Seven episodes into the show, are we surprised that Doom Patrol needs therapy? No, we are not. Brace yourself for a powerful and poignant look at the other side of superhero life.
Doom Patrol need to get Niles Caulder/ Chief back from Mr. Nobody. To prevent Mr. Nobody from messing with their heads, Cliff Steele/ Robotman wants the team to air their inner turmoil. Is anyone in a sharing mood? In the seventh episode of Doom Patrol, we get glimpses of why the group needs therapy.
Rita Farr/ Elasti-Girl
In Hollywood, 1930, Rita’s parents introduce little Rita to her idol Ethel Singer. The child has been groomed to be in films. From the time she was little, Rita was trained in singing, dancing, and acting, and she was kept away from school. This little blonde child was destined for stardom. Except, things didn’t pan out as planned.
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Rita’s continued struggles with molecular cohesion don’t stop her from trying to power through it. Her daily routine includes reciting a motivating mantra and desperately attempting to whip her body back into a semblance of normality. This is a very apt analogy for anyone suffering from a mental illness and what their daily struggles look like.
Rita has just got herself together when she overhears Robotman bellowing, “you think that’s going to hurt me?” and attacking someone. And, she dissolves once again.
Larry Trainor/ Negative Man
In North Dakota, 1935, young Larry overhears his parents talking about how he has been accused of being ‘a queer’. Larry’s mother is distraught about being ostracised by the community because of her husband’ son. ‘We could lose everything!’
In the present, Larry’s morning routine involves him bandaging every exposed part of his body – he obviously doesn’t need it for medical purposes, so it looks like he’s trying to avoid being looked at by others. This morning, Larry doesn’t feel up to facing the world and neither does the Negative Spirit. It leaves Larry’s body, sending him into a past memory. Apparently, when the Spirit leaves Larry’s body, Larry is confronted with horrific ‘face-melting’ nightmares. This time, the Spirit has something else in mind.
Larry finds himself in a ‘memory’ of meeting up with his secret lover, John Bowers, except the details are wrong. Larry is so incensed, he doesn’t even enjoy the memory, despite John’s pleas. The Negative Spirit keeps replaying the memory for Larry, but it’s not just the details that Larry wants to be corrected, it’s the context. Larry’s real torture is that he lived every day of his life in fear of being found out; of him having to endure the ‘gay jokes’ in the locker rooms or the knowledge that he could end up like two boys who were killed in a hate crime. Larry’s torture stems from his guilt at being a ‘gaslighting hypocrite’. Making Larry confront his inner demons was the Spirit’s plan all along. Larry wakes up crying in relief. This entire sequence is so passionately enacted by Matt Bomer. This is why representation matters.
Larry also hears Robotman’s attack, but he wants to go back to the memory. The Negative Spirit can go be the hero.
Victor Stone/ Cyborg
As a child, Vic’s mom was on his side, but he was afraid of his father even then. In the present, Victor seems alone in his need to whip Doom Patrol into shape. While he knocks on doors waking everyone up for a team meeting, Vic gets a notification from a dating website. Apparently, his profile has been online since he created an account as a teenager, but until the recent reboot of his system, all social media messages were filtered through the master user – Silas Stone, Vic’s father.Doom Patrol — EP 107 — “Therapy Patrol” — Photo Credit: Bob Mahoney / 2018 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Silas was trying to remove distractions from Vic’s life after the accident that turned him into Cyborg, but this is yet another instance of Silas’ controlling behavior. Vic decides to reply to the girl who swiped right on his profile. She’s more interested in his Cyborg persona, which is not what Vic wants.
Vic tries to speak to other girls, but most of them are Cyborg groupies and treat him like some kind of show-pony rather than a person – ‘say Booya’, ‘show us your metal parts’. I think a lot of people watching this episode of Doom Patrol are going to see parallels with Vic’s online dating experience.
Vic’s motherbox finally finds a girl uninterested in Cyborg. He’s happy she swiped right on him, but then Vic’s system goes above and beyond the call of duty. It taps into a live video feed of the girl on the bus. She looks delighted at Vic’s messages, so, Vic takes the leap and sends her a picture of himself in a classic ‘show-off your abs’ pose. Trouble is, Vic’s abs are made of metal. He watches her reaction on the feed – she looks disgusted. Heartbroken, Vic deletes his dating profile. Before he can mull over the events of the day, Vic is interrupted by Robotman attacking him.
Jane is still struggling with the knowledge that Niles was planning to send her away to be with the original Doom Patrol. Niles was essentially abandoning Jane. Her Hammerhead personality reacts violently to this deception and destroys everything she can get her hands on. Jane has to keep intervening, but it’s too late. Several of the tapes of Niles’ interviews with Jane have been destroyed. Crushed, Jane doesn’t know what to do, but then she hears Robotman and goes running to check on him.
Cliff Steele/ Robotman
Cliff’s father was an abusive man who always claimed he would become better. Sounds like Cliff took on those traits as an adult. Now that Cliff has found his daughter Clara’s profile online, he has discovered an uncomfortable truth – a man named Bob has become Clara’s father.Doom Patrol — EP 107 — “Therapy Patrol” — Photo Credit: Bob Mahoney / 2018 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Unable to cope with this realization, Cliff appears to drive to Bob’s house and attack him. Bob’s not even grateful to have Clara in his life, and this just angers Cliff more. He starts pummeling everything in sight. Except, Cliff hasn’t left Doom Manor – he’s imagining the entire scenario with Bob and is basically suffering an immense breakdown. Afraid to be alone with his thoughts, Cliff asks the team to come together to talk, like group therapy.
Reluctantly, Rita agrees. She’s seen first-hand what Mr. Nobody can do to a team divided, so talking to each other may be the only way for Doom Patrol to save their mentor and themselves. Now that Cliff’s fears are out in the open, Rita confesses that she wasn’t a good person. In fact, Rita wasn’t a person at all – she was an illusion. There’s a reason why Rita has been confronted with baby imagery ever since Nobody came into their lives, but she is still unwilling to speak about that incident.
Larry forces himself to reveal his identity as a gay man, as well as how he has been beating himself (and the Spirit) with so much self-loathing that he can’t breathe. Larry hasn’t touched another person since his accident and it’s crushing him. Cliff knew Larry was gay (he overheard Larry’s arguments with the Spirit) and reaches out to hug him. Riley Shanahan is an absolute delight as Robotman – his mannerisms are fantastic.
Cliff is overjoyed that the team is opening up to each other, but he’s not ready for Vic’s confession. Vic killed his mom, as we saw in the second episode of Doom Patrol. He lashed out in anger in her home lab, and the chemicals exploded, killing her and maiming him. But now, Mr. Nobody has put a bug in Vic’s ear about not trusting his memories. And Vic can’t shake his concern about why Silas has never trusted Vic.
Jane interrupts Vic to show them the painting she made of Vic surrounded by the dead Doom Patrol team. After dropping that bomb, Jane tries to walk away. Cliff stops her, desperate for her to share her feelings with the team. She retorts with a truly hurtful remark:
“You can’t be a father, because you’re not even a man.”
Taken aback, Cliff tells her that she’s lucky he puts up with her and reveals that he only cares about one of her personalities. Realizing what he’s said, Cliff runs after Jane but then starts seeing Bob and Clara everywhere. Cliff collapses on the ground and the source of his erratic behavior is revealed – Admiral Whiskers, a rat, was persuaded by Mr. Nobody to sneak into Cliff’s body and wreak havoc on his mind. Hence the delusions in this episode. Well, at least the team started talking to each other finally.