The Doom Patrol is certainly taking a while to get their act together, cumulatively and individually. They are all suffering from various emotional traumas, and some from some physical issues as well. The “Therapy” episode did less to help deal with that than you might think, although they’ve been trying to move on since then. “Frances Patrol” offers several of them a chance to come to grips with their pasts, and look for some degree of closure. The episode is short on action, mostly a character driven piece, and I think it’s one of their better ones. As usual, the odder elements derive from the writings of long-time Doom Patrol scribe Grant Morrison.
The episode starts with another of those strange, not quite dream, maybe a vision sequences where Larry is brought to parts of his past, or things he wishes were in his past, while the Negative Spirit is out of his body. As is frequently the case, he goes back to find his love, John, this time at a motel where Larry used to think about taking him. Larry makes some actual emotional progress, then abruptly wakes up, for yet another perspective on the end of “Jane Patrol.” He pleads, quietly, to be taken back.
Cliff is vaguely listening to the tv as the trial of Animal-Vegetable-Mineral man continues, a piece of absurdity that goes back to “Puppet Patrol.” What gets his attention is the next story about the death of Bump Weathers, Cliff’s former friend and the man who adopted his daughter, Clara. Rita tries to have a talk with Jane, but she’s really expecting a bit too much at this point. Jane is, for her, relatively restrained, and actually gives a slight explanation, but that’s not enough for Rita. Jane is also frustrated that her attempts at a team meeting didn’t work out. Cyborg, meanwhile, has a talk with GRID, his operating system/limited AI, and gets some disturbing news.
Rita and Jane are joined by Cliff, and Jane is in high snark. She compares them to the Doom Patrol they met, and Rita and Cliff take offense. Cliff asks for a favor from Flit, irritating Jane, who doesn’t like anyone talking to her alters directly. Tensions rise, and Flit takes matters into her own hands, pleasing Cliff but annoying Rita, who gets taken for a ride. Cliff, presented with the reality of actually being able to talk to Clara, has something akin to a panic attack. Rita makes a surprising admission about her past, and they go into the bar, passing Cliff’s appearance off as a Halloween costume the late Bump made for him. Cliff looks like he wants to hide, which is, of course, not possible for him, and Rita actually gets in some flirting. Cyborg does some self-testing, and doesn’t like what he finds. Jane comes pounding on his door, asking for some help with a clue she managed to get following up on something from Danny.
Rita gets some background on Bump, and a bit of a clue about how he died. Cliff figures out who Clara is when someone calls her name, and gets even more spooked. Points to Riley Shanahan, who does the physical Robotman body, for some fine physical acting. Larry’s pleas to the spirit are finally answered, and he gets more time with John, although not the way he wanted, and in a scene that shows Larry is still far from comfortable with his own sexuality. Rita shoos Cliff away from her flirting and eating, and he does his best to gather his courage and go speak with Clara. That is, of course, when she’s called on to speak to everyone, and gives a speech about what Bump meant to her and thanking everyone for coming. She’s very polite, Clara Steele/Weathers. We also learn a bit more about what led to Bump’s death. Cliff flees, Rita follows, and offers some good advice. Cliff isn’t listening, and sets off on a quest of his own devising. Larry’s time with John goes a bit off the rails as Larry just can’t relax, and John gives him a decent speech bordering on a scolding. Larry is again returned to the real world, doesn’t get the direct answer he was hoping for, but does get a hint about what to do next.
Cliff outlines what he’s about to do, and Rita isn’t thrilled. I’m actually with her on this one. Cliff is being irrational enough that I almost wonder if he’s got another rat on board. Rita revisits something she said earlier, which is a big step for her, and Cliff reveals a bit more about the item that keeps coming up in the stories about Clara and Bump. Cliff sets off on something that really should be next to impossible for him, and Rita finds a convenient way to follow, complaining the whole way. Larry follows up on the hint he was given, and makes a journey that is immensely difficult for him, emotionally. Physically, it seems really odd how many important things are relatively close to Doom Manor. All things considered, the visit goes a lot better than Larry has any right to expect. It’s a very touching scene.
Cyborg and Jane go to the meeting she set up, and it’s in an unusual location. Cyborg has a few reasonable questions, and Jane only has snark and sarcasm for answers. Cyborg finally tells her about the issues he’s been having with GRID, and she has some questions that actually make some sense. Jane warns him against taking Mr. Nobody’s attempt to screw with them too seriously, but then, she’s the one that shared this in the first place. Jane shares why she’s so focused on finding the Chief now, and she does have a valid reason. An arguing couple goes by, words escalating to physical, and Jane charges to the rescue. It’s a bit odd to me that the one in training to be a superhero doesn’t lend a hand, but he gets distracted almost at once by the one they came to meet. Things go sideways quickly as this is revealed to be a trap, that Jane fights clear of but Cyborg isn’t so lucky. Cliff wanders, muttering, and ignoring Rita’s advice. Granted, his explanation for missing so much time would be a bit hard to believe. Cliff has a fit of anguish and stress and then goes so still Rita is worried about him. Much more subdued, he tells Rita to go back, and that he’ll be along later. His moment of quietness and contemplation comes to an unexpected end. John and Larry swap details about their lives, and Larry makes several admissions that must have been very hard for him. They tease each other some, the visit wraps up on a warm but unclear note, and Larry thanks the spirit for guiding him here. Cliff does some of what he set out to do, but not the important parts, and Cyborg ends the episode in a bad spot.
What I liked: There was some huge emotional growth on the part of many of the characters here. Larry and Rita made some big strides, one more than the other, and I hope it brings them some peace in the future. Cliff didn’t do as well, but it was very believable. Rita’s explanation for Cliff in the bar was great, and it was nice seeing her act like more or less a normal person and not have her powers screw up her day. I wonder if there’s a link between that and her accepting more about herself.
What I didn’t: Like I said, an improbable amount of stuff seems to be near Doom Manor. Also, from the ambush that was set up, I’d guess the Bureau has a good idea where they are, and I’m wondering why they haven’t attacked yet. The team isn’t up to an organized fight, that’s for sure. I feel bad for Cliff’s failure, but I get it. Cliff’s mission shouldn’t have worked on several levels, especially the purely physical, but I get setting aside the reality for a story.
This was a very well-crafted episode. I’ll give it a 4 out of 5. I really didn’t expect to enjoy this series anywhere near as much as I am.