On rare occasion, a show will do an episode where they realize all the things I’ve been waiting for it to do, good or bad. But nothing has ever quite come along and repudiated my concerns like this episode of “Doom Patrol.” Subconscious Patrol, directed by Rebecca Rodriguez, with a script credited to Tanya Steele, is an almost inconceivable success. The show takes all the things it’s been working on this season and finally brings them together, both tonally and physically, and hashes it all out.
If it weren’t for one of the cliffhangers interrupting a mega-action beat, it’d be a perfect season finale. The season’s laborious character development pays off, with the episode managing to bake a bunch more in at the last minute.
I’m now also wondering if Matthew Zuk plays Matt Bomer’s character in the trench coat and gauze wrap… ugh. Yep, a quick Google later, and it’s Zuk on set. Whoops. I’ve been crediting it wrong the whole time. Major props to Zuk, of course.
Anyway. The episode.
The Eternal Flagellation is underway, and it’s time for the Doom Patrol to figure themselves out, thanks to art and April Bowlby. It’s still unclear how Bowlby got together with the Sisterhood of Dada once she got back to the future, but there’s a flashback explaining how the time travel memories thing works. While Brendan Fraser and Riley Shanahan, Joivan Wade, Diane Guerrero and Skye Roberts, and Bomer and Zuk, all get to hash themselves out on screen, in front of one another and themselves, Bowlby’s character development happens in the past. She has a final face-off with Michelle Gomez in the past, which seems like it’s going to be the episode’s impossibly high acting point, but then almost everyone’s going to get one. I’m not even sure Bowlby wins by the end of the episode.
Because it’s also time for Fraser to confront himself about what a shitty person he’s committed to being and how it’s threatening everything, particularly his relationship with daughter Bethany Anne Lind. Great acting from Fraser—who appears onscreen as a personification of the character’s subconscious—and Shanahan. Their scene opposite each other is phenomenal.
But is it better than Zuk and Bomer’s scene? Maybe, maybe not. Absolutely fantastic acting from Bomer (onscreen) and then Zuk and Bomer doing the costumed stuff. Fraser’s backstory is about being a shitty human being; Bomer’s is about forcing himself into the closet. They’re both intense and tragic, but they also have some agency to them. We find out Wade’s backstory is all about the time dad Phil Morris told him to start acting respectable so racist white people wouldn’t try to get him killed by cops. It’s devastating stuff, with Wade’s subconscious alter ego coming in the form of Richard Gant as a (Black) army toy.
But then Guerrero and Roberts’s hashing out is about something entirely different, which makes sense since last season was about working through their backstory. Some of their subplot involves a felt puppet talk show. It’s wild and amazing and wonderful and gut-wrenching. Guerrero gets to play the part straight for a while—with Roberts possibly doing the voice of the adult Guerrero as she interacts with the other avatars of her teammates—and it really works out.
The episode just gets better and better, starting like another splintering of the cast but then bringing them all together and doing the impossibly hard work. It’s beautiful work.
Gomez’s also great, but she’s support to Bowlby—outside her fabulous first meeting with the Brotherhood of Evil.
Subconscious Patrol is a perfectly executed, truly exceptional hour of television. It’s going to be so great to get to when someday marathoning the show.