Catching up on Doom Patrol recaps, we have the second to last episode of the season, helpfully titled “Penultimate Patrol”. It’s awesome.
Mr. Nobody chimes in at the end of the Previouslies, excited that the show is finally, in its 14th episode, going to get good. I love Mr. Nobody.
We start off in 1946 Chicago. A lady in a restaurant is reading a newspaper with a headline about the Brotherhood of Evil. And then in comes Eric Mordun with a box of odds and ends to join her. He made a presentation to the Brotherhood and it didn’t go so well. (There’s a very funny prop in this scene that I’ll talk about at the end.) They fired him, even after all his great ideas. The Brain didn’t think he had enough “zip” and they replaced him with a French-speaking gorilla, who would be Monsieur Mallah. Mordun’s wife insists that he go back in and demand his job back, and he explains they usually kill people instead of firing them. She says she can’t do this anymore and says he’s just a nobody before leaving him.
Cut to the Doom Patrol bus. Cliff, Rita, Larry, Jane, and Flex are following the Beardhunter’s tracker. He’s been in the same place for a week, so they can catch up to him. Larry tells Flex how sorry he is about Dolores and Flex is a man who wants revenge. Suddenly, they reach a street in the middle of a field. It’s Danny! Larry never told anybody about them, which is really funny. Especially because Jane tells him “You keep to yourself too much, man.” HA!
Danny is happy and bustling again. Cliff doesn’t know how to talk to a street and suddenly one of those used car noodle men inflates with a big old “LARRY!” on his belly. Larry makes the introductions, but Flex and Danny are old friends. Danny makes the mistake of asking about Dolores in a cloud of steam, and Flex goes over to give the noodle man a big hug. And then Rita spots the Beardhunter, who’s just bringing home some groceries. He doesn’t hunt beards anymore – he followed Nile’s trail to Danny and they gave him a fresh start. And then Danny lights up a sign that says “I know where Niles is”. Danny’s been too afraid of Mr. Nobody to say anything before, but finally Danny tells them he’s in the “White Space”. Flex knows what that is and how to get there, and it’s about to get weird.
Back in the hospital, Vic keeps having visions of beating his dad. Silas wakes up.
Flex shows the team an old comic book and explains the White Space is the part where there is no story – he’s referring to what we call “the gutters”, and it’s the space that divides panels. It exists where content doesn’t. And Flex can take them to the White Space using Muscle Mystery. They try to come up with a strategy, knowing Mr. Nobody will probably separate them and use their traumas against them. Jane says they’ll just stop him and Larry’s all “We haven’t stopped a thing since this started.” They run down a list of their failures and Cliff pipes up. “Yeah, our win-loss record is shit. We’re not making the playoffs…. We’re past that!” He convinces them to go for it.
Flex tells them to focus on the white space as he flexes but nothing happens. And then everybody on Danny starts to experience an orgasm. Wrong flex. It’s a dumb joke, but there is some wonderful physical comedy from the extras. Also, Matthew Zuk who plays Larry when he’s all bandaged up, has a hysterical reaction. Cliff doesn’t know what’s going on at first and then pretends it’s working on him too. It’s a dumb bit that plays out hilariously. Also, and there’s no good way to say this, you are not prepared for the noises that Rita is making.
Vic tries to make his dad comfortable and apologizes for screwing up again. He admits to his dad that he was right, and he really wasn’t ready. Silas admits that some of Vic’s memories aren’t real and there’s no way this ends well.
An embarrassed Flex promises to get it right this time and he flexes them into the White Space. Larry is back with his family in the past. Rita is in her on-set tent on the day of her accident. Jane is in the institution, alone in a room with the TV. She’s blocked the door with furniture and they’re trying to talk her into coming out. Cliff is human and trying to get up the nerve to call his wife. They’re all back on the days that changed their lives. Mr. Nobody taunts them, and they seem to have varying degrees of awareness of the narration. He offers them their old lives back, minus the tragedies. All they have to do is stay right where they are and stop looking for the Chief. And if they stay in the memory, they’ll never meet Niles so they won’t worry about him.
Larry and Rita tell Mr. Nobody how much stronger they are, while Cliff seems tempted by beer and a naked young woman, and Jane is having a hard time maintaining control. Mr. Nobody taunts them, including mentioning that Larry “came out of the closet at the tender age of 95”. He says they’re just as messed up as they were before. Rita asks her director if she’s a good person, Larry asks his wife what’s going to happen to them. Cliff feels hollow having sex with the nanny. They all realize that they were disasters before their accidents and they can finally do the right thing. Larry, Cliff, and Rita all get ready to leave and step out into the White Space. But Jane is almost incapacitated by her other . Hammerhead tries to get to the door, but then switches back to Jane and fights it. She ping-pongs back and forth between Jane and Hammerhead, before Hammerhead takes control and starts smashing the barricade.
Vic starts talking to his father about the accident, and we find out what part of his memory is fake. Both he and his mother survived the explosion, but they only had the resources to save one, and Niles Caulder convinced them it should be Vic. They told him his mother had died in the explosion for so long that be believed it and could even picture it. Vic is furious and Silas clearly regrets it but also believes that false memory is what made him a hero. And then Vic leaves to help the people he can actually trust.
Cut to the White Space where Rita, Cliff, and Larry are walking around while Mr. Nobody taunts them through narration. And in one of the great “Hell Yeah!” moments of the season, Rita decides to narrate success. She isn’t letting Mr. Nobody tell her story anymore. He insists she can’t do it, but she narrates her way into finding Cliff and Larry. They start looking for Jane but find the Chief instead. They prepare to leave, but Nobody (in his human form) shows up to stop them. He says they have to get through him and then transforms into Mr. Nobody to destroy them. And then Jane arrives as Dr. Harrison and asks why it is that he wants to fight and what he’s compensating for. This is amazing!
Nobody says he’s powerful enough to control the entire streaming service, and the marketing people should have done something with that. Mordun’s wife suddenly materializes to tell him that he’s just a nobody. He’s so flustered he returns to human form and the heroes make fun of him for doing all this because he was dumped. They realize he’s just sad and they don’t want to fight him. And then he announces he’ll destroy them either way. At that moment, Vic kills him with his sonic cannon. Everybody feels like that was anticlimactic, but it’s time to go home.
It’s a happy ending! Except… we jump to some point in the future where the Doom Patrol is a proper superhero team. Rita is wearing her exact Silver age outfit, and Larry is wearing his under his rad coat. They make corny jokes and act like parodies of themselves, and an alert sends them to deal with the Brotherhood of Evil.
People in a park are running away in terror from something – a giant robot that looks exactly like the model Mordun had in his box at the beginning. It’s very silly looking and the Doom Patrol is ready to take it on. It throws a tree at them before incinerating the team with a laser. Niles watches them die and then it reboots. We see a slightly shortened version of the scene in Doom Manor and they face the robot again. This time, the robot stomps them to death. And then it repeats again, only this time Niles seems aware that it’s off. The robot kills them with a missile. And then it’s a long montage of repeated scenes while Niles desperately tries to change the outcome, but the Doom Patrol dies every time. It reminds me a little of the Doctor Who episode “Heaven Sent”.
The Chief watches them die dozens of times and he’s in agony. Finally, he cries out for it to stop. This time he tells them they can’t go because it’s a trap. Mr. Nobody is torturing them. And then a second Vic arrives – the one who shot Mr. Nobody was actually…. Mr. Nobody. They’ve been trapped in the White Space the whole time. Vic wants to know what he missed and Mr. Nobody tells him to watch the “Previously on…” segment in the next episode. HA! Nobody explains they can’t beat him, but there’s a way to be free of him. All Niles has to do is tell the truth.
And Niles, finally, painfully, tells the truth. The tragedies that changed them weren’t accidents. He was responsible for all of them.
–There’s a lot to say, but since this is late, I’ll save it for the next recap and the post-mortem. However, I just want to note one little thing that made me very happy. I can’t remember how much I’ve talked about this, but in the Silver Age, the Brotherhood of Evil had a mad scientist member named Mr. Mordun and he was largely lost to the mists of time. When Grant Morrison brought him back, the idea was that neither the readers now the inhabitants of the DC Universe remembered him. But before he became Mr. Nobody, he cried out that he was the guy who built “the giant red robot that kicked the crap out of the Doom Patrol”. And sure enough, in the original series, they fought a giant red robot that he built. That’s very funny to me. And this episode brought in the giant red robot! All of my favorite Doom Patrol stuff is happening on this show!