Last episode felt like, in large part, it was about dysfunctional relationships, especially between fathers and daughters. Now we’re in definitely not family-friendly territory. We see several familiar faces return, someone go through some changes, and a seriously freaky party, even by the standards of this show. Parts of it are exactly what it sounds like as we deal with “Sex Patrol.”
The first scene places us in London in 1978, and shows us some of what happened with Dorothy Spinner in her undocumented years. She isn’t thrilled with some of what her father is doing, and the Chief gets Danny the Street involved as well. After a line with heavy foreshadowing from the Chief, we jump to now and Danny’s current difficulties. The Chief spends some time reassuring Dorothy, then gets into a disagreement with Rita about Dorothy’s future. The discussion gets interrupted by the arrival of Flex Mentallo, Maura Lee Karupt, and the other Danny-zens. This leads to a talk about a party, the planning for same, and Larry trying to get Rita to relax a bit. Good luck with that, Larry.
Dorothy has been told she can only stay until bedtime, so we get several title cards counting down to bedtime as the episode progresses. Down in the Underground (RIP David Bowie), the caged Jane debates with Hammerhead about what’s going on. Apparently The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter is “up,” driving their body, and has a conversation with Cliff showing that Daughter is really not qualified to handle the real world. Rita gets things set up for the party with some unusual help from Flex. Flex also helps Dorothy with her mood and some decorating. At 2 hours to Bedtime, Rita and Dorothy talk about her life, makeup, and unusual aging. Dorothy comes to the party in an iconic dress from a namesake, sings a great song from another movie (two, actually), and things kick into higher gear, leading back to a familiar place as the party energy tries to heal the wounded sentient street.
Cyborg comes back in the midst of this, very confused. The Scarlet Harlot is in charge of Jane’s body, and loves that there’s a party going on. Rita drags Larry out to the dance floor briefly, then wanders off with Flex to pursue an idea. Larry proves to be impressively bad at parties, and goes off to hide. At ten minutes past Bedtime, Dorothy is tucked up in bed, and there is a dispute among her imaginary friends. Rita’s idea involves a mistake Flex made during the hunt for Mr. Nobody. It’s an interesting choice on Rita’s part, and ends up attracting some very unusual attention from Nepal.
While Rita’s having flashbacks to some less than great chapters from her childhood, the Chief goes back to his basement workshop and has his first meeting with Cliff since the ill-fated Florida road trip. The two men compare notes on the difficulty of fatherhood, Cliff complains of what sounds like depression, and the Chief has an interesting prescription. At an hour past Bedtime, Dorothy has snuck back to the party, where Cliff is dancing wildly. The oldest little girl on the world sneaks a drink, hates it, and gets mildly scolded by Danny in his unique way. Cyborg has a chat with Maura about his time in Detroit and Cyborg’s mixed feelings about Roni Evers (a variant on Ron Evers, a character from Victor’s comic book history). Maura gives a great little speech, gets Cyborg on the dance floor, and Robotman finds an unusual dance partner.
Rita’s unique therapy continues while the party rocks on and Dorothy has a debate with the voice in her head. The uncharacteristically happy Cliff runs into Larry, and there are hugs, discussions about drugs, and a philosophy about parenthood. The festivities have attracted some attention, and there’s yet another weird agency keeping an eye on the Patrol. This one features Ghsotbusters knock-off equipment and skirts copyright infringement from one of Marvel’s most popular intellectual properties. Some of the newcomers burst in, which the befuddled Cliff isn’t equipped to handle. Naturally, the Chief knows these weirdos, too. One source of help goes away as the Jane collective decides to go visit the guy in the van.
The new group explains, a bit, what they’re after, and Cliff babbles something of a lead. Eventually, all roads lead to Rita’s room where things have gotten even stranger than usual. Cliff’s in no condition to be useful, and he babbles at Larry. For some reason, Larry’s Negative Spirit never puts in an appearance. That’s never explained. Dorothy keeps arguing with herself, and Jane (ish) has an enlightening conversation with the guy in the van. The exact nature of the threat is revealed, and this triggers a lot of serious issues for the Jane Gang. Dorothy has a chat with Danny and looks like she’s about to do something rash.
Things get worse in Rita’s room, and both Robotman and Flex are utterly at a loss. The new group apparently arrived too late, and events are rapidly spinning out of control. Larry tries to rally Cliff to do something he’s uniquely suited for, but Robotman refuses. Someone else arrives at the last minute and manages to save the day, in spite of some severe distractions. The voices in Dorothy’s head are turning nasty, and the young (kind of) girl gets severely tempted.
In the aftermath of the chaos, Flex offers Rita some encouragement. I think those two could be good friends if they ever manage to stay in the same place for long enough. Cliff’s altered state proves to be too much for Hammerhead, and Jane gets inadvertently rescued. The Chief and Danny talk about the future, and Danny decides to make some changes. After another great speech from Maura, Danny and their followers take off, making a dramatic exit and leaving Cliff to ask a practical question.
Things wrap up under the title card of “Way Past Bedtime.” Larry and Cyborg have a chat in the kitchen about trauma, healing, and grilled cheese. Robotman is glad Cyborg is back, and Jane says she, too, is back… for now. Cliff asks another good question, and we almost have a happy ending, but this is Doom Patrol. Rita is understandably worn out, lounging on the stairs. Dorothy asks her a question and Rita answers by parroting some of her earlier flashbacks, which is a remarkably ill-timed quote. Dorothy turns to her friends for comfort, but at least one of them snubs her when called.
What I liked: Cliff was entertaining this way. I’m glad Cyborg is back, although I’m not sure I understand either his motivations for leaving or the decision to return. Flex was fun, and I like him and Rita together. Events in Rita’s room were certainly unexpected and creative. The Danny party is always fun no matter where it happens and I’m looking forward to the next chapter in that story, if we get to see it.
What I didn’t: It seems like the Negative Spirit could have been useful here, and the writers just forgot? I don’t think we need another weird quasi-government agency from Grant Morrison’s odd brain. Given the nature of the event that almost happened, it kind of seems like Willoughby Kipling should have turned up. I hated the Rita/Dorothy exchange at the end.
Sometimes, this is a great show. Sometimes it seems like they’re trying to be weird to be weird. This felt like the second. I’ll give this a 3 out of 5, and see what happens next.