This week on Doom Patrol, well, it’s the Bureau of Normalcy. Vic is losing his mind and one of my favorite DC characters appears onscreen for the first time. This episode is going to swing between silly and grim, so steel yourself for “Cyborg Patrol”.
A woman carries a silver platter through a sterile hallway. She reaches the command center of the Bureau of Normalcy. It’s a Big Mac, which she brings to a general who isn’t participating in the debriefing but is seated at the head of the table. Darren Jones reports that he’s captured Cyborg. Some of the brass are concerned that this will hurt their relationship with STAR Labs, but Darren thinks they won’t need STAR if this pans out. The general proclaims “We mustn’t upset the butts” with no context, which feels more like a Preacher gag.
And then we pan to a control room where what look like reanimate corpses are moving wires around, tethered to the ceiling. We wind through some more hallways until we reach the room where they’re holding Vic. He’s strapped to a chair and they’re running tests. They can’t get much because his operating system is missing, but that means he’s also completely vulnerable.
Back at Doom Manor Jane confirms that the people who took Vic hat patches with the same logo as the one Larry shows her. Larry fills them in on some things we already know, but it’s useful exposition. Also, I like that this show makes a point of getting characters in the loop. Jane figures since Larry knows where the Ant Farm is, they can just go in there and get Vic. Larry assures them that’s impossible – he only got out because of the Chief. Larry wants to bring in Silas, but every other member of the team has been paying more attention to Vic and knows why that’s a bad idea. Cliff thinks he’ll be able to safe himself since he’s “a real superhero”. And that’s when Jane and Rita tell everybody that he removed Grid so he doesn’t have his operating system or weaponry.
And then one problem is solved for them because Silas shows up at the door. He got a system alert that grid had been compromised. They try to lie, but he presses his way to Vic’s room where he sees the old computer and the conversation logs with Grid. So now it’s time to come clean, and it turns out Silas is well aware of the Ant Farm.
Vic pounds on the door to his cell, to no avail. Eventually the man in the next room calls out to him through the vent. That man is a bearded weirdo in a track suit who thinks his name is “722” (his room number). He has a nicer cell with a TV and everything. 722 tells him it’s not so bad – “You get three squares a day and all of ’em are sandwiches”. He says he gets to serve his country – every so often they come and get him and he leaves and he can’t remember what happens but when he comes back there’s a new chair or fuzzy slippers waiting for him. He’s pretty sure he’s been there since the Sixties. I’m just going to tell you right now, since it’s in next weeks trailer, this is Flex Mentallo and when he appeared on actual TV, I shed a happy tear.
Vic’s eye lights up and he sees a “System Rebooting” message before his eyes go dark again. Cut to Silas messing around on the Grid computer while Rita tells him about Vic losing control of his weapons and the discovery that his nanites are trying to take over his body. Oh, man. Guys? I don’t do spoilees here, but the end of Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol run had a lot to do with nanites (back before they were cool) and if the show is doing that, it’s going to be wild. Of course, Cyborg wasn’t in the comics, so it may be something completely different. Silas says the nanites only repair damaged tissue and Vic should know that. Silas seems genuinely hurt that they think he’s a monster.
Vic argues with Grid, who claims it regenerated itself. Grid says it talked to Silas and shows Vic the video of his mother’s death over and over. Vic begs it to stop but it doesn’t. It’s not at all clear yet whether Grid is actually online or if Vic is losing his mind.
Silas makes some calls and doesn’t come up with anything. So it’s up to our guys to get him back. Silas asks for their help and he has clearly never seen an episode of this show. Their success rate is… not great. Rita is the only one who thinks this is a bad idea, and they really are in a tough position. It’s just that the others are more aggressive, so they’re more likely to go along with the active plan even if they have their doubts.
Grid keeps asking Vic to run diagnostics and he keeps saying no. Then 722 yells that he already said he doesn’t want another diagnostic, which means there maybe really is a voice. Though other people can’t hear Grid, so there’s a lot going on here. Vic asks how how he could hear that, and 722 would rather talk after his soap opera. Hee! Grid displays a “Cybernetic Status” meter that shows Vic steadily becoming less human. He’s losing his mind and the Bureau monitors are upset to find out that their prized acquisition is broken.
Silas leads Cliff, Jane, and Larry through a parking ramp. The Negative Spirit starts to glow and Larry assures it that he doesn’t want to go back either but they have to save Vic. Man, Larry’s relationship with the Negative Being is really changing. It seems like there’s an elevator on the parking ramp that can take them to the Ant Farm, but it also looks like the elevator changes directions and maybe teleports. Anyway, they’re all bunched in there with Jane and Larry in Bureau gear. (Larry’s face is covered because they know who the bandage man is.) Cliff is handcuffed and lets out a Chewbacca roar and nobody laughs. They should have.
They finally arrive, with the cover story that Silas is bringing in this robot with a human brain. Darren Jones is there to greet them with some armed guards. They immediately incapacitate Jane and Cliff and pull the Negative Spirit out of Larry with a Ghostbusters gun. Darren thanks Silas for the help and offers to bring him to his son. Damn it, Silas!
Darren leads Silas through the building and Silas tells him that Caulder is missing. But then he says he’s done with the Bureau. When they reach Vic’s cellar, Silas rushes in for a hug and Vic is so happy to see his dad, but then Grid starts playing the Mr. Nobody version of events with Silas mutilating his son.
Larry wakes up strapped to a chair, in a room with a now elderly Forsythe, who was in charge of him back in his original stay at the Bureau. Weirdly, Larry can talk and move even though the Negative Spirit has been separated from him. That contradicts every other episode, so I’ll just fanwank that since Larry has spent a lot of time at the Ant Farm, they know how to energize his body enough to keep him conscious. We’ll go with that until somebody has a better answer. In their defense, Larry seems surprised to be awake with the Negative Spirit outside his body and Forsythe shows him the canister holding the Spirit and assures him “We never stopped working on you”. Yeah, I think my suggestion is reasonable enough as these things go. I’ll allow it.
A lab tech looks up at Cliff, who’s held to the ceiling with an electromagnet. Cliff assures her that she can’t break him, but she just dictates lab notes calling his design “primitive” and “subpar”. Cliff assures her “Dude, I don’t know if you know this, but I’m a functioning human brain inside a robot. How many times you seen that?” HA! The tech is unimpressed and says the Bureau uses to stuff human brains in everything back in the Nixon years. She tells Cliff he’s going to be scrapped and recycled.
Jane wakes up in a room that’s been lined with plastic tarps. Her captor is the Bureau agent who tried to capture her last week. She broke his arm punching him, and he’s not taking it well. First, a Rorschach test. She doesn’t respond to any of the cards, so every time he tells her the correct answer is “bitch who broke my arm”. He says she’s going to get what’s coming to her and then he pulls out a surgical knife. A big one. He promises to take it nice and slow, and she just yawns, bored with “discount Dexter”.
The tech brings a ladder into Cliff’s room so she can slap a “SCRAP” sticker on his forehead. He claims to be super advanced and she stumps him with a math problem. Forsythe tells Larry that if they can split him into two permanently, he’ll be two useful assets. Vic is furious that his father betrayed the team and Silas tells him that his son is all he has and then tells him it will be OK with a conspiratorial nod. And we cut to “Earlier Today”.
The team’s not thrilled abut being turned over for capture and torture, but they accept that it’s the only way. Rita still argues against this dangerous move. She asks how he plans to rescue them and Silas tells her that’s where she comes in and I’m so happy that Rita didn’t just bail on this mission.
Back in the Ant Farm, Cliff opens his moth and Rita squeezed out in ooze form. The tech comes back, and Rita ducks behind the door. When the tech is under Cliff, Rita shuts off the magnet and drops Cliff right on the mean lady’s head. Meanwhile, the Bureau guy is doing the Michael Madsen Reservoir Dogs dance in Jane’s room, only he’s doing it to Ace of Base. Jane couldn’t look more bored. He finally gets ready to start cutting but the radio statics out and switches to Kirsty MacColl’s “They Don’t Know”, and Jane starts to worry for a second because that song brings out… Karen! She proclaims it their song and uses the magic eyes on the guy. Seconds later, he’s leading her out of the torture room, arm in arm, talking about how much they love Fault in Our Stars. That’s when Cliff and Rita find them, and Karen is very excited to see Cliffy and ReeRee. HA! Jane changes back and decks him. Alarms go off all around the building and Silas takes this chance to explain the plan to Vic, but Grid displays a HUD that says “Deceit Detected”.
Darren Jones assures his bosses that everything is under control while the team finds and frees Larry. Cliff figures they should free everybody who’s being held captive, not just Vic. So Larry lets the Negative Spirit loose and it blasts through all the Operators and opens every door in the place. And in Room 418, we just see a bunch of eyes. Darren catches up to the team and tries to bring them back into custody, and also tells a horrifying story about how he stabbed his wife in the eye over a mismatched fork. And then… the butts are loose! From Room 418 comes a stampede of walking butts. Or creatures that look like butts. Initially I thought maybe this was a little too broad, but I’ve laughed every time I’ve thought about it because butts are funny. The butts trample Darren Jones and his SWAT team. The General who warned abut the butts earlier gets a call that the butts are loose and he promptly blows his brains out. HA!
Silas offers to reinstall Grid so Vic can use his weapons. Which means that Grid is not currently running and Vic is either going crazy or somebody else has been talking to him through his operating system. Whichever it is, it plays an image of Silas talking about how Vic’s nanites can regenerate his limbs and he doesn’t really care if he loses his son in the process. At that, Vic snaps and attacks his dad. And he just keeps going until he achieves the American dream of beating his father to death. And then his display shows confetti and the message “You Did It!” accompanied by an 8-bit image of Mr. Nobody. And then the real thing shows up.
He was behind it all and he calls it the conclusion of Cyborg’s origin story. Nobody says he manipulated Vic with videos of his father saying the “exact, on the nose, worst possible things you could imagine” and that last video wasn’t even real. This is Vic’s punishment for trying to find the Chief. Also, is it possible that was Silas who was dead in the painting? The person Vic was holding was kind of abstract. Mr. Nobody assures Vic that Silas really did love him and actually wanted the best for him before he disappears, laughing. The rest of the team finds Vic sobbing and cradling his father’s body.
And that’s the end of our episode. That got dark. Hopefully Flex Mentallo will cheer us up next week!