The fifth episode of Doom Patrol, “Paw Patrol” sounds like a kid’s show. Of course, it’s very, very much not. They change up a few things for the show, focusing mostly on Crazy Jane, or parts of her. We also get the return of Alan Tudyk’s Mr. Nobody, and his truly amazing narration. This is the conclusion of the disaster started in “Cult Patrol,” the previous episode.
The episode starts off in 1977 New Jersey, with a view of Jane’s younger days. I can’t say her choice for a hangout surprises me much. There’s some random and uncalled-for police brutality, and a really ugly scene in an asylum that Jane has apparently been in before. She doesn’t exactly do a lot to help herself.
The big eye in the sky from last episode’s end has been there long enough to attract news coverage, and the reporter finds herself the subject of some unwelcome and surprising attention, albeit briefly. Ezekiel, the crazed cockroach we’ve seen a few times before, goes on a semi-narrative rant and has a conversation with a rat. Back at the mansion, Cyborg has Kipling pinned to the wall, demanding to know how to stop this, and really not liking the answer he gets. Rita is uncharacteristically worried about someone else, and Kipling gets in a great line amid telling the group he doesn’t have the answers they want.
In the weirdness that is Nurnheim, the Archons talk to Kay, who is apparently Jane’s core persona before all the alters came out. Kay is a young girl, although whether that is another profound change/shapeshift on Jane’s part or a forced shift on the part of the Archons isn’t clear. I’m betting the latter. The Archon speaks to Kay in an odd mix of religious babble and some actual insight. Cliff and Jane/Penny Farthing get outside the castle, presumably being allowed to, and Cliff throws a small temper tantrum, and something else. The something else is part of the next surprise for the two heroes.
Cliff’s scene is interrupted by the buffering symbol many of us are familiar with from computers, and this leads to the very entertaining return of Mr. Nobody’s narration. He’s not pleased about the end of the word upstaging his own plans and breaks the fourth wall enough to complain he hasn’t even been in the last two episodes. Stuck in a really unpleasant looking trap, the Chief makes a suggestion that intrigues Nobody, and they start a plot that involves belief and time-travel. It’s that kind of show. Nobody scrolls through several flashbacks, commenting on them, as he searches for what he needs to start the counter-plot. We end up with an extended view of another one of Jane’s alters, and her taking over a therapy session with the way-out-of-his-league Dr. Bertrand. She, and others, get even more confused when Nobody starts unsubtly whispering in her ear, or brain as the case may be.
Cliff pounds on the edge of the new discovery, being able to effect nothing, and Penny warns him that she doesn’t think that will work. Cliff starts snapping, and the usually meek Penny snaps back, surprising Cliff. Penny goes away and Jane, or someone, sets Cliff straight on a few things. Rita has what could be a tender scene with someone, but it gets interrupted by forces beyond their control. She gets distracted from her reaction to that by the Chief’s unexpected return as he goes into the mansion and gets bits of an update as he searches for something. We also see he has a very visceral reaction to the mere mention of one of his enemies. The shaky Chief tells them about the plan he and his temporary ally have set in motion. Most of the team is appalled, while Kipling just sort of nods and accepts it.
Nobody guides a confused Jane through what’s needed for her to start their plan. Nobody’s plan gets critiqued, and he’s amusingly defensive, invoking a controversial modern-era religious figure. Cliff tries to talk to Jane about some earlier events, but Jane isn’t in the mood to listen or share. The Chief and Kipling recap some of the darker moments of their acquaintanceship (I really don’t think they’re exactly friends), and Rita comes in at just the right point to hear part of the plan she objects to. They re-summon the odd oracle they spoke with last episode, who has an unexpected reaction to the Chief. They finally get a hint that things are starting to work.
Back in Jane’s past, one of the abusive orderlies psychs himself up to come in to her room and deal with her. He comes back out a moment later profoundly changed as the alter’s (Dr. Harrison, I think?) influence grows. The movement grows, with some amusing comments from some of the other patients. Cyborg and Chief share a moment which includes the treatment of wounds and a debate about moral choices. The Chief is a realist and pragmatic, and Cyborg is a very idealistic young hero. Larry asks about Nurnheim, and the Chief gets the surprising, and late, information about Cliff and Jane’s trip there. He’s not pleased. There’s more talk about Nurnheim and the Chief and Nobody’s plan taking hold.
The team takes their usual glamorous transport to the next important location of this chaotic scheme. Most of them go inside to deal with the unwitting focus, with some banter between Kipling and the Chief. Larry and the Chief talk about Larry’s energy spirit and Larry’s increasingly dark outlook. The Chief gives him some advice he doesn’t really look like he believes. The team inside has some odd experiences as their reality shifts a bit, in keeping with changes being made in the past by Jane/Harrison and her inner circle’s suggestions. Nobody’s narration returns for some more entertaining enlightenment. Weirdness going back to Harrison’s word ripples up the present, and a confused Larry asks if this newest twist is part of the plan. I don’t blame him.
Cliff and Jane notice a sign of what’s coming, and wonder if it’s supposed to be something more. One of Jane’s friends from the past pops up, determined to carry out her mission. As things get bad where all the others are, Cliff and Jane catch up with the newcomer, who is jadedly indifferent to the strange place she’s in. I guess a lifetime of mental illness might do that. There’s a disjointed reunion, and then some sort of teamwork as events start moving faster. Things take a turn for the even weirder and the threat of the De-creator is dealt with in true Doom Patrol style.
Afterwards, our heroes, or whatever they are, reassemble at the mansion. Kipling and Chief have an interesting parting as Kipling makes a showy exit. I think Kipling and Constantine would be an interesting pairing to work a case together. Rita surprises the Chief and goes to check on something. The Chief himself reveals some bad news no one likes as Mr. Nobody makes his presence known again. In the wake of their departure, one of the team gets injured and there are complications afterwards.
Larry has a nightmare that jolts him out of sleep. Nobody narrates again, riffing on the butterfly effect. We see more of Jane’s past, which includes more Nobody narration and meddling, and what appears to be her first meeting with the Chief. The show ends with Nobody lodging a suggestion in Jane’s brain, and her suddenly asking a very surprising question.
What I liked: The time manipulation was on par with some of the better written Dr. Who episodes. Kipling is an entertaining character, played wonderfully well by Mark Sheppard. Alan Tudyk’s Mr. Nobody is a real scene-stealer. The weirdness of this story came together well, at least for me. For all his big changes, Cliff is still the most normal of the group. I still prefer more traditional superhero stories, but this was well done. And I’m really curious about Jane’s final question.
What I didn’t: The cockroach, so far, is just gratuitous weirdness for the sake of being weird. Larry is making no progress with his powers or his story so far. If his job is moping, he’s got that down, but he’s not really contributing much else.
I am enjoying this a lot more than I expected to, especially after the mess that was Titans season one. I’ll give this episode a high 3.5 out of 5.