Despite their odd looks and powers, the Doom Patrol started off as a just-slightly-odder-than usual team of superheroes. In fact, their dedication to protecting a world that viewed them as freaks, led by a brilliant man in a wheelchair, has drawn a lot of comparisons to a similar team, the X-Men. For the record, the Doom Patrol debuted first. At any rate, the Patrol veered into the land of the surreal when Grant Morrison got his hands on them, and they’ve pretty much stayed there ever since. Things get even odder than usual for them in “Vacay Patrol.”
The episode opens in 1949 with some classic Doom Patrol foes, the Brotherhood of Evil. I believe this is the first live action appearance for both The Brain (not the cartoon mouse, decades before that) and Monsieur Mallah. They send even more obscure villain Garguax on a special mission, and that kicks off a time lapse that covers decades. A running theme on this show seems to be immortals who don’t know what to do with themselves. The time lapse shows Garguax going to the kind of resort that was popular decades ago, accompanied by his faithful manservant Samuelson. Why they are both so clearly alien and Samuelson has a more or less “normal” name is one of many odd things never explained. We also get to see the original version of the patrol as established on this series, at least in passing.
In the present, Rita reads the paper and sees something that might play in to the alarm she failed to answer last episode. This triggers some issues with her and she has to quickly find a way to contain herself, literally. She wails about Larry’s absence, and we get to see him on his journey in space with the Negative Spirit. Cliff has thrown himself into helping daughter Clara and her wife Mel, whether they want him to or not. He’s clearly making an effort, and just as clearly not quite fitting in smoothly. He’s also showing signs of a worsening condition he’s doing his best to deny. Victor is continuing to try and help his ex-girlfriend Roni when suddenly most of his advanced systems shut down. Frantic, he uses an out of date means to contact his father, and finds out a lot of things that anger and worry him.
A frustrated Victor paces through the Manor and finds Rita in her current predicament. They talk, and a new one of Jane’s alters pops up to help with some arrangements. There’s an amusing exchange with her, and then we see Jane in the Underground, talking with Kay. Kay seems to be slowly improving, which overall is good but might mean bad things for Jane and company. Kay and Jane have a discussion and Jane is encouraged to join the team. The scene also shows a great metaphor that lets Kay see the outside world. Jane, resurfacing, encourages the others to include Cliff, and they all go off together, after Hammerhead helps Cliff with his current problem.
Before they arrive, Cliff and Clara have a scene where Clara brings up an unpleasant possibility about what might be wrong with him. Cliff is very skilled at denial, and isn’t even going to consider this. The team arrives at their new location, and the place has clearly seen better days. As they get acclimated to their new place, Larry has a weirder than usual encounter with the Negative Spirit, and is left even more confused than he was before. I don’t know what Larry hoped to find on this journey, but I’m pretty sure this wasn’t it.
Still not happy about his new situation, Victor wanders the resort, where the lack-of-amenities include no cell service. He runs across Cliff, who is contemplating one of the “attractions” of the resort. Victor has some reservations about this which would make sense for normal people, but seem out of place for the two of them with their greatly enhanced abilities. They end up talking about Roni, Victor’s current limits, and Cliff’s worsening problems. Cliff ends up with an unexpectedly philosophical outlook on something worrying Victor. Jane and Rita relax on some lounges, Jane drinking and Rita still stuck in her current problem. Rita offers some advice and reflects on the disappointments of her life. They bond over cursing out the Chief. The man had a lot of problems and flaws, and he’s not at all being remembered fondly by anyone.
Just in case the episode wasn’t odd enough, we move on to Robotman in a sauna. Now, what he’d get out of this with a purely mechanical body I have no idea, but his look when he goes in makes it even weirder. This is where meets Garguax, and it’s not at all the conversation you’d expect between a hero and a villain, but then, neither are exactly normal examples of each category. They find something mutual to bond over and end up getting along really well. It’s an interesting scene to watch and I enjoyed it from a character development standpoint. Later at dinner, the team is mostly drinking, which leads to some petty bickering and Cliff reflecting on something else he misses. Garguax comes in, and we can see how much he’s changed from the first time we’ve seen him. Victor is a bit worried about some of what he hears, ignores everyone else’s advice, and goes over to talk to him. Garguax is untroubled by this, but Samuelson is clearly spoiling for a fight.
Next, they move on to the very sad and empty dance floor. Once again, there’s a lot of drinking, and Victor is still having trouble letting go of what he heard earlier. Jane and Cliff mock him incessantly, in their usual bonding-by-picking-on people way. Possibly not being confronted by an imminent crisis, possibly the change in setting, and possibly the alcohol, but something sets off a lot of self-reflection, which also helps Rita get control of herself. Cliff talks very slightly about his newest issue, and most of the others are worried, but it gets lost in the shuffle. Rita makes a confession, and Victor tries to rouse the team to action. When that fails, he leaves in a huff, and pauses to snarl at them on the way out. Garguax looks through the doors, sees what he was sent to deal with so many years ago, and looks surprised. Back in his room, Garguax tells Samuelson what he saw, but Samuelson is shocked by how Garguax is going to handle it.
Moving off on their own, Victor continues to search for something he can’t find, Cliff contemplates a challenge from earlier, Jane walks a labyrinth in her own rule-bending way, and Rita tries a new form of artistic expression. Nothing goes right for any of them, and there are results ranging from disappointment to property destruction to grief-induced hallucinations. Off in wherever he is now, Larry has another odd scene with what the Spirit is showing him.
Gathered back in the dance hall area, the team is in a big funk collectively. Kay, down in the Underground, checks in on the real world and starts to do something that influences the real world a bit, which makes me wonder if she’s getting closer to actually emerging sometime. To make things odder, this turns into a dance number. No, seriously, the whole damn team dances in a choregraphed bit that comes out of a musical. Then, things take a sharp left to start closing out the episode.
Garguax is doing something Samuelson doesn’t approve of when they get a surprising communication. Madame Rogue, our villain in cameo only so far, shows up again and runs towards where everything is happening. Garguax makes an unexpected entrance and says an even more unexpected line. Then the entire team gets dropped ridiculously easily. I know they’re not what most people think of as superheroes, but this was just an embarrassing team wipeout. Madam Rogue pops up again and gets her own unexpected line in before preventing someone from escaping, and the last thing we see is the team piled on the floor, all of them looking really bad off. It’s an interesting note to end on. I’ll have to get to the next episode quicker than I have been managing lately.
What I liked: I generally take my superheroes fairly seriously, Darkwing Duck notwithstanding, but something about the way they are doing this show appeals to me. I’ve come to enjoy these odd takes on the characters, and am impressed with some of the acting, particularly Diane Guerrero as the various Jane personalities. The surreality of the resort setting for so much of this actually kinda worked. I’m intrigued by whatever Larry is going through off on his own. The developments with Kay and Jane make me wonder what’s coming along next, and the new alter we met this episode was entertaining. As a nice bit of trivia, the setting of this obscure place is where a key moment happened in Doom Patrol history in the comics. I can’t figure out what’s going on with Madam Rogue, but I’ll certainly give Michelle Gomez a chance in the role.
What I didn’t: The team got dropped too easily at the end. They left us on an interesting moment with the Chief last episode, but there’s nothing more about it here. I suspect part of that might be the complications from losing an episode last season due to COVID complications. I don’t get why Victor and Cliff were so worried about the challenge Cliff was looking at earlier.
This series is weird, but pretty good at being weird. I’ll give this a 3.5 out of 5. There’s a lot to follow up on, and how they are going to do it should be a fun trip.