What does the Doom Patrol do without the Chief? Mostly argue and get lost. But on the bright side, they also manage to fight Nazis. So if you want to see a marionette show and then some brutal fight scenes, “Puppet Patrol” has you covered!
This episode doesn’t have narration from Mr. Nobody, not even in the previously segment. It feels weird! Oh, and this episode is directed by Rachel Talalay, who did some big Doctor Who episodes in the Peter Capaldi seasons.
We open with Jane walking through town and putting up missing posters for the Chief. As she does it, a mob of antagonists follows, screaming for her to leave. I like this idea lot – the X-Men have always been portrayed as protecting a world that hates and fears them, and maybe that’s too big an idea to really grasp. The Doom Patrol are protecting a town that hates and fears them. They directly interact with the people who never want to see them again, which makes the idea so much more concrete. Jane doesn’t help relations by staplegunning a flyer to the leader of the mob’s forehead.
Back in the mansion, Cyborg thinks back to the lab accident that killed his mother. He accesses his onboard computer to see security footage from the lab and it matches with what he remembers. His system can authenticate the video, too. So the plot thicks. And then some info about Mordun comes over.
Cliff and Rita search Caulder’s office for clues. There’s a whole drawer of eyeballs and Cliff finds the file on him, which includes his daughter’s phone number, so he snatches that. Rita finds a photo from Paraguay, 1948, and the donkey is in it. Her face starts to melt, so she leaves. (Hey? I get why Rita and Larry don’t age, but the Chief should be more than 100 by now and nobody thinks that’s weird. Are we going to get an explanation?) Cyborg tells Cliff they need a briefing and that’s a totally foreign concept to him. They really did need a professional superhero in the mix!
Larry wakes up in the rafters above the Chief’s lab, his note from last week stuck to his face. That leads to a flashback of Larry and John making out in the back of a truck, the night before his big flight in 1961. Larry thinks this’ll get him into the space program and John tells him he put in for a discharge – he’s tired of hiding who he really is and wants Larry to leave with him. Larry thinks he’s being selfish by hitting him with this right before his big day. They part on chilly terms.
Everybody finally assembles for a briefing. Vic explains that Mordun was a member of a 1930’s villain team called The Brotherhood of Evil. In between ragging on Cyborg, the team decides that they need to go to Paraguay to search for Caulder. Vic contacts his dad to get access to a jet, but ol’ Silas is not going to help. We also learn here that Silas works for S.T.A.R. Labs, which is DC’s big science organization. I think it’s part of the Flash’s show on the CW. Anyway, Silas won’t help so they’re taking their bus to Paraguay, a trip that should last about two weeks. There’s a funny driving montage and then “Somewhere, Not Even Close to Paraguay”, Larry is driving while everybody else is asleep. He tries to talk to the Negative Spirit and says it has to give him more control, since it’s his body. The Spirit flies out of him, attacks the engine a few times, and forces the bus off the road.
Cliff and Vic push the bus to a motel where there’s just one room left. Larry sits outside and flashes back some more – set immediately after the last flashback, he arrives home to find his wife waiting up for him. It’s clear that she knows what’s going on. “You promised things would change. You promised no more late night beets with the boys.” Larry assures her this time is different, but that’s what he always says. She’s waiting for him to change, but she knows he won’t. Oh, this is heartbreaking.
Jane comes outside and he asks her how she keeps her personalities in line – she says she doesn’t control them. She respects their right to exist and maybe Larry needs to do the same with the Negative Spirit. There’s a funny shot of the whole Patrol sharing two beds and then in the morning Cliff tries to call his daughter but changes his mind. He pets a cat but for the first time mentions his lack of sensation. “I’ll bet you’re real fuzzy, aren’t you?”
In the hotel room, Rita is holed up in the bathroom and keeping everybody from leaving. What she doesn’t tell them is that her leg ballooned up and she’s stressed out. Cliff also hides the keys from Vic. There’s a lot of bickering until Jane gets bored – she grabs Cliff and Larry and teleports to Paraguay with them. Vic and Rita get left behind, despite the fact that Vic is the only one who knows what he’s going.
Jane starts putting up flyers and they meet a man at a bus stop who looks them over and assumes they’re headed for the same super power treatment that he is. He really wants “the Mordun” but can’t afford it.
Back in Texas, a local tries to be friendly to Cyborg, but he’s a dick. In Paraguay, the Doom Patrol plays along with the enthusiastic Steve. He’s heard of Mr. Nobody, but he can’t afford those powers, so he’s getting magnet feet. The bus arrives for them and brings them to Fuchtopia and you have one guess how Jane pronounces that. Everybody there is in lederhosen and speaks with a thick German accent. Some women lead them to orientation, which is a puppet show. Like, with marionettes and everything. A marionette of Von Fuchs goes into a sales pitch and then tells his own life story. After three hours, he’s only up to the beginning of 1941.
Vic and Rita snipe at each other some more and he’s a real downer in this episode. Rita has accepted that all they can do is wait, and Vic wants to blame somebody. Back at the puppet show, Mordun arrives for his power treatment. And then we see that the procedure was interrupted by Niles Caulder. The marionette Chief shoots Von Fuchs and the power chamber and leaves with…. something. And then we get to see a cool Mr. Nobody marionette before the orientation ends.
Cliff wants to leave but Jane thinks there’s still something to learn here. She sits down with a woman for her consultation while Cliff and Larry go off with another. Larry actually seems kind of interested in the procedure. Jane, meanwhile, has dozens and dozens of credit cards rejected. It’s clear that the women are mentally linked because the one with the guys knows about the payment problem immediately. Larry heads off to try and help, while Jane’s lady is ready to throw her out. So Jane explains she has 64 powers and she’ll traded some of her DNA for the procedure. Cliff confides to the woman that he can’t feel anything and he wonders if they can fix that. Jane’s consultant leads her to another room while Larry explores unsupervised and finds the chamber.
He has flashbacks to his accident and the doctors performing surgery. He woke up to find everybody around him dead from radioactivity. A team in HazMat suits apprehends him and says he’s a danger to everybody around him. Cut to Larry in isolation. People can speak to him through an intercom, and we see his wife outside his room. He asks about the kids, and she told them daddy had to go away and might not be coming back. Larry insists he can get better but that’s only part of the problem and she can’t keep waiting any more. She leaves him. In the present, Larry enters the chamber and tries to activate it.
Back in Texas, Vic apologizes to Rita. He was trying to prove himself and handled the mission the wrong way. They’re both shaken up from Nobody getting into their head and taking away their sense of control. After they make up, Silas calls Vic and offers use of a S.T.A.R. jet.
Jane returns to the Orientation Room, and then the curtains part and the barely alive Von Fuchs addresses her. What’s left of him is in a display case with a bellows on top. There’s a servant constantly turning a wheel to operate the bellows and it’s really ghoulish. Larry’s power chamber activates as Von Fuchs talks. He asks Jane questions about her powers and demands to meet another personality. She explains it doesn’t work that way. In the chamber, Larry finds himself in an infinite void, which I assume is Janet’s void from The Good Place. His bandages unravel to reveal handsome-ass Matt Bomer. The Negative Spirit leaves him, but he doesn’t collapse. They’re existing independently. Larry thinks he’s free.
Von Fuchs offers to remove Jane’s other personalities, but she passes. He wonders if she’s even the core persona and laughs at her. Larry tries to leave the chamber, but the Spirit keeps blocking him. Von Fuchs tries to analyze Jane and she finally admits a bunch of scientists did terrible things to an innocent girl and Caulder helped her escape. Von Fuchs shuts down for a second at that name, as does Cliff’s consultant. After a moment, she gets up and leaves while Jane continues to taunt Von Fuchs. He can’t handle that Jane thinks Caulder is smarter than he is. The Negative Spirit zips around Larry. Cliff heads toward the chamber to find his way blocked by a dozen henchmen in short pants. This has to be a Patriot shout-out, right?
They speak as one and praise the genius of Von Fuchs. The real guy mentions that he’s the opposite of Jane – she’s a mass of personalities sharing a body and he’s one person with his mind spread over many bodies. And there’s another group of short pants soldiers waiting for Jane. One of Cliff’s guys runs at him, and Cliff fatally clotheslines him before giving the rest the double-bird. Jane and Cliff both tear through their respective assailants. It’s brutal. Larry tries to argue with the Spirit and says his life has been a nightmare since they met. Jane, in the persona that turns words into weapons, launches “Auf Wiedershien, motherf*cker” at Von Fuchs. Before he dies, he tells her that her victory, and nothing in her life, belongs to her.
A blood-soaked Cliff is suddenly horrified by what he’s done and when Jane comes up behind him, he takes a panicked swing at her. They open the chamber and pull Larry out. Jane goes into her flaming giant mode (which is different from Katie) and starts lobbing fireballs to destroy everything. Outside, they run into Vic and Rita. Cliff just says “Nazis” and they head back to the jet. Jane gives Rita the Caulder marionette, because that’s as close as they’re getting.
Larry has another flashback to his isolation room. In the past, the Negative Spirit starts to glow inside him and then John’s voice comes over the intercom. John says he re-upped and he’s not going anywhere. There are other people present, so he presents it as not wanting to stick some other chump with Larry. He tells Larry “I’m not going anywhere. I’ll be right here.” Larry just croaks out “Go” and a heartbroken John backs off.
Cliff looks at the slip of paper with his daughter’s number, now soaked in blood from the people he killed. He tosses it away. They’re all just beat and sad, but then we cut back to Fuchtopia one last time. Steve emerges from another power chamber, having been in there the whole time. His right hand is made of celery, his legs are quartz, and he has a dinosaur head on his shoulder.. He is… The Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man! HA! I love this show!
–Going to keep it brief because I’ve got a lot on my plate this week, but this was great. I mentioned the Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man just now, and you need to know that was an actual enemy of the original version of the team. His powers are pretty much what you see – he can turn parts of his body to different forms of animals, vegetables, or minerals. He’s the peak of Silver Age DC weirdness and I’m giddy to see him here. Between the AVM Man here and the Ventriloquist on Gotham, it’s been a good week for my favorite weirdos.
Just some quick thoughts: If Cyborg’s recorded memories haven’t been tampered with, then Mr. Nobody was lying to him. And suddenly, our narrator is an unreliable narrator and maybe Cyborg was right about him being insecure rather than omniscient. And wasn’t it weird not having Mordun present in this episode? Without him driving the plot, the Doom Patrol has to work things out on their own and they’re not really ready for that.
Cliff killing his attackers bothered me, but it’s debatable as to whether they were even really human or just Von Fuchs shells. Either way, he’s never been in a real fight as Robotman, so he’s got a lot to learn about his strength and also the depths of his rage. The fact that he was upset by what he had done goes a long way.
There’s a lot of Larry in this episode. So, we haven’t really talked about his comic version, but he was originally known as Negative Man, and the whole deal was he could release the Negative Spirit as a weapon or to save people, but he’d collapse and if the spirit didn’t return in thirty or sixty seconds (this would change from time to time), his body would die. In Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol, the Negative Spirit evolved and merged into a single being with Larry and a woman named Eleanor Poole to form a transracial, intersex being named Rebis. That’s a whole other thing, but Larry’s look on the show comes from Rebis – the sunglasses and the long coat.
They’re doing something new here with Larry and I feel like the Spirit maybe imprinted John, since we see it glowing through Larry’s skin when they talk. I think it loves Larry and will never leave him because he literally can’t live without it. But the Spirit can’t communicate with him because even when it has the chance (as in the chamber), it can only repeat Larry’s words and Larry is still awash in self-pity so most of what he has to say is… Negative.
He’s the Negative Man! Holy smokes, these guys are good!
Next time we’ve got a cult and, boy, that sure looks like Brother Eye in the trailer. This is going to be good!