REVIEW: Doom Patrol, S1E3 – Puppet Patrol

Doom Patrol continued its voyage to the center of its characters in “Puppet Patrol,” but this time it also answers some burning questions about Niles Caulder’s past with the elusive Mr. Nobody. An impromptu trip to Paraguay and a visit to Fuchtopia – spell it! – forced Larry (Matt Bomer) and Jane (Diane Guerrero) to confront the darker parts of themselves, while an unwelcome break gave Victor (Joivan Wade) and Rita (April Bowlby) some time to reassess.

‘How to disappoint everyone you love’ by Larry Trainor.

The conceit of “Puppet Patrol” revolved around a quest to uncover what happened between the currently missing Chief and his enemy Mr. Nobody, and thanks to Cyborg’s computer-processing skills the team soon learned that the same donkey from last week’s episode had been spotted in Paraguay in 1948 – and that Chief kept a picture of it. Armed with that knowledge, Victory prepared to lead his crew into an investigation with the help of the STAR Labs jet. Unfortunately daddy dearest was not in the mood to be accomodating, and so the luxury plane ride became a two-week road trip from Hell. Hysterical for the audience, less so for the characters, especially when Larry’s energy being runs the van off the road in an act of rebellion against its master.

Larry wasn’t the only one with little to no control over his body, though, as it was a theme that echoed throughout the entirety of “Puppet Patrol.” Between Rita’s sporadic melting, Jane’s spontaneous personality transformations, and the fact that Victor and Cliff (Brendan Fraser) are varying degrees of human and robot – it’s no wonder that these five characters have found comfort in one another even when they are at odds. And the motif doesn’t end there, as one thing Doom Patrol handles excellently is weaving the character arcs and plot together as one. Thus, of course, what awaited them in Paraguay is an evil Nazi named Von Fuchs who purports to give patients more control over their bodies than ever with the experimental addition of superpowers.

Jane, Larry and Cliff arrived in Paraguay thanks to Jane’s teleporting personality Flit – whom she helpfully reminded Larry is her own person who does what she wants, and not someone under Jane’s control. Rita and Victor were left behind at the motel, which was uncomfortable at first due to how much the latter resented the former’s negative attitude about heroism. Soon, though, he came to realize that they were both afraid in different ways and that when push came to shove Rita would step up for her friends. She in turn helped him put aside his pride when Silas finally did come around and offer the jet, allowing them to make it to Paraguay just in time for the closing credits.

Enjoy your new powers, new guy!

The meat of “Puppet Patrol” included actual puppets, not just the metaphorical ones that Doom Patrol themselves had become, because Mr. Von Fuchs’ experimental paradise included a three hour-long orientation using a puppet of himself to tell the tale. Along the way, they meet an all too eager patient (who, judging by the end of the episode, is set to become the classic character Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man) and a bunch of frighteningly synchronized employees. As always, it can be tricky to deal with material that contains  Nazi imagery and ideology, but the show firmly cast it in the most negative light without any attempts at humanization. If anything, Von Fuchs and his crew were the epitome of dehumanization, as he literally controlled other bodies to make them part of his hivemind. It was a stark contrast to Jane, who houses many beings in one body alone – a body that we learned this week doesn’t even belong to her. In the comics, the original personality was Kay Challis and Jane was first created to protect her, so we will see if the series follows the same path. So far, it seems like it will.

The very same chamber that gave Mr. Nobody his powers made an appearance in this episode, as Larry attempted to use it to divorce himself once and for all from his energy being. This struggle was spliced with flashbacks to his previous life, where he was also trying to compartmentalize himself instead of accepting himself as a unified whole. It was heart-wrenching to see him push away his lover for fear of being found out, while also alienating his wife and children because he couldn’t let his real self go either. There was no clear resolution for him by the end of “Puppet Patrol,” but he at least realized that he couldn’t rid himself of his other half no matter how much he might want to.

Doom Patrol drops new episodes weekly on the DC Universe streaming service.