The episode opens with a flashback to 1917, when April Bowlby is still new to the past, and before Michelle Gomez has killed her boyfriend and turned all of her friends into unwilling weapons. It provides some more context for Bowlby and Gomez in the present, ready to duke it out, only Bowlby isn't prepared for Gomez to run instead of fight. The juxtaposing of Bowlby and Gomez, two recovered time travelers now floundering, is one of the episode's more subtle moves. They'll both have big moments—eventually—but they start from an exhausted quiet.
The rest of the world is recovering from last episode's Eternal Flagellation, which didn't just affect the show's cast, but everyone on the planet. Including Phil Morris, who's just discovered son Joivan Wade has had his super-power enabling cybernetics replaced with regular-looking (albeit technologically based) skin. Morris bares his soul to Wade, and it's too little too late, making for a devastating scene. Unfortunately, it's also the only time director Rebecca Rodriguez doesn't do a good job—were Morris and Wade even on the same set—which makes it a little less effective, but it's still devastating stuff.
Meanwhile, Matt Bomer and Matthew Zuk are having nightmares about trying fatherhood again, Brendan Fraser and Riley Shanahan are on the outs with daughter Bethany Anne Lind, and Diane Guerrero is trying to figure out what's going on with her and Skye Roberts. Everyone's got a lot going on, but it seems they're in slightly better shape than before having their externalized emotional meltdowns last episode.
It leads Bowlby, who's been away from her friends for thirty years but is willing to let them think she's still the same person as before she left, to believe they are ready for a mission to take on Gomez. Bowlby figures Gomez has regrouped with the Brotherhood of Evil, specifically the Brain and Mallah, who have retired to comic effect in Boca Raton. Bowlby's right about the villain team-up; she's just wrong about the team being ready for a mission, especially since Gomez is very much prepared to prove her evil self.
There's a great action scene, a great dramatic scene, a great cliffhanger. Also, an impressive physical sequence from Shanahan. Lots and lots of great… although it does take the episode a while to get going. The episode rushes the post-Eternal Flagellation stuff for the team as a whole; they've got their own stuff going on, so they don't have to bond for a while, but their own stuff just gets teased. For example, Roberts and Guerrero are in unknown, internal danger, but Bowlby berates Guerrero for wanting to deal with it instead of going on a team mission, delaying the reveal.
Though there's a great twist with it, which kicks off the aforementioned great cliffhanger. It's a chain reaction setup to the cliffhanger, with pieces established throughout the episode.
If that early scene with Morris and Wade had been better directed, it'd probably be a standout "Doom Patrol," even with the sluggish first act. It's still fantastic; it's just not the most fantastic "Doom Patrol"'s been. Especially after last episode, which is a singular hour of television.
Some outstanding acting throughout, particularly Bowlby, Gomez, Bomer, and Fraser. Guerrero and Wade just don't end up with as much to do.
The episode's also impressive in how much new plot it works in, establishing Gomez as a villain in the present just two episodes after she was–if not one of the good guys, good guy adjacent. But it also makes the Brain and Mallah into active villains when they've just been cameos before. It's real good.
And that cliffhanger's just mean, especially for the penultimate episode of the season. It's "big" enough it could've been the season finale cliffhanger; somehow, having to wait a week is worse than waiting for the next season.