Doom Patrol continues to be surprisingly great in “Puppet Patrol”, as the team go on a road trip and a classic villain enters the fray.
This recap of Doom Patrol Episode 3, “Puppet Patrol”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
It’s road trip time in “Puppet Patrol”, but as the Doom Patrol speed onwards towards Paraguay in pursuit of Mr. Nobody (Alan Tudyk) and Chief (Timothy Dalton), the DC Universe show looks backward at the pre-Negative Man life of Larry (Matt Bomer).
Still at Doom Manor, Cyborg (Joivan Wade) is poring over his memories to try and ascertain their authenticity – the jury is still out in that regard, but there are more pressing matters to contend with. Fashioning himself as a leader, Cyborg calls a briefing, where a photo of the meddlesome donkey from the previous episode suggests the team need to head to Paraguay. And since Silas (Phil Morris) is still sulking about Cyborg’s decision to stick around and look for the Chief, he won’t loan him any of his luxurious resources. So, it’s to Paraguay in a rickety old bus.
Larry, meanwhile, is trying to reach an agreement with the energy being inside him, which isn’t going well; first, it places him up in the rafters when he falls asleep, then it sabotages the team’s bus when he tries to reason with it. Flashbacks go some way in revealing why Larry doesn’t get along so well with people – in 1961, married with children, he and his secret boyfriend John Bowers (Kyle Clements) were planning to abscond from their deeply homophobic community until the Negative Spirit possessed him during a risky test flight the next day.
With his body wrecked and his home life equally in tatters, it’s not hard to imagine where Larry’s issues with connection and self-loathing stem from. And being trapped in a bus with a menagerie of super-powered sulks is hardly helping. After the Negative Spirit sabotages the bus, the Doom Patrol are forced to push it to the nearest motel and share a single room, which proves about as complicated as you’d imagine.
These scenes – in the bus and the motel – are a clear highlight of “Puppet Patrol”, and a reminder that for all the show’s insanity, at its core are characters who consider themselves as much victims as heroes. In most team origin stories – including, as it happens, the DC Universe’s Titans – it can get a little tedious waiting for a foregone conclusion. But here it’s a lot more tolerable; these aren’t cookie-cutter heroes, but people who have experienced trauma that they’re still processing, often trapped in physical or mental prisons from which they can’t escape.
And what do such troubled people want more than a way to restore some normality – or at least adjust better to a new version of it. In Paraguay, the team encounters a tourist, Steve Larsen (Alec Mapa), who introduces them to a wacky carnival of “upgrades” where a mad Nazi scientist, Heinrich Von Fuchs (Julian Richings), created Mr. Nobody and continues his meddlesome work. The Doom Patrol, naturally, all take to this differently; Larry for, Cliff against, and so on. It’s a smart way of having the cast clash organically, and of facilitating a true meeting between Larry and the Negative Spirit, which goes relatively well, all things considered.
Jane also meets Fuchs, who is still alive – though not for long. After a wonderfully gory and great-looking action set-piece, Fuchs is dead, Jane and Cliff are traumatized by the carnage they’ve wrought, and the Fuchtopia facility is decimated. But is it? As the Doom Patrol depart on a S.T.A.R. Labs jet, Steve emerges from the ruined complex, well on his way to becoming iconic Doom Patrol nemesis Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man. Things just get weirder and weirder.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.