DISCLAIMER: This recap of the Doom Patrol episode “Bird Patrol” is riddled with spoilers. Proceed at your peril.
Welcome back, residents of Doom Manor! We’re in the back half of Season Three now, and s**t has effectively hit the fan. “Bird Patrol” seamlessly bridges the gap between the past and present while giving us more backstory into Laura De Mille’s ugly departure from the Sisterhood of Dada and Malcolm’s fate. Additionally, it takes Rita and Laura’s initial rapport and turns it inside out.
This week’s Doom Patrol outing starts slowly but kicks things into high gear from the second act onward. It’s not quite as introspective and philosophical as the past two episodes, relying more on action than heavy dialogue. That said, I still have no clue what “The Eternal Flagellation” is besides the fact the Sisterhood plans to obliterate humanity with it.
Regardless, our misfits disappear by the episode’s end, and that’s not a good thing. But what a cliffhanger!
Ready to delve into “Bird Patrol”? Let’s get to it.
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We open with Lloyd (Miles Mussenden) and Holly (Anita Kalathara) putting the finishing touches on a massive gilded cage, like the one in Malcolm’s chest cavity. Lloyd whips up a wind storm, much to Holly’s delight, and Holly holds up a flyer that says “Tonight” with the Sisterhood of Dada’s signature distorted face sigil. The Eternal Flagellation is nigh!
Meanwhile, Vic (Joivan Wade) meets with a doctor regarding synthetic skin surgery. The said doctor worked with his mother at STAR Labs. After a cursory examination, the good doc reveals that surgery for Vic is possible, but she would have to remove his tech. She urges him to discuss the life-changing procedure with his father before making a decision.
Next, we see Jane (Diane Guerrero) chastising Cliff (Brendan Fraser/Riley Shanahan) for selling her records. Cliff has an internet addiction, and he’s taken it a step too far by selling his friends’ possessions.
Suddenly, Jane vomits a flag with the same imagery as the Sisterhood’s flyer. Even Cliff’s t-shirt bears the peculiar sigil. Laura (Michelle Gomez) urges Jane and Cliff to rally together — they must brace themselves for whatever the Sisterhood plans to throw at them. However, Jane asserts it’s Laura’s problem, not theirs.
Jane learns Cliff sold something important to Flit, one of Kay’s personalities. So, Jane makes way for Flit, and Flit teleports Cliff to his daughter Clara (Bethany Anne Lind) and her wife, Mel’s (Walnette Santiago) humble abode in Florida. It’s Grandpa Cliff time!
At the Bureau of Normalcy, the year is 1949, and Laura interviews Wally Sage, a young man with a strange set of skills. If you’ll recall, Wally Sage creates Flex Mentallo, as mentioned in “Flex Patrol.” Here, he waves a hand over an image of a beach ball, and a real-life version materializes. Rita (April Bowlby) watches in amazement.
But Laura categorizes Wally as a “weapon” to be used at the Bureau’s discretion.
Rita reprimands Laura for sending a young man to war; however, Laura retorts that it’s her job. Rita invites her to a salon that night with the Sisterhood, and, even though Laura declines, Rita surreptitiously slips the invite in among her things.
Next, Rita and Malcolm (Micah Joe Parker) converge for a mini dance session in the hallway. A horde of Bureau troops marches past them, giving off blatant Nazi party vibes.
Meanwhile, Larry (Matt Bomer/Matthew Zuk) wakes up after puking what looks like a giant parasite. One of the Sisterhood’s flyers lands on him. Laura stands outside his room, and the pair attempts to figure out where the parasite hailed. She surmises it entered Larry’s body when the Negative Spirit took him to space to show him its home. It’s a space bug!
Unfortunately, Larry can’t name it, but he can set it ablaze.
Then, Jane finds Kay (Skye Roberts) crying. Someone stole Kay’s bike, and now she never wants to go topside again. Jane has a feeling the other personas have something to do with it.
Cliff tells Clara and Mel he’s cured of Parkinson’s, but Mel notices his hands still slightly shake while holding Rory. However, Cliff insists on hanging out with his grandson while the wives go out for a much-needed date.
Larry dumps his parasite buddy in the woods, leaving it in a duffel bag complete with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a water bottle and a scarf for warmth. Admittedly, this scene is super adorable. Against Laura’s suggestion, Larry doesn’t burn the parasite. While outside, Larry spots a hefty patch of incoming fog (probably Shelley’s doing).
Later, Vic contacts Roni (Karen Obilom), who’s hiding out in the woods. He informs her of his potential synthetic skin surgery. Roni opposes it, citing Vic’s cyber tech as his superpower. How can he cultivate change without it? Roni and Vic want the same thing — change. But both have different means of obtaining it. Vic reassures her he can still fight and be a superhero without his tech.
Roni brings up an important point here: Vic’s metal capabilities don’t make him the same as law enforcement. Vic and Roni don’t want obedience; they want justice. Roni’s walkie-talkie cuts out, ending the conversation.
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Meanwhile, Cliff’s babysitting stint takes a potentially dangerous turn when the smoke detector goes off, and he spills several food items in the kitchen. Cliff spots Clara’s credit card, and he almost swipes it.
Thankfully, Clara and Mel arrive home in time before something major unfurls.
Jane confronts Dr. Harrison (Catherine Carlen) and the other personas. She reminds the personalities that their objective is to protect Kay. But Dr. Harrison counters with a question: “Who’s going to protect us?” Yes, they stole the bike, but at least they can control what happens in the Underground.
At Doom Manor, Laura attempts to leave with a packed bag. However, she’s stuck in a sort of supernatural loop. Every time she walks down a corridor, she winds up back where she started, and the Sisterhood is most likely behind it.
Next, Laura gets a visitor while working alone at the Bureau. The Bureau supervisor doesn’t think she can climb the professional ladder, despite mounting evidence of her diligent work. Laura still protects the Sisterhood even though they’ve been tucked away in the Bureau for over three decades. She insists they’re pacifists; they wouldn’t volunteer to fight in wars.
However, the officer asserts she must treat all metahumans the same way. After he departs, Laura finds the invite Rita gave her — it bears that distorted face symbol.
Then, Rita and Malcolm surprise Shelley (Wynn Everett), Lloyd, Holly and Sachiko (Gina Hiraizumi) with a masked dance for their salon. Nobody’s up for it. Rita explains she hoped that following a new Broadway trend would provide a “fertile canvas with which to examine human frivolity.” Sachiko reminds the pair of who the Sisterhood is.
She pushes the group to commit to their destiny — they’ve been dancing around it for 30 years. Shelley argues they vote against doing that every year and Rita adds that it’s too dangerous. She also recites the Sisterhood’s mission: to make the world a better place.
That’s when Lloyd delivers a heartwrenching, poignant monologue about the atrocities the world’s suffered and the horrors seen in their backyard. Lloyd emphatically asks how they’re going to change the world. For decades they’ve sat idly by while the Bureau committed awful things against metahumans. He accuses them all of being complicit.
Malcolm inspires the group to kickstart The Eternal Flagellation, but Rita believes Laura would staunchly oppose it, and Sachiko insists Laura’s already out of the picture. We see Sachiko in the present preparing for The Eternal Flagellation.
Vic lies on an operating table while preparing to receive anesthesia. He sees the fog approaching. Jane tells Kay that someone in the Underground took her bike, but it was all a mistake. Kay senses she’s lying and kicks Jane out of her room. Suddenly, Jane spots the fog in the hallway.
Cliff steals Clara’s card and charges it to see Ginger again, but before he can get a glimpse of her goods, the fog swirls around him, and he vanishes.
Then, Vic, Jane and Cliff wind up in the same room where the Sisterhood held their salons all those years ago. They appear to have no control over their limbs, and we see the trio break out in a choreographed dance. Larry and Laura also arrive at that spot after encountering the fog at Doom Manor.
At the Bureau, Laura shows up at the salon, much to the excitement of everyone there. Rita and Malcolm don their masks while the group euphorically dances. In the present, Laura notices our crew executing the same dance as the Sisterhood did in 1949. Doom Patrol brilliantly melds together these two scenes from different eras.
The dance triggers Laura’s memories, as what transpires in 1949 plays like a flashback for her.
Suddenly, the Bureau bursts into the room armed with weaponry and seizes the Sisterhood, and Malcolm disappears. We see recruit Wally Sage is among them. The soldiers put the Sisterhood on their knees, while the Doom Patrol also falls to their knees. Inexplicably, Laura has a weapon in the present.
Past Laura goes down the line of Sisterhood members and stamps their paperwork with “Weapon” while also acknowledging the Doom Patrol as weapons in the present day.
However, when Past Laura gets to Rita, the latter refuses to comply. Wally orders her to get on her knees, but Rita won’t budge. Malcolm reappears and demands Laura stop the charade. Wally blasts his weapon, and it hits Malcolm, killing him. Rita’s faces shifts from abject grief and sorrow to one of persistent anger. Rita transforms into a blob and vanishes.
Present Laura encounters a masked figure that looks like Malcolm, but we see Rita underneath it. Laura’s memories rush back to her with full force. The fog envelops everyone, transporting them to what looks like the outside of Doom Manor.
We see the massive gilded cage from the beginning, but there’s now an egg within. The egg cracks open, and a peculiar bird/butterfly hybrid emerges with the nose and mouth of Malcolm. Rita insists that since Laura killed Malcolm, she must be the one to set him free.
Laura stands by her actions, claiming she had good reasons behind them all.
Rita accuses Laura of being “the evil one,” not the Sisterhood of Dada. Shelley supports Rita’s accusation, citing they did unspeakable things for 70 years because of Laura.
Suddenly, Malcolm grows restless in his cage, and he splits into thousands of smaller birds. They flee the coop with abandon, and Laura morphs into a bird and escapes amid the melee. Cliff wonders whether this is The Eternal Flagellation, but Sachiko responds that this is merely the prologue “to reckoning.”
Rita and the Sisterhood vanish in puffs of fog while the weird hybrid birds with faces fly into each one of our Doom Patrol members, causing them to disappear, one by one.
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Michelle Gomez steals the show in “Bird Patrol,” imbuing Laura with searing vulnerability and biting wit. Instead of making Laura a bombastic, mustache-twirling villain, Doom Patrol gives her nuance and dimensions. I wonder if we’ll see more of her connection to the Brotherhood of Evil at some point.
That scene with Laura and the past and present colliding features excellent editing/cinematography, and hats off to the Powers That Be for creating a masterful bit of television.
As much as I love Season Three, I have one gripe — I need more of Diane Guerrero transforming into Kay’s personas. She’s such a talented actress, and like Tatiana Maslany on Orphan Black and Rose McIver on iZombie, I enjoy watching Guerrero deftly switch between personalities.
“Bird Patrol” artfully raises the stakes for our heroes while putting its trademark dark humor, endearing weirdness and pathos on display. I’m excited for the rest of the season!
New episodes of Doom Patrol are available to stream every Thursday on HBO Max.
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