Review: DOOM PATROL 1×13 – “FLEX PATROL”
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Director: T.J. Scott
Writers: Tamara Becher-Wilkinson, Tom Farrell
Starring: Brendan Fraser, Matt Bomer, April Bowlby, Diane Guerrero, Joivan Wade, Hannah Alline, Timothy Dalton, Alan Tudyk, Riley Shanahan, Matthew Zuk, Alec Mapa, Phil Morris, Devan Chandler Long
Reviewed By: Ari Bard
Once the Doom Patrol breaks Flex Mentallo out of prison, it’s up to them help Flex remember who he is and what he can do. Meanwhile, Cyborg must deal with the aftermath of putting his father into critical condition. Rita chooses to remain by Vics side and help him manage his feelings while also trying to reboot Grid in order to resume tracking the Beard Hunter. Wheels are in motion so hold on to your hats and get ready for a wild ride!
For the last 13 episodes, Doom Patrol has expertly painted immaculate narratives before our very eyes. Part of the reason these stories come through so loud and clear is because of the perfectly rendered aesthetics brought to every place and time. We being in the 1960s with Flex Mentallo in his natural environment. He’s a regular man’s man with the strength, charisma, heart, muscularity, and flex to match. Hell, Flex Mentallo is a regular Adonis that can alter reality with one flex of his glistening muscles. He is cheesy, corny, campy, or whatever word you want to use to describe a man who’s just a little much, but you can’t help but smile while traveling back to a simpler time with no clouds or dirt looming over the jolly man who just wants to do good and be with his wife. The aesthetic draws you into the episode with precision, and before you know it, you’re already rooting for the guy.
The only thing more brazen than Flex Mentallo is Cliff’s inability to read social cues. In the aftermath of the Ant Farm incident, Robotman tries to take a victory lap instead of grieving for Vic’s situation. It’s times like this when you’re reminded that Cliff’s brain may be real but his heart is not. Cliff is very uncomfortable in his own skin and, as a result, tries to force those around him to change instead of dealing with his own issues. His fixation with Jane progressing and doing so with him in this episode is unhealthy and off-putting. As much as his dark humor makes you chuckle, and as much as you’ve always wanted to say some of the things that come out of his mouth, you don’t always want Cliff anywhere near your favorite characters.
Rita, on the other hand, is almost Cliff’s opposite. While Cliff is too busy patting himself on the back for a job well done at the Ant Farm, Rita is worrying about Larry’s physical condition. Then she deviates from the immediate situation to go be with a team member and a friend, ans she has her own breakthrough in the process. Rita has shown tremendous empathy throughout the series and April Bowlby’s performance should never be understated. Rita is consistently a character with a strong heart who is most dedicated toward her own self-improvement. What was a character more concerned with her own skin than finding the Chief who took her in is now the character leading the way. This episode is largely about owning one’s mistakes. Cliff at least tries to own his carelessness and ignorance with Jane, Rita wrestles with the mistakes she made in her acting career, Larry has to grasp the fact that he likely prevented Flex Mentallo’s escape 40 years ago, and Vic has to come to terms with possibly killing his father. All of these struggles are difficult, emotional, and real. We have all with regret regarding people we’ve lost or failed and decisions we have or haven’t made. What matters is what we do next.
With all of these emotions running high, one would think that “Flex Patrol” would be quite the downer, but they would be mistaken. The show once again shows incredible balance with the humor they’re also able to pack into the episode. DC really knows how to take the edge off and let everyone breathe by providing a well-timed, offhanded mention of Animal-Vegetable-Mineral man or some dark humor from Jane. Between that and the fact that Flex’s entire premise is that he can manipulate reality by flexing his muscles, you’ll crying tears of laughter and sadness at the same time. Even when Mr. Nobody talks directly to you in “Flex Patrol’s” final moments, you’ll be afraid for our heroes while laughing your ass off.
Unfortunately, as likable as Flex Mentallo may be, he is also fairly naive. The cat stuck in a tree gag is one of the most cliché tricks in the book, and most viewers will see it coming a mile away. Perhaps that was the intention. Many people have likely already suspected that prisoner 722 is indeed Flex Mentallo, so maybe we’re supposed to see the man’s fate coming. Nevertheless, the scene did not come across that way. It felt a bit overdone and a little too weak for someone who just manipulated reality by flexing his muscles.
“Flex Patrol” continues the show’s streak of having incredible heart, humor, and balance that’s enough to keep you returning time and time again.