If there’s an odd character running around, especially if they are associated with the Doom Patrol, odds are good that Grant Morrison is involved somewhere. One of these characters is Flex Mentallo, Man of Muscle Mystery. He’s been hovering around the edges of the story for a while now, and he becomes the focus of most of the story in “Flex Patrol,” appropriately enough. There’s also some fallout from the end of “Cyborg Patrol” to deal with, as that didn’t exactly end happily. All this and the return of the warped but entertaining Mr. Nobody.
The story starts in Great Bend, Kansas, in 1964. Kansas is an odd place to find someone who goes by “The Hero of the Beach,” but odd is what they do here. It starts off with a picnic, a hometown hero, and a lovely summer’s day. There’s even a cat stuck in a tree. However, things go bad quickly, as Flex runs afoul of the Bureau of Normalcy. He’s also apparently yet another character on this show with a vastly extended lifespan. In the present, the Ant Farm is the scene of frantic activity after what the Doom Patrol set in motion, and Darren Jones apparently, disappointingly, survived the stampede of butts. Only on this show would that sentence make sense.
Cyborg sits on the floor, shocked and horrified at what Mr. Nobody manipulated him into. Rita corrects something the young hero was wrong about, while Cliff and Jane argue in the background about Flit getting them all out of the Ant Farm. Cliff makes a very good point here. The Negative Spirit is still floating around, while Larry is conscious, which is a first. The Spirit goes to Cyborg’s neighbor and finds a way to get the conditioned prisoner to join them as Flit agrees with the escape idea, and they pop back to Doom Manor. Cliff sarcastically thanks Jane/Flit, who then takes Silas and Victor the hospital for badly needed care. When Rita brings up some concerns, Flit takes her there, too, getting another amusing comment from Cliff. Cliff indulges in an arguably ill-timed celebration, while Larry has some words with the now-separate Spirit.
Jumping back to 1964 again, we see Larry, still in the clutches of the Bureau, getting fitted for a new suit. Darren Jones shows his willingness to torture and utter indifference to other people as he arranges a stunt to show his power and further the Bureau’s power. Flex and Larry end up in adjoining cells, and Flex shows once again, although arguably for the first time, that he has senses others don’t. Larry sounds beaten and resigned, and isn’t interested in the escape plot Flex is hatching with a bit of help from a new friend. Flex shows some more powers, makes a promise to a new ally, and then gets tortured when the Bureau comes calling. I really don’t like those guys.
Jane and Cliff try to get somewhere with Flex, who, according to Danny’s cryptic clue, is supposed to help them find the Chief. Unfortunately, they need to have Flex find Flex first, since among other things, the Bureau has apparently managed to give him full-blown amnesia. They try a few things to remind him, which go nowhere, and Cliff remains amazingly naïve about what Jane’s like. Flex launches into an amazingly complex narrative about the Chief being missing, but Jane figures out what’s really going on. How she knows enough about this particular topic to identify it, I don’t know. It really doesn’t seem like her thing. Jane comes up with an unorthodox new approach (but what else is new) and Flex goes along with it.
At the hospital, Rita does her best to help Victor and his flagging spirits, but Cyborg is lost in grief, self-blame, and some self-pity. They talk about GRID, and what reactivating it could mean, but Victor isn’t ready. The conversation goes nowhere, and Rita ends up walking away, pondering options. Jane and Cliff engage in an impromptu makeover, and Cliff pushes his luck talking about the Underground. Despites Jane’s caustic reaction, he goes ahead, offering an apology and a friendly ear. I really don’t think she knows what to do with that. They show Flex the results of their efforts, but lose him to his ongoing obsession.
Rita ends up in the hospital lobby, where a story about the comic relief villain Animal Vegetable Mineral Man is playing. She once again has a very strong reaction to the presence of a baby, but manages to pull herself together. Rita runs across an older man who has gotten himself lost in the hospital, and her sense of decency wins out and she agrees to help him. This was a really impressive guest star, who has done voice work for DC before, but not live action as far as I am aware. Flex watches his soap, which isn’t quite how Cliff remembered it. Jane and Cliff have a whispered conversation, which shows how far Jane is willing to go in order to find the Chief. Cliff finally takes some drastic action, which doesn’t at all produce the desired effect.
Rita and her new friend talk about sins of the past. He confesses to his, which sound familiar to me. Rita finally goes on to explain some of her past, why she has an issue with babies, and the kind of person she used to be. It’s a dark tale, and Rita crossed several lines in her past. You can see how much this still haunts her. Despite her admission in “Frances Patrol,” she’s still going by Rita Farr. I’m not sure if this is from habit or she just meant her admission to Cliff to be for close friends only. She bares her soul, and ends up smiling at the older man’s words (though she’s probably older than he is). In the past, Larry and the spirit get tortured by Darren Jones and company. An assistant brings some concerns to Jones, but he displays his usual lack of concern. Larry feels too beaten to help Flex with his plan, and Jones comes up with something to finally get to the Hero of the Beach, too. Larry wakes up from one of the spirit’s visions, feeling horrible about his lapse in the past.
Cliff and Flex watch more of the soap, and Cliff’s cameo he’s mentioned rolls around. Cliff may have been a phenomenal driver, but he was a horrible actor, which Jane is delighted to point out. They discuss other methods and the morality behind them, and this circles them back to the Underground. Cliff keeps being nice about everything, and he either gets through to Jane or wears her down. It’s actually a very touching moment, interrupted by Larry returning saying he knows how to get through to Flex. Cliff thinks this is a bad idea, but Flit once again takes matters into her own hands and is very helpful. There’s a long-delayed reunion, with certain precautions taken. It’s a very joyous moment, followed by an unexpected loss. The law of unintended consequences can be a bitch. Rita, energized by her conversation, goes back to Cyborg and explains exactly what she expects of him. Finally, he agrees, but his help comes at a cost for the final confrontation with Mr. Nobody. All this leads to a surprise reveal, the return of some voiceover, and the usual denigrating comments about the team.
Cliff tries to walk the line between compassion for what he just saw and pushing on about them needing help. Larry starts having some unexpected problems, and is willing to make a big sacrifice to right something from his own past. After this crisis is resolved, Rita returns (I guess she took a taxi?) and tells them what she has ready for them. The team reaches an important decision, but their moment gets stepped on by the return of the breaking-the-fourth-wall Mr. Nobody. It’s a very meta moment, especially considering how he’s dressed. The episode closes with one of Nobody’s rants.
What I liked: The guest star really impressed me. The Doom Patrol pulled in some real star power there. Rita’s story was sad, but very believable, especially for Hollywood of that period. Or now, probably. I liked that Cliff kept reaching out, and Jane apparently finally accepted it. The flashback scenes showed some of Larry’s horrible time at the Ant Farm, and was a real turning point for him and the Spirit. Once again, Alan Tudyk stole the show as Mr. Nobody. This part could have been written for him.
What I didn’t: I get he just went through something horrible, but Cyborg gave up his heroic aspirations awfully quickly. I’m disappointed Darren Jones survived. I felt bad for Flex pretty much the entire episode.
It was a good story, and seems to have helped finally bring the team together. I’ll give it a high 3.5 out of 5. We’ll see what happens with these final two episodes.