Categories
Television

Titans – Season Three, Ep. 8 “Home” Review

Bree: Episode 8 marks just past the halfway point of the 13 episode season and things are really heating up! New relationships are forming, old ones are rekindling, and others’ are falling apart. Tim Drake gets a proper introduction and is shaping up to be an excellent adaptation of a fan favorite character.

Jon: Crane’s plans have come to a screeching halt since the last episode and we begin to see how that affects his and Jason’s power dynamic. Could our former boy wonder still be lost inside that red helmet? Only time will tell as the rest of this episode plays out.

Bree: This episode does an excellent job at balancing its focus equally for each of the main characters. Everybody has a memorable moment in this episode. While they dig a little more into Crane’s backstory, Starfire is still struggling with unknown elements of her past. Which feels very; “As one door closes, another opens”. The pacing of conflict is very effective this season, I’m on the edge of my seat while not feeling like my attention is divided between too many plot threads.

Jon: Tim finally get his time in the spotlight this episode. He’s truly living up to his comic book counterpart. Showing off his mastery of detective skills will turn him into a great asset for the Titans going forward.  

ON TO SPOILERS AND OUT OF CONTEXT MEMES

Bree: Alright, we gotta start with the elephant in the room. The elephant that broke a bed. I wasn’t initially keen on the idea of Blackfire and Conner but they’re writing the pair exceptionally well. 

Jon: STRAIGHT TO HORNY JAIL THE BOTH OF THEM! For the speed in which this took place and where they both are in their lives (very short for Conner) it feels very natural and is pretty adorable.

Bree: Yep! Conner has elements of the “born sexy yesterday” trope, but the show avoids the creepy aspects by fleshing out what he does have in common with Kom. And it’s important that Conner isn’t isolated, he’s developed other relationships besides Kom. The romance isn’t responsible for his entire world view, as the worst offenders of said trope tend to lean into.

Jon: One of the other highlights of this episode is Tim Drake who finally gets to show off his detective skills. Proving to Dick that he first discovers his secret identity because of his aerial acrobatics, he calls out Dick and the entire roster of Titans with hard facts that could come across as actually believable rather than Tim just knowing who they are because of who his character is supposed to be. Someone get Jay Lycurgo a super-suit YESTERDAY!

Bree: Indeed! I’m honestly iffy on Tim Drake as a whole, sometimes he works for me, and sometimes he just doesn’t. Titans Tim thus far is very charming and earnest, it’s quite possible he’ll be my favorite version yet! Oh! And Crane is actually starting to become scary. I like the stoner act and it was a fun refresh on his character but he’s gotta live up to his name. 

Jon: Yes! At the close of the episode, we see Crane with only a baseball hat and gun which sent shivers down my spine. One can only imagine how frightening he was in his prime while donning the actual scarecrow mask.

Bree: Kory’s visions keep getting weirder and weirder too and I’m loving it. They’re building an excellent foundation for her this season and I just hope they commit to finishing the house. Oh! And lastly, Beast Boy will hopefully now have something to do. I really hope they let him be very important in the forthcoming confrontation with Jason.

CLOSING REMARKS

Jon: An absolute mountain to things to unpack this episode. Jason is struggling with his inner demons, and Crane becomes more desperate and dangerous as time goes on. Will things actually work out with Blackfire and Conner? Most of all, who is Dick Grayson’s tailor ?! 4 episodes left to go until what seems like to be an explosive finale!

Bree: This is perhaps the most “Titans” centric episode this season, and perhaps proves that the writers are learning from past mistakes. Gotham is presenting ever-evolving challenges for the team, and we seem to be nearing the “sink or swim” moment for the team.

Categories
Television

Rita Farr and the Grotesque

Grotesque [groh-tesk]: Adjective. Odd or unnatural in shape, appearance, or character; fantastically ugly or absurd; bizarre.

Rita Farr is grotesque. She remembers when she wasn’t. Her room is filled with memorabilia and posters from her days as a Hollywood Starlet. The four walls of her bedroom envelop the few that enter in a soft, romanticized cloud of 50s and 60s nostalgia. As we, the viewer, learn more about Rita Farr, the actress, and Rita Farr, the Elasti-Girl, the more we see that perhaps the grotesque had been part of her story all along.

Media that criticizes Hollywood isn’t necessarily a new thing (Eyes Wide Shut, 1991. Mulholland Drive, 2001) or disappearing (The Neon Demon, 2016. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, 2019. Brand New Cherry Flavor, 2021) angle for film and television. Hollywood studios have had and continue to have an industry monopoly, and they often operate on very top-down, hierarchical management. As the #MeToo movement has helped uncover, this type of labor organization is often unjust to the many and discriminates against women and minorities in particular. Different elements of said industry pitfalls have made it into the aforementioned films. Although the visual approach and messaging often vary greatly in these types of films, they do generally have one thing in common- violence. Violence often leaves behind grotesque forms- Rita’s accident was horrific, her mother often inflicted emotional abuse upon her, her bosses were opportunistic and would hurt her to benefit themselves. Rita herself inflicted violence on others to maintain her place in the pecking order.

The interesting thing about portraying violence in media about media is the juxtaposition of romanticism. Films and TV make us feel things. We like to feel things. We know they’re scripted and fake, but we don’t particularly care. It’s an escape, reality cannot interfere too greatly, or the fantasy is lost. Rita Farr, the actress, was a Sweetheart, women wanted to be like her, and men wanted to be with her. At least, while she was still booking productions. Hollywood is an industry in which the idea of you is sold for profit. You are discarded when you can no longer reproduce the idea of yourself that the people want. 

Rita’s accident meant her career was over. Her physical affliction meant she could no longer produce Rita Far, the product. The oozing, grotesque lump her body occasionally turned into wasn’t what the people wanted. So, the question is, why did she get this affliction in particular? Body horror is often a visual indication of feeling “monstrous” or a mark of guilt. A way to turn something ugly on the inside outwards so it can be seen and interpreted by an audience. When Rita had her accident, she was already dissatisfied that her career was easing into stagnation. Guilt about the things she had done, and her mother had done for her, to secure the career she had up until then was creeping in. With the assistance of a rotting piece of wood and a loud splash, all these negative and ugly feelings bubbled up to the surface of her skin. 

Rita Farr is a phenomenal actress. She deserved every role and every bit of praise she got. She loved being an actress. However, the industry no longer loved her, and she had forgotten who she was without that relationship. I believe she would have become a different type of ‘monster’ had she continued on the path she was on, and the accident never happened. The ending of her story wouldn’t have been much different from the ending of The Neon Demon or Eyes Wide Shut. A single, sudden act of violence divorced her from her former life and set her on a different path, like cauterizing a wound. She initially viewed the accident as the worst possible thing to happen to her, but once she let Rita the Actress subside, she discovered Elasti-Girl.

Violence will always be a fact of life and will leave behind the grotesque parts of ourselves in its wake. What ultimately matters is how we cope and the environments we surround ourselves with.  Elasti-Girl likes living in Doom Manor, a place that might have scared Rita Farr, The Actress. Doom Manor is special because it’s a place committed to growth without judgment. Every resident unites as a victim of circumstance, but they’re working together to create better circumstances for their future selves and others. What was once a manifestation of Rita’s fears and anxieties became a source of strength and a means to connect with others like her. Although her room remains a bastion of escapism, she finds herself leaving it more and more often to venture out into the world. Parts of her still ooze and hurt, but she’s with others that understand. It’s never too late to reinvent ourselves or leave the places that do not love us to find the ones that do.

Categories
Television

Titans – Season Three, Ep. 7 “51%” Review

GateCrashers’ Titans coverage returns with myself (Bree) and my partner, Jon! We’ll be covering each episode release as they drop. The show has a lot of sentimental value to us on a very personal level, our coverage will be what is essentially written conversations with two sections; a very spoiler-free approach followed by a spoiler centric one (with a few jokes and memes, as Titans S3 is headed towards very meme-able territory). Without further ado, our spoiler-free segment begins here!

Bree: Scarecrow is gearing up for the final act of his schemes, and the Titans are racing to out-think him. They split into two different approaches, with Dick and Barbara utilizing one strategy and Kory and Blackfire trying another. Jason is still struggling with being on Crane’s leash and his allegiance may shift yet again.

Jon: Crane himself knows he is at a very pivotal moment in his plans to distribute his new fear toxin and it is causing him to become a lot more dangerous and shows us why he is one of the big bads of Batman’s rogue gallery.

Bree: Starfire and Blackfire also get the opportunity to reveal more about life on Tamaran and the events that lead up to Blackfire’s departure. They’re relationship continues to add nuance and depth to the individual characters while providing an interesting foil to how the Titans approach the concept of found ‘family’. 

Jon: Barbara is also given more time to shine in this episode as she and Dick try to stay one step ahead of Jason and Crane resulting in a fan favorite cameo that is sure to have Titans, Birds of Prey, and Batgirl fans cheering this episode. So much to nerd out about.

Bree: Some relationships are heating up while others are cooling. The drama is ever changing on Titans!

ON TO SPOILERS AND OUT OF CONTEXT MEMES

Bree: Kom’s magical girl transformation though. I’m always floored by every new bit of Tamaranian lore we get. They’ve done such an excellent job of modernizing the comics while incorporating input from Anna and Damaris. 

Jon: It is definitely a strong point of this season! The attention to detail makes Tamaran feel like an actual place then just another piece of comic lore. Blackfire’s Sailor Scout transformation was by far the best suit-up scene in the show. The suit itself is a perfect rendition of the comic costume and is modernized just enough to feel real. Probably my favorite suit amongst the Titans. Huge shoutout to LJ Super Suits who keep knocking it out of the park with the wardrobe EVERY SEASON.

Bree: Just so freaking cool. Chills. I do wonder if Kom will ever go full baddie, only time shall tell. Oracle was really neat as well!

Jon: To be completely honest… I hope she doesn’t and gets to stick around longer. The inclusion of Oracle was a surprise. The show has stepped away from making Oracle just a program and went full Brainiac. How does the rest of the GCPD not know it’s below them?! Savannah Welch continues to impress more and more as Babs and is finally showing just how powerful her intellect makes her.

Bree: The same way they know Dick kidnapped Crane and didn’t do anything about it after the fact. I do love this Barbara more than I’ve liked most other Barbara’s. I can’t say I’m keen on Dickbabs being a thing in a Titans property but alas. OH…also the bit with Kom and Conner flirting during battle could have been the beginning of a porno and I would have bought it. I like horny TV so I’m not complaining, just one of the quickest pairs to form thus far. 

Jon: (SCREAMS IN HORNY JAIL). We are treated to our first scene of a present-day Dick/Babs Relationship, and while I personally have my reservations about them it was done well and does not feel forced. Savannah and Brenton do have great chemistry in the scenes they share.

Bree: And Gar finally gets to do things! Glad they’ve set him up as the softie of the team, a much better idea than the casual sexual harassment committer that exists in some other Titans media.

CLOSING REMARKS

Bree: Crane, Barbara, and Gotham continue to be a big part of this episode. However, there is a good half dedicated to the Titans themselves. The show is getting better at balancing screen time! The combat continues to be rad as heck and the big group moments are very fun.

Jon: The Titans are finally unified and make their first real strike back against Crane. It feels so good to see our heroes pull together and finally get a win. Let’s hope the momentum carries onto the next episode.

Categories
Television

Accepting Our Illnesses With Rita Farr

When I was 13, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. If you’re not in the know: it’s an offshoot of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). It’s messy and gross, and I’m not going to get into all the nitty-gritty symptoms right now, but what I will get into is how this illness has affected me and of course, how that relates to Doom Patrol.

As of right now, I’m 20 and haven’t shaken the symptoms at all. I still have constant stomach pain in some form or another and feel sick and nauseous frequently. I’ve had surgery twice, more blood tests and MRI scans than I could count, and have tried a bunch of different diets and medicines. I’ve had infusions for medication every 2 months for a few years now that thankfully put my Crohn’s in remission. However, I still retain the symptoms. It’s been years, and we don’t really know why or how to fix it. So yeah, it can be tough. It’s certainly manageable, and I’ve learned to live with it. There are obviously much worse illnesses, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t suck. But what often makes it tougher is the way this illness is depicted in media, how people like me are represented in art. Look, I’m a straight white dude. I’m as represented as they come, but the real lack of stories and characters going through the same struggles I go through is rare.

Often characters with chronic illnesses like me are cause for mockery. I love the Metal Gear games, but there’s a character in that called Johnny. He’s been in most of the games in some form and always as a punchline. See, Johnny has IBS, very similar to IBD. It means he shares pretty much the exact same symptoms as I do. But he’s not really a character in pain. He’s a joke and a loser. His constant need to find a bathroom, growling stomach, and toiletry issues are comedic. You aren’t meant to sympathize with him. You’re meant to think he’s funny and pathetic. I love Kojima, but every time he uses that character, it feels like he’s just laughing at me and anyone with IBD and IBS.

I can’t exactly blame him. IBS and IBD are often just seen as diseases that just make you poo a lot. But that’s ignoring the very real pain and struggle that comes with it. I wish I could say there are other characters I can turn to and see my struggles in, but I can’t. At least not until Doom Patrol and Rita Farr.

See, I’ve been a Doom Patrol fan since I was a little kid. They’re my favorite superhero team. They helped me embrace my weird side, and they are incredibly important to me. So I was crazy excited for their own TV show. When it finally premiered I LOVED it. Just adored it. As of right now, it’s my favourite live-action adaptation of a comic book. It was everything I wanted out of a Doom Patrol show but surprisingly it had even more than that. Because what I was really blown away by was Rita. Rita was like me.

I never found comic Rita that relatable, what with her being a former glamorous movie star and all. But this Rita was like me. She doesn’t have Crohn’s, or IBD, or any specific chronic illness. But she goes through the same struggles I do. There’s a degree of powerlessness she has, and that made me connect with her in a really powerful way.

If you weren’t aware, Rita Farr is Elasti-Woman. A former movie star who inhales some toxic gas and gains extraordinary powers. Except they aren’t extraordinary in the way you would think. She can stretch and change her body’s shape and form, but not usually at will. Her powers leave her droopy in almost Cronenbergian way. Because of that people consider her monstrous and disgusting. Rita struggles to collect herself every day; she struggles to form the massive blob she is into something manageable, something presentable. Any moment she fears she could lose her composure and become that blob again. That’s obviously not what I go through, but it sometimes feels like it. Every day I have to push through the pain and get it done. Every day I feel like sinking back into myself but force some composure and normalcy.

But it doesn’t stop there. Rita works through it. She works to be better, learning to push through the pain and use her illness for good. She uses it to help people, to be a hero. It’s genuinely inspiring to see a character take the pain they struggle with daily and turn it into a force for good.

Rita may be melted down and reduced to a blubbering mess, but she picks herself back up. In the episode ”Therapy Patrol”, Rita is reduced to that blob once again. As she pulls herself back together, she recites the words over and over “the person who is breathing is me.” That’s what it’s like for me. Sometimes I just have to focus and slow myself to push through the pain. But moments after this is something that makes me emotional every time I watch it. As Rita almost loses faith and begins to get frustrated, she tries again. She forces her way up the stairs into the light. She strives to be the best ball of slime she can be. She perseveres and comes out victorious and all the stronger for it.

What’s also great is how the other members of the Doom Patrol don’t bemoan Rita for her struggles. They accept and love her. Rita’s pain is never a joke. There are no jokes at the expense of someone suffering from an illness here, just a genuine, supportive family. It’s so refreshing to have a character like this, a family like this. She’s not disgusting or laughable. She’s a valued friend and a powerful ally. They love her and support her. They lift her up when she asks for it and leaves her to herself when she needs space. When Larry Trainor (Negative Man) first meets Rita, he is, at first, disturbed by her symptoms, but he later apologizes. He says that Rita shouldn’t have to get used to reactions like that and that this is her home and she should feel comfortable. Rita says she’s a lost cause, but Larry disagrees and supports her. It’s another moment that gets me really emotional every single time I watch it. Rita’s illness doesn’t define her, just like how it doesn’t define me or anyone like me.

It is an excellent representation of chronic illness and points to what superheroes are made for. They’re great allegorical figures. Rita doesn’t have Crohn’s, but what she does have is something universal. Her symptoms are so crazy and wacky yet so focused and pointed that people with many different illnesses can relate. We can identify with their struggles, and they can show us how to overcome them. Rita means a lot to me, and I just want to say thank you to the writers and directors, the crew and VFX artists who help bring her to life. Thanks especially to April Bowlby for portraying a character who makes do with what she can and shows us that we aren’t broken. Rita Farr shows us our pains can be triumphs, and our illness can be our superpower.

“Lost causes aren’t lost if you have someone to fight for them” – Rita Farr.

Categories
Television

Titans – Season Three, Ep. 6 “Lady Vic” Review

GateCrashers’ Titans coverage returns with myself (Bree) and my partner, Jon! We’ll be covering each episode release as they drop. The show has a lot of sentimental value to us on a very personal level, our coverage will be what is essentially written conversations with two sections; a very spoiler-free approach followed by a spoiler centric one (with a few jokes and memes, as Titans S3 is headed towards very meme-able territory). Without further ado, our spoiler-free segment begins here; 

Bree: Despite the title of the episode, I would argue that this is the Blackfire episode. She really steals the show here and lightens the tone after last week’s darker episode.

Jon: Anna Diop and Damaris Lewis continue to have great chemistry and really make us believe they’re actually siblings. Great acting from both actresses.

Bree: Blackfire is also introduced to Conner and Dick for the first time, and the clash of ‘cultural’ differences makes for some really comedic dialogue. This episode also introduces a new villain that goes by Lady Vic, whom readers’ of Nightwing’s solo comics may recognize.

Jon: Barbara also gets her time to shine this episode with an all new spin on her origin and her relationship with Dick. The comic nostalgia in the climax of the episode with her is sure to have any comic fan jumping out of their seat and cheering.

Bree: Indeed! The dialogue, the pacing, the acting, the combat direction…everything is firing on all cylinders this episode and it’s my personal favorite of the new season so far.

ON TO SPOILERS AND OUT OF CONTEXT MEMES

Bree: The buddy-cop moments with Dick and Kory are so great, I could easily do an entire episode(s) with them solving scooby-doo esque mysteries. She’s the only one that consistently has a boot on his neck and sometimes he needs it. I appreciate that she patched him up too, I like how strong they’re making her this season but it should be balanced out with some more compassionate moments.

Jon: Starfire is truly the voice of reason for Dick and the rest of the titans. The scenes between Blackfire and Superboy are a nice comedic breath of fresh air. It’s straight to Horny Jail for her.

Bree: We don’t even know if Conner knows what sex is but I guess we’ll be finding out soon enough!

Jon: Whoever is in charge of the choreography for this show is not getting paid enough. Lady Vic is vicious and lives up to her reputation in every action scene she is in. Great sword work from the actress and her stunt double. Barbara also gets to showcase her skills when she busts out Escrima sticks of her own in a scene ripped straight from the Birds of Prey comic that brought a tear of joy to my eye.

Bree: Lady Vic is legitimately so cool it’s hard to hate her.

Jon: Why do we both wanna go out for drinks with Lady Vic right now? 

Bree: Truly! OH, speaking of drinks, Brenton in the backwards baseball cap didn’t feel right. I mean it tracked with the phase of Dick’s life they were tapping into but it was slightly jarring. 

Jon: Dick was not a Kriss Kross fan for a reason and we now know why. 

Bree: Very glad Kory and Barbara are seen mostly getting along. I pray we do not go anywhere near that dreaded Nightwing Annual in later episodes. 

John: GIVE US MORE KORY/BABS SOLIDARITY!

Bree: Just gals bein’ pals !!!!!

CLOSING REMARKS

Bree: Fans that were disappointed with the more Gotham centric episodes are sure to love this one! The cast continues to be incredibly delightful and the light comedy sprinkled throughout episode 6 really allows their natural charisma and chemistry to shine!

Jon: A fantastic continuation to the previous episode and just enough of a departure from the comics we all know and love to keep the story fresh for new eyes. Looking forward to the inevitable descent into darkness for Blackfire and how the chemistry between her and Kory will change due to it.

Categories
Television

The Robotman’s Fatherhood

“We’re only making plans for Nigel/

He has his future in a British steel/

We’re only making plans for Nigel/

Nigel’s whole future is as good as sealed”

-XTC

They tell you a lot of stuff changes when you have a kid.

It’s hacky. Obviously bullshit most of the time, but it doesn’t make it any less true. Your world both shrinks and explodes outward. As Matt Fraction plaintively wrote, it’s as if your heart is now able to run around outside of your body. It’s an irrevocable change. But one that you get to face together. It’s just part of the cycle.

What they DON’T really tell you, though, is how the way you WATCH stuff changes. How you bristle now at the mere hint of violence against a child. How all too real a loss in the narrative can hit you now. How tactile that all is now, even on a screen and in the most overwrought of circumstances. After my son was born, I tried to watch that movie, Patriot’s Day, about the Boston Bombings? And ended up unable to finish it on the day simply because it had about a half a second shot of a toddler with a touch of EFX makeup on, screaming.

Diane Guerrero and Riley Shanahan as Crazy Jane and Cliff Steele in Doom Patrol (S01E01 ”Pilot”) / Source: HBO Max

Now, is that a GOOD movie? Absolutely not (though Kevin Bacon is quite good in it), but you get what I am scratching at here. How it just isn’t “a movie” sometimes when someone of about that same age is building some LEGO in front of you. It just HAPPENS one day, and you are somewhat forced to reorient yourself in terms of what you can and can’t see on-screen now.

This brings me, in a very roundabout way, to Cliff Steele. The Doom Patrol’s Robotman. One of my personal favorite Patrollers and someone who got to “live” through this very arc throughout the still-ongoing run of HBO Max’s Doom Patrol.

Someone who had grand plans for himself and his family. And fucked them up every possible way he could. And it only took him and said family “dying” (in the way that anybody in comics can really “die”) to make him make good. The jury is still out on how successful he’s been, but the change came all the same. That’s what really counts.

Now, just to clarify, I don’t think the show, nor should we think of Cliff as necessarily a “good” father. Though soulfully performed by Brendan Frasier and Riley Shanahan, who physically inhabits the Robotman prosthetic onset, the show, and its writers have no intention of allowing Cliff off the hook. In the opening season, we are provided scant flashes of Cliff’s life pre-The Chief, only to really come to a head during the episode in which Cliff’s brain comes under attack from an errant rat that had made a home in his rusting chassis (don’t ask).

Diane Guerrero and Riley Shanahan as Crazy Jane and Cliff Steele in Doom Patrol (S01E04 ”Cult Patrol”) / Source: HBO Max

From then on, we are shown the real Cliff Steele. A man who constantly put himself before his wife and daughter. All for the sake of some ill attainable glory he “needed” to grasp. Not for the betterment of his family, like he claims, but for a long-abandoned approval he needs from his HIS OWN father.

It all culminates in the gristly accident that seemingly takes his wife and daughter and lands his brain-meat into the Robotman in the first place. An accident the show also goes a step further to be intimately clear is Cliff’s fault, placing him directly center again for his family’s trials and heartaches. The direct opposite of his stated goals.

Fortunately, his daughter survives, and Cliff is allowed a second chance to make something good with her with the help of his surrogate Doom Patrol daughter, Crazy Jane, by way of teleporting personality Flit, and arguably the team’s “mom” Rita Farr.

She’s grown into a saddened but sturdy bar owner, plagued by a giant alligator that occasionally eats her customers (again, it would be better not to ask). Cliff is able now to finally step up in a tactile way for her, albeit with her little knowing that it’s actually her dad that will slay the beast and retrieve the errant family heirloom it had eaten along with a local yokel. It’s a…truly weird sequence, but one true to the show’s zany emotionality and Cliff’s growth during this adaptation.

In the wake of his “loss”, Cliff finally realized what we all had before then. That your responsibility doesn’t just start and stop at being a “provider” and that your personal investment in your children is more than just a nebulous “responsibility”. That you actually have to LIVE like you have something to live for. More often than not, it doesn’t take dying and getting put into a robot suit to get there, but Cliff gets there all the same. And continues to try and live up to that with each passing episode. Taking threads that were started even in the first Titans’ guest appearance of the Doomies and running with them now even into its current season.

Riley Shanahan and Sydney Kowalske as Cliff Steele and Clara Steele in Doom Patrol (S01E01 ”Pilot”) / Source: HBO Max

There have been obstacles along the way, for sure. A stint in the gulag of the Bureau of Normalcy, a heavy falling out with Jane, miniaturization at the hands of Mr. Nobody in the bowels of an interdimensional donkey (again, just…don’t ask. Just watch). But all the while, Cliff had continued to “do the work”, as it were, taking text from the writers and spreading it across a truly striking and heartfelt adaptation of one of DC’s most irascible leading bots. He lost one family once, but he isn’t about to do it again. If he has to fight a million rats gnawing on his brain to do so, he will. Because that’s what “fathers” are supposed to do.

Now, I fully realize that this is a…pretty specific read on Cliff and the TV Doom Patrol. But it’s one that, for me, has added a whole new emotional dimension to one of my favorite shows and comics. By framing Cliff as the former deadbeat dad looking to make good, not only does it humanize one of the most inhuman members of the Doomies, it also allows so much more breadth of performance. On the page AND screen.

In summation, Cliff had all the plans, but his actions kept his and his family’s futures from being sealed. They made their own futures beyond the cage of British steel. We can do it too. We just have to be present for them. It’s part of the cycle for you and your children. As long as you do the work.

Categories
Television

Titans: Season Three, Ep. 5 “Lazarus” Review

GateCrashers’ Titans coverage returns with myself (Bree) and my partner, Jon! We’ll be covering each episode release as they drop. The show has a lot of sentimental value to us on a very personal level, our coverage will be what is essentially written conversations with two sections; a very spoiler-free approach followed by a spoiler centric one (with a few jokes and memes, as Titans S3 is headed towards very meme-able territory). Without further ado, our spoiler-free segment begins here; 

Bree: This episode follows Jason in the days leading up to his untimely demise and reveals how he managed to seemingly return from beyond the grave. A few new supporting characters are introduced, including Dr. Leslie Thomkins and a friend of Jason named Molly. Both characters reveal more about the inner workings of Jason Todd. His relationship with Bruce also gets a spotlight.

Jon: The episode also does a wonderful job of breaking down the psychology of Jason’s inner struggles, even with the physical threat of Deathstroke long gone. Showcasing that beyond the capes and the cowls and underneath the masks these are real characters under a tremendous amount of trauma and PTSD.

Bree: Oh, and there’s a crap ton of easter eggs sprinkled throughout this episode. Just a complete buffet of stuff to nerd out over. 

ON TO SPOILERS AND OUT OF CONTEXT MEMES

Jon: I truly have to commend Iain Glen’s “Bruce” in this episode. He does a great job at portraying a better relationship with Jason then just considering him another soldier in his war. Even to go as far as referring to him as his “Son” which i thought was very heartwarming and a nice departure from the usual hardened vigilante we know.

Bree: Bruce was great but I think my personal favorites for this episode were Dr. Thompkins and Molly. The former was a nice nod for those that are comic readers and the latter was an original character, but both fit into the universe incredibly well. I hope to see more of both of them! Oh, and Crane continues to be incredibly entertaining.

Jon: Jonathan Crane continues to be one of the best surprises of this season for sure and I am glad that he has stuck around longer then I earlier anticipated. His ploy to get Jason to spring him from Arkham was done masterfully and executed perfectly. This is the seasoned Jonathan Crane I feel that most fans were hoping for.

Bree: Yeah, I was surprised that there actually was a Lazarus pit. My running theory was that Jason had faked the entire thing and gotten his academy award winning moment as a theatre kid. I do like what they’ve done with the Red Hood origin story, different enough to keep comic readers guessing on the specifics but similar enough that the character remains familiar.

Jon: YES! It is different enough to keep the character feeling fresh after we have been exposed to him for so long. The intensity of Curran Walter’s portrayal continues to shine through every scene that he is in. From cutting off heads to blowing some guy’s head off in a warehouse to helping some poor kid who was picked up by human traffickers. Even though he is a little off his rocker, Jason is still trying to do the right thing. 

Bree: Perhaps! I honestly don’t mind the idea of him remaining an antagonist and never quite getting the anti-hero thing right. We shall see! Oh, and reverse engineering the fear serum was cool as hell. 

Jon: Also shout out to the makeup team working on this show. I never thought we would get to see the Joker’s handy work on Jason with the crowbar but there it is and it is so gnarly it almost made me want to look away.

CLOSING REMARKS

Bree: A fun little episode that seems to be giving the audience a breather before the 2nd half picks up the pace. 

Jon: A very good look into the mind of Jason Todd that just makes me want the next episode that much more! 

Categories
Television

The Negative Spirit and Larry Trainor’s Contrasting Lives

Doom Patrol is an incredibly multifaceted show, and therefore the characters are naturally complex as well. The show carries an overall theme of fragmented identity; this can be seen literally with Jane and the Underground, but also in Cliff’s struggle to adjust to his new robotic life and in the way Vic embraced the Cyborg identity to honor his mother. Every character in this show has been through horrible accidents that caused these separations, but most of them held fragmented lives even before becoming what they are now. So much can be written on each character’s relationship with their new lives — even for the secondary and minor characters — but for now, I want to focus on what I personally find to be the most interesting example of contrasting existences: Larry Trainor.

Larry is a particularly fascinating character because not only does he struggle with his own identity, he’s also the host to a mysterious energy being that he’s incapable of verbally communicating with. While he’s dealing with the aftermath of his own life before the accident, he’s also unintentionally psychologically torturing the Negative Spirit with his own self-hatred that, due to their bond, it is forced to feel, though he doesn’t realize this until they’ve been merged for six decades.

Doom Patrol (Season one, episode 13, ”Flex Patrol”) / Source: HBO Max

The Negative Spirit, at first, seems to harbor resentment towards him for this — which is admittedly understandable if you attempt to view things from its perspective. But it is also, as stated by Niles Caulder himself, extremely sensitive and powerful, and it senses the work Larry needs to do to find self-acceptance. When the show starts, they’ve been merged since 1961, and they had made absolutely no progress toward communication in all of those decades. And while we watch Larry slowly begin to understand the Negative Spirit, we are also watching Larry slowly begin to understand — and accept — himself just as he is.

Let’s rewind a bit. Larry grew up as a gay individual in the 1930s-1940s. At a very young age, he overheard his parents calling him a queer in a derogatory manner. Seemingly after this, he began to force himself into a falsified heterosexual lifestyle, as he states that he met his wife Sheryl in high school and they were “high school sweethearts”. When we see Larry in flashbacks of his accident, it’s 1961, and if we assume he’s 95 in the present day (as Mr. Nobody stated), then he would’ve been around 34-35 at the time of the accident. This means he was with Sheryl for at least fifteen years, and at some point during that time had two children with her. Also at some point during those fifteen years, he met John Bowers, his mechanic, and began an affair with him. He was in love with John but had to keep it a secret in order to maintain the appearance of being heterosexual because the repercussions of being gay in this era were disastrous. It’s heartbreaking; he hid in shame for so many years, refusing to even acknowledge the idea that he was gay during his talks with John.

Doom Patrol (Season one, episode 11, ”Frances Patrol”) / Source: HBO Max

The night before his accident, Larry finds out that John had put in for a discharge and was going to leave. He asked Larry to come with him, and a fight began. This was the culmination of three decades of hiding and ignoring — he was going to have to make a choice. Stay with John, the one he truly loved, and accept himself, or stay with Sheryl and live the rest of his life trying to suppress his real identity. The Negative Spirit saved him in a way that goes beyond simply prolonging his life; it saved him from himself. It saved him from having to choose.

In the first half of season one, Larry was at odds with it. It kept trying to prod him to acknowledge his sexuality by forcing Larry to view videos where Niles talked about John and even connecting his dreams to John’s dreams. Still, however, Larry refused to open up. This being shares everything with Larry — it experiences every memory, thought, and emotion he has. There is nothing he can hide from it, but at first, he was certainly determined to try.

In “Therapy Patrol” the Negative Spirit put Larry in a dream sequence later revealed to be a connected mindscape with a dying John Bowers. In this sequence, he finally admitted his fears out loud to himself, to John, and the Spirit. “You have no idea how hard it was living this way. The lies, the fear, the threat of losing everything if anyone so much as questioned my sexuality.” And John says what everyone — the audience, the Spirit controlling the dream, and perhaps even Larry in his subconscious — is thinking: “You have no idea how long I wanted to hear those words… I wanted you to admit it to yourself.”

After this occurs, Larry is finally able to tell his friends that he’s gay. He even states that he’s sick of torturing himself and finally acknowledges the fact that his relationship with the Spirit was one of cyclical pain and self-loathing. This is the new Larry blossoming — small steps toward acceptance. Steps he would have never taken if the Spirit hadn’t pushed him.

Doom Patrol (Season one, episode 07, ”Therapy Patrol”) / Source: HBO Max

Four episodes later, we find Larry in another dream with John at a secluded motel. They sleep together, and the Spirit inexplicably ends the dream after Larry admits out loud that he was in love with John. He begs it to take him back to the dream, but the Spirit sends him into a different one: a gay bar, where he meets John and asks him if they can leave. He’s still scared, even in a dream, to be seen. Even in a world where it’s just them, Larry is terrified. John tells Larry to take a chance, and when Larry wakes up, he finds that the Spirit had covered his bedroom in sticky notes that formed one word: ERIE. Where he would later find John.

The reunion of John Bowers and Larry Trainor is an incredibly touching one. Larry realizes that while he remained stuck in the past, constantly suffering through memories, John moved on and fell in love with someone else. He sees pictures of them in John’s home; they looked happy together. Peaceful. It’s something Larry could have, too, if he wanted it, and John points this out when he tells Larry to move on from him. And just as John begins to pass away, and the era of Larry’s life filled with repression and discomfort begins to close now that he’s made peace with John, Larry looks down at his chest and tells John that there’s “something inside of him” that he isn’t friends with but that he definitely has a connection to. He walks away from John’s home with his hand over his glowing chest, thanking the Spirit for its help — something he once implied he couldn’t do (“I’m supposed to thank you?” in “Donkey Patrol”). 

After this, his relationship with the Negative Spirit and with himself changes drastically. He tries to sacrifice himself for the Negative Spirit’s freedom, though it chooses Larry over its home and returns to his body. Upon moving out after learning that Niles was the reason for his accident, he spent a lot of time trying to balance the ability to let it fly free with the reality that an extended separation of them would mean his death and excitedly tells Rita that they made it twenty seconds apart before he passed out. He puts his full trust in the Negative Spirit, and in turn, the Negative Spirit dedicates itself to helping him continually heal, even from the one thing he’s still repressing: his family.

Doom Patrol (Season one, episode 11, ”Frances Patrol”) / Source: HBO Max

It shows him his son’s death in the premiere of season two, angering Larry, who says he “left all that long ago”. He goes to the funeral and meets his other son, Paul, who recognizes him by his voice. Later, when he’s alone with Paul, he’s finally, finally able to do something that months ago would have terrified him beyond comprehension: he tells Paul that he’s gay.

This moment is obviously an extremely pivotal point in Larry’s character growth, showing that he has completely made peace with himself and his sexuality. And in a way, this can be seen as another merging — this time of both lives Larry lived. His life of repression and lies merging with his true self and his comfort. His fear transforming into hope. His fragmented identity blurring into one.

Without the Negative Spirit’s presence in his life, he would have never made it to this point. The Negative Spirit is indeed a somewhat indecipherable character since none of the main characters can hear it, and often acts impulsively, but it’s obvious that it cares for Larry and that it wants him to be the best version of himself that he can be, no matter what it takes. It saved Larry in every sense of the word. Hopefully, he will eventually realize this.

Categories
Television

Titans: Season Three, Ep. 4 “Blackfire” Review

GateCrashers’ Titans coverage returns with myself (Bree) and my partner, Jon! We’ll be covering each episode release as they drop. The show has a lot of sentimental value to us on a very personal level, our coverage will be what is essentially written conversations with two sections; a very spoiler-free approach followed by a spoiler centric one (with a few jokes and memes, as Titans S3 is headed towards very meme-able territory). Without further ado, our spoiler-free segment begins here; 

Bree: This episode splits into 2 different sub teams to follow essentially 2 different stories. Dick is off to uncover more information on Crane and Red Hood, while Kory and Garfield work together to try to figure out the source of Kory’s mysterious blackouts. Fans of other pieces of Titans-related media are likely to see right through the hint the episode title gives, and it is exactly as it seems.

Jon: Kory is finally getting some additional backstory and purpose, outside her Season 1 introduction in which she was either amnesic or knew she had been sent to ‘deal’ with Rachel. 

Bree: Crane is beginning to become more fleshed out as his own character, and the bones of a deeper connection between him and Red Hood are emerging.

Jon: This is also clearly a Jonathan Crane who has had extended experience with Batman and Robin and is no longer on the means of trying to figuring out who they are but rather what makes them tick which is a nice departure from the usual source material

ON TO SPOILERS AND OUT OF CONTEXT MEMES

Jon: Watching Conner scrub bits of ash and who knows what else off of him was…a lot. I would press many F’s to pay many respects.

Bree: Seconded. Dawn leaving was incredibly anti-climatic for me personally, perhaps because the only person that said goodbye to her was Dick. They’re also going all in on a Miller Batman, which wouldn’t have been my first choice but I’m surprised by how well it works overall. 

Jon: I’m fine with a Batman that’s at the end of his rope since the show isn’t supposed to be about him at all. As much as I like Iain Glenn as Bruce, I appreciate that he trusts Dick to do things better. Especially after he notices for himself that what he is doing is clearly not working anymore.

Bree: Blackfire is absolutely the star of this episode though, I must say. Kory and Gar’s dynamic was fun and Kom’s flair for the dramatic plays off of them well. A much-needed comedic break from the intensity of Crane and Dick’s interactions. 

Jon: Not to mention the absolutely amazing chemistry between Starfire and Blackfire. While arguing or even trying their hardest to get along, you get a genuine feel that these two have a genuine history and are in every which way, siblings which only adds to the story.

Bree: Titans knows siblings are not afraid to beat the sh** out of each other.

CLOSING REMARKS

Bree: Overall, the show loses no steam after the dramatic conclusion of the 3 episode initial drop. It’s also doing a better job of balancing the edginess of Bat characters and the campiness fans have come to expect a degree of with Titans properties. 

Jon: This is just capitalizing on the amazing conclusion that Season 2 eluded to and is only growing into a better story with every following episode.

Categories
Comics Television

Titans Together: Discussing the Explosive Premiere

Spoilers discussion for Episodes 1-3; “Barbara Gordon,” “Red Hood,” and “Hank and Dove,” is clearly marked.

GCer’s Titans coverage returns with myself (Bree) and my partner, Jon! We’ll be covering each episode release as they drop. The show has a lot of sentimental value to us on a very personal level, our coverage will be what is essentially written conversations with two sections; a very spoiler-free approach followed by a spoiler centric one (with a few jokes and memes, as titans S3 is headed towards very meme-able territory). Without further ado, our spoiler-free segment begins here; 

Bree: Episodes 1-3 of season three kick off an amazing introduction to Gotham and the new players on the board, while giving a little more time to recurring characters that they’d neglected in Season 2.

Jon: The Team finally felt like a team! The suits are really great, especially Nightwing’s. They broke up some of the plating that had originally been a single piece on the prototype reveal. The music feels like an upgrade as well, very fun and dynamic. I find myself humming bits and pieces often. Oh, and they didn’t have to show Brenton clip the escrima sticks into his belt, but they did that for us. Lastly, Red Hood makes for a good antagonist after Deathstroke’s exit. 

Bree: What is it about Curran’s approach to Red Hood that stands out to you?

Jon: The intensity, from the way he speaks to the way he moves. The choices in his fighting style compared to Dick are so interesting to watch. The scenes in which he switches to using a knife are some of my favorites, there’s an intent to inflict as much damage as quickly as possible in those swings. This is a person who tries to make every blow a killing stroke. Dick by comparison feels like there’s more intent to distract and subdue. 

Bree: I gotta talk about Crane too. I have never wanted to smoke with someone so badly. All the choices they’ve made thus far in regards to deviating from the books have been good, but everything about Crane has been gold. Also, a very interesting way to set up Jason’s origin in this universe as opposed to how it was set up in Hush. Any comments on the new additions of Barbara and Tim?

Jon: The casting choice for Babs is perfect! It’s nice to see a Barbara with some experience under her belt, rather than another year one story. The little bits of Tim thus far are promising. 


ON TO SPOILERS AND OUT OF CONTEXT MEMES

Bree: Why did Dick walk into that interrogation room and his back half walked in 5 minutes later.

Jon: Conner needs to register his chest as a lethal weapon. Man of Steel tiddies. Also Jason with the bag of heads. Literal chills.

Bree: Yeah, I’m warming up to the edits they put on Jason’s voice when he dons the helmet. I also very much appreciate that Conner is allowed to be smart, I dislike when he’s treated as just a pile of muscle. And Holy Heck his reaction to Hank’s death really got me.

Jon: Losing Hank made me tear up a little bit, really made me realize how integral he was to each member of the team. He may have been an asshole, but he was their asshole. The bike shorts and porn stache were short-lived but oh so memorable. OH! And Jason’s belt as Red Hood was the same as his Robin belt, they just painted it black. How did no one notice?

Bree: Your brain? Wow.

Jon: Deeply surprised that Bruce actually put the Joker down.

Bree: Yeah, me too. It’s a very Miller Batman. Overall, the approach feels like an almost “Elseworlds” take. If the 80s Titans books are the greatest potential of good the team can achieve, what does a Titans team look like when Dick is paired with a Bruce that never gets a complete handle on his trauma? How does that trickle-down affect the whole team? Lots of interesting potential from that angle, I think. Oh! And the hints at Carrie Kelly, Stephanie Brown, and Duke Thomas? I screamed.

Jon: I didn’t think I’d see a live-action Carrie even hinted at in the year 2021.

Bree: To be honest, I personally have a hard time liking Barbara in most things. She’s just never been a character “for me” – I do appreciate her as very important rep for disabled folks though. Titans’ approach to Babs is perhaps one of my favorites, the actress has a great presence and her keen ability to zero in on exactly what Bruce and Dick are lying to themselves about is great. I also appreciate that there is no cattiness between her and Kory, as certain books have done in the past.

Bree: Lastly, I want to touch on Gar in season 3 thus far. He’s still very much in a supporting role and is often used to play off of other characters. Which, I’m personally perfectly happy with. I can understand the criticisms about him not having his own arc per-se, he’s often used as an “errand buddy”. Ryan Potter is so fun and has such great rapport with everyone that I don’t mind. He and Conner in particular are nearly attached at the hip and get in some great jokes between the two of them. To conclude our coverage of Episodes 1-3, here’s a lil Con/Gar meme I drew. See you guys next week for episode 4!

Follow Bree for more artwork and Titans takes @agreeablepossum on Twitter and Instagram!