This week, the Doom Patrol have found the long-lost Flex Mentallo! Now, if only he knew who he was!
There was a lot happening in this episode, which covered a lot of ground in moving the season into its big finale. Let’s start off talking about Flex Mentallo, who is played by Devan Chandler Long as a boneheaded man child in the scenes where he’s lost his memory, but with a kind of corn-fed “aw shucks” earnestness in the moments when he’s full-on Flex.
Flex Mentallo is a tricky character to bring to television, as his powers have always been kind of nebulously-defined. The show does a decent job of showing off his matter-manipulating powers (which will likely make him a good match against Mr. Nobody), while also smartly skirting their way around the scenes where the powers would have been a cheap narrative shortcut. It’s a delicate balance that the show does a fine job of in Flex’s first full episode. It would have been so easy to make the character a joke, which may have happened with less thoughtful writing. Luckily, Flex Mentallo seems to belong on this show just as much as all of the other misfits that populate it.
Misfits like Cliff and Jane get the majority of the laughs in this episode. Jane spends much of the runtime exasperated by her own efforts to jog Flex’s memories of the Chief. Meanwhile, Cliff is plain out of good ideas, which somehow makes him more unpredictable. Robotman’s suit actor, Riley Shanahan, leans into Cliff’s hopelessly lanky movements in this episode, which really helps to sell how clueless Cliff feels, second-guessing each move. Brendan Fraser, on the other hand, gets a hilarious scene where we see Cliff playing himself on an ’80s soap opera. It’s painful and stilted, in the way that only a good actor playing a bad actor can pull off. It’s hysterical.
On the serious side of Cliff and Jane, we finally get more of a resolution to their journey together through the Underground. Cliff never knows when to shut up, but it’s clear that he knows exactly when to apologize. It’s a really sweet and quiet moment that balances out an otherwise over the top and silly storyline.
This episode also feature a wonderful guest star in the form of the incomparable Ed Asner, who appears (seemingly) as a patient in the hospital where Silas Stone is recuperating after the violent closing moments of “Cyborg Patrol.” Though his scenes are brief, there’s a genuine warmth to Asner’s line deliveries. However, with the twist to his character at the end of the episode, a whole new layer is added to Asner’s performance, with the sweet but guiding questions he asks Rita taking on a whole new light.
Speaking of Rita, April Bowlby once again knocks it out of the park with another genuine and measured performance as the disgraced Miss Farr. Whether she’s breaking down and crying, consoling Vic, or wolfing down enough snowballs to feed a diabetic army, there’s an honesty to Rita that has slowly crept out of the character over the course of the season. While she still has many of the practiced, uptight mannerisms that the character has become known for, nothing about Rita in this episode feels like she’s holding anything back.
While her convoluted monologue finally reveals what her haunting mistake is that has followed her all season, I was at first taken back and a little disappointed that the episode was “telling instead of showing.” However, Bowlby sells every bit of Rita’s self doubt and regret, to the point where the show may have done the monologue a disservice by using such a layered reading as simply voiceover.
This was also another unexpected spotlight episode for Larry Trainor and his spectral friend. Though they can’t quite speak to one another yet, their understanding and genuine care for one another is more obvious than ever. The sequences with Larry feeling ill are splendidly acted by both Matt Homer’s voiceover and Matthew Zuk’s vulnerable body language.
On the lesser side of Larry’s story this week, this episode brings up an issue that has never been properly explained within the series. We know that Larry’s radiation sickness and aging are being held at bay by his bonding to the spirit inside of him, but this episode and the last have made reference to Larry’s radioactive properties, to the point where Larry is encased in a radiation containment suit in the flashbacks to his time at the Ant Farm. Are we to infer that the radiation he gave off lessened over time? Given that he’s rocking the sweet turtleneck-and-bandage look these days, that certainly seems to be the case. However, it’s still very vague in the way this is addressed in dialogue. It’s a nitpicky kind of thing that bugged me more this week than it has previously, probably due to the aforementioned containment suit.
As you can tell, this was a very plot-heavy episode, but it’s all juggled pretty efficiently. Nearly all of our heroes are perfectly positioned for the final confrontation with Mr. Nobody — and if the end of the episode is to be believed, that’s exactly where Nobody wants them. Join me next week to see how this all shakes out in the season’s penultimate episode, the aptly-titled “Penultimate Patrol!”