Okay, Doom Patrol. You still have some major tone issues, and I want to slap that hideous teenstache off Cyborg every moment he’s on screen, but thanks for not screwing up the best LGBTQ character in comics.
Danny the Street is one of the most beloved creations to come out of Morrison’s run in the classic comic series, and arguably the first (or one of the first) openly transgender characters in mainstream comics, and certainly the first that was also a sentient teleporting street who communicated with the other characters by rearranging the letters in his store windows.
So, how did Danny stand up in his first live action debut?
Extremely well, in my books. Of the three plot threads woven through this episode, the Danny one was the best, and frankly, the only one that actually mattered.
In the C plot, we get some flashbacks to Larry being tortured by government goons who want to find a way to weaponize him to take out the Russian missile outposts in Cuba. This group is later revealed to be ‘The Bureau of Normalcy’ led by Darren Jones, who share’s his comic counterpart’s obsession with “normalcy” but with a new military homophobic MAGA makeover, instead of the incredibly creepy 50's sitcom vibe of the original. Sadly, the Men from N.O.W.H.E.R.E. aren’t present, but there’s still an opportunity for the character to return at a later date, possibly accompanied by his weird husk minions. Also, the Ant Farm gets a mention, so hopefully the whole Pentagon/Telephone Avatar plotline with Dorothy Spinner will form the basis of Season 2, assuming they get renewed.
Honestly, the character flashbacks are getting especially annoying at this point, and killing the momentum of the series. I think we all have a pretty good handle on how crappy everyone’s lives were before they came to Doom manor. Honestly, you’re 8 episodes in... if you haven’t established the characters by now, you aren’t doing a very good job as a writer.
The B plot wasn’t quite as stupid as last week’s group therapy plotline, but it still wasn’t great. At the end of the previous episode, Crazy Jane runs off following Cliff’s rat-inspired rantings, and we learn she has a personality based off of awful 90's romcoms named Karen that only emerges during times of emotional stress, who keeps inserting herself into the life of a poor guy named Doug via her ‘love spell’ powers. Other than a chance to give the actress who plays Jane another wig, and set up next week’s ‘underground’ storyline, it doesn’t really break new ground, but gives the rest of the cast something to do while Cyborg and Larry are off investigating Danny.
Finally, the A plot... This was excellent, though I wish we’d had more of a chance to see the Danny who wasn’t all boarded up windows and keeping a ‘low profile.’ I’m very glad that the rumors that Danny would speak by taking over people turned out to be false. All in all, the character remained very true to the comics, except for the lack of Polari. We learn that Danny has been on the run from Darren Jones for some time, and the fear and dread of constantly having to hide has taken it’s toll. Danny is supposed to be a sanctuary for the people who don’t fit Darren’s straight white cis-male worldview, but Danny only lives as long as the party in the Perpetual Cabaret doesn’t stop, and it’s hard to have a good time when you’re relentlessly being hounded by people who hate your very existence. Sadly, this episode resonates very strongly with the current climate of empowered hate groups in the United States, and it was probably a wise move to make Darren and his men a bunch of locker room gay-joke snickerers, rather than inhuman birdlike guys with tiny cranes on their heads that only speak in anagrams like the Men from N.O.W.H.E.R.E.
I’m a bit disappointed that the episode ended with drag queen Maura Lee Karupt merely kicking the shit out of Darren and sending him back home with a message that ‘Danny the Street is off limits.’ In fact, the ending is so abrupt, I wonder if they filmed the scene from the comics where they forcibly dressed him in drag and dropped him back off in front of superiors, but decided to cut it, fearing that it might be taken the wrong way. Instead we literally cut from the scene where Larry punches him and stupidly reveals his presence to the organization that previously tried to capture him, to a scene where Cyborg is helping to rewire Danny’s street lights while everyone else has a good time in the Cabaret. Presumably, Darren will be back as a returning foe later in this season or the next, since something makes me think he and his men aren’t going to take a hint.
Overall, one of the best episodes we’ve had so far, though apparently, the writers decided nobody under the age of 40 would understand what cabaret was, and figured ‘drag queen karaoke’ was the closest substitute that millennials could comprehend.