Doom Patrol: Frances Patrol
April 27, 2019 8:12 AM - Season 1, Episode 11 - Subscribe

Rita convinces Cliff to visit family. The Negative Spirit convinces Larry to visit a long-lost love. Jane convinces Vic to visit a woman who might help them find the Chief.
posted by sardonyx (13 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
If you think about the genre of comics, it's supposed to be about brightly coloured heroes in capes engaging in spectacular fights, but as a comic reader, my favourite issues weren't the ones featuring a battle royale showdown to end the latest crisis or secret war. They were instead the quiet, introspective issues where the characters dealt with personal challenges or circumstances. This episode feels exactly like that. I almost forgot there was even a fight in it (Vic and Jane being confronted by Bureau minions), it was that strong.

Larry and Rita both took significant and positive steps forward this episode in regaining or retooling their lives. Cliff tried to do the same but faltered, which is understandable and very human, and while he failed in meeting his goal, he did crack open a door to potentially having some kind of relationship with his daughter. (It's funny that as viewers we see Cliff as a father, but we really don't have that same view of Larry, of course Larry doesn't really think of himself in those terms anymore either.)

This is such a smart show, and it's a million times better than it needs to be (see Titans). I swear I'll never understand how some parts of DC film and TV production divisions can get some projects so right and other parts so very, very, very wrong (Justice League, Batman-Superman, etc.).
posted by sardonyx at 8:23 AM on April 27, 2019 [7 favorites]

I've been wondering when anybody was going to bring up Larry's kids, and that was the rare scene where you really miss being able to see an actor's face. Larry's character design works on the level of making external how much he's been shaped around hiding parts of himself, but it also makes the viewer so much more reliant on what he's willing to say out loud (which is true for Cliff too, but Cliff's way more emotive in general.) His reaction to being asked about his kids specifically was really hard to interpret. My only guess now is that the Negative Spirit's current goal is to share the mind and body of a less miserable person, but it was also the one tormenting Larry for years with visions of his loved ones burning in hell, so who knows.

I didn't 100% follow the scene where Vic was digging around in his arm, but yikes, and also casual body horror seems to be part of the aesthetic now. We could be seeing a little more of how intensely frightening it must be to not trust your own thoughts, let alone your body, or to worry that you could be controlled without even realizing. Putting so much faith in Niles, and the belief that Jane's painting proves something awful about his future, feels like someone who doesn't trust himself yet either, and I'm looking forward to seeing him get there.

Cliff's had moments of teetering right on the edge of cartoonish for me since the rat thing, and it's making me kind of root for him leaving his daughter alone till he can get his act more together and make the whole thing way less about him. Also, much love for Rita introducing herself with her birth name, then demolishing a whole chicken, then looking hella cute on the gator hunt. Rita, you're a delight and you were EXTREMELY patient in that boat, and Gertrude Kramp is a perfectly nice name.

I know that one of the conceits of the show is that superheroes are a thing and regular people don't really react to these characters' extravagant personal weirdness. But this universe being what it is, if a robot shows up at your buddy's swamp funeral, then whatever, Bump was a friendly guy, give the fella a drink. But I'm just imagining how deeply confused and unnerved I would be by a random guy showing up at a memorial service wearing an elaborate robot costume with zero explanation, and it brings me so much joy that that's Rita and Cliff's idea of a cover story.

I continue to enjoy the background Animal Vegetable Mineral Man runners.

Also, it's kind of neat that the past three episodes spun out three totally different stories of what was going on in the one scene at the start of Jane Patrol where Jane's unconscious in the lab. I figured at the end of that episode we'd get to hear Rita and Vic's long story eventually, but also starting Larry's from that moment wasn't strictly necessary from a plot standpoint, but was a nice structural touch.
posted by jameaterblues at 10:51 AM on April 27, 2019 [8 favorites]

Couldn't watch this right when it aired, but that was worth the wait. I'm really enjoying watching these characters recover. To me, Doom Patrol is less a superhero property and more a show about mental health, really.

This week, I particularly liked:
- Rita beginning to use her real name again. Also, her just going ahead and sharing a basket of chicken with Big D, not taking herself so seriously. Caring about Cliff.
- Cliff realizing he couldn't drop a bomb like that on Claire, and just leaving her the watch.
- Jane trying to keep it together, talking Vic into helping.
- Larry and the Negative Spirit making such a huge breakthrough. That was really touching.
- Vic... is getting worse, not better, but I'm intrigued.

So yeah. Looking forward to next week, same as ever.

This is such a smart show, and it's a million times better than it needs to be (see Titans). I swear I'll never understand how some parts of DC film and TV production divisions can get some projects so right and other parts so very, very, very wrong (Justice League, Batman-Superman, etc.).

Yeah. This is the best TV show I'm currently watching, and the idea that it shares a universe with the latest Justice League stuff is.. dissonant at best. Heh.
posted by mordax at 5:01 PM on April 27, 2019 [6 favorites]

I'm actually kind of surprised Vic risked cutting into his flesh just to see if there were electronic and metal components where none should exist. I mean the last time he was seriously wounded, the cybernetic system repaired him and added extra metal where none had existed before (upper arm), and who is to say that wouldn't happen again? In effect, he would be causing what he was trying to avoid. I'm sure in all of that equipment stashed in the basement, the Chief must have some kind of (ancient) x-ray machine or metal detector or something that could have given him a visual or other type of indication of how far the cybernetic infection had spread.

You're absolutely right about the difficulty in not being able to see Larry's face, jameaterblues. Normally the combination of the voice-over and the actor's posture give us enough clues to interpret what Larry is feeling, but in this episode it would have been nice to have some additional facial or emotional cues to layer on top of what we usually get.

I love the character of Rita, and it's so nice to see he evolving and adapting. I was afraid at the start of the show that she would be a one-note character, locked into her prim and proper facade. It's nice to see her depths.
posted by sardonyx at 10:36 AM on April 28, 2019 [3 favorites]

I really liked Larry's story. Character actor Tom Fitzpatrick (Elder John Bowers) did a really good job here. I'm a little disappointed that Bomer isn't the Negative Man body. That forehead touch scene fell juuuust short.

Rita's costume design has constistently been top notch. Those timeless slingback pumps! A classical mythology reference to "true names" is a nice touch, didn't quite expect that upon the original reveal. Not sure why it bothers me that the bar flirt scene doesn't bother me.

Pending Cliff behaviour in the immediate future, I thought that this was a huge step not "surprise!"-ing his daughter. His moment where Rita thought he'd fried his brain - it made sense to me that Cliff was no longer in "please/ interact-with the outside world" mode and was entirely in his head, like falling back into a sensory deprivation chamber that he's had to constantly fight to stay out of.
posted by porpoise at 5:43 PM on April 28, 2019 [6 favorites]

Not sure why it bothers me that the bar flirt scene doesn't bother me.

If you mean the creepy "little lady"-esque come-on from the guy, I feared for him.  She's got way to much power to be in any danger from a redneck Lothario, so I just hoped the scene didn't go that direction.  It even read to me like her getting comfortable in her own skin again.  I very much liked her nonchalant indifference to his admiration about the amount of chicken she put away.

I agree it was very nice to see some progression in Cliff.  Much as I love him, his character felt like it was becoming stultifyingly one-note.

Man, Larry's arc hit me in the feels. That was really affecting.
posted by los pantalones del muerte at 8:32 PM on April 29, 2019 [10 favorites]

It even read to me like her getting comfortable in her own skin again.

Same. Rita's lonely. In the pilot, everything starts to go to shit because she tried to befriend a local waitress who'd seen a bunch of her movies as a kid... except Rita was completely self-centered and made the whole thing about her, and the waitress thought Rita had done porn, so she had a literal meltdown.

This time? She let Big D be himself, didn't try to talk about her own shit so much and just... enjoyed human company in a normal-ish situation.

It's a softer version of what happened with Cliff: he realized he couldn't make the watch all about him. (And in retrospect, that feels like the theme of the episode: the only person who did make the whole thing about himself was Vic, and Vic suffered as a result. Jane reached out, Larry reached out and they both got through it.)
posted by mordax at 12:36 PM on May 2, 2019 [7 favorites]

(To be fair to Vic, I probably would've done the same in his cyberware.)
posted by mordax at 12:37 PM on May 2, 2019

I swear I'll never understand how some parts of DC film and TV production divisions can get some projects so right and other parts so very, very, very wrong (Justice League, Batman-Superman, etc.).

Zack Snyder delivered a very fine rendition of The Watchmen, but completely missed the point of The Watchmen.

The fact that Zack Snyder completely missed the point was not a showstopper for the suits in the AT&T/Warner Media/Warner Bros./DC Entertainment, Inc. LOB.

And here we are.
posted by mikelieman at 5:43 AM on May 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

hey robot guy! down in front while Clara's talking!
posted by numaner at 5:05 PM on May 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

I cried like a baby when Larry picked up elderly John to carry him to the porch. The reveal that they've been meeting in dreamland this whole time, how beautiful and sad. Those parts were my favorite in the whole episode. Truly beautiful. And now the way that John talks softly to the energy? my heart.
posted by FirstMateKate at 9:00 AM on July 1, 2020 [7 favorites]

My only guess now is that the Negative Spirit's current goal is to share the mind and body of a less miserable person, but it was also the one tormenting Larry for years with visions of his loved ones burning in hell, so who knows.

No, no, a thousand times no.

The whole character arc here is that Negative Man is not tormenting Larry Trainor. It's that Larry's 1950s internalized homophobia and self-loathing is experienced by Negative Man as actual torture.

Larry hurts himself with visions of family members in pain, and their pain being his fault because he is not good enough, not straight enough. And he did this to them and to himself for years before the accident, as well.

And it spills over onto Negative Man because they share they same body. Everything Negative Man is doing is trying to help Larry out so that Larry will stop hurting Negative Man.

Look, I'm sorry, @jameaterblues, for the strength of that reaction, and I know you made the comment 18 months before I even started watching the show, but I feel strongly that you are 100% wrong in your assessment.

This isn't really even about you, jameaterblues, but about my own response to this storyline. Today, hours before reading this FanFare thread, I was driving back from a medical appointment and it hit me so hard, "Negative Man experiences Larry Trainor's self loathing as actual pain! And am I doing the same thing to the people who love me and share my life? Am I the Larry here?"

I don't know if you follow this thread, or are even on Metafilter any more, but I don't mean this as any sort of attack, but the very strength of my emotional reaction to your words told me that I needed to let them out and process that somehow, and typing a quick rebuttal to your (entirely valid) take on this episode helps me do that work.

Interestingly enough, years ago I had a similar response to someone in a "The Wire" thread who said that obviously Jimmy McNulty was a badass superhero who was going to star in a wisecracking spin-off as a fiesty private investigator and I was like-- Are you crazy? McNulty is 80% villain in every scene of this show. I am wondering now why these two responses occured, when normally I am pretty good about letting strangers on the internet say whatever they want and letting it flow off me without effect (or affect, for that matter). I think one pretty obvious answer is that I see a lot of both Larry Trainor and Jimmy McNulty in myself, and any attempt to soft=pedal their hurtful behaviors feels wrong to me. Still a lot of work to do processing these feelings, I guess.
posted by seasparrow at 7:27 PM on August 19, 2020 [5 favorites]

Hey @seasparrow! Oh gosh, no worries, thanks for your note. I was actually rereading these posts recently and thinking that I had that bit wrong; having seen the rest of the series and rewatched this episode since, I agree with your take. I had misremembered how Larry described his dreams and what we actually saw of them; rewatching it seems very clear those feelings are coming to Larry from Larry, whether he was in a state to recognize that or not.

It's a really interesting idea that the Spirit's trying to help Larry because Larry's inadvertently but literally hurting them too; to me the book is kind of still open on exactly what (its? their?) deal is, but I do think they want Larry to be okay for reasons beyond pure self-interest. I do still think the Negative Spirit would like to be glued to a less miserable person but they sincerely try to alleviate that misery, even if they don't always quite know how.

It's a conceit of the show that these people have all spent decades figuratively in suspended animation together before the donkey and Mr. Nobody and everything (to a point that sometimes stretches credulity for me, tbh.) But taken on its face, it's fascinating to me that Larry's trapped with his lightning ghost for like fifty years, much of them hanging out alone in his room, before he got to the point of, "you know what pal, we need some ground rules." (...I don't want to say a ton more because I don't know how caught up you are.)

Thanks for adding your thoughts on this, I look forward to anything else you have to add to these threads as you work through the show!
posted by jameaterblues at 8:42 PM on August 19, 2020 [2 favorites]

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