Doom Patrol episode 11 review: Continuing heroes and mental health


Doom Patrol episode 11, “Frances Patrol,” pits the titular team against grief and extends the overarching theme of mental health for an emotional episode.

Misery and misfortune are at the underbelly of Doom Patrol just as much as its comedic surrealism. It’s one of the unspoken terms of agreement when joining the team, apart from all the chaotic weirdness and periodic kidnappings of course.

Early on in the series, Doom Patrol made us emotionally connected to all of its strangely tragic heroes and even some of the villains, too. We’re well beyond invested in the characters; we’ve practically adopted ourselves as part of the team by now. Part of that is because the heroes are relatable.

The show embraces realism with its oddities so that real life discourse from mental health to disabilities can seep through the thin line of science fiction and non-fiction. Extending the ongoing theme about heroes and mental health, Doom PatrolFrances Patrol” focuses on imposter syndrome and internal conflict.

Starting off with John and Larry’s adorable love story in his Dreamscape, this episode makes us fall in love with their relationship even more so than we already were. Like any happiness in the comic book media sphere, the lightheartedness of John and Larry just living, loving, and being adorable gradually transitioned into grief.

Doom Patrol elaborates on Larry’s powers and his own relationship with the Negative Spirit.  Amid fortifying Larry’s abilities to connect with loved ones in his subconscious, Larry meets John in real-life for the first time since he moved into Doom Manor. Everyone gets nervous when they visit the love of their life for the first time in a long time, but it’s different for Larry.

Following his accident, Larry has a habit of pushing away everyone who cares about him because he still hasn’t accepted every part of himself, but he’s starting to this episode. We likely have to wait until future episodes to see how Larry deals with his grief following John death, while holding his hand, which we’re definitely still not over. However, we’re more interested in seeing how and if Larry will finally start living his life.

He finally verbally acknowledges that he hasn’t lived his life since he fused with the Negative Spirit during his accident. All of the Doom Patrol members have secluded themselves since becoming metaphorically disabled, and Larry’s dialogue shows the series is implicitly addressed internalized ableism and latent grief in a normalized way.

Speaking of voluntary isolation, every member of the team has intimacy issues to some extent. Some horde their feelings until someone prompts them to open up, i.e. Victor. Others physically distance themselves from their loved ones and family members, like with Larry and Cliff.

However for Rita, she has strides in her vulnerability this episode. She allows herself to open up and meet new people, in Northern Florida nonetheless —the state that’s potentially weirder than the Doom Patrol themselves. The episode offers some differently vulnerable scenes where Rita helps Cliff attempt to talk to his daughter. Her character development especially shines this episode well beyond her impromptu date and compassionate friendship with Cliff. Rita needed pep talks from Vic in some of the earlier episodes of the series, and now, she’s the one serving some advice to the perpetually conflicted Robotman.

Everyone has conflict in this episode. For Cliff, it’s dealing with his skewed perception of his self-worth and fears of talking to his daughter. Imposter syndrome impacts Cliff the most this episode, especially after he realizes that Bump was a father to Clara. However, we all know that anyone can have more than one father, and we hope that Cliff realizes that his worthy of at least allowing himself to amend his relationship with his daughter.

However, Rita, Jane, and Larry have some special mental health milestones this episode.  When Vic stays to open up to her and tell her about his qualms with the other part of himself, Jane hesitates when she tells Vic that if she could “shut it down” [in reference to her D.I.D.] then she would.

Vic has a dual-sided internal conflict both with his latent fears from Mr. Nobody’s donkey portal manipulations and with the increasingly growing cybernetic material inside him. Overall, we’re scared for Vic the most now that he’s been kidnapped by the Bureau of Normalcy and Grid doesn’t exactly agree with him. But, we’re glad that he and Jane had a chance to talk on the bus before the Bureau showed up. Even more so, we’re relieved that he felt comfortable enough with Jane to discuss his apprehension about Grid.

With its mental health heavy tone, episode 11 still finds time for some canon comedic shenanigans. Doom Patrol loves weird creatures — Ezekiel the apocalyptic connoisseur, Admiral Whiskers the field mouse with a grudge, Denise the dinosaur, who finally has an agreeable partner in crime (literally) in her other half (again, literally), Steve Larson who’s definitely not a snitch. And now, “Frances Patrol” presents France, the Okefenokee-born leaping alligator with a gold watch in his stomach.

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Like in real-life, Doom Patrol recognizes that mental health is ongoing and any associated internal conflict doesn’t go away after you address it. Regardless of the context, healing is a neverending process and we’re sure to see the team continue to process and heal throughout the rest of the first season. More immediately though, we’re waiting on some resolution with that concluding cliffhanger. Someone save Cyborg from the Bureau of Normalcy already!