NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Doom Patrol” are present in this review

 

 

The Eternal Flagellation has begun, and the Doom Patrol is quickly caught in the throes of it. This naturally pits the team against their own demons, true to form for Doom Patrol, and the result is a heart-wrenching, highly dramatic episode that’s once again more about the team facing themselves than facing actual villains. “Subconscious Patrol” finally enables the various Doom Patrol members to confront the difficult realities that they’ve been avoiding all season. Better still is that this episode finally gives Vic and Larry a more effective storyline, even if Larry is still a bit undercooked by comparison. Likewise, the material surrounding Rita and the Sisterhood of Dada gets shoved pretty far into the background in this case.

This episode is almost entirely dedicated to the Doom Patrol’s latest introspective journeys, which are kicked into a higher gear by the actual agenda behind the Eternal Flagellation; The Sisterhood of Dada swapping everyone’s conscious selves with their subconscious selves. This is definitely weird, and it paves the way for more bizarre and surreal imagery, as the Doom Patrol members become their subconscious selves, something that’s especially eyebrow-raising with Vic, after he morphs into a life-sized action figure. Cliff and Larry meanwhile are back to their regular human selves, while Kay takes on an adult body in a more permanent capacity, leaving Jane and the other personas as more wholesome puppets within a brighter, more cheerful rendition of the Underground.

At first, the Eternal Flagellation recalls some painful memories for the team, but there are parts of it that feel oddly upbeat and comforting. It’s not long before the underlying menace behind the Doom Patrol’s subconscious drama comes to light however, particularly after the team’s conscious selves begin to realize horrible twists within the manifestations of their subconscious. Cliff really leads the charge here, after he enjoys a cocaine-fueled stripper bender, only to be told that he left his daughter in the car. Larry also becomes the first Doom Patrol member to take initiative when it comes to actually fixing his broken subconscious, finally confronting his wedding day, which is the day he became comfortable with lying to himself when it came to his sexuality. Like I said, Larry’s arc is still kind of stuck in a loop, and his character doesn’t move forward as much compared to the other Doom Patrol members here, despite Larry being the first to admit fault. Still, at least Larry is useful when it comes to getting the ball rolling, once the team actually open up to each other within a pillow fort made by Kay.

Speaking of Kay and Jane, they remain the major emotional powerhouses for much of this episode, eventually culminating in Kay telling Jane that she wants her and the other personas to die, so Kay can finally live a normal adult existence. Once Jane confronts Kay’s true feelings toward her, she destroys the pillow fort in a rage, and later comes to see that every other persona in the Underground has disappeared. Is this the beginning of the end for Crazy Jane? Speaking of that, Cliff also confronts the apparent reality that he’s dying to boot, even telling the rest of the team that he’s regressed all the way back to the oblivious, Impostor Syndrome-plagued asshole that he was in the 80’s. These are outstanding moments of clarity for both Cliff and Jane, after the actions of the Sisterhood of Dada lead to them both confronting their own creeping mortality, after years of not being subject to death or aging.

Vic’s storyline goes in a bit of a different direction on this note, but it does finally give some greater, more discernible meaning to Vic’s formerly ill-defined story material this season. After recalling a memory wherein he caused a stir in a toy store due to being unable to find a Black superhero toy, Vic comes to realize that he’s been putting up a front throughout his entire childhood and adult life, something that ultimately cost him his most innocent years as a kid. Even after being confronted with the reality that he must learn to be more selfish and have a bit of fun however, Vic still seems unmoved at first… Until he wakes up, having his Cyborg tech seemingly removed. Much like Cliff and Jane, Vic may be facing a ‘death’ in another sense, as he seemingly passes into the realm of being an ordinary person. Again though, I have to ask, is de-powering the Doom Patrol under the guise of therapy simply another layer within the Sisterhood of Dada’s agenda?

That agenda wasn’t much of a focus in this episode, in any case, sadly leading to Rita becoming lost in the shuffle here. We do finally learn the purpose behind Laura traveling forward in time at least, namely to steal The Chief’s future-era inventions and bring them to the past, so that they can be appropriated by The Brain, Monsieur Mallah and the Brotherhood of Evil. That’s an interesting hook for Laura’s character, plus it makes it legitimately amusing to think about just how sinister a mission Laura has forgotten throughout this season. Unfortunately, the growing animosity between Rita and Laura sort of feels like an afterthought in this case. This episode does end with the two confronting each other after the Sisterhood of Dada’s fog supposedly lifts, but at this point, the narrative did take a noticeable break from what was otherwise one of its most compelling storylines of this season, and that may frustrate some viewers.

Even so, “Subconscious Patrol” marks another dramatic high point for Doom Patrol’s current season, even if it’s a bit of a walk to get to the really rewarding payoffs for the team. Rita took a back seat this time, likely because of how much superb exploration she got over the past couple of episodes, but it’s still nice to see the season better figuring out what it wants to say in regards to Vic, while also finally allowing Cliff and Jane to confront the fact that they may soon be gone. Larry, meanwhile, is still not keeping pace with the rest of the team’s arcs for now, but perhaps that weird space parasite he retrieves from the woods has the answer to his over-arching season arc. Either way, now that the team have confronted their subconscious fears and learned about the Brotherhood of Evil for the first time, Doom Patrol can effectively finish setting up its Season 3 climax from here, if its eponymous anti-heroes can keep pulling themselves together enough.

Doom Patrol 3.8: "Subconscious Patrol" Review
Doom Patrol forces its eponymous team of misfits to confront their subconscious trauma in, "Subconscious Patrol", resulting in an emotionally riveting episode with no shortage of drama.
THE GOOD STUFF
  • Inspired Eternal Flagellation hook
  • Cliff, Vic and Jane all confronting their waning legacies
  • Laura's plan for the Doom Patrol finally being revealed
THE NOT-SO-GOOD STUFF
  • Rita's and Laura's arcs get pushed into the background
90%Overall Score
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