Doom Patrol’s always had a habit of coming on a bit strong (in a good way) by doing away with the narrative pacing that most other cape shows tend to stick with over the course of a season in favor of getting to the point. Though “Sex Patrol” is only the fourth episode of the show’s second season, it feels very much like this arc’s first major milestone for reasons that are both horny and apocalyptic.
Doom Patrol wasted no time getting right back into the weird swing of things by kicking off its second season with three back-to-back episodes featuring familial drama, murderous imaginary friends, and a disco-themed battle on a roller rink located somewhere in the space between time itself. Though the team’s solved their whole issue with being magically shrunk down to microscopic stature, and they’re all more or less on the same page about the importance of keeping Dorothy stable, the Doom Patrol’s at a loss as to just how they’re meant to truly deal with the young girl and her vast metahuman powers in the long term.
The functional immortality that Niles Caulder imbued the Doom Patrol with makes each of them potential candidates to take care of Dorothy and whatever she conjures up with her mind after he dies. “Sex Patrol” really hammers home how the team’s still in the midst of processing what that would mean for them and whether it’s something they actually want to take on.
Because this season’s already done a solid job of establishing where its core team of humanoid heroes are at mentally, it’s great to see the latest episode focus chiefly on Danny, the interdimensional being who was once a sentient street before being all but destroyed save for one seemingly inert brick. But long before Danny’s pseudo-demise and before they came to know the current incarnation of the Doom Patrol, they were very close friends with Niles, who relied on Danny to be a space in which he could hide Dorothy from the outside world.
In a flashback to 1978 London, Danny spent their time acting as a babysitter for Dorothy underground while Niles ventured out into the city to tend to his Important, Mysterious Scientific Business that he wasn’t inclined share details about with his daughter. Though Dorothy acted and presented as an 11-year-old girl—and both Niles and Danny treated her as such—in reality, she was much more than a mere child. Though her world was small, she longed to explore beyond Danny’s boundaries because she was well aware that she was missing out on crucial, life-defining experiences, which is exactly what Niles wanted. For their part, Danny always knew that eventually, they wouldn’t be capable of keeping Dorothy put, both because the girl would likely become too powerful to stop and because Danny genuinely believed she needed and deserved to live freely, something she’s finally starting to do in the present.
Just as Dorothy’s begun settling into the mansion along with the Doom Patrol’s adult members, she ends up accidentally dropping Danny the Brick and breaking them into two pieces, something no one is quite certain Danny can come back from given their already weakened state. Niles’s reassurances to Dorothy that Danny will bounce back the way they always do does little to calm her nerves and guilt, and both Rita and Larry realize that Niles is really only hoping Danny recovers so he can hide Dorothy within them once again.
Before the adults in the room have a chance to speak frankly with one another about how Niles is once again about to pull a Charles Xavier, a sudden ring of the doorbell brings Dorothy and the gang face to face with Flex Mentallo, Maura Lee Corrupt, and the rest of Danny’s wayward flock of free spirits who all beelined to the mansion the moment a muscle in Flex’s upper thigh alerts him to Danny’s “accident.” Though Danny isn’t technically dead (it’s unclear if Danny can truly die), Flex explains that their condition is critical, and Flex’s reality manipulating abilities alone aren’t enough to heal the brick.
If Danny’s to be restored, Maura explains, everyone’s going to have to band together to celebrate Danny’s life and pour their positive emotional energy into them in the way that Danny once did for their friends and loved ones in their respective times of need. Because they’re essentially a roving cabaret ensemble, the plan of action’s rather simple—throw a party. And not just any party, but the sort of Danny party that Dorothy spent decades dreaming of being able to attend even though Niles consistently refused to let her go.
While most everyone gets busy preparing themselves for Danny’s revival, Cliff does everything in his power not to rage at the fact that he’s back at the mansion despite his growing resentment toward Niles, who he now understands as being instrumental in the accident that ended his life as a flesh and blood human. “Everything,” in this case, refers to Cliff griping to the Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter, who’s taken over as Jane’s primary personality after the other alters in the Underground decided she was unfit for the job. Though Jane’s mind is literally turning against her by locking her within a mental prison, it’s fascinating to see how she’s become much more grounded. She’s well aware of what’s going on and what the alters’ concerns are, and she’s resolute in her belief that it would be best if she were the primary.
In addition to simply preferring being topside in a way that the other alters aren’t, generally, Jane is one of the few personalities with enough experience interacting with others to actually survive in the world. Alters like the Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter may be peaceful and not draw too much attention to themselves, but their singular focuses (in this case painting) make them ill-suited to be the kind of personality who can keep Kay Challis, the original traumatized identity hiding somewhere in the Underground, safe from more harm.
Jane’s desire to protect Kay is mirrored in the brief moments we’ve seen in which she reaches out to Dorothy who, like Kay, has spent a lifetime being hurt by people more powerful than she is. “Sex Patrol” subtly posits that part of Jane’s desire to escape the Underground and take back control is rooted in her desire to shield Dorothy from whatever hell being around Niles might expose her to. What’s especially interesting is that Rita, too, gravitates towards Dorothy for similar reasons. Despite Rita’s powers consistently acting up, she’s able to hold herself together when she realizes that Dorothy’s in need of company from someone who can understand her excitement at being around new, strange people, and how that’s tempered with fear that she won’t be accepted because of her physical differences.
The warmth and care Jane and Rita both show Dorothy is contrasted by Niles’ relative sharpness with her, which you can see in the way he reacts to the small amount of lipstick Rita let her put on for the party. Before the story gets around to letting Niles’ overbearing nature become a threat to everyone, the episode pivots into a sudden performance of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory’s “Pure Imagination.” It’s meant to energize Danny because this is Doom Patrol, a show where there’s always time for a musical number. In this case, though, the tangent into the absurd serves a very solid purpose.
As Flex puts on a one-man gun show in order to rearrange the mansion’s furniture for Danny’s party, Rita can’t help but admire the finely tuned control he has over his powers. This season of Doom Patrol’s made it clear that Rita feels as if the superhero life might actually be her true calling, and she’d be game to act as the Doom Patrol’s leader if the others would bother to whip themselves into shape. Rather than simply waiting for everyone else to warm to the idea, Rita sees Flex as an opportunity to learn how to use her own meta abilities. After the song brings Danny back from the grave and their party becomes a full-on rager, Rita comes to Flex with questions about his powers, and he explains that as complicated as his abilities are, he’s able to control them with such skill because he’s very, very good at clearing his mind.
Again, Rita’s been in a very assertive headspace as of late, and she rather quickly comes to the conclusion that if clearing her mind is what she needs to do to become the best Elasti-Woman, then that’s what she’ll do. But because Rita finds mental clarity best when she’s post-orgasm, she matter-of-factly asks Flex to do that thing he does with his muscles that spontaneously makes people climax. Were this any other show, coming back to the idea of a muscle man making people When Harry Met Sally themselves might come across as lazy, but Doom Patrol makes it work by upping the weird factor.
Flex (who’s facing a wall at Rita’s request) doesn’t just bring Rita (who’s very professional about the whole thing) up to and over the edge multiple times, the experience sends her to a deeply hidden mental space where a traumatic memory from her past is locked away. For her, the orgasms aren’t the point, her repressed memories are—because she knows working through those is almost certain to lead to her mastering her powers. But ersatz tantric meditation isn’t really the most ridiculous thing about “Sex Patrol.” That honor belongs to the parasitic sex demon that’s drawn to Danny’s party because of the intense orgasmic energy radiating from the room where Flex and Rita are. As the shadowy sex demon slinks its way through the party in search of the sexual energy’s epicenter, Larry tries and fails to flirt with a man curious to see what he’s hiding beneath all of his bandages, and Cliff settles into a night of altered consciousness thanks to the Niles-supplied ecstasy flowing through the liquid where his human brain’s suspended. Larry, Victor, Cliff, Dorothy, and even Jane (as Scarlet Harlot) all do their best to indulge in the fun that Danny’s party affords, but it’s difficult for all of them to fully pull their minds away from the individual anxieties.
Vic fears that his burgeoning relationship with a gender-bent Roni Evers (Karen Obilom) is doomed to fail, while Larry’s horrified to have learned that his tactless demeanor with his son led to his dealing with a lifetime of depression and feelings of inadequacy before he died by suicide. Cliff knows he messed up by trying to immediately force a new relationship with his now adult daughter (who spent years believing her father to be dead), and Jane’s technically still trapped in the underground, and whoever’s in control of her body isn’t all that concerned with anything in particular.
It isn’t until the sex demon begins absorbing everyone’s sexual energy and causing an orgy of Ghostbusters-style specters to manifest in the manor that “Sex Patrol” really lives up to its name. Before anyone really has the chance to drink in the Eyes Wide Shut of it all, Danny’s party is crashed by the Sex Men (characters plucked right out of Grant Morrison’s run on the Doom Patrol comics) who pull up in their Sex Machine (aka the “mobile emission control center”) armed and ready to hunt down the sex demon. In a bit of hurried exposition, the Sex Men explain that if they don’t contain the demon before it absorbs a critical amount of energy, it will give birth to a god-like baby whose cries will erase all other children from existence, which would somehow turn the entire world into a den of sinful iniquity.
It’s difficult to put into words why, but it makes sense that out of all of them, Jane’s personalities would be the only one there to be largely unfazed at the sight of a floating sex demon forcing a grotesque infant creature out of its birth canal while floating in mid-air. Nonsensical as the entire spectacle is, Jane, more than any of her alters, understands that destroying the sex demon’s baby is of the utmost importance because, in her mind at least, its cry has the potential to erase Kay along with all the other children. It’s kind of disturbing that Jane (as a resurfaced Hammerhead) punches the baby back up inside the sex demon rather than using one of her alters’ powers to, say, zap the thing. But the punch ensures that the baby never cries, the demon is sent far away, and the apocalypse is averted once again.
With the demon properly dealt with, Danny’s able to begin the first phase of their rebirth into something new—a wheel, for the time being, so that Niles can’t use them as a prison anymore, but also suggesting that Danny’s well on their way to becoming a tricked out magic school bus. Inadvertently dangerous as their “therapy” session was, Flex does truly help Rita understand that witnessing her mother having sex with a man as a child had a lasting impact on her that she needs to work through. Though she’s not quite through yet, as she inadvertently causes some trauma in Dorothy.
“Sex Patrol” closes with most everyone on the team feeling as if they’ve come out on the other side of a storm battered, but stronger for it. But at the same time, the episode also makes clear that in letting Dorothy get lost in the chaos of what might as well be a normal day for them, the Doom Patrol’s already setting itself up to deal with an even more dangerous threat that they’re really not ready for.
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