Doom Patrol: Season 1 – Episode 3 ‘Puppet Patrol’ REVIEW

Doom Patrol takes a deeper dive into the DC mythos, celebrating the company's misfits and oddballs rather than its iconic heroes.

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I find myself feeling much less bummed about this extremely long absence of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow because of the existence of Doom Patrol. Like Legends, it also takes a deeper dive into the DC mythos, celebrating the company’s misfits and oddballs rather than it’s iconic heroes. Both have a wicked sense of humor, though Doom Patrol is marked by both a darker streak and a deeper sense of self-awareness. But above all, both are the most thoroughly enjoyable superheroes shows you’ll find. And even after three episodes, none of that has diminished from Doom Patrol.

‘Puppet Patrol’ starts off with the team planning to take a trip to Paraguay in search of The Chief and to find clues about this Mr. Nobody who has abducted him. However, storming to the rescue isn’t so easy when the only way to get there is by a two-week road trip, constant squabbling and by sharing motel rooms. Larry continues to struggle with this Negative Spirit living inside him as well as reconciling his own past, Matt Bomer and Kyle Clements (John) were the true stars of this episode and they saved an important backstory for Larry that could have slid into the pit of storyline cliches. It was a tough challenge because, from a societal standpoint, stories like these are the ones that never let us forget how Americans were forced to deny who they were and live false lives just to defend their nation. They served in silence.

‘Puppet Patrol’ was also a really heart-breaking episode, especially with John and Larry’s heart-wrenching final scenes together, which was handled with such care, you just can’t help yourself and fall for it, and that hit home for me. Bomer and Clements have the chemistry that rose above the ordinariness of the story.

Meanwhile, Vic is trying to do the right thing, and make his own choices. It’s a great and complicated take on someone who not only has superhuman abilities thrust upon him, but also has the added tragedy of losing his mother in the process. But the team gets unexpectedly split up, and Cyborg is forced to accept the limitations of his own abilities as he gets left on the sidelines.

Elsewhere, Larry, Crazy Jane, and Cliff get to infiltrate Fuchtopia, home of the Nazi scientist Von Fuchs who gave Mr Nobody his powers. Putting Julian Richings’s righteously disturbing turn as Von Fuchs aside, the whole “Fuchtopia” did come across more like a high school production cult show – and this is where I believe the rumored budget issues came into play because it just looked… not enough. It also felt a bit forced upon the viewers – as if the series is developing the “wackiness” at too fast a pace while keeping the wheels of character growth and development still spinning in the mud.

‘Puppet Patrol’ certainly isn’t as impressive of an episode as the first two…but to its credit, it’s still a very entertaining and intelligent, enjoyable experience. Director Rachel Talalay (Doctor Who, Sherlock, The Flash) brings her trademark style to the show and makes a lot out of seemingly little, offering up some of the very best moments of the show so far. The three-hour-long Nazi puppet show presentation of an origin story, devoid of standard CGI glossiness, is tacky and pleasantly odd enough to be both simultaneously funny and creative, as well as being purposefully bland. The Doom Patrol weren’t impressed by this faux-weirdness and takes it all in stride, a hint for the audience to do the same.

Yet there are serious plot points being raised, along with the introduction of another classic Doom Patrol character that they encountered in Paraguay, a tourist/hopeful meta Steve. The puppet show was also a fun way to reveal the connection between Caulder and Mr. Nobody (who was formerly Eric Morden of the 1930s supervillain team, the Brotherhood of Evil). The gory end to Fuchtopia is horrific, but also really satisfying, as Cliff dismembers all the Nazi Fuchs in a fit of uncontrollable rage, and Jane lets loose with a few of her alter egos. Although the action sequence is also a sad sequence to watch because it was at that moment that Cliff realizes he’s not in any shape to call his daughter’s number on that Post-It Note, and Fuchs calling out Jane for not being the core persona, after all – and no one is really running the show in her body, which has also laid the foundation for some interesting things in the upcoming episodes.

The conflicting levels of expectations between Cyborg and the rest of the Doom Patrol continue to play out with increasingly amusing results. One of the most fun elements of the comics over the years has been seeing the Doom Patrol failing to rise to the role of regular superheroes, especially when partnered alongside their more conventional counterparts. Here that’s on full display, and instead of the “big time” superhero raising the team up, he’s dropped to their level even further and the show is all the better for it.

In an episode that tried to juggle wackiness with some serious character building moments, the real highlight of ‘Puppet Patrol’ was Larry Trainor. The fascinating exploration of the character, simultaneously selfish and desperate to please everybody, in a delicate balance that’s handled to perfection was a very solid hour of viewing and it raises as many questions as it answers. After this week’s adventure, everyone on the team seems to have found new perspectives on themselves, for better or worse. One of the most compelling things about this show is the strong character work, which still comes through in this episode, even though the wackiness took over the majority of the episode.

While not as strong as the first two episodes, Doom Patrol’s third episode was still a great ride with the episode’s heart lying with Larry Trainor. His flashbacks gave an extremely silly episode some much-needed pathos. And both of his arcs in past and present worked perfectly, thanks to Matt Bomer’s great performance. The episode also offered some great, fun, and wicked moments in Paraguay with a strong action sequence that raises more expectations from future fight scenes. I still find myself enjoying this show more than almost any other superhero offering on TV right now. It’s taking chances and allowing itself a depth of emotion that many shows of its genre often don’t dare to.

Check out our previous Doom Patrol reviews here.

Verdict
A few hiccups aside, this show continues to impress with its unflinching portrayals of depression and anxiety, all filtered through a bonkers superhero lens. There's nothing else like Doom Patrol on the air.
8

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