When last we saw him at the end of episode eleven of DC Universe’s original streaming series Doom Patrol, Joivan Wade’s Vic Stone was in a bad place — metaphorically and literally. His increasingly-mechanized body and mind betraying him, he made the drastic decision to part company with his operating system, known as GRID, but any monetary respite he hoped to gain from such an action was quickly dashed when he found himself captured by The Bureau of Normalcy and imprisoned at their top-secret research/torture facility nicknamed The Ant Farm.

Not that this latest installment, entitled (appropriately enough) “Cyborg Patrol,”gives any concrete reason as to how and why the place found itself saddled with such a moniker, unlike the Grant Morrison/Steve Yeowell comic the idea was lifted from, but the principle nature of the operation remains true to its printed-page antecedent — even if it’s located nowhere near the Pentagon, much less under it as it was the original story. Honestly, though, the name of the place is about all the television story borrows from the earlier newsprint one.

That’s because, as any veteran reader can tell you, the character of Cyborg was never actually in the Doom Patrol in the comics, and so there was never any call for the rest of the team to do what they do here, namely pull of a super-powered jailbreak. They all have a part to play in the plan hatched by Vic’s father, Silas (played, as ever, by the great Phil Morris) to spring his progeny, but that plan is complicated when the elder Stone turns traitor and hands the team over to agent Darren Jones (Jon Briddell) — or does he? Silas’ lack of loyalty, and the consequently shifting nature of his transactional allegiances, plays a major role in Robert Berens and Shoshana Sachi’s script for this episode, and the fundamental and well-earned lack of trust between Stones elder and younger proves to be fertile ground for psychological exploitation by Alan Tudyk’s Mr. Nobody, who makes a brief-but-devastating appearance (hey, he can’t spend all his time tormenting Timothy Dalton’s “Chief Niles Caulder, can he?) in the final few minutes here after Cyborg has fallen for a sick ruse that ends up having both drastic and unforgettable consequences.

Seriously, friends, the ending this week — it’s positively devastating.

Before that, though, we’ve got April Bowlby being smuggled into the facility in the weirdest manner possible by Brendan Fraser/ Riley Shanahan’s Cliff Steele, Diane Guerrero’s “Crazy” Jane going from taunting her psychotic captor, Agent Dirk Ellis (Mac Wells), before going all Karen on his ass and making him fall in love with her, Matt Bomer/Matthew Zuk’s Larry Trainor being separated from the “Negative Spirit” energy being that’s made itself at home in his body for the past few decades, and an army of sentient, hungry, toothy backsides running wild in The Bureau’s very own — and in many respects very peronal — house of horrors. It’s to director Carol Banker’s immense credit that she can have people running down the hallways screaming “the butts are loose!”one moment, and Vic’s horrifying realization that he’s done something he probably can’t undo less than ten minutes later, and compel viewers to fully invest in both. “Showrunner” Jeremy Carver certainly knows how to pick his directors, doesn’t he though?

And yeah — after a brief little blip on the radar screen, we’re back in “best episode to date” territory, which I predicted last time out would likely be the case — not to toot my horn too much. After all, it’s Carver, his cast, his writers , and his just-mentioned directorial hires that are doing all the real work here — fortunately for those of us in the audience, I hasten to add, as it’s all been uniformly pitch-perfect. Friends who may be turncoats who may be friends again after all, a young half-robotic man’s internal demons, a heaping dose of “high weirdness” for its own sake — really, how much more can you expect from television superhero yarn? Oh, and that guy in the cell next to Vic;, the one who’s portrayed by Devan Chandler Long? Something tells me he’s going to play a big part in events going forward — but for now I’m just content to give this episode a richly-deserved second viewing.

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This review, and all others around these parts, is “brought to you” by my Patreon page, where I serve up exclusive thrice-weekly rants and ramblings on the worlds of comics, films, television, literature, and politics. Lately, in fact, it’s been a lot of politics. Your patronage there not only enables me to keep things going, it also ensures a steady supply of free content both here and at my fourcolorapocalypse comics site. You can join up for as little as a dollar per month, there’s tons of content posted on there already, and needless to say, I’d be very gratified to have your support.

Oh, and I suppose a link would come in handy. Here you go :https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse

 

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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This review, and all others around these parts, is “brought to you” by my Patreon site, where I serve up exclusive thrice-weekly rants and ramblings on the worlds of comics, films, television, literature, and politics. Lately, in fact, it’s been a lot of politics. Your patronage there not only enables me to keep things going, it also ensures a steady supply of free content both here and at my fourcolorapocalypse comics site. There’s a lot of stuff up on there already, so you’re sure to get good value for your money, and needless to say, I’d be very grateful indeed to have your support.

Oh, and I suppose a link would come in handy. Here you go :https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse

 

On the face of it, I’ve set myself a fool’s errand here : to review Avengers : Endgame on its own merits, completely divorced from its cultural context and all which came before it, may not even be possible. But once we get a few particulars out of the way, that’s precisely what I intend to do, those particulars being : This. Is. The. Biggest. Thing. Ever.

We’re talking the cinematic equivalent of your wedding day or the birth of your first kid — or so the Disney/Marvel marketing machine would have you believe, not that they’re necessarily wrong, depending on your own circumstances. The so-called “MCU” came into being when I was in my 30s, but I can only imagine what this must mean to people who literally grew up on this stuff. Ten years of big-budget spectacle after big-budget spectacle, all leading up to this — the spectacle.

And, on that level, not to give too much away too quickly, directors Joe and Anthony Russo deliver. This movie is as big a production as anything Cecil B. DeMille could have dreamed of, plus a whole lot more. The scale is simply staggering. It starts — and ends — in surprisingly quiet, dare I say intimate, fashion, but in between it really is everything and the kitchen sink.That can be good, that can be bad, that can be some of each — and, on balance, the brothers manage to make the most of what amounts to a raft of corporate and circumstantial mandates. There’s no need to donwnplay the scope of their achievement, no matter how badly I despise the media conglomerate behind it all. They had a job to do, and they did it exceedingly well.

Long-time readers here will no doubt be surprised to read those words, given my long-standing antipathy toward most of the Marvel flicks, but once they started coming up with villains that posed a worthy challenge for their heroes — a process that took the better part of nine years — it seems as if a corner was turned. The stamp of auteurship afforded Ryan Coogler with Black Panther is nowhere to be found here, it’s true, but this also isn’t the by-the-numbers extended television episode that so many other MCU flicks have been. It’s probably fair to say it inhabits a middle ground — a “house style” production that nevertheless uses the strictures imposed upon it to its advantage. That takes some doing.

But, again, its own merits only is the rule of the day here. I do, however, need to preface that by saying I was not very enamored of this film’s predecessor, Avengers : Infinity War. After the aforementioned Black Panther I felt it was a massive step back, a reversion to the norm, a dour reinforcement of the status quo. So I was not expecting to like its “back half” very much at all.

Cue some genuine surprises : a central role for Karen Gillan’s perpetually under-utilized Nebula. Several unexpected “ultimate fates” for Josh Brolin’s cosmic baddie, Thanos. A turn toward the nearly likable for Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark. Jeremy Renner’s Clint Barton taking on the “conscience of the team” role usually occupied by Chris Evans’ Steve Rogers. A time-travel plotline that re-visits a number of key events in “MCU” history without once feeling like a nostalgic “greatest hits” reel or, even worse, a victory lap. And a sense of consequence hanging over every scene that nevertheless avoids becoming a Sword of fucking Damocles.

I’m gonna take a minute, at this point, to single out screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely for a praise — they had a lot to stuff into this particular stocking, both in terms of the “B” they had to get to from “A,” but also in regards to figuring out how to give a hell of a lot pf people something to do. Samuel L. Jackson, Marisa Tomei, William Hurt, Angela Basset, Robert Redford, Michael Douglas, Michelle Pfeiffer, Vin Diesel, Dave Bautista, Benedict Wong, Pom Klementieff, Letitia Wright, Sebastian Stan, and Natalie Portman all draw a shorter end of the stick than the rest of the cast, but damn — in addition to the already-name-dropped Evans, Downey, Brolin, Gillan, and Renner, Paul Rudd, Benedict Cumberbatch, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, Evangeline Lilly, Chris Hemsworth, John Slattery, Anthony Mackie, Tessa Thompson, Brie Larson, Rene Russo, Chris Pratt, Gwyneth Paltrow, Danai Gurira, Tom Holland, Elizabeth Olsen, Chadwick Boseman, Jon Favreau, Don Cheadle, Tilda Swinton, Hayley Atwell, Zoe Saldana, and Bradley Cooper all have important shit to do in this story. That’s pretty remarkable any way you slice it, and the logistics of the whole thing — well, I can scarcely being to imagine. Our intrepid authorial duo must have been keeping Excedrin in business for a good while there.

As for the stuff everyone really wants to know about, well, I’m going to keep things “spoiler-free” given the movie literally just opened at the time of this writing, but any long-time comics reader can tell you — death is never permanent, especially death on as large a scale was we were left with in the last flick. And it’s not even the folks who did die that necessarily have the most to worry about — it’s the ones who didn’t, because they’re the ones who’ll be called upon to pay whatever price is required to bring everyone else back. Which means that, yes, certain “character arcs” do come to an end here — and these are all pitch-perfect, whether tragic in nature or (here’s a glimmer of hope for those who haven’t seen it yet and may be rooting for a favorite or two) otherwise. Every hero gets a hero’s ending at the end of their hero’s journey and — forget it, that’s enough of the word “hero” in one sentence.

Production design, cinematography, costumes, locations — all are scaled to fit here, which is to say big, but the surprising amount of personality that finds its way through to the surface is what I think is this film’s most noteworthy feature. Against all odds, you’ll find yourself invested in these proceedings, even if you’re as far away from being a Marvel fan as yours truly. I didn’t go into the theater actively looking to find things to pick on when the lights dimmed and the screen lit up, but I didn’t think they’d be too hard to find. To my more than pleasant surprise, apart from a handful of stupid plot holes, nothing to add to the negative side of the ledger leaped out. Believe me when I say — I’m still trying to figure out how the hell that happened.

As to whether or not this is the “end” of something, as its title suggests — I’ve gotta say that, on the whole, it doesn’t feel like it is. More like the culmination of a whole lot of “somethings,” in preparation for the next act. The Marvel blockbuster machine shows no signs of slowing down — and for the first time probably ever I actually find myself interested to see what it has in store for us next.

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This review, and all others around these parts, is “brought to you” by my Patreon site, where I serve up exclusive thrice-weekly rants and ramblings on the wolds of comics, films, television, literature, and politics. Lately, in fact, it’s been a lot of politics. Your patronage there not only enables me to keep things going, it also ensures a steady supply of free content both here and at my fourcolorapocalypse comics site. There’s plenty of stuff up on there already, so you’re sure to get good value for your money, and needless to say, I’d be very gratified to have your support.

Oh, and I suppose a link would come in handy. Here you go :https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse

 

With “Hair Patrol.” the tenth episode of the DC Universe original streaming series Doom Patrol, “showrunner” Jeremy Carver and co. have decided to go back and fill in some of the blanks — not only in terms of what everyone else got up to while Brendan Fraser/Riley Shanahan’s Cliff Steele and Diane Guerrero’s “Crazy” Jane were struggling to find their way out of the tormented and fragmented subconscious of one Kay Challis, but in a larger sense. As in — what, exactly, is the deal with Timothy Dalton’s “Chief” Niles Caulder?

Not that Eric Dietel’s script gives away all the answers, of course — not even close — but in the wilds of the Yukon Territory way back in 1913, Caulder had a life-changing experience. One that ties him in with an earlier version of the Bureau Of Normalcy, sees him match wits with a colleague-turned-enemy named Alistair (played by one of television’s most ubiquitous and competent guest stars, Max Martini), revolves around a literal “Bearded Lady” who calls herself Oyewah (Pisay Pao, who turns in a killer performance), and may just go some way toward explaining why, with the exception of Joivan Wade’s Vic Stone, everybody on this show is so damn old — most notably, of course, Caulder himself. To say any more would be to say too much, but the roughly half of this episode that takes place in the past is positively gripping, and gives us our most extended look at Dalton/Caulder yet — it may even be too close a look, given we see him drop his trousers behind a tree to take a shit just before the metaphorical shit hits the fan.

As for the other half of director Salli Richardson-Whitfield’s superbly-paced-and-shot installment, the portion set in the present day, it’s a fairly loose adaptation of Grant Morrison and one-off artist Vince Giarrano’s popular story “The Beard Hunter,” and to opine that Tommy Snider sinks his teeth into the role of  that yarn’s titular villain is this reviewer being frighteningly literal. If you think you’ve been physically repulsed by some stuff on this show, rest assured, it’s all minor-league compared to the follically-challenged mercenary’s — uhhmmm — unique method of tracking his prey. He’s a fuck-up, sure, but he’s a fuck-up who manages to get the upper hand on the duo of Vic and April Bowlby’s Rita Farr (they’re really turning into quite the semi-regular pairing) while Cliff, Jane, and Matt Bomer/Matthew Zuk’s Larry Trainor are all indisposed or otherwise down for the count. It’s funny stuff, no doubt about it — but with some seriously disturbing twists.

After last week’s unbelievably harrowing episode, some light-hearted comic relief was definitely in order, but there’s a lot more to “Hair Patrol” than that, given that “The Bureau” is getting more aggressive, Cyborg is getting more scary, the comic book brought back from Danny The Street contains a major hint about a certain fan-favorite character being just around the corner (you shouldn’t have to “flex” too hard to guess who that may be), and at the end of it all, we’re brought squarely back into the test-of-wills between The Chief and Alan Tudyk’s Mr. Nobody. So, yeah — everything but the kitchen sink this time out, and even that’s probably in there somewhere, as well.

As the end of this first season approaches, Carver is pretty (and, as it turns out, accurately) confident about the fact viewers are hooked — stories like this one are where the “reeling you in” part of the equation begins. If you can wait to see what happens next, trust me when I say you’re in the distinct minority of the audience.

Oh, and I sure as hell shaved as soon as I was finished watching this one. Made sure that I didn’t leave so much as a hair.

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This review, and all others around these parts, is “brought to you” by my Patreon site, where I serve up exclusive thrice-weekly rants and ramblings on the worlds of comics, films, television, literature, and politics. Lately, in fact, it’s been a lot of politics. Your patronage there not only keeps things going, it also ensures a steady supply of free content both here and at my fourcolorapocalypse comics site. There’s a solid amount of material on there already, so you’re sure to get good value for your money, and needless to say, I’d be very gratified to have your support.

Oh, and I suppose a link would come in handy. Here yo go :https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse

 

I can’t decide if episode nine of DC Universe’s original streaming series Doom Patrol is so good it hurts — or if it just fucking hurts.

Playing it pretty close and tight with its Grant Morrison/Richard Case-created “source material,” this is “Crazy” Jane’s story all the way — they don’t call it “Jane Patrol” for nothing — and Diane Guerrero puts on an acting clinic manifesting personalities seen and hitherto-unseen (hello Driver 8!) when Brendan Fraser’s Cliff Steele (with an assist from the “Negative Spirit” inside Matt Bomer/Matthew Zuk’s Larry Trainor) enters “the underground” of her subconscious to retrieve the Jane we know and love, who just last week collapsed within herself right at the moment her Karen persona was about to tie the knot. You thought this show was weird before? You really ain’t seen nothing yet.

Now, we’re used to Timothy Dalton’s “Chief” Niles Caluder and Alan Tudyk’s Mr. Nobody being sidelined, but this time out April Bowlby’s Rita Farr, Joivan Wade’s Cyborg, the aforementioned Mr. Trainor, and even the Riley Shanahan “half” of Robotman join them in mothballs as Fraser spends most of the installment as “himself” — while Jane is all her selves.

Or many of them, at any rate. And they aren’t all “her,” so to speak — or, at least, they’re not all played by Guerrero. Standing out in a big way are Anna Lore, who gives physical life to the demure Penny Farthing, and Stephanie Czajkowski, whose portrayal of the bad-ass Hammerhead is everything you’d always envisioned plus a whole lot more. Holy shit this underground is a confusing place! A jumble of memories and coping mechanisms that’s tough to get a firm handle on — until it’s not. Until it all makes perfect sense. Until the darkest part of Jane’s past — or should we call her Kay Challis? — comes to light. Or, more accurately, to dark. Because this is damn dark stuff.

To call this “not for the faint of heart” is to put things mildly, but if you didn’t love Jane before (you bastard!) you surely will now. She’s been through more than most have to endure, and even if she’s in 64 pieces, it’s a wonder she’s not in 164. This is harrowing, yes, but the bravery she shows confronting her ultimate foe? It’s astonishing. It’s staggering. It’s stand-up-and cheer stuff, and that remains true even if, like myself, you’re well familiar with the particular issue of the comic that writer Marcus Dalzine is adapting here. Reading it’s one thing, after all — seeing it quite another.

Director Harry Jierjian comes in for special recognition this time out, getting perhaps the best performances from “showrunner” Jeremy Carver’s cast to date, to say nothing of the terrific guest stars. This is “internal drama” of the highest order, quite unlike anything else seen before in super-hero television — and probably quite unlike anything we’ll see again for quite some time. It’s difficult viewing, to be sure, but it’s also absolutely essential. The hardest episode to watch so far, but also the most impossible to turn away from.

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This review, and all others around these parts, is “brought to you” by my Patreon site, where I serve up exclusive thrice-weekly rants and ramblings on the world of comics, films, television, literature, and politics. Lately, in fact, it’s been a lot of politics. Your support there not only allows me to keep things going, it also ensures a steady supply of free content both here and at my fourcolorapocalypse comics site. Joining up is cheap and there’s a bunch of stuff up on there already, so you’re sure to get good value for your money. I’d be very gratified if you’d take a moment to check it out, and if you feel compelled to offer your support, rest assured that it’s truly appreciated.

Oh, and I suppose a link would come in handy. Here you go :https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse

 

Wow. Some TV episodes work, and then some — really work. And “Danny Patrol,” the eighth installment of the DC Universe streaming series Doom Patrol, most definitely does the latter.

Hewing reasonably close to its Grant Morrison/Richard Case comic book “source material,” there are key distinctions made to the story’s printed-page progenitor that, if anything, make it an even stronger piece of work, and for that, all credit to returning writer and director Tom Farrell and Dermott Downs, respectively, as well as to “showrunner” Jeremy Carver, who is doing a great job of setting a tone best described as “faithful but innovative” for this entire shebang. But enough with the praise, let’s talk specifics.

A sentient, non-binary street named Danny, home to outcasts of every stripe, is being hunted by a top-secret government agency known as the Bureau Of Normalcy, overseen by the ruthlessly square Darren Jones (played with relish by Jon Briddell), who first sends in his deputy, Morris Wilson (Alan Mingo Jr.), to scout things out, only to have him disappear “into” Danny and re-emerge as her — the “her” in question being drag diva par excellence Maura Lee Korrupt, quite possibly the greatest name for a television character, like, ever.

Mingo delivers the standout performance of the episode, but credit where it’s due to the regulars, as well : Matt Bomer/Matthew Zuk’s Larry Trainor, who has a history with the Bureau, is our focal point among the core cast this time out, both in past and present, and as his sidekick, Joivan Wade’s Vic Stone makes a terrific foil/fish out of water. They find Danny when they go looking for a cake shop that  left a delivery for Timothy Dalton’s still-missing “Chief” Niles Caulder (Dalton still carries a title credit in his absence, as does Alan Tudyk, although Mr. Nobody is nowhere to be found, either), but with the living street’s friend (how they know each other is shrouded, as ever, in mystery) MIA, our not-quite-ready-to-be-dynamic duo will have to do in a pinch, it seems.

Why only the two of them? I’m glad you asked —

April Bowlby’s Rita Farr and Brendan Fraser/Riley Shanahan’s Cliff Steele are looking to fish Diane Guerrero’s “Crazy” Jane out of her “Karen” persona, who is “enjoying” a falsified — hell, make that forced — state of domestic bliss with a poor sap named Doug (Brent Bailey), an on-again/off-again flame who can’t resist her charms mainly because she offers him no choice. Enter plenty of 1990s “rom-com” references and a laugh-out-loud scene ripped right from The Notebook — as in, the sappy movie. But the page-tearing metaphor works taken in, or out of, any context, I suppose. Downs and his actors absolutely nail it, trust me, but that goes for every aspect of this sub-plot, which ends up having tragic consequences and setting the stage for next week’s story.

Fans of Cliff might be a bit dismayed by his limited “screen time” in this one, it’s true, but he gets arguably the best scene of all doing a dance-off against a neighborhood kid — although, who knows? Larry and Mora doing a karaoke duet to Kelly Clarkson might have it beat. And the same could possibly be said for the big Mora/Darrin throw-down. It’s so hard to choose.

So, yeah, in case you couldn’t already tell, we’re going to close with yet another “best episode to date” verdict here, which is probably sounding like a broken record at this point, but damn — the truth is the truth, and who am I to bullshit you just for the sake of finally saying something different?

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This review, and all others around these parts, is “brought to you” by my Patreon page, where I serve up exclusive thrice-weekly offerings on the worlds of comics, films, television, literature, and politics. Lately, in fact, it’s been a lot of politics. Your patronage there not only keeps things going, it also ensures a steady supply of free content both here and at my fourcolorapocalypse comics site. It’s steadily filling up with a lot of writing, so you’re going to get good value for your dollar from day one, and needless to say, I’d be immensely grateful to have your support.

Oh, and I suppose a link would come in handy, so here you go :https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse

 

When is a step out of the nest anything but?

How about — when a TV series does an “offbeat” episode (a very relative term here, I realize, as the entire show is “offbeat” in the extreme) where no one leaves the house?

Which isn’t, mind you, to say that “not a lot happens” — or your preferred alternative turn of phrase essentially describing the same thing — in “Therapy Patrol,” the seventh installment of the DC Universe original streaming series Doom Patrol. Quite a lot does — in terms of development, disintegration, and re-development of team dynamics, fleshing out key character “backstories” even more, etc. There’s no visible villain on offer, though (even if Mr. Nobody’s presence continues to loom large and, in a very real sense, informs everything that happens), Timothy Dalton’s “Chief” Niles Caulder remains conspicuous by his absence, and yeah  —  more or less everything takes place within the confines of “Doom Manor.” And mostly in just one room, at that.

The “action” in Neil Reynolds” script (who’s now written more episodes than “showrunner” Jeremy Carver) starts focused on April Bowlby’s Rita Farr, who’s having a (literal) morning meltdown, but mainly this is a Cliff Steele-centric episode, with Riley Shanhan’s movement and Brendan Fraser’s voice making it damn clear something’s wrong with Robotman — or should that be making it clear that something is even more wrong than usual? His endless cajoling finally gets everyone to agree to an impromptu “group therapy” session — if only to shut him up — and then it’s “deep dive” time, as the inner fears and tragedies motivating Cliff, Rita, Joivan Wade’s Vic Stone, Diane Guerrero’s “Crazy” Jane, and Matt Bomer/Matthew Zuk’s Larry Trainor to action (or, as is more frequently the case, inaction) play out in both flashback and discussion form, thus saving director Rob Hardy from having to set everything in the dilapidated mansion’s sitting room. If you’re “into” these characters — and, by now, you either are or you’re no longer watching — you’re gonna be glued to the screen, trust me, even if we re-visit a fair amount of familiar territory.

Seriously, though, I kept coming back to the fact that there’s something very wrong with Cliff here. His bizarre affect keeps on working away in your skull, a pestering but fascinating nuisance, and Jane in particular is reacting pretty poorly to his erratic behavior — not that she’s one to talk. There’s an explanation for all of this, of course, but given that this is one of those rare episodes that doesn’t specifically reference any particular storylines, or even issues, in the team’s comic book history, it’s entirely safe to say that you will absolutely not see said explanation coming.

And, of course, it’s awesome. Way out of left field. Fiendishly clever with an emphasis on the “fiendish.” And it’s pulled off with aplomb to spare. I was ready to give this one a “pretty good, not amazing” verdict, but the last five minutes or so propelled this thing into the creative stratosphere and ensured this show’s “every episode is better than the last” track record remained intact.

Of course, if you need guest stars to make your happy, you’re SOL here — apart from recurring semi-regulars like Phil Morris’ Silas Stone and Kyle Clements’ John Bowers it’s the principal cast only carrying things this time out — yet never once does this story feel claustrophobic of even limited. Yup, the possibilities within the “core group” itself are endless enough in and of themselves, not much more — not much else — is even necessary.

But then, the minute I say that, I see that next week we’re going to get Danny The Street, and yeah — we do need us some Danny, don’t we? Bona to vada, folks!

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