NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Doom Patrol” are present in this review
It turns out that there was more going on than we realized while Cliff, Larry and Jane were all unconscious in Doom Manor during the events of the previous Doom Patrol episode. Rita and Vic encountered their own eccentric obstacle while Cliff and Jane were lost in the Underground, and that comes in the form of one of the most absurd, head-scratching super-villains in DC Comics history. “Hair Patrol” introduces none other than Ernest Franklin, a.k.a. the Beard Hunter, to the Doom Patrol/Titans universe, a thirtysomething man-child with an inability to grow facial hair, who targets bearded men.
Even by the standards of the DC Universe, that villain concept sounds pretty ridiculous. Doom Patrol somehow manages to take the character even further however, in a highly entertaining episode that completely forsakes tragedy, in favour of leaning more heavily into flat-out hilarity. This is balanced out by an extended subplot surrounding The Chief, who re-lives a surprising emotional connection during the time of the Great War (which also somewhat explains how The Chief is alive, and seemingly never aged, over a century later), which takes a slightly more dramatic direction, but still somewhat leans into Doom Patrol’s wacky sensibilities. After a more dramatic trip into the Underground, “Hair Patrol” thus proves to be a great dessert for Doom Patrol, nicely keeping Rita, Vic and The Chief busy, while the other characters take care of fixing Jane’s shattered mind.
Better still is the fact that the Bureau of Normalcy once again comes into play in this episode, since they’re the ones that hire the Beard Hunter to find The Chief in the first place. It turns out that The Chief has a history working with the Bureau, which was once the ‘Bureau of Oddities’ back in the early 1910’s, until the Great War changed its mandated direction from studying curiosities in the world, to aggressively exterminating them. This may somewhat explain how The Chief might have met Danny the Street in this universe, though that connection isn’t properly fleshed out at this point. For now, The Chief and a former partner, Alistair are looking for a mysterious creature in the Yukon, with The Chief ending up being separated from Alastair after a wolf attack, and presumed dead by the Bureau of Oddities. In reality however, The Chief is rescued by a primitive woman named Slava, who keeps him alive, despite the fact that the two can’t communicate.
It’s been a while since we’ve had The Chief headline his own extended subplot on Doom Patrol, but his time with Slava helps to add some much-needed new dimensions to his career with the Bureau of Normalcy/Oddities, adding some more layers to them in a way that the previous, “Danny Patrol” didn’t manage to do as effectively. Seeing The Chief be changed by his time with Slava, even fall in love with her, beautifully explains how The Chief would be inspired to form multiple variations of the Doom Patrol, and why he would dedicate his existence to always protecting the weird and wonderful citizens of his world, which would always be targeted by those seeking to make them more conventional. The Chief even goes as far as to kill Alastair when he’s found, after Alastair declares that Slava must be exterminated, before returning to society afterward, lying about finding Slava in the first place. Inevitably, this is another torment by Mr. Nobody as well, who is forcing The Chief to relive this memory, so that Mr. Nobody can determine the location of Slava. The fact that The Chief says that Mr. Nobody can even torture the Doom Patrol if he needs to really hammers home how important Slava is as well, and I have to wonder if she also has something to do with the present Doom Patrol members seemingly never aging.
Back at Doom Manor however, the Beard Hunter suits up and invades, looking for The Chief, which he can do with a new metahuman power unique to Doom Patrol. In DC Comics lore, the Beard Hunter has no powers, which partially makes him even funnier in the printed panels, but Doom Patrol making the Beard Hunter a metahuman still achieves a great dose of cringe humour, when it’s revealed that his powers allow him to determine any man’s location via his beard, after literally eating his facial hair. Needless to say, that’s pretty damn disgusting! When Vic and Rita inevitably encounter and capture the Beard Hunter as well, they quickly learn about his ‘unique’ abilities, with the two deciding that the Beard Hunter may be their best chance at locating the missing Chief, who can be detected anywhere across time and space, now that the Beard Hunter has eaten his drain scum. Again, gross!
The portrayal of the Beard Hunter on Doom Patrol is just as wonderfully cringe-inducing as you would hope! Even better, when he eats some of Vic’s facial hair, Vic’s entire system appears to be compromised, resulting in a stray cannon blast that nearly takes out Cliff, Larry and Jane in the other room! This explains the mystery of the displaced objects that Cliff, Jane and Larry discovered when they regained consciousness in the previous episode, but honestly, the result of that mystery is a little bit lame. Moreover, even if Vic is helpless to stop the Beard Hunter, why couldn’t Rita intervene? Rita is female, after all, and can’t be controlled by a beard, not to mention that she shouldn’t logically be threatened by Vic, being a blob monster and all. There are a few annoying contrivances with how the Beard Hunter gets away in the end, but I guess this nonetheless leads to a great tease, when the Beard Hunter’s powers lead him to a mere effigy of The Chief, before Slava’s creature attacks him in the final seconds of the episode!
I hope that the Beard Hunter survives this attack, and later returns to menace the Doom Patrol again, since his gross, cringe-y powers and generally hilarious presentation are amazing. The Beard Hunter is quite possibly the other best villain that Doom Patrol has featured to date, alongside Mr. Nobody, so it would be a waste for him to be immediately axed off, even if that final tease is pretty interesting. Regardless, “Hair Patrol” is an overall strong episode of Doom Patrol, one that delivers in terms of both fleshing out a key bit of backstory for The Chief, while also providing a clever and humourous core conflict for Rita and Vic, which helps to compensate for the two of them having no part in Jane’s restoration during the previous episode. It’s good to see the Bureau of Normalcy also get a surprising connection to The Chief, suggesting that they could become better, more developed villains down the line, even if it still feels like they pale in comparison to the true threat of Mr. Nobody. Now that the entire team is back together again however, the hunt for The Chief can continue, even if the heroes may want to take a different path than the Beard Hunter did.
- The Beard Hunter is a hilarious and memorable villain
- Better development for the Bureau of Normalcy
- Superb subplot with The Chief and Slava
- A few contrivances during the Beard Hunter confrontation