As a television show continues to produce new episodes, the chances that you’ll get a musical episode approach 100%. Everything from the Simpsons to Grey’s Anatomy to Batman: The Brave and the Bold have musical episodes. And of course, you can’t forget about Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the show that turned the idea into a bonafide meme. But can Doom Patrol, 22 years later, get silly enough with the idea to make it feel creative again? Spoilers follow for Doom Patrol Season 4, Episode 9, “Immortimas Patrol.”
Isabel Feathers/Immortus, annoyed by the notion that the Doom Patrol was getting recognition for rescuing her, has rewritten reality so that every day is a holiday devoted exclusively to her greatness. As part of that reality, they’re more than happy to go along with it. But there are cracks in this reality, if only the Patrol can find them. In the meantime, though, they have to sing, decorate, and celebrate.
Doom Patrol can’t just play things straight, though. Everything has to be a riff on something. It has to get weird. Things start out with the show’s opening theme song, done in acapella rather than the gloomy synth tones we usually get. Then, Dorothy begins a dance number with Doom Manor’s sex ghosts.
The Patrol can be seen decorating the Bone Tree, putting on their Immortimas sweaters, and setting up their Immortimas Day dollhouse. You know. All the usual stuff.
The biggest question that most of the Doom Patrol seems to be tangling with throughout this episode is the one posed by Queen in ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’: “Is this the real life, or is it just fantasy?”
The insidious part of Immortus’ rewrite is that it has something for everyone. It’s like fanservice, but reality. As we encounter each character we see how most of them are living their perfect version of life. Vic shows up mid-song with presents and everyone is asking him how he and Deric’s Robotics Club is going.
Cliff is flesh and blood, once again portrayed by Brendan Fraser, and he’s enjoying all of the benefits of being a guy instead of a brain house. He enjoys the soft feel of the Immortimas Day sweater he puts on. Later, he heads into the basement and pulls a few VHS tapes off the shelf, looking for something ‘naughty’ to watch. Immortus accounted for this too, and her version of what counts as acceptable pornography in her world is one of the funniest parts of the episode aside from the frequent musical interjections by the sex ghosts.
You can see the conflict on their characters’ faces as they sing about how happier they are–they know something is wrong. “Nothing is weird, everything’s fine,” sings Cliff, smiling directly into the camera with all the joy of a person with a gun to their head.
When Madam Rouge brings the team together to reveal the truth behind their predicament, Cliff is the one who speaks up first: why do people want out of this fantasy? It’s a fantasy. That’s why they call it a fantasy! Everything is great.
But it’s not real life, and they all know it. Despite their misery, most of the characters want to reembrace reality, because living a lie is worse. It makes sense that Larry is the first to take the leap. He knows what it’s like to live a lie, having done so for a painfully long time. With his relationship with Mr. 104, he’s finally in a place where he might be able to grow and move forward.
Again, Cliff feels like the villain here. It’s hard to blame him, though. His existence is pretty miserable compared to the sensory-focused life that was ripped from him when Dr. Caulder took his brain out of his head. He’s in a weird body with very limited sensory input, cut off from experiencing life with a family he’s struggled to reconnect with.
Even so, he’s asking everyone else to live a lie–asking Jane to leave her other personalities behind, lost in Immortus’ haze, for example. She’s visibly aching from the confusion of not being able to interact with her many counterparts.
The story works a little bit better than the musical aspect. The musical stuff is funny, but it doesn’t feel like an episode I’d really want to watch a second time–personally. I’m also kind of biased against musical episodes, so take that with the appropriately sized grain of salt. It’s admittedly fun to see Brendan Fraser doing a musical in a Christmas-style sweater, and the show uses the musical format appropriately to get characters to express feelings they can’t just say aloud in normal words.
It’s still good stuff, but it didn’t quite hit for me the way so many other episodes of the series have over the last few years.