Hey all! I’m very sorry that I got behind on recaps – some real world stuff got in the way, including my Internet going out for several days, which really hurt my ability to recap a streaming series. But by the end of next week I’ll have recapped the rest of the season and done a post mortem, so there’s a lot of content coming your way. And now, let’s settle in with one of my favorite characters with “Flex Patrol”.
We start in 1964, Great Bend, Kansas. Flex Mentallo, a muscleman in leopard print short pants and his wife Dolores are sitting down to a picnic. Flex lays out the blanket, prepares the food, and produces a flower by, well, flexing. That’s how muscle mystery works and I need you to buy into it because it’s awesome. Anyway, he hears a kid crying and goes to investigate.
The kids cat is stuck in a tree and Flex uses some muscle mystery to lower the branch and get the cat back. So, I’ve been looking forward to the possibility of Flex all season but I can only assume how nuts this all seems to people new to the Doom Patrol. Anyway, the kitten blasts a beam out of its mouth that makes Flex disappear and the kid confirms into a communicator that the target has been acquired.
Cut to the present day Ant Farm. Darren Jones is fighting his way through the carnage. He calls in an emergency and keeps running. Then we’re back with Vic and the team. Rita realizes Silas is still alive, but they have to get him help. While Jane yells at Cliff for telling her to bring Flit out, Rita finds the Grid drive that Silas was trying to give Vic. Meanwhile, the Negative Spirit flies into Room 722 and the occupant kind of remembers it and can talk to it. The Spirit steals his remote control, so he chases it out into the hallway. Rita thinks this guy looks like Flex Mentallo. Armed agents start to swarm in and Flit teleports everybody back to Doom Manor. Including 722. Then Flit jumps Silas and Vic to the hospital and comes back. Rita doesn’t thin Vic should be alone, so Flit drops Rita off. The Negative Spirit and Larry are still separate, so that thing that seemed like a mistake last week was definitely intentional. Cliff wants to celebrate because they finally did something right. Well, it’s as close as they get. His enthusiasm dims when 722 has no idea what a “Flex Mentallo” is.
Larry heads back to his room because he’s getting weaker. He tells the Spirit that they’re separate now and they can just be that way now. The Spirit grabs Larry to force him into a flashback. Ant Farm, 1964.
They’ve put Larry in a containment suit and they’re trying to draw the Spirit out with high-pitched sonic beams. Finally, it bursts out and an agent threatens to kill Larry if it doesn’t follow orders. After that, they drag Larry to room 721. The room Vic would later occupy! Flex starts talking to him through the vent, and at this point, he’s very Flex. He’s strapped to a chair with sensors attached to his muscles. He’s still pretty positive that he can get out and Larry is, well, Larry. He flexes just enough to open a hole in the wall. He asks Larry to reach in and pull some of the cords so he can flex enough to save them. Larry isn’t even willing to try, so the Spirit bursts out to go see Flex. He names the spirit “Sparky”, and we learn from Flex’s Bob Newhart routine that the Spirit comes from another dimension and just wants to get home. But just before the Spirit can pull the wires, Flex’s door starts to open. He closes the hole he created.
Some BON agents walk in. Flex flexes one of them right into a wall, so they hit him with a cattle prod. The Spirit watches from the vent.
In the present, Jane and Cliff show Flex one of his old print ads. Cliff realizes he still has the “SCRAP” sticker on his head and asks Jane for help. She pulls off the “S”. Jane tells Flex he was a cartoon mascot created by Wally Sage, and that is also the name of the person who created Flex in the comics. This show loves me. Flex can’t answer any questions, until Cliff mentions the Chief. Flex knows who that is and starts telling his story, but it’s clear that he’s talking about a soap opera character – his favorite show, Secret Hearts. Cliff mentions that he was on the show once, and you know that’s going to be good. Jane tells Flex to take off his clothes and he goes along with it.
Rita and Vic wait in Silas’ hospital room, debating the difference between “fine” and “stable”. She convinces him to reinstall Grid so they can track the Beardhunter. Vic is reluctant because he’s afraid of hurting somebody else. Meanwhile Jane and Cliff trim Flex’s hair and beard. Cliff is bad at it because, you know, robot hands. He tries to talk to Jane about the Underground and she just gets mad. Reasonably so, but also, he didn’t choose to go in there. When they’re done, Flex is impressed at how much he looks like the hunk from the cereal box and then he remembers it’s almost time for Secret Hearts.
Back in the hospital, the TV plays another news report about Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man. He struck a deal with the authorities for immunity if he testifies about Von Fuchs’ lab. Somebody attempted to assassinate him outside the courthouse, but only shot him in the Mineral part. HA! I love these. Anyway, Rita hears that ghostly baby crying again and she loses control for the first time in a whole before she pulls herself together again. She heads for an elevator and runs into a lost old man, played by Ed Asner. She agrees to help him find his room, even if he doesn’t know where it is.
Jane and Cliff watch Flex watch a soap opera. He’s rapt and gets mad when Cliff keeps talking over the show. Jane suggests Cliff get more aggressive and try to trigger Flex’s power. Cliff tries harder to interrupt the show, but Flex just shushes him. So Cliff punches a hole in the TV and after a long reaction shot, Flex bursts into tears.
Rita offers to find a family member to help Ed Asner, but he says he abandoned his family years ago. She starts talking about the mistakes she made and how somebody is trying to use them against her. And here we go. Remember that producer, Gene? Rita says nothing ever happened between them, but he’d ask for favors and she started lining up girls for him, arranging meetings in hotels. So these young actresses would get a boost, Gene would line up roles for Rita, and Gene got laid. She figured everybody was winning. And so she kept doing it, until Mary Beth Wooten. Gene got her pregnant and then dumped her. She went to Rita, who gave a hundred dollars and sent her on her way. A week later, Mary Beth killed herself. Rita thought about taking in the baby, but then she got the role in Forbidden Congo and forgot all about the baby. “Looking the other way should be so much harder than it actually is.” And she’s been looking for absolution ever since. Ed Asner comforts her and it’s a really sweet moment.
Flashback! We’re back in the Ant Farm and they’re blasting Larry and the Negative Spirit with sound and it looks like the Spirit is dying. They let it re-enter Larry and send him back to his room. Flex strikes up a conversation with the Spirit and he opens the hole in the wall again. Larry still refuses to reach through and pull the cords because he’s afraid the suit will get damaged and then he’ll kill everybody. Then the agents return to Flex’s cell. The Spirit watches as Flex once again flexes a guy into a wall. But then they get tough. They bring in a TV and show him Dolores. She’s being held captive and beaten by Bureau agents. The only way to keep her safe is to comply. Flex gives in. The Negative Spirit lashes out in frustration before returning to Larry. And then we return to the present – the Spirit’s been showing Larry this ever since it reached out to him. Larry realizes he needs to find Dolores.
Cut to Cliff and Flex watching Flex’s show online while they eat ice cream. They’re friends now! Then they cue up the episode where Cliff appeared, and Brendan Fraser is hilarious here as he does a very bad job of acting. Cliff claims there was Daytime Emmy buzz, and I love this very much. Jane brings a blowtorch to Cliff, with the intention of setting fire to Flex. Cliff doesn’t want to torture the poor guy, but he apologizes to Jane for going to the Underground and seeing things she didn’t want him to see. She takes it as well as Jane has taken anything. Larry comes in and tells them about the Dolores plan. Jane Flits out and brings Dolores, who really is the woman that ambushed Vic and Jane. She tries to incapacitate Flex with the elbow thing, only it’s covered with duct tape. He remembers her, and she starts to get her own memory back. Finally they embrace and it’s beautiful, but then she turns to ash. The Bureau booby trapped her in the event that she ever remembered her old life. She disintegrates in Flex’s arms. Holding back tears, he flexes and explodes every electrical item in the house
Back at the hospital, Rita is back with Vic and she tells him Mr. Nobody only has power over them because they let him. They have to try harder, and to take the offensive, they need Vic to get back online. Vic doesn’t want to leave his father, so they’ll have to save Niles without him. But that’s good enough for Rita. Vic reinstalls Grid and his wounds immediately start to heal. Which means he’s becoming more machine, so there’s a lot going on here. But Rita gets the information to track down the Beardhunter and strides out of that hospital with more purpose than anybody since Peggy Olson. Ed Asner watches her leave and then becomes Mr. Nobody. He starts his ending narration but then we cut back to Doom Manor. “Oh God, there’s more? Uck.” HA!
Cliff gives Flex his sympathies then tries to rally him to help with the Chief. At that moment, Larry barfs up blood with his bandages on. Larry is ready to die rather than force the Spirit to bond with him again. He wants to let the Spirit be free. It is such a turn in his relationship with the Negative Spirit, and I think that’s been incredibly well done. The Spirit flies out of the house and looks to the skies, but stops. It turns back and flies right back into Larry, saving his life and bonding them once again. And that’s when Rita comes back. She reports that she knows how to find Niles and she’s ready to fight back. And everybody agrees “For Niles”.
And then the pause symbol appears and we cut to Mordun, watching the show on an iPad in the White Space. He’s wearing a “Doom Patrol” shirt and drinking from a branded mug while wearing a DC cap and snuggling under a “Doom Patrol” blanket that I need them to make in real life. He’s glad they’re turning into a team of superheroes he can use, rather than “emo navel gazers”. Mordun tears Vic out of the cast poster and promises it’s going to become the show everybody wanted to see in the first place.
–I try to keep comic discussion to a minimum because the weirdest things could turn out to be spoilees. So I’m just going to say that I love Flex Mentallo very much, and his Doom Patrol arc and subsequent miniseries are, like, foundational for me. And while the different medium meant a slightly different approach, they did Flex proud and this version is fantastic. In case I haven’t made it clear, this is a very good show. And next episode has big hunks based around a throwaway line from Mr. Nobody’s first comic appearance, a line that I enjoy quoting. Are you ready for secrets to be revealed in “Penultimate Patrol”?