Posts Tagged ‘Dermott Downs’

Okay, so if you said you just knew the first season of the DC Universe original streaming series Doom Patrol was going to come down to a battle royale between giant mutated versions of the Curtis Armstrong-voiced Ezekiel the cockroach and Robotman’s rat nemesis Admiral Whiskers, you’d be lying — and yet here it is, the fifteenth and final episode of the first season, titled “Ezekiel Patrol,” delivers an ending no one could have predicted after an entire run of episodes loaded with “no one could have predicted.”

There’s more to it, of course : there’s the missing backstory that fleshes out the massive, and ugly, revelation laid on the team at the close of last week by Timothy Dalton’s “Chief” Niles Caulder; the uneasy detente achieved between Joivan Wade’s Vic Stone and his father, Silas (portrayed as ever by veteran hand Phil Morris); the failed attempt at a “normal” life undertaken — and subsequently given up on — by April Bowlby’s Rita Farr and Matt Bomer/Matthew Zuk’s Larry Trainor; the descent into addiction and self-negation (or should that be selves-negation?) by Diane Guerrero’s “Crazy” Jane while Brendan Fraser/Riley Shanahan’s Cliff Steele stands watch as her ultimately powerless protector; the possible end of the road for Tommy Snider’s Beard Hunter on Danny the Street; the emptiness of the hollow “victory” achieved by Alan Tudyk’s Mr. Nobody and his subsequent attempt to get the “one-up” on his mortal foe yet again; the return of Alimi Ballard’s Joshua Clay in a new context; the return of Jane “alters” Hammerhead and Penny Farthing in the same context — goddamn, but there’s a lot to unpack in this “committee-written” script by Tamara Becher-Wilkinson, Shoshona Sachi, and “showrunner” Jeremy Carver, is there not?

Mostly, though, it’s all about answering the question of how and even if the team moves forward now that they know they’ve all been betrayed by the man they trusted more than anyone. The man who brings them all back together for one final mission that involves a last-second nod to Grant Morrison and Richard Case’s “The Painting That Ate Paris” storyline — minus anything to do with Paris. Director Dermott Downs makes it all work, somehow, and even if the “method” of entering the painting is less than satisfying, everything else — including the method of getting back out — surely is.

But, really, who can ignore the low-rent Kaiju fireworks? I know I couldn’t, and roach vs. rodent was an absolute blast.

We’re all set up for season two, if DC wants to do it : a familiar name to readers of the comic, presented within the framework of an astonishingly different “secret origin,” is certainly a tantalizing note to close things on, and we still haven’t gotten to the bottom of Jane’s “Psycho Cyborg” painted premonition, nor witnessed the hopefully-inevitable tussle with the Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man, nor seen the title of “General” placed in front of the word “Immortus” yet. I get the feeling there’s plenty to come — we’re all just waiting on word of an official renewal.

But hey, you know what? Enough with the speculation. What we know we got was the best season of super-hero television ever made — hell, arguably one of the best seasons of any kind of television, period. There’s no shame in wanting more — the ecstatic critical and fan reception to this first run practically guarantees it, anyway — but until that happy day arrives, I think a “binge” of season one would be a welcome way to eat up just about any weekend. Carver and his cohorts are free to take a bow anytime they wish; they’ve certainly earned it.

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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 keeps things going, it also ensures a steady supply of free content both here and at my fourcolorapocalypse comics site. I recently lowered the minimum-tier pricing to a dollar a month, so come on — what have you got to lose? There’s a ton of stuff up on there already, and needless to say, I’d be very gratified to have your support,

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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

 

Those who know far more about the craft (we’ll stick with that term given that it seldom rises to the level of “art’) of television writing tell me that second episodes are the trickiest wicket of all — at the starting gate you simply lay enough of your cards on the table to grab peoples’ attention, but not so many that they’ll walk away figuring they’ve got the whole show sussed out; with episodes three on out you’re essentially preaching to the choir; but episode two is the one that has to turn the casual viewers into die-hards, has to keep the butts in the seats. The “insta-fans” are already on board, but the “take it or leave it” crowd — the really fickle folks — well, they’re looking for a reason to take it. This is your one and only chance.

“Showrunner” Jeremy Carver turns the writing chores for this crucial installment of the DC Universe original series Doom Patrol over to the tandem of Neil Reynolds and Shoshana Sachi, and their script for “Donkey Patrol” (“Puppet Patrol” is next, so you can already see a pattern developing here) more than does its job — following, as most shows do these days, directly from the previous episode, the vortex created by Alan Tudyk’s narrator/villain Mr. Nobody has swallowed whole the town of Cloverton, Ohio, and with it Niles “The Chief” Caulder (the role that Timothy Dalton, I’m already convinced, was born to play) , but that farting donkey we “met” last time? He’s more than a gasbag, he’s a portal into whatever realm the Doom Patrol’s de facto “leader” has been whisked away to by this guy who hates his guts for reasons we’re still not privy to.

Diane Guerrero’ s”Crazy” Jane leaps in for an attempted rescue, but her visit proves to be a short one, the donkey hee-hawing her back out when her insanity proves to be too unpalatable even for a creature that’ll probably eat anything. This commotion’s not the only show in town, though, as alternating scenes in the early going introduce us to the team’s final member, Vic Stone/Cyborg (played by Joivan Wade), a Detroit-based hero aiming to work his way up to Justice League membership by busting small crimes such as ATM robberies. His roll-out proves to be a complete (I say that with zero hesitation) “win” for Carver, his writers, and director Dermott Downs, who alleviate all concerns about what the fuck a character best known for his turns with the aforementioned League and the Teen Titans is even doing in this show within a matter of minutes — hell, they even manage to tick every box on the “pedantic fan” checklist by directly addressing the continuity issues that arise from Vic appearing in this series this year, but in the Justice League movie last year.

Making perhaps an even more distinctive debut, though, is veteran actor Phil Ford in the role of his father, robotics genius/overbearing prick Silas Stone, a “second voice” in his son’s mind who simply won’t shut the fuck up and always has a “better” idea about what the kiddo should be doing with his extraordinary powers. There’s a tragedy at the heart of Cyborg’s origin story that no doubt has resulted in much unspoken tension between progenitor and progeny, but positioning Caulder as a secondary “father figure” in Vic’s life going back quite a few years not only helps ameliorate some of that, it also provides a perfectly logical explanation for why the half-robotic teen decides to hook up with the Doom Patrol in the first place.

In short, then, shoe-horning this character into this show probably shouldn’t have worked — but damn, it sure does.

“Shippers” — as well as regular people — will probably be gratified to see the bonds between Brendan Fraser/Riley Shanahan’s Cliff Steele and Jane deepen in this episode, fans of the freakish will get a kick out of April Bowlby’s Rita Farr being “squeezed” down into the donkey, and it’s a safe bet that everyone will find the “confronting their past demons” scenarios that she, Vic, and Matt Bomer/Matthew Zuk’s Larry Trainor are faced with on the “other side” of the most deliberately absurd dimensional doorway ever envisioned compelling in the extreme. Unlikely heroes emerge from this already-unlikely crew as they make their escape, but rest assured no one is left unscathed from their experiences in the (let’s just call it what it is) Twilight Zone.

Oh, and The Chief? Spoiler alert — by the time the end credits roll, he’s still stuck there.

Another good episode, then? Nope. Another great one, anchored by strong performances from one and all, well-paced scripting, smart and reasonably stylish direction, and a generous smattering of “Easter Eggs” (including, as you’d expect, any number from the Grant Morrison/Richard Case era of the comic — and one you probably would never expect featuring Curtis “Booger” Armstrong himself) for the observant and/or obsessive. It’s still too early to call this the best super-hero TV show of all time (even if most of the competition for that title is pretty weak), but it’s in no way too early to say that it’s well on track to be.

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