One of Jane’s more unbalanced personalities has gone after the man of her dreams, so it’s up to Rita and Cliff to try to bring her home. Meanwhile, Vic and Larry receive a request for help from none other than Danny the Street!
In the long list of characters I never thought I’d see depicted on-screen, the sentient, genderqueer road named Danny was probably at the very top. Well, they’re here and I couldn’t be any happier with the result. Danny manages to be the most lovable side character introduced to the series yet, and accomplishes this without ever saying a line of dialogue aloud. In yet another example of the ingenuity this show has for portraying abstract characters, the majority of Danny’s dialogue is portrayed through marquees and banners strewn throughout the town.
The tone of this episode is just right; it’s a little bit Wizard of Oz and a little bit Twin Peaks, with a splash of Brigadoon to taste. As far out as the concept of Danny is, the show never treats Danny or any of the “Dannyzens” with disrespect, or like they’re a sideshow. The idea of society’s outcasts coming together and making a better place just by being with one another is lovely. The almost sepia look to the street when Agent Morris/Maura Lee (guest star Alan Mungo, Jr.) first arrives instantly brings to mind Dorothy’s arrival in Oz, which must have been intentional.
The inclusion of Maura Lee Karupt not only gives the episode a mouthpiece beyond Danny’s ever-changing architecture, it also gives “Danny Patrol” its heart. We can see the importance of what Danny represents in Maura Lee’s every line. Much like Larry, Maura was raised to believe that her sexuality was wrong, a belief she carried well into adulthood. Once Maura Lee was truly born, the genie couldn’t be put back in the bottle. Maura Lee lives her truth and fights for her town. It’s a lesson that Larry Trainor needs to learn.
Where the episode falters a bit is in its B-plots, which kind of kill the lovely pacing of the Danny storyline. The stuff with Cliff and the kid hanging out is cute, but unnecessary. And while the Karen scenes are entertaining in their own way and handily set up the next episode, the whole thread can’t help but feel like an aside when the core plot is so engaging and better serves both the characters and the themes of the series as a whole.
Those occasional stutters in momentum were starting to make my score for this episode slip a bit, but then…oh, then, there was the musical number.
The instant when Larry begins singing (a Kelly Clarkson banger, no less!) is a beautiful moment of catharsis for the character, seemingly discarding his self-imposed loner mentality. The whole sequence is lovely, with impressive vocals from Matt Bomer and Alan Mingo, Jr. The show is rarely this boisterous and vibrant, even in its wackiest moments. It’s a scene of absolute freedom, which is why the moment that Larry snaps out of his daydream breaks my heart. The show induced such a feeling of whiplash here, from celebration to resignation.
Larry still won’t let himself be happy, even though he clearly wants to be. No wonder the spirit inside of him is frustrated. Who would have thought that a Doom Patrol television series would feature one of the most accurate and compelling portrayals of depression the medium has seen in quite some time?
Even putting aside this episode’s beautiful message, it’s just plain fun. Sure, the stuff with Larry is sad, but there’s a profound joy to being with Danny the Street. There’s always a light breeze, you can dress how you please, and the party never stops – not just because Danny needs the energy, but because the people who live with Danny love their home so much that they wouldn’t dare let Danny down. I love Danny too, so I hope this isn’t our last visit with them.
“Danny Patrol” is the sweetest episode of the series, so far. This whole episode is about finding your place in the world, regardless of how the rest of the world views you. We’re all strange. We are all Danny. Also, we all should be watching Doom Patrol. Speaking of which, join me next week for “Jane Patrol,” as we finally take a deep dive into the Underground!