This aptly-titled episode sums up much of our heroes’ journeys from this past season as they take the fight to Mr. Nobody. How the episode does this, however, is another matter entirely.
Any series can do a clip show; they can pick little moments from the previous episodes to give us an idea of how far the characters have come on their way to the final battle or what have you. Luckily for us, the audience, Doom Patrol is not just “any show.” Instead, we get to see the full scope of the team’s progress in a rather meta way, as Mr. Nobody puts each of them in a facsimile of their memories, taunting them with the possibility of returning to who and what they once were. In this way, we not only get a reminder of where the characters came from, but the cast is allowed the opportunity to work their way through whether or not they’re finally proud of what they’ve become.
It’s a much stronger storytelling device than a simple, “Remember when you were like this? Roll clip.” Even Mr. Nobody himself makes a pithy comment about “previously on” episode recaps. This was literally the most Doom Patrol method imaginable of revisiting our characters’ pasts and seeing them for the heroes they truly, finally are.
Each character and cast member is given a moment to really shine in “Penultimate Patrol.” Brendan Fraser totally sells Cliff’s self-loathing as he desperately hangs onto the ability to feel again. It’s a sequence as hilarious as it is off-putting, and great deal of this is thanks to Fraser’s dumbfounded and pained expression. April Bowlby is stronger than ever as a self-possessed Rita Farr, someone who has finally come to grips with her ugly side and marches forward without a second thought. Diane Guerrero really lets lose this week, especially in her scenes as Hammerhead. The argument between Hammerhead and Jane is heart-wrenching, spit flying and tears forming as Guerrero impressively (and quickly) pivots between the two personalities. Matt Bomer’s scenes within Larry’s memories show a genuine tenderness toward Larry’s ex-wife that we’ve never really seen, which is a subtle and beautiful way of expressing how much more at ease Larry has been since he’s been honest with himself and his friends in regards to his sexuality.
Even Danny the Street gets more personality in this episode, excitedly inflating a roadside tube man to greet the gang when they arrive and lovingly lowering a Pride flag to half-mast upon hearing that Flex’s wife has passed. Speaking of Flex, the moment when he hugs Danny via the tube man is a lot sweeter than it has any right to be. Devan Chandler Long exudes such a level of sincerity that it’s impossible (and unnecessary) to take Flex at anything but face value. The silly moments are charming and the tender moments work just as well. There’s a delicate balance being struck with Flex’s character from a writing and acting standpoint that is just right.
Jovian Wade’s Cyborg has come such a long way, as well. From buzzkill Justice League dropout to proud outcast, he’s infinitely more enjoyable to see as a member of the team than he ever was as a wannabe leader. His rage is understandable, but we can actually see Cyborg channel that fury into getting his job done. The scenes between Wade and Phil Morris as Silas Stone are among the strongest in the episode.
It’s impossible to discuss Alan Tudyk as Mr. Nobody without heaping even more praise onto him. He’s easily one of the best villains ever in a comic book adaptation. His little tics and frequent yelling make even more sense after seeing this episode. Even with all of that power, Mr. Nobody suffers from feelings of inadequacy. It adds an all new layer to Tudyk’s performance, just as this episode’s revelation about the Chief adds layers to Timothy Dalton’s portrayal.
I won’t go into deep spoiler territory here, but suffice it so say that, all of a sudden, the Chief’s many disappearances and half-answers and video journals are beginning to make more sense. To Dalton’s credit, he plays Niles Caulder during these moments as a man whose mind is spinning. You can almost see the wheels turning behind his eyes. All in all, the acting throughout this episode elevates an already-excellent script.
Before you go thinking this episode was all doom (patrol) and gloom (patrol), think again. There are still the requisite moments of full-on comedy. The “climax” scene (you’ll see what I mean) goes on for an absurdly long time, well past the point of where it would make sense to stop, which somehow makes it even funnier. Much like the Doom Patrol themselves, the show doesn’t know when to quit, pushing a joke until it’s not funny anymore and then comes back around to being hilarious again.
In a similar fashion, the loop that Nobody puts the team in goes on to the point of discomfort, the music growing louder and the cuts becoming quicker and quicker, bringing the viewer in on Nobody’s attempts to drive Niles Caulder mad. It’s a genuinely distressing sequence that mixes slapstick violence with palpable dread. Likewise, Mr. Nobody’s meta jokes about being aware that he’s in a television show come dangerously close to shattering the reality for our characters, but then pull back just in time to continue the story, giving us just enough to remind us that Mr. Nobody is aware of us, too. Above even all of that, Mr. Nobody knows that the show must go on.
And go on it will. Still, there are many questions that remain to be answered. What exactly was the Chief’s plan? Will we ever actually meet the Brotherhood of Evil? Where is the beast from the mountains that attacked the Beard Hunter? And what exactly was the deal with that damn cockroach? It looks like we’ll get the answers to many of those questions in next week’s season finale, “Ezekiel Patrol!”