SPOILER ALERT: The below article discusses events and key plot points from episode 3 of Doom Patrol. We suggest reading it after you've watched the episode.
It's time to hit the road, Doom Patrol fans. But instead of packing your bags for a long ride filled with fun playlists, cool conversations and car games, let’s take a page from the Doom Patrol. Their idea of a road trip is more screaming insults at whoever's driving, trying to kill themselves by jumping out of a window and temporarily losing consciousness while at the wheel thanks to Negative Man's not-so-friendly energy.
Don’t worry, we’re not actually going to do any of those things. Just setting the mood as we dive into this week’s episode!
"Puppet Patrol" features the road trip from hell as Cyborg, Robotman, Crazy Jane, Elasti-Woman and Negative Man head to Paraguay to find out more about Eric Morden and how the farting donkey connects with the Chief's disappearance. But the episode turns out to be so much more as we learn more about each member of the Doom Patrol and the issues they're all trying to ignore in service of the larger mission.
We finally get a deeper look at Larry Trainor's life before he became Negative Man and just how much his image of perfection was really a façade back then. It turns out that his wife has always known about all his "late night drinks with the guys," and was fed up with living a lie before his accident. Flashbacks reveal that she was ready to leave him because she knew that he was gay, but he refused to admit it and it was taking a toll on both of their lives.
But since it was the night before his fateful big mission, no life-altering decisions were going to be made then. To make matters even more complicated, Larry also faced an ultimatum from his lover John, who was ready to quit the Air Force because of its narrow-minded views on gay relationships. He wanted Larry to quit too and start living their lives for real, together, no longer having to keep their love a secret.
Of course, we all know how Larry's big mission went, and all his problems were less exacerbated by him gaining the parasitic Negative Man energy and more put on an *indefinite* pause. His beleaguered wife Cheryl finally had enough and calls a spade a spade: Larry can't fix his current, radioactive situation any more than he can "fix" his sexual identity. She tearfully broke up with him and left him as he was laying in his hospital bed. At the lowest point of his life, Larry then broke things off with John and sent him away, even though John made it clear he wanted to be by Larry's side no matter how tough the road got. Larry was really, truly alone, and it was all his own making, not the radioactive energy inside of him.
Back in the present, it's also extremely telling that when Larry goes into the Fuchs chamber, the Negative Man energy is released from his body, his bandages come off and his face is back to normal, he still doesn't look happy or relieved when saying, "I'm free." It's because his problem has never been physical. Sure, being radioactive and housing an energy force in your body isn't easy. But Larry's issues have always been internal, his own self-hatred and internalized homophobia.
He still hasn't faced what's really wrong and until he does, he'll never be free. Larry's physical appearance and issues are just on the surface and aren't what's holding him back.
He's got a long way to go before he realizes that, though. Remember, when Eric Morden went into the machine, he chanted the mantra, "The mind is the limit." Larry's mind is extremely limited, and he's put those limits on himself. Only he can expand his own mind and until he does, he'll always be stuck in the same place he's been his whole life, Negative Man energy or not.
As for Robotman, Cliff struggles with his existence more than ever before after finding his daughter's phone number in the Chief's files. When faced with the opportunity to "upgrade" his body, he seems to take it seriously. Is this something he's going to continue to pursue? Or did his decision to crumple up the note with his daughter's number after seeing the kind of bloody carnage and destruction he can unleash make him realize this is his life now, whether he likes it or not?
But let’s talk about the other leg of the trio that actually made it to Paraguay on time for the mission, as Crazy Jane shows some real vulnerability for the first time. When facing off with Dr. Von Fuchs, his assumption that she was not the "core persona" of her 64 different personalities proves to be correct. She looks terrified at his offer of extracting the 63 additional personalities and leaving her with just the core one, since that's not actually Jane.
Her core is one that we haven't met yet, the one that was cruelly experimented on by scientists, causing the trauma that created so many different personalities in the first place. That's when the Chief swooped in and saved her, making her another one of his "children," but it's clear that even mentioning this event shakes Jane. She's not actually real, and if the real, core persona is ever "fixed" or healed, Jane would disappear along with the other 62 manufactured ones.
But perhaps the most important intel learned on the trip to Fuchtopia is how much (but still very little) the team finds out about the Chief's past. It turns out that when Eric Morden was becoming Mr. Nobody, the Chief came in, shot Dr. Von Fuchs and stole…"something of value"…from his lab. The mystery deepens! What did the Chief steal? And what does the farting donkey have to do with any of this?!
Overall, “Puppet Patrol” is an extremely heart-wrenching episode of Doom Patrol that moves the central mystery forward while also taking a look back to reveal a lot more about what makes these antiheroes tick. We have more answers, but we also have more questions than ever before.
The mission to Paraguay proved to be extremely important, but that's not to say that this week's episode was any less hilarious than the previous two. In fact, there were so many laugh-out-loud moments, from Crazy Jane teleporting Robotman and Negative Man to Paraguay and leaving Cyborg and Elasti-Woman behind, Cliff laughing at Vic's use of the word "disseminated," Jane teasing the Fuchtopians about how to spell the name of the location, the team wondering how Cyborg prints photos (it's *definitely* out of his butt), Cliff razzing Vic with "Justice League 2020!" and so much more. It's impressive to see that Doom Patrol can dish the drama and heart as much as it can all the meta one-liners.
And I need to see more of Jane's silver-tongued personality. That might be my absolute favorite of them so far. The way she can spit out words and use them as literal weapons?! I can't think of anything cooler than that. Plus, her sharp and reckless attitude that comes with it is just delicious.
By the end of this week's hour, our team is no closer to finding the Chief or figuring their own issues out. They all learned some important lessons about their pasts and presents, but no one made any steps forward for their futures. Well, that is, except for Steve, the excited tourist visiting Fuchtopia to upgrade his body. Little did he know that instead of getting magnet feet for climbing walls, he emerged from the destroyed chamber as Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man!
His sheer joy and excitement about his new state is alarming, but I am so here for it. Please say this isn't the last we'll be seeing of this super-villain! His introduction was even more epic than I could have imagined, which is saying a lot considering I knew he'd be a man with a raptor head sticking out of his neck. But seeing definitely is believing, and so much more.
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