Say one thing for the DC Universe original streaming series Doom Patrol : its own internal tug-of-war, no doubt the design of “showrunner” Jeremy Carver, is working. Last week, we were pulled back into the ongoing psychodrama between Timothy Dalton’s “Chief” Niles Caulder and Alan Tudyk’s wonderfully depraved Mr. Nobody, and in the newest episode, “Frances Patrol,” we’re drawn back out in a major way, our focus shifted squarely back onto the makeshift “team” of super-misfits, who find themselves either “flying solo” or in hitherto-unseen pairings.

On the going it alone front, Matt Bomer/Matthew Zuk’s Larry Trainor (is he ever really “alone,” though, given the “Negative Spirit” he shares a body with?) has made the gutsy decision to meet, like it or not, with former flame John Bowers (played in the present day by Tom Fitzpatrick, in flashback by, as always, Kyle Clements), while the makeshift duos in April Fitzimmons’ script (the third to date not directly based on a comic from the Grant Morrison/Richard Case era) consist of Brendan Fraser/Riley Shanahan’s Cliff Steele searching for his estranged daughter, Clara (Bethany Anne Lind) alongside April Bowlby’s Rita Farr, and Joivan Wade’s Vic Stone trying to get a handle on the irregularities of his cybernetic body with the nominal “assistance” of Diane Guerrero’s “Crazy” Jane. Re-connection, then, is the theme tying all these disparate plotlines together — in Cliff’s case with his offspring, in Larry’s with the love of his life, in Vic’s with himself.

These are handled with varying degrees of success by the episode’s creative brain trust — both Cliff and, especially, Larry’s stories are imbued with genuine pathos, while Vic’s struggles seem almost an afterthought until the very end, when they make up for lost time in a hurry and put him in a situation even more precarious than the one he already found himself in. The next steps in his journey, combined with a few more tantalizing hints about the inevitable arrival of a certain Man of Muscle Mystery, ensure that the remaining installments in this debut season of the show look bright, but in fairness this one proved to be something of a mixed bag. It was great for human — check that, superhuman — drama, but pretty light on genuine dramatic tension.

Which doesn’t mean it was a waste of time by any stretch of the imagination, or even a lost opportunity — within the larger framework of the series its placement makes perfect sense, as do its narrative aims. It just doesn’t necessarily succeed in everything it sets out to do, though most certainly not for lack of trying. Performances are as solid as we’ve come to expect, and the direction, production values, and camera work are suitably cinematic in scope and feel. It’s really only the story itself that’s something of a hit-and-miss affair.

Fortunately, it offers more of the former than the latter, so don’t even necessarily expect to find yourself disappointed here — just less thoroughly impressed than you’ve been with parts one through ten. Is that fair?

Yeah, I think so. It almost runs counter to my nature to give to offer up a middling review of a Doom Patrol episode at this point, so impressive have all the others been, but judged purely on its own terms, that’s what this one has earned. I remain entirely confident that things will “bounce back” in seven days’ time — it’s not like it needs to leap back to form, just to make a few baby steps — so do join me here then, when we’ll see how right, or wrong, this assumption proves to be.

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Comments
  1. Ryan C. (trashfilmguru) says:

    Reblogged this on Through the Shattered Lens.

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