NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Doom Patrol” are present in this review
With the Doom Patrol once again out of answers, now that the Beard Hunter and his hotline to The Chief has been lost to them, it’s once again time for another character-focused episode. “Frances Patrol” serves as one of the better side plots for the Doom Patrol, as they break into three separate storylines, two of which are once again dedicated to some of the heroes trying to resolve their own demons. Vic and Jane meanwhile instead try to keep pursuing a new lead on The Chief, despite Vic becoming increasingly worried that something isn’t right with his internal software, a worry that’s exacerbated by the ominous painting from The Hangman’s Daughter.
It was Larry’s storyline that was easily the best in this episode though. After Larry is shown to be living a memory of going to a motel getaway with John, while the negative spirit is keeping Cliff inside Jane’s mind, the memory is prematurely interrupted after Jane is successfully saved. This leaves Larry desperate to go back and relive his memories with John, but when the negative spirit takes him back to the past, it’s instead to another point, when Larry and John were meeting in a more public gay bar. Larry is annoyed that he’s in a different spot, and the fantasy also takes a different route when John in turn becomes annoyed at Larry for not wanting to interact with anyone else beyond him. This prompts John to walk out, leaving Larry unable to find him again. The only clue as to why this may be is in an altered line from the fantasy; John doesn’t want to spend his last days chasing Larry.
Since this isn’t part of the memory that Larry is living, he wakes up to find that the spirit has left him a clue in post-it notes, indicating that Larry should go to Erie. Larry does so, and in the process, meets John again, this time as a dying old man who is beginning to lose his memories. Larry finally reuniting and making peace with John is very charming, and extensively tugs at the heartstrings to boot. This not only works well in terms of Larry having to face and accept his inability to take action in the past, but also provides a strong resolution for Larry’s unfinished business with John, following Larry’s accident. John eventually passes away while Larry is talking to him, and Larry having to say goodbye to his true love completes this storyline with highly effective emotional weight. Larry’s spent a lot of time living in the past so far this season, but he’s been given a great, albeit heart-wrenching opportunity to finally move forward, and I’m excited to see how he finally starts doing that in the episodes ahead!
The core Cliff/Rita storyline also works pretty well in this episode, as Cliff is finally given the opportunity to reunite with his estranged daughter. After a newscast reveals that Bump was killed during an encounter with a deadly alligator named Frances, Flit drops Cliff and Rita in Florida, so that Cliff can finally talk to Clara during Bump’s memorial at his old bar. Cliff, naturally, is hesitant to do this, but Rita encourages him on, while also trying to re-embrace her old pre-actress identity with an admirer. I wish that the Rita storyline wasn’t awkwardly tossed into Cliff’s considerably better conflict, but it’s still good to see Rita taking the opportunity to try and improve herself as well.
Cliff, meanwhile, once again lets his emotional dysfunction get the better of him, when he finds himself unable to face Clara in his new Robotman form. Instead, Cliff decides that the best way to make things right with Clara is to prove himself as her new hero, namely by retrieving Bump’s old watch from Frances, which was originally Cliff’s watch. Cliff and Rita thus go into the swamps of Florida together, where they discuss emotional accountability and being better people, though Rita ends up failing to get through to Cliff before leaving. Cliff does manage to encounter Frances around this point, and inevitably, he prevails, getting the watch back in turn. It’s annoying that the battle with Frances takes place entirely off-screen though, possibly due to budget limitations, since the Frances CGI is pretty awkward to begin with. That said, the moment of Cliff ultimately deciding to leave before Clara can speak to him, simply leaving the watch in his stead, is an effectively bittersweet resolution, providing an effective down note for Cliff, despite his mission to retrieve the watch ultimately being a success.
As for the remaining Vic/Jane subplot, it’s functional, but doesn’t end up contributing much to the episode, beyond setting up the big conflict in the next episode. There’s an interesting scenario set up here, wherein Vic begins to catch on that Grid may be starting to take control of him against his will, something that definitely echoes a frequent Cyborg turn throughout various DC media. Unfortunately though, this episode barely expands on it, despite hitting upon the inspired opportunity of allowing Vic and Jane to bond over having internal figures that they can’t easily control. Instead, after Vic and Jane decide to try and meet the wife of the missing comic book hero that Rita found, who it turns out is Flex Mentallo (an established, highly eccentric hero from DC Comics lore), Vic is instead captured by the Bureau of Normalcy, with Jane barely escaping them before they flee. The episode thus ends with Darren Jones telling Vic that it’s time they met again on his turf, suggesting that the Doom Patrol will have to come together to save Vic next, likely enlisting Silas at the same time.
“Frances Patrol” didn’t manage to fully realize all of its interesting character conflicts, but it was still a solid episode of Doom Patrol, even as the show once again leans more noticeably into tragedy over humour. Cliff and Larry both resolving some of their most persistent demons was very satisfying to watch, even as Rita, Vic and Jane don’t quite manage to make the same degree of headway. It was especially disappointing to see this episode do so little with a Vic/Jane pairing, which simply serves as a convenient means to get Vic snatched by the Bureau of Normalcy. Still, it remains true that this is one of Doom Patrol’s better side plot-driven episodes, even if the show is once again contriving excuses to drag out the hunt for The Chief as much as possible. Having to save Vic is once again going to distract the team from their main goal of getting their leader back, but at least we can hopefully look forward to a more satisfying battle against the Bureau of Normalcy in the next episode, I suppose.
- Cliff clumsily trying to reconnect with Clara
- Larry finally saying goodbye to John, and finding the resolve to move on
- Rita attempting to embrace her pre-actress identity again
- Vic/Jane subplot is a total waste
- Cliff's fight with Frances happening entirely off-screen