DC Universe’s Doom Patrol series set a high bar with their first episode. Fortunately, they were just as good in their second. “Donkey Patrol” has the right touch of action, absurdity, and general weirdness that fits most incarnations of the team. They pick up a new member who has never been part of the group before in this episode, and start trying to figure out what in the world is going on.
Right off the bat, the wonderfully warped narration from Alan Tudyk continues, recapping the team’s origins and setting up for the next stage of their adventure. The energy vortex we saw last time pretty much eats the town of Cloverton. The Patrol tries to help, but it’s not exactly the kind of thing they’re equipped to deal with. Tudyk’s Mr. Nobody continues his narration, breaking the fourth wall in include various comic book fans as he successfully kidnaps the Chief. Never one to think things through too much, Jane leaps into the strange portal just before it closes. Larry, Cliff/Robotman and Rita argue about what to do next. Rita is all in favor of essentially pretending nothing happened and waiting for the Chief to turn up, which Cliff isn’t willing to do. They all disagree about the best thing to do, and wander in different directions.
In Detriot, a city never associated with the Doom Patrol or the character they’re about to focus on, a woman is in the process of being robbed. She has a very strange interaction with an ATM and then Cyborg makes his appearance, dropping the mugger. Bored afterward, Cyborg wanders around until his internal sensors tell him about the disaster in Cloverton. He monitors communications from the FBI and ARGUS, and this triggers some flashbacks for the young hero.
Five years ago, Cyborg, AKA Victor Stone, is being tested by his father, Silas Stone. The Chief drops by, and all three apparently know each other. There are a lot of comments about what they’re up to, although Silas is very dismissive of the Chief’s work. Back in the present, Rita has some bad memories back at the mansion and starts losing her grip. Larry decides it’s time to leave town, but some of him disagrees, and he doesn’t get very far.
In the empty place where Cloverton was, Cliff is chasing the albino donkey that’s been hanging around. Somehow, the beast eludes Cliff with all his enhancements, but Cyborg manages to capture it. The two compare notes, and they’re not exactly hitting it off. Just as things are getting really heated, Jane reappears in a most unexpected way. A dispirited Larry goes home and talks to Rita about the last few days.
Cyborg and Robotman get back to the mansion, donkey in tow, and meet up with Rita and Larry. Rita continues to preach non-involvement and is more than happy to leave all this in Cyborg’s hands. Looking around the place, Cyborg has more flashbacks, of spending time with the Chief and Cyborg’s aspirations to eventually join the Justice League.
Victor and Cliff try and get some answers out of Jane, who is sobbing hysterically on the floor. She shifts again to a persona called Baby Doll, who doesn’t care for Cliff but is a huge fan of Cyborg. The two heroes who really have a lot in common continue to not get along at all, and Cliff finally leaves in a huff. He goes down to the Chief’s lab and finds some tapes about Jane and begins studying them, watching the Chief interview many different aspects of Jane. Cyborg keeps pressing on with “Baby Doll” while Cliff learns more about how Jane’s personas get along, including a dangerous one called Katie. Guess which one Cyborg runs afoul of? This turns into a fight between Cyborg, Robotman, and Katie, while Rita and Larry decide to go for a walk. Eventually, the metallic heroes manage to get Jane into her room and slam the door before arguing more.
Outside, Larry ponders the donkey, and Rita keeps urging not getting involved. Cyborg, too, is curious about the animal. In spite of herself, Rita comes up with a plan and then talks herself into it. While Cliff tries to talk to Jane, the others enact their plan, which goes about as well as anything else has so far. They end up on a journey none of them expected, and cross paths with the narrator, now directly addressing the characters, and a lot of memorials, including one for a megalomaniacal talking cockroach.
Cliff tries to do something nice for Jane, ending up with more flashbacks to his daughter and some verbal abuse from Jane, or one of her anyway. The others get sucked into various trips down memory lane/temptation scenarios, as Mr. Nobody continues with his interactive narration. This is especially unpleasant for Cyborg.
Cliff keeps trying with Jane, asking a few questions. He’s doing his best to reach her, and finally manages some progress. The others keep going through their various nightmares, with a few hints about something from Rita’s past I’d never heard about before. Victor has a lot of interaction with his father, played by Phil Morris. Morris also played J’Onn J’Onzz on Smallville. The others eventually find their way back, with some help from an unexpected ally. Their return does not go smoothly or neatly, but they do get the town back. Cliff and Jane join the others on the lawn and get in some banter. Rita continues to not really care for Jane. Cyborg explains why some of this weirdness is a good thing, sort of a corollary to the pulp private eye rule of, “If someone’s trying to kill you, you’re on to something.” This is about when Silas arrives, and isn’t pleased with Victor’s new interest. They argue, and Silas makes some odd statements about Victor’s future.
In the aftermath of the day’s… adventure? Outing? Weirdness? the team splits up a bit. Larry goes to his very special room, ditches his bandages, and tries to find a good way to talk to himself. Rita and Victor have a conversation about him staying there and what will be expected of him. Rita seems very pleased with herself by the end of the exchange and just after. Jane has gone back to painting, and comes up with an odd little scene to end the episode.
What I liked: Once again, Alan Tudyk’s narration is phenomenally entertaining. Cyborg was an interesting addition. I’m not sure why they decided to add him of all the many characters in the DC Universe. So far, I like Cliff the best. He’s the most heroic, with the arguable exception of Cyborg, and the most normal. The interplay between the different members of the team is entertaining. Larry’s decision near the end was a big step forward for him. There were a lot of references to the wider DC Universe in this episode.
What I didn’t: I have to admit, I feel a bit bad for the donkey and the citizens of Cloverton. The talking cockroach just seemed to be there to be weird, as if there wasn’t enough of that in the show already. Victor needs to check his attitude a bit.
It was a good episode with some enjoyable oddness. I’ll give it a 3.5 out of 5.