‘Doom Patrol’ 2.5: ‘Finger Patrol’

It’s all fun ‘n’ games until your imaginary friend is incinerated.

Our hapless heroes spend some down time together – and they will never be the same, in this pivotal and heartbreaking episode of HBO Max’s “Doom Patrol.”

Warning! We’re going straight to the Underground with spoilers! Beware!

In “Finger Patrol,” written by Chris Dingess and Shoshana Sachi and directed by Glen Winter, Cliff (Brendan Fraser) discovers Chief (Timothy Dalton) has been drawing up schematics for upgrades for his robotic form – ones that would give him back the sense of touch.

Problem: They could take decades, and as Cliff points out, the Chief doesn’t have that long.

Road trip: In Detroit, Cliff implores Cyborg’s (Joivan Wade) father, the brilliant Silas Stone (Phil Morris), to upgrade his body so he can feel as Victor does.

Silas says that would be like connecting an iPhone to a telegraph.

“What I did for Victor was surgery. What Niles did to you – manslaughter at best,” he says.

So that’s a no.

Cliff and Victor hang out in Victor’s car, where Cliff reveals he’s been thinking they should fight crime together, and he has the perfect team name – Steele & Stone.

He also enjoys a hilarious daydream in which Steel & Stone are ’70s buddy cops cleaning up those mean streets.

But reality is harsher. When Cliff interrupts two car thieves, he doesn’t know his own strength. He slams a car door, severing one man’s finger. The thief runs away.

Cliff pockets the bloody digit.

Vic reconnects with Roni, who reveals she once worked for an organization that gave her some upgrades – and took them away when she failed them.

Rita (April Bowlby) is forced to audition in the middle of a garden shop for a role in a community theater production.

Her attempt at delivering Emily’s graveside lament from the play “Our Town” is derailed by flashbacks to catching her mother sexing up a producer so little Rita could land a role.

The director/writer of this local production is not impressed, and dismisses Rita.

Larry (Matt Bomer) offers to help his son Paul (John Getz) clean out his dead son Gary’s belongings. Seeing how depressed Rita is, he takes her with him to Greensboro, Ind., where they connect with Paul, his son Dex, and Dex’s young son, Toby.

“So where shall we start?” Larry wonders.

Paul just wraps him in a hug.

That makes what comes at the end of the day all the more brutal.

It’s an afternoon of Rita rather hilariously oversharing with Larry’s relatives – she does end up with a role in that play thanks to half the cast coming down with mono.

Larry learns that his wife Cheryl led son Gary into the conspiracy theories about Larry’s survival that consumed both their lives.

Paul saved one last box for Larry – his belongings from his Air Force locker. Larry comes across a possession from his beloved John, and then speaks from his heart to his surviving son.

He tells him John was his ground chief but also his lover. He’s gay.

“I wish I could have admitted that to your mother. She always knew, but I wish I had given her that. A way out. I was selfish, and I was scared.”

Paul seems … grateful for the honesty.

Until he pulls back his jacket to reveal that gun strapped to his waist.

He joined the military to honor the memory of his “dead” father, and when Larry showed up at Gary’s funeral, it just reminded him of all the rage he’d felt all those years watching the pain his mother and brother endured because of Larry.

“No one survives Larry Trainor,” he says.

Rita is shocked to see several cars pulling up to the driveway.

Larry doesn’t understand. Paul did his research: He contacted the Department of Defense.

“I’m sending you back where you belong,” he sneers.

Wait. You invite a man over, have him spend the day moving heavy objects for you, and then you call the authorities on him?

Dang. That’s a whole ‘nother level of evil.

Several armed men and women in uniform draw their guns.

Larry releases his Negative Man, who darts through several of the soldiers, knocking them out. One soldier starts firing and continues to fire.

Rita turns and shields young Toby with her body. She’s hit, but somehow her protoplasmic body absorbs the bullets. The damage looks painful, but she saves the boy’s life.

Not so lucky: Dex, who has taken a round to his gut and looks to be dying.

Negative Man grabs Larry and Rita and flies off with them.

Chief introduces Baby Doll to Dorothy (Abigail Shapiro).

They become fast friends, but Baby’s endless energy and silly games wear Dorothy out.

Baby Doll gets back at Dorothy for avoiding her by taunting her about her father.

“Your dad is a bad man. He hurt me. He hurt everyone in this house, and that’s why everyone hates him.”

Dorothy tricks her into a game of tag and leads her through Doom Manor to the basement boiler room.

Memo to self: Never play tag with kids with paranormal powers.

Dorothy pops out of what looks to be a giant incinerator, scaring Baby Doll, who falls and hits her head.

Baby Doll retaliates by locking Dorothy in the incinerator and turning it on.

Nanny – that great behemoth bear with antlers – appears to protect Dorothy, but Baby Doll manifests some flame powers, and Nanny is obliterated.

“Our friend is dead. Make a wish,” Candlemaker says.

Baby Doll apologizes, but Dorothy cannot be moved. She summons a candle in the palm of her hand, and makes a wish.

The Underground is under attack.

Baby Doll runs down the tunnel, fleeing the Candlemaker.

Jane and several of her alters try to intervene, to no avail.

Candlemaker impales Baby Doll – apparently destroying her. He vanishes, and Jane is left in shock, looking at the bloody body of one of her most beloved alters.

Whew! What an hour! This episode had everything, humor, pathos, action, and horror. It just pulled you in and cranked up the pain. How can Jane possibly recover from the murder of one of her alters?

Next week: The astronauts known as the Pioneers of the Unknown drop by Doom Manor. They’ve been in space for 65 years. Speaking of space, that’s just where Chief sends Cliff to find Dorothy.

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