This week, Doom Patrol introduces the Beard Hunter, and I can’t possibly prepare you for that. Plus, a big hunk of Niles Caulder’s backstory. Let’s get to “Hair Patrol”!
We start in 1913, the Northern Yukon Territory. And yes, we see Niles Caulder. Don’t worry, this episode takes big steps to explaining why he doesn’t age. He’s working or the Department of Oddities, and we see their patch, which looks like a tweaked version of the Bureau of Normalcy. Niles sees himself as an explorer but he’s paired with a guy named Alistair who thinks of this as a hunt. There’s something in the woods that Niles wants to study and Alistair wants to kill.
At night, Niles strays from camp to take a dump and he’s attacked by wolves. Alistair manages to drive them away but then a wolf attacks him in a pretty good jump scare and Niles runs. He trips and rolls down a hill, driving a loose branch into his leg. The wolves circle but something that looks like a werewolf with antlers drives them away.
In the present, Ernest Franklin is hanging out in his cool basement. The walls are festooned with pictures of bearded men. His mother yells down that she needs him to go to the store for some Lean Cuisine. He is, and I say this as a chubby dork, a chubby dork. At the store, he gets way too close to a man’s beard. Ernest checks out and doesn’t notice that the cashier and bag boy are wearing suits underneath their smocks. The woman at the register calls him by name, and then he realizes he’s surrounded by government agents. It’s the Bureau of Normalcy, and they need his special talents. Darren Jones is missing and they need Ernest to find Niles Caulder and bring him in for questioning. “Prepare yourself, Beard Hunter. You’ve been activated.” HA!
Cut to a montage of Ernest assembling his weapons and getting into uniform. He has all sorts of ninja stuff and looks silly with it strapped to his back.
Back in the Yukon, Niles wakes up in a cave. There’s a weird goo on his injured leg. Something is in there with him and he tries to crawl away, passing a lot of corpses along the way.
The Beard Hunter arrives in town and spots one of Jane’s “Have You Seen This Chief” flyers. Then we cut back to last week, reprising the bit where the Negative Spirit gets Cliff inside Jane’s head. But this time we stay with Rita and Vic. Rita is worried that 3/5 of their team is unconscious now. She tries to talk to the Spirit and it responds with rumbling sounds. Vic figures they should use this quiet time to look for the Chief.
In the Yukon, Niles wakes up again, this time his hands and feed are bound. He introduces himself to a human covered in pelts. He begs for mercy and insists he’s a friend before crawling toward the fire for warmth. The caveperson who appears to be a woman covered in hair, beats him when he gets too close.
Vic catches Rita up on Danny the Street and shows her the comic book. Rita flips through it and notice an ad where “the cartoon hunk is missing”. Guys? This is very exciting. I don’t want to spoil the specific because they might actually follow through, but remember this name: Flex Mentallo. Even better, remember Flex Mentallo: Man of Muscle Mystery. If he actually appears on this show, it’s going to be amazing. They are checking every item off my wish list!
Anyway, point is that there’s supposed to be a muscleman in the ad, but he’s missing. There’s a blank silhouette where he should be. “It’s like he just walked out of the comic book”. Upstairs, the Beard Hunter finds the Chief’s bathroom. He extracts a hair clog from the drain and then, well, he eats it. It’s actually grosser than you think it is. He passes out.
Back to the Yukon! Niles is still a captive but his narration indicates that he wants to bring his captor back to the Bureau. He tries to explain that he has to go home and she can come along, but she just throws him a fish to eat. And then he realizes he’s a pet and he’s never going to leave. He tries to dig out one of the corpses and announces he’s going to give him a Christian burial. It’s Niles just trying to remain human. His captor seems to listen and pulls a body free from the ice. They bring it outside and she constructs a wooden altar in a cleaning. Niles realizes from the painting on rocks that this place has been undisturbed for ten thousand years, and his captor seemed to have existed for that whole time. Some sort of eternal life. She sets the body on fire and speaks a word, her name. Oyewah. There’s an air of ceremony to it as we hear chanting even though there’s nobody else there. The antlered werewolf appears in the flame. The mechanics aren’t super clear, but this seems to be the key to why Chief hasn’t aged since 1913.
Beard Hunter wakes up to find he’s tied to a chair with Rita and Vic watching him. He’s excited to meet Cyborg, and explains that he’s looking for Caulder on the Bureau of Normalcy’s orders. He’s got a lot of information about Niles because he consumed “his essence”. That’s right, he consumes your beard and he knows everything about you. We also learn that a hormone disorder leaves the Beard Hunter unable to grow a beard. HA!
He watches a single hair fall from Vic’s scruff and we get very unappealing mouth close-ups. Rita says she doesn’t think the Chief can fix him. She has misjudged this situation. He explains that Niles isn’t the man they think he is and finding him won’t change anything. But he’s the one person that can find Caulder because his beard calls out to him and he can hear it through time and space. Vic and Rita leave the weirdo alone to plan their next move.
In the Yukon, Niles has now chosen to remain with Oyewah. He falls through some thin ice and she saves his life. He ends up with pneumonia and she nurses him back to health. And then they make love.
Rita and Vic talk about whether they can work with the Beard Hunter, and Rita says “co-star” instead of “team-up”, and I liked that very much. Meanwhile, the Beard Hunter manages to knock over his chair and get close enough to inhale Vic’s hair. Vic suggests letting him go and tracking him because he seems to hard to work with.
And then the Beard Hunter breaks free and finds them, telling Rita that Vic has been lying to everybody about what’s wrong with him. Vic tries to hit him, but now that he’s eaten his hair, Beard Hunter can anticipate his attacks and dodge them. This is really on TV, and it’s glorious. Vic’s sonic cannon activates because the host has been compromised. It’s not clear what’s happening, but he’s not in control of his systems. A blast from the cannon knocks everybody to the ground and, you know, there’s a reason Vic came looking for the Chief and we never really did find out what it was. Oh, this is bad. Beard Hunter heads for the door in the commotion. Vic’s cannon activates again so he shuts down all his systems. That’s why his eye wasn’t glowing at the end of last week’s episode! Beard Hunter taunts them and Rita gives him a shove, telling him to leave.
Back in the Yukon, it’s turned to spring and Niles chooses to stay. Years pass. He’s perfectly happy in this new life. And then, while he’s out cleaning a pelt, Alistair finds him. His face is all messed up, but he’s alive and healthy. Alistair tells him the world is at war, and the Bureau had to change – it’s not the Bureau of Normalcy. They still seek out that which is abnormal, but now they exterminate it. Niles tells him what he’s been up to, without mentioning Oyewah. But Alistair already knows about his “hairy little girlfriend”. He’s been tracking her and he’s there to kill her. He points his gun at Niles and tells him to lead the way.
Back in the present, Rita asks Vic what just happened. He says something’s been wrong with his system since the reset and it’s getting worse. But he can’t trust his father to help anymore. Vic insists he can fix it and begs Rita not to tell the others. And then she reveals that she planted the tracker on the Beard Hunter. Yeah! And then Jane, Cliff, and Larry all wake up and we see the scene from the end of last week’s episode.
The Yukon! Niles leads Alistair out onto the ice and walks him right out onto the thin bit. Alistair falls through and Niles stands there, watching him drown. He then throws his notebook into the water and heads back to Oyewah. But on the way, he finds a whole camp, presumably of Bureau agents. He turns himself in and, back in civilization, reports to the Bureau that he was lost for years, but he discovered nothing odd in that time. The gathered members applaud his speech, but Mr. Nobody is also there clapping. Cut to the white void where Mordun is gleefully applauding, thrilled that he learned something new. He tells Niles what he learned – about a murdered friend and lost love. Then he tells Niles about much his friends are losing as they search for him. “We both know, there’s no way they all make it to the finish line.”
Also, this line from Mordun: “We’ve always been men comfortable with compromise, Niles. After all, you fell in love with a Canadian.” HA!
Mordun has just one question for Niles. If he answers it, he gets to go home and everybody will be OK. The question: “Where is the girl?” And Niles will not answer. Apparently he’s been protecting her for more than a hundred years. He even tells Mordun he doesn’t care what he does to “them”, but Niles will never break. Oh, Chief.
The Beard Hunter enters a basement with what look like M.C. Escher stairs. We hear a voicemail he left his mother about how well his mission is going. At the bottom, he finds Niles Caulder! Well, somebody in a crude mask doing Niles’ voice. It’s disturbing. And then the werewolf with antlers advances on him and I fell like that was it for the Beard Hunter.
–So, I know a lot about the Doom Patrol and I have no idea where this show is going, and that’s really exciting.
Just want to take a minute to talk about the Beard Hunter. This was a character who appeared in Grant Morrison’s run and did in fact go after the Chief’s beard. But he was more of a beard-obsessed Punisher. The bit about consuming beards to connect to somebody’s brain stem is new to the show and also completely wild. They decided a Grant Morrison character wasn’t weird enough.
And as much as I want to talk about Flex Mentallo, I’m just going to let it happen.