REVIEW: Doom Patrol, S1E13 – Flex Patrol

Doom Patrol continued providing a weekly dose of wild, wacky, character-driven adventures in “Flex Patrol,” although this time the self-awareness broke right through the fourth wall to everyone and no one’s surprise. With only three episodes to go, including this one, the writers spent the hour introducing Flex Mentallo (played to perfection by Devan Chandler Long) to the group and acquainting the audience with his Bureau of Normalcy history.

Tell me your secrets.

For those of you worried about the fate of Silas Stone, like I was, rest assured that he made it through Vic’s (Joivan Wade) punches of rage and wound up recuperating in the hospital. Granted, he remained unconscious throughout “Flex Patrol,” so the show could easily pull a fast one – but it did not seem like the story was headed that way. In fact, the story didn’t do much at all with Cyborg, considering that he was tricked into almost killing his remaining parent the episode prior, which was a real shame. Instead Rita (April Bowlby) was tasked with convincing him to reupload Grid into his system in order to track down Mr. Nobody (Alan Tudyk) and therefore the Chief. While Vic’s thought process was not really shown, he did eventually agree to help but then chose to stay behind with his father for the final battle. Hopefully this means the last two episodes of Doom Patrol will split their time rather than ignoring Cyborg altogether.

Speaking of Rita, she endured a suspiciously long session of small talk with an older gentlemen in the hospital waiting room who seemed all too eager to hear her life story. With some poking and prodding, she eventually the truth behind the baby that haunted her nightmares several weeks ago – and it was much more painful than anything previously imagined. As it turned out, she was coerced by a producer who bore startling similarities to Harvey Weinstein to bring young actresses to him for his pleasure. By doing this, she convinced herself that she was helping both their careers and her own, though of course her face told on her in a scene beautifully acted by Bowlby. One of the girls eventually found herself pregnant and came to Rita for help with the baby, but the woman simply gave her $100 and sent her on her way. The saddest part was that after the girl killed herself, Rita didn’t even take the baby in because she got the lead role in the movie which ended up being the last one of her career.

And while her confession led to a sweet moment with the strange old man, who absolved her of her sins as if he had that power, it was all part of a larger and more sinister plan. Because, as anyone could have guessed while watching, that man was none other than Mr. Nobody trying to nudge the Doom Patrol characters towards self-actualization so that he could finally have his superhero and villain showdown. It was frankly hilarious to see literally turn to the audience and complain about how long the set-up had been while decked out in DC gear, especially because the character work on the show has been its strongest part.

Fierce but friendly.

Flex Mentallo certainly got a lot of character work this week, as Cliff (Brendan Frasier) and Jane (Diane Guerrero) figured out who he was and tried to get him to do the same. We soon learned he had been a hero who got trapped in the Ant Farm decades ago and slowly got his spirit beaten down into the prisoner 722 that Vic met during his stay. But Vic wasn’t the only person Flex had previously crossed paths with, as Larry (Matt Bomer) had once been held in the cell next door too. Flex easily befriended “Sparky” (AKA the Negative Man) while Larry could not, and promised to break them all out using his mysterious muscles that only clothing could dampen. But when the love of his life, Delores, was used against him he slowly lost his will to fight back and eventually lost his memories altogether. In the midst of patching up their own relationship, Jane and Cliff put the pieces together and reunite him with a now much older Delores in a touching and terrible scene. I say terrible because the Bureau had made it so that she would literally disintegrate if she ever came in contact with Flex again, which of course left him devastated but also reactivated his powers.

While “Flex Patrol” left the question of whether he would join the Doom Patrol in their fight open-ended, it did definitively answer whether Larry and Negative Man would stay separate or together. Despite realizing that he would die of radiation without his energy spirit, Larry chose to let his little friend be free after decades of trapping him. But just when we thought that would be the last of him, Negative Man turned around and came right back. After half a century, it’s likely the spirit doesn’t know how to live without Larry, but also clearly doesn’t want to – not to mention that it’s not clear if such a life would even be possible given the symbiotic nature of their relationship. So with Larry back to full strength, the entire cast minus Vic was prepared to take on Mr. Nobody. But how can they defeat omniscient omnipresent omnipotence?

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