By going backward, Doom Patrol’s “1917 Patrol” manages to move the season’s plot forward significantly. The episode filled in much of the blank space the first half of Season 3 created surrounding Laura DeMille and the Sisterhood of Dada and in doing so actually gave Doom Patrol what feels like a concrete and cohesive storyline.
Episode 6 sends Rita back in time to 1917 to explore the origins of the Sisterhood of Dada, which is helpful and welcome after the vague and mysterious way we met them last episode. Rita forgets who she is like we saw Laura do after using the time machine, but ends up at the Bureau of Normalcy which houses a small number of metahumans. Now known as Bendy, Rita finds a happy life working in the mailroom and connecting with the other metas.
The group is mostly the same as we saw in the last episode, including Fog, Frenzy and Quiz. Additionally, Laura is a part of the Sisterhood, as well as a man named Malcolm who can turn invisible and has a birdcage and canary for a heart. Rita/Bendy finds a quick home in the Sisterhood, who gather in a place created by Fog to express themselves and be creative—but it’s essentially a speakeasy. In particular, she grows quite fond of Malcolm. The Sisterhood certainly does not come across as any kind of threat yet, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens between 1917 and the present day to lead us to their confrontation of the Doom Patrol and talk of “The Eternal Flagellation.”
“1917 Patrol” does a phenomenal job in developing both Laura and Rita. While we’ve spent time with an amnesiac Laura and normal Rita, we haven’t had much development for half of a season. Ironically, this episode ramps up the two characters by mind-wiping Rita and putting Laura in a place where she knows who she is. Laura is a recruiter at the Bureau who classifies metas as either weapons or not weapons. She clearly has a soft spot for some—and she is a shapeshifter herself—as she protects the Sisterhood from being used as soldiers. On the job, she is indifferent, professional, and rigid, but once with the Sisterhood she comes alive like the rest of them. Rita, without her memories, is a much more confident and secure person who easily finds a family and a sense of belonging with the quirky group.
The episode seems very intentional in how it uses this episode to frame the two women, and it pulls off probably several episodes-worth of character development in just this one. We now have an actual grasp on who Laura is and she is much more of her own person rather than just filler at Doom Manor now. Rita feels reinvented but is actually just being interpreted in terms of who she would be if she was not riddled with shame and insecurity. We spend a lot of time with both in the past after we spent a decent amount of time with them together in the present day—their individual growth is intertwined with their chronologically messy relationship, and the ultimate payoff of that, if this continues to be executed well, could be huge.
Elsewhere in the present-day episode, the other members of the Patrol are handled similarly to how they’ve been dealt with so far this season. They are very separate from one another and are taking stabs at small bits and pieces of their own stories. Some of it feels a bit repetitive, and some of it feels slow—they certainly have not been folded into the newly revealed overarching story yet.
Larry stands up for himself against his son who hates him for leaving the family after his accident. While Larry has normally let his own guilt weigh down his every move, he delivers a solid rebuke and tells his son that he can’t take his fatherhood from him. Cliff is still living in a haze of black-market Parkinson’s drugs, and he is addicted to online gaming, gambling, and girls.
Jane lets Kay go up to the surface to buy her own shoes, and Kay teaches herself how to ride a bike and experiences some joy for once. The other personas are not happy with Jane’s interest in helping Kay grow, and there’s an obvious setup to a bigger referendum on Kay’s trauma on the horizon. Vic is again questioning why he is Cyborg, or why Cyborg is Cyborg, or why Cyborg is Vic—take your pick. This time, though, he’s doing something explicit about it by looking into replacing his technology with synthetic skin.
Episode 6 ends with Laura being ominously and threateningly contacted by the Sisterhood of Dada in the present day. Something has clearly changed from 1917, but like Laura, we are still in the dark. It’s noticeable, though, that Laura is for sure no longer being set up as the obvious and staunchly established adversary of the season. The mysterious but clearly rocky dynamic between her, the Sisterhood, and the Doom Patrol calls into question whether we will even have that kind of villain at all. The lack of that in the past hasn’t been particularly positive, but the seemingly more well-rounded and complex plot might have a fresh take on it.