Fuchs’s chamber and confronts the negative spirit. With both John and his wife Sheryl, Larry continues to ask them for just a little more time, to bear with him, just give him until tomorrow. In love with John but unable to let go of his current life and family Larry comes across as selfish. He is challenged with this both in an out of his chamber experience, when Jane tells him he might understand his ghost better if he “weren’t such an OCD alpha-douche waffle” (she really gets all the good lines in this) and in the chamber when John appears or is represented by the negative spirit. Cliff unfortunately interrupts this moment by tearing the doors off the chamber and Larry storms away, feeling defeated.
4. Less CGI, More Substance
I’ve been critical of Doom Patrol‘s visuals in this column so far but I have very little strikes against it this week. The use of CGI is minimal and even its weakest spots like the bandages and glasses lifting off Larry in the chamber still look pretty good. Cyborg’s appearance also seems to have been, dare I say, fleshed out in this episode. The art department and crew really deserve a hand on the puppets as well. They are a creepy gem in their titular episode. One visual though that best stood out to me and really fits tonally with the marketing of this show is the shot that pans across the team as they sit on the motel beds watching television. This seemingly mundane spot really captures the essence of each character. It is beauty in simplicity, doing a lot with just a little.
5. Fuchtopia No Longer Accepts Groupons
Who doesn’t love a good nazi villain? Strumbanhfuhrer Von Fuchs is used sparingly in the episode, but to great effect. That puppet show is one of the highlights of this week and adds to that oddball identity of Doom Patrol. When puppet nazis walk on to the stage Steve’s response of “not in the brochure but okay” is another chuckle-worthy moment and example of when this show is at its best.Continued below
Doom Patrol has won me over with this episode. It may have started off a little rocky but if this is the benchmark for quality we’ll see in the next twelve episodes, Doom Patrol will easily be DC Universe’s best show so far. That’s a short list, though.