This week on Doom Patrol, we spend most of the episode inside Jane’s head. This one is a dark ride, friends. It’s time for “Jane Patrol”.
We open in Arkansas, 1957. Kay Challis (Jane’s original name) is just a little kid putting together her puzzle. The guy we saw in a previous flashback comes in and says “Sweet, sweet baby Kay. Come here and give daddy a kiss.” That phrase is going to recur, so you know this is going to be upsetting. She says she’s not done with her puzzle and reminds her that daddy doesn’t like to wait and she walks toward him and then they cut away during the hug.
We cut to the Underground, which actually looks like a train station, except for the parts that don’t. Jane’s other personalities are all there, and when we see one, they get a chyron with their own font identifying them. Some of the personalities are played by Diane Guerrero but some of them aren’t, which is a neat effect. So right off we see Hammerhead dragging away Karen. Karen is still played by Guerrero, but we see a different Hammerhead – a shaved-head punk that you would see and immediately know she’s Hammerhead. We quickly meet Kit with the Canstick, Scarlet Harlot, Lucy Fugue, Silver Tongue, and Jill-in-Irons. We’ve seen a couple of them manifest – Lucy Fugue is the one with electrical powers, and Silver Tongue wasn’t named in the dialogue, but she’s the one who uses words as weapons. There’s Mama Pentecost, the Nun (who carries a chainsaw), Pretty Polly, Flit, Baby Doll, and the Secretary We know Flit and Baby Doll! None of these are played by Guerrero. Polly tells Karen it’s time to go away and Karen starts mocking her with song. We don’t know Pretty Polly’s deal, but it seems effective. Hammerhead takes Karen away while Jane watches. The others catch sight of her and call out. They want her to go up and take control. Jane is supposed to be on the surface until somebody else wants to be. She’s the primary and that’s her job. By not taking control, she’s leaving everybody vulnerable, so Jane agrees to go up. She sits on a train controlled by Driver 8 (played by the same actress). Driver is worried about Jane and Jane convinces her to let her pull the emergency brake and take some time.
In the real world, they’ve got Jane in the basement of Doom Manor. Rita is trying to talk her out of herself and Cliff blames his therapy thing for this. Rita: “Don’t blame yourself, therapy was the rat’s idea.” HA! Cliff is torn up about this. Vic’s scan shows there’s nothing wrong with her and he wishes they could shrink down and get inside her head. Larry tells him that’s dumb and then collapses because the Negative Spirit leaves his body. It puts one hand in Jane’s head and one in Cliff’s, and suddenly Cliff is in the underground. And he’s human! This is your episode, Brendan Fraser! He’s still wearing Cliff’s clothes, which looks surprisingly weird on a person.
He’s walking the train tracks and catches a glimpse of himself in a puddle and he’s completely baffled. He finds the stopped train and meets Driver 8, and since she looks like Jane, he can follow the plot. Driver 8’s never been on the surface so she hasn’t met Cliff but knows she’s a robot. She tells Cliff he’s not supposed to be there and he tries to explain something he doesn’t understand. He asks for her help and Driver says she doesn’t leave the train, but she’s willing to make some calls.
Jane sits in a beautiful forest clearing by a lake and she meets Penny Farthing, who’s having a picnic by herself. She’s the one who was with Cliff in Nurnheim, and she’s kind of dressed like a clean chimney sweep. She also doesn’t stutter like she did on the surface, but they’ll get to that. Neither of them know whose memory this place is, which bothers Jane more than it bothers Penny. Penny says it’s her favorite place in the Underground. She’s aggressively pleasant. Jane heads off to find answers.
Cliff hangs out and then Hammerhead shows up. That was not a helpful call to make, Driver 8! I love that he recognizes her instantly. Hammerhead and Driller Bill subdue him and smack him around. Driver 8 flips Cliff off as they drag him away.
Jane finds one of those “take a number” deli things on a wall in a dark corridor and pulls the tab. Behind the next door she sees The Sisters, a three-headed woman offering counsel. Hammerhead throws Cliff in a cell. Karen’s in the next cell and across the way is a scarecrow-looking thing named “Jack Straw”. Karen is impressed that Cliff is human now and says it kinda works. She’s touched that Cliff is making “a grand romantic gesture” because she has badly misread that situation.
The Sisters tell Jane she doesn’t need to worry. They can’t cure her fear but if she goes to the well, it’ll solve her problems. She starts to ask a question then notices a neon sign reading “No Questions”. Penny is waiting for Jane when she leaves and tries very hard to talk her out of listening to The Sisters. And Penny is worried that if Jane gives up, somebody else is going to have to become the dominant personality. She reminds Jane that Miranda went to the well, too. Jane curses her out and leaves.
Hammerhead releases Karen, since she’s had some time to cool down. Cliff punches a wall, forgetting he’s not a robot anymore. It hurts, but it also crumbles a little, so he keeps hitting it. Jack Straw slides him an awl and soon he’s got an actual hole going. He sees Jane on the other side of the wall but she doesn’t acknowledge him. Penny happens by and explains that Cliff is seeing a memory and not Jane. (She also mentions that she only stammers when she’s on the surface.) She helps Cliff tear down the rest of the wall so he can walk out, and then explains that Jane is going to the well and they have to stop her.
We see Jane passing through a memory where she played with a stray dog on the street and then the van from the hospital caught up to her and brought her back. Our Jane watches all this while she hears the whispers from her dad again. Cliff and Penny cut through some memories to catch up and they pass through a classroom where a teacher is scolding Kay Challis. But Kay insists that she’s Miranda. Penny explains that Miranda used to be the primary. And we know Miranda went to the well and she’s not around anymore, so obviously the well is bad. Miranda starts whispering “shut the door” and seems aware of Cliff and Penny. They have to go through a door to what’s left of Miranda’s station and Penny warns Cliff to cover his eyes. Miranda screams as they go through. It’s another dilapidated hall, but there’s also a corpse hanging from the ceiling.
Cliff and Penny reach a memory where Cliff and Jane are talking outside Doom Manor. Cliff doesn’t know why a nice memory is buried like that but Penny explains that it was the beginning of everything going sideways. Cliff gave her hope, and that made things bad.
Real Jane watches a memory where Niles promises to keep her safe and be like a father to her. He asks about her actual father and she doesn’t want to talk about it. Cliff and Penny finally catch up and she storms off. She tells them she doesn’t want them there and Cliff apologizes again, saying therapy might have been the rat’s idea anyway. She demands he get out of her head but Cliff keep following. And Jane keeps hearing her father’s whisper. She’s furious that Penny told him about the well and Miranda and Jane finally says that if Cliff is really her friend, he’ll leave. She says she doesn’t see the point in going back and begs Cliff to let her do what she needs to do. There’s a quick cut back to the real world where the Negative Spirit is still keeping his hands in brains. Vic and Rita are missing, but it looks like we’ll catch up with them next week.
Jane heads through a corridor, hearing her (Kay’s) father’s words the whole time. She runs into another personality, Black Annis, a cloaked woman with long metal claws for fingers. Jane says the Sisters sent her and Annis lets her pass. Cliff and Penny track her but Penny won’t enter Annis’ room. Cliff is on his own. Jane’s hallway turns into the hallway in a home and she finds Kay’s bedroom, entering into the flashback from the beginning of the episode. And then she discovers the source of that pastoral memory where Penny likes to go – it’s the image in the puzzle that Kay was putting together. She realizes “This is where I began, isn’t it?”. She tells Kay that she doesn’t know how to be or if she’s supposed to be happy and she doesn’t know where to go. But Kay is just a memory and can’t respond. Dad comes into the room and pulls Kay away, but Jane takes her place.
Cliff enters Anni’s room and she attacks, slashing his face for being a man. And underneath, we see his robot visage. Amid a series of flashbacks, he peels off his skin and leaves it in a pile. Cliff insists that whatever he is now, it isn’t a man. Convinced, Annis lets him pass. He follows a trail of puzzle pieces to the well and sees Jane perched on the edge, chanting to herself. Cliff tries to pull her back but then a swirl of puzzle pieces erupts from the well and form a giant version of Kay’s father. Cliff tells her this is all in her head but giant Dad snaps his legs off. And then Jane becomes herself again. She screams at her father, letting loose all these bottled emotions until she ends up repeating “I am not afraid of you!” And then, Dad falls apart and disappears into the well.
We catch up with Jane and Cliff back on the train. They make their way back to the surface and return to the real world. They wake up and Cliff notices the place has been trashed. Vic and Rita say “long story” in unison. Vic asks him what happened and Cliff answers “It’s not my story to tell. The important thing is, she’s back. And I think she’s better.” Jane heads to her room and she seems to be at peace until she hears her father’s whisper once again.
And that’s the episode!
I don’t really have too much to say, but I think this episode was heartbreaking and therapeutic, and, while I blessedly can not speak to this with any authority, I feel like maybe it could be therapeutic to survivors of abuse. It doesn’t minimize or provide easy answers, but acknowledges just how difficult it can be to keep going on.
It looks like next week is changing gears to show us what happened to Vic and Rita, and we’re going to meet the Beardhunter.