Usually when I discuss Doom Patrol in these little reviews, I talk about how the episode made me laugh. I mention all the weird characters like Admiral Whiskers and Ezekiel the Cockroach. I talk about the silly lines like most of Mr. Nobody’s dialogue as he takes over the show’s narration. And let’s not forget all the little sight gags like the farting donkey.
This week is going to be different.
There isn’t much to laugh at in “Jane Patrol.” This episode is a fairly straight-forward adaption of Doom Patrol #30 from the 1987 series. The story sees Cliff “Robotman” Steel being sent into the mind of a comatose Crazy Jane in a bid to help her find her way out of The Underground – the vast subway station that acts as Jane’s psyche. It should be like Fantastic Voyage with robots, right? Not so much…
So why isn’t this played for laughs? Because we finally learn just what trauma caused Crazy Jane to develop 64 different personalities and unlike most of the weirdness on Doom Patrol, it’s no laughing matter. Suffice it to say it involves child abuse and the subject is handled with the frankness and severity it deserves. There’s also a subplot dealing with suicide, as Cliff must race through The Underground to stop Jane from throwing herself into The Well – the deepest part of The Underground, where various personalities have gone when they no longer felt like trying to protect the innocent girl that Crazy Jane once was.
Thankfully, while this episode is unlike anything we’ve seen on Doom Patrol so far, it is also brilliantly acted. I’ve spoken before of how this is largely Diane Guerrero’s show to steal every week but that’s particularly true this week. Though she doesn’t portray every occupant of The Underground (“some of them look like Jane, some don’t” is the only explanation we get.) we do get to see her play against herself as Driver 8, Karen from last week and a few other personalities here and there.
I should also note that Brendan Fraser gets his best turn to date in this episode. While his role on the show is usually limited to voice-over work with another actor playing Robotman’s body, Cliff Steele appears as his original human self when he is in the Underground, in what is a fairly significant change from the original comic. Yet this makes sense and plays into the subplot involving Cliff’s own identity crisis and his coming to terms with who he was vs. what he is now. One nice subtle touch is that while Cliff appears to be human in The Underground, he still moves with the clumsy, jerky movements of Robotman. It’s a subtle thing but a brilliant indicator of just how Cliff’s view of himself is changing.
Presumably next week we’ll be back to the random shenanigans involving flatulence, animals and general weirdness. I can’t wait, but I certainly wouldn’t mind more serious episodes like “Jane Patrol” in the future. Just not every week. My heart can only take so much.
Doom Patrol – Episode 9, “Jane Patrol”, airs Friday, April 12, on DC Universe.
Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.