Dorothy finally finds a friend in Baby Doll – until playtime goes awry. Cliff discovers that Niles plans to give him human-like upgrades. Vic devises a plan to win Roni back. After Rita has a lousy audition, Larry brings her along to meet his family and learns more about the life he left behind.
Warning: This review contains STRONG spoilers, with the discussion of key plot points from the episode and series.
Oh my gosh.
This was certainly “an episode”, bringing in the second act of the current series and radical changes for two of the core characters. The last five minutes were stunning, the previous 45 were slow and steady build-up to a pair of well-earned unforeseen events. It’s almost a total tonal shift from fun and adventure of Sex Patrol, but there is also a lot of comedy and some small, personal plot stuff. By this point, that’s pretty much the show’s style, and it works both to ground the show in a reality of everyday happenings and to keep the audience off their feet.
Or, in my case, glued to the edge of my chair and trying to work out what happens next.
The show opens with the continued tribulations of Crazy Jane, in a situation that you just know can’t get any worse. The Underground is still in disagreement as to who gets to be the primary and Baby Doll is now on The Surface, a six-year-old coming to terms with the knowledge that The Chief used her as an experiment. Sticking with the season’s themes, it’s all about parents and children, and then expands the scope as Baby Doll plays with Dorothy so we get to see both of The Chiefs’ children interact.
Once that pairing is established, the rest of the Patrol also buddy-up for trips out of the Mansion to get away from the two hyperactive kids. As per last season, Rita and Larry continue their deep friendship by going to help pack up Larry’s dead son’s possessions. Larry needs the emotional support because he’s found his son only to then lose him, and to deal with talking to his other son along with meeting his grandchild and great-grandchild. Rita needs a drink because she failed an audition for the local am-dram. It’s a touching tale of errors, tension, and humanity.
Meanwhile, Cliff teams up with Vic; not so much because Vic wants to hang, but due to Cliff deciding he’s a people-person and that he can be Papa Borg to Vic. Given how emotionally immature Cliff acts most of the time, it’s an “interesting pairing”, especially when it comes to giving Vic advice on how to connect with his paramour that he’s having literal nightmares about dating. It’s also the most outright comedic part of the episode, as we get to see inside Cliff’s daydream of the “Steele & Stone” 70s cop show! It’s a one-minute-forty reverential pastiche of exploitation cinema and is just honestly funny for its absolute ridiculousness. And after that, because Vic is busy enjoying time with Roni, Cliff gets bored and tries to stop crime! Which he does, very brutally, and we find out why the episode is called “Finger Patrol”. Ewww…
And that comedic moment is where everything shifts for the episode as we focus back on the other two pairs. The first is a gut punch, as we find out that Larry has been betrayed and the Bureau of Normalicy are there to collect him. The denouement is heart-breaking, not just because of who did it but also because you can absolutely understand why they did it. A death in the family adds further weight to the moment, affirming to everyone that they acted in the right way even though the audience knows they didn’t. The most comic-book moment of the episode, Rita and Larry flying away, kicks in just as you want the far more fantastical moment of getting everyone around a table to talk it out.
Back at the mansion, the kids have been playing all day. That’s two superhuman kids, with strong powers and determined egos. It hasn’t gone well and The Chief is doing all he can to calm things down. Unfortunately, he’s the world’s worst father (and person) so Dorothy takes the plunge and Makes A Wish – invoking the Candlemaker and attacking Baby Doll. It’s scary stuff, not least for the malice and the despair in the children’s eyes. As audiences, we’re used to, even blunted to, these moments with the adult protagonists. But this brings it to that whole new level, as it reminds you what bastard humans are, and how easily they can flick into an act of pure spite.
It then gets more shocking, as the Candlemaker enters into The Underground. Something we thought couldn’t happen happens, the rules are changed, the tension mounts. Jane’s personalities clash with the Candlemaker, resplendent in full and impressively animated full view, and super-powers smash into each other. The suspense is high, the action is visceral, and then a body falls. One of the personalities is dead.
And then the credits kick in.
And we’re in shock. Because a long-term character is dead, and we didn’t know half of what we just saw could happen, and we don’t know what it’ll do to Jane, and we don’t know what the Candlemaker will do next, and we don’t know anything.
Oh. Oh my. Oh my gosh.
Yeah, that’s really how you do comic book TV; leaving people on a cliff-hanger and gasping for more.
Doom Patrol is airing weekly on dcuniverse.com and HBOmax.com