DISCLAIMER: This recap of the Doom Patrol episode “Vacay Patrol” is riddled with spoilers. Proceed at your peril.
Welcome back, residents of Doom Manor! “Vacay Patrol” is a mite slower than its predecessor save for that explosive ending. It’s a thoughtful, poignant exploration of grief and trauma with our gang examining their status as superheroes. Now that the Chief is dead, do they continue to fight his enemies and shoulder his burdens? Is this the moment when they become their own, full-fledged individuals, no longer in the shadow of Dr. Niles Caulder?
These are essential questions to ask, and Doom Patrol allows our core crew to reflect on them.
Besides the more profound character work, “Vacay Patrol” introduces the Brotherhood of Evil and its compatriots — Brain, Monsieur Mallah and Garguax, for starters.
Ready to delve into “Vacay Patrol”? Let’s get to it.
We open with a flashback in 1949 at the Brotherhood of Evil headquarters. Brain and Monsieur Mallah (voiced by Jonathan Lipow) plot the downfall of Niles Caulder, and they’ve enlisted the aid of Garguax (Stephen Murphy) for the task. Brain instructs Garguax to eliminate a target, and he’ll send a signal via transponder when the time is right. This target is close to Niles, and she’s none other than Rita Farr.
Later, Garguax and Samuelson (Billy Boyd), his assistant, arrive at Codsville Mountain Resort. Garguax vows they’ll blend in while they wait for Rita to appear. Every day, Samuelson emphatically announces Garguax’s entrance into the dining hall with a gramophone and a laundry list of the alien conqueror’s accomplishments. This bit is hysterical.
Then, we see Garguax extensively document his mission. The years fly by, and still no sign of Rita. Garguax learns of the Brotherhood of Evil’s demise at the hands of the Chief, and yet he remains at his post.
Meanwhile, at Doom Manor, Rita (April Bowlby) consumes copious amounts of Rocky Road ice cream. She spots Madame Rouge on the newspaper’s front page and reads that a “mysterious woman is wanted for questioning.” She muses whether that’s what the Chief meant regarding her task — Rita must keep an eye on the mysterious things in this world.
The pressure is too much to bear, and she morphs into an amorphous blob. I love that this signifies Rita’s anxiety.
Cliff (Brendan Fraser/Riley Shanahan) cradles his grandson in his robotic arms back on Earth. His daughter, Clara (Bethany Anne Lind), and her wife, Mel (Walnette Santiago), are on edge because of Cliff’s shaking hands. He tries to make up for lost time with Clara by incessantly catering to his grandkid’s every need.
Then, Clara and her wife hear their child crying outside. Cliff’s body suddenly freezes, and the sprinklers turn on. After taking their infant inside, Clara broaches the subject of a visit to the doctor. Clara wonders whether Cliff might have Parkinson’s disease. Even though he’s a robot, he still has a human brain; however, Cliff brushes it off.
Meanwhile, Vic (Joivan Wade) accesses his Grid to keep tabs on Roni Evers. While she narrowly escaped Quorum Labs, the baddies are aware she had assistance. Then, Grid promptly shuts down, forcing Vic to call his dad, Silas (Phil Morris), on a flip phone.
According to Silas, Quorum reached out to S.T.A.R. Labs about the incident. Vic’s cameo in the footage is suspect, so S.T.A.R. shut down Vic’s operating system. Cyborg, a superhero, failed to stop a “criminal,” at least that’s how S.T.A.R. views it. Vic is furious, but his father’s hands are tied.
Next, Vic finds Rita in her amorphous state. She tosses around the idea of a vacation, and they could all use some relaxation. Secretary (Diane Guerrero) makes her grand entrance and books the group a spot at the Codsville Mountain Resort where Garguax is. Vic asks if Jane will go, and we see Jane is in the Underground with Kay (Skye Roberts).
Jane wishes to stay in the Underground, but Kay persuades her to join her friends for the trip, so Jane resurfaces.
Later, Vic, Jane and an amorphous Rita arrive in Florida to pick up Cliff. Rita resides in a sack that Jane has slung over her shoulder. Hammerhead emerges briefly to punch Cliff so hard his robotic joints start moving again.
Then, our outcasts are at the desolate mountain resort. Vic’s disappointed to learn there’s no signal where they are. Cliff wishes to try The Backbone, a giant ladder, on for size. In space, Larry appears to be in the eye of Negative Spirit’s home. Larry looks like his dashing 60s self, and we see the version we know venture toward Larry. Larry grazes the fire-ravaged skin of his twin’s face.
Suddenly, Negative Spirit decimates the other Larry, and our Larry returns to his usual self. Next, Negative Spirit deposits Larry in Doom Manor and vanishes.
Meanwhile, Vic encourages Cliff to see a doctor about his shaking. Cliff learns about Vic’s out-of-service Grid, and it looks like they’re both falling apart. Jane and Rita enjoy the woodsy scenery, and Rita’s still an amorphous blob in a sack. She expresses relief that they’re out of Doom Manor and free from the Chief’s influence.
Cliff encounters Garguax in the sauna, and the pair hits it off. They bond over their mutual hatred of the Chief. Garguax doesn’t pry into why Cliff despises Niles so much, and, vice versa, neither does Cliff.
Later, Cliff spots Vic, Jane and Rita in the dining hall. They’re all guzzling a gigantic alcoholic drink through straws. I wonder if Rita will feel the effects more quickly since she’s a blob.
Then, Garguax and Samuelson enter, but not before the latter grandiosely announces the former. Vic instantly grows wary of them. A green alien described as an “eater of worlds” and his red alien pal? Talk about suspicious!
Not only that, but Cliff knowing who Garguax is and being privy to his hatred of the Chief doesn’t put Vic at ease. Vic approaches the extraterrestrial duo, and Samuelson is off-putting and condescending, while Garguax is amiable enough.
Later, our quartet sits in an empty dance hall while a solitary deejay cranks out the tunes in the corner. Rita believes the Chief’s faith in her is misplaced — she’s not supposed to be a superhero. Jane and Cliff think they should live as they see fit and not as Niles’s “Doom Patrol.”
However, Vic’s devoted to the superhero life, and they could easily defeat Garguax and continue saving the world. After Cliff and Vic verbally spar, the former storms off.
Jane reasserts Cliff’s viewpoints, and Vic leaves in a huff too. Garguax sees Rita for the first time in her human form.
Then, Garguax decides to leave, citing that Rita doesn’t seem threatening. He believes the “mission” abandoned him and Samuelson. It’s time to move on, but Samuelson doesn’t see it that way even though the Chief, in the 50s, dismantled the Brotherhood of Evil.
The following day, our crew spends some time alone. Cliff attempts to climb The Backbone while Vic tries to send Roni a text that doesn’t go through. Rita finds a pottery wheel while Jane walks a labyrinthine path.
Cliff falls off The Backbone because his metallic limbs freeze. Jane sees the Chief’s wheelchair and releases a gut-wrenching, grief-fueled scream. Rita’s clay creation folds, which looks interesting when compared to Rita’s amorphous episodes. Vic fails to locate a signal, so he snaps his flip phone and tosses it into the woods in a rage.
Later, the quartet reunites and sits quietly. Suddenly, in the Underground, Kay starts dancing to “Forever Young” as it plays in the dance hall. Her movement spurs Jane to bust some moves, followed by Rita, Cliff and Vic. It’s a fun scene that successfully breaks the tension, injecting needed levity.
While they’re leaving, Garguax’s transponder finally beeps after 70 years of radio silence. We see what appears to be Madame Rouge’s time machine outside the resort.
Suddenly, Garguax bursts into the dance hall as our quartet is dancing. He urges them to run, and he keels over. Samuelson stands behind him, armed with a giant gun, and he shoots Cliff, Jane and Vic.
Rita flees, and as she’s about to open the door, an identical version of Rita donning Madame Rouge’s getup shoves her back inside while apologizing. I’m guessing it’s Madame Rouge shapeshifting as Rita. Samuelson zaps Rita too.
We see Samuelson arranging the bodies of Cliff, Rita, Vic and Jane into a circle, and they’re looking dead as a doorknob.
The ending of “Vacay Patrol” kicks things into high gear, and I can’t wait to see what happens next. Our gang won’t stay dead, and I’m willing to wager that Madame Rouge will help revive them. Larry might also chip in if he notices they’re missing.
This episode is quintessential Doom Patrol: weird, emotionally resonant and darkly humorous. That’s how I like my T.V. shows.
New episodes of Doom Patrol are available to stream every Thursday on HBO Max.
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