S01E10 — Vic and Rita face a dangerous man called The Beard Hunter, who’s been activated by the Bureau of Normalcy to find Niles Caulder.
After the incredibly heavy themes of last week (and I say that as a compliment), we see the “other side” of the story; while Cliff was in The Underground with Jane (aided by the Negative Man), Rita and Vic were going mano a mano…a mano with one of the weirdest characters yet, the Beard Hunter.
Before we get into that, it’s important to really discuss the B Plot, which is actually the A Plot, as it has more to do with the season’s throughline than anything we’ve seen yet. What we’re seeing is more of the Chief’s origin, more than we’ve seen thus far, and it answers a lot of questions I wasn’t even aware were being asked.
There is a lot of time jumping in the series. Rita was a big movie star in the 40’s and 50’s; Larry was a test pilot in the 50’s; Jane was a child in the 50’s and involved in the punk scene in the 70’s. With the exception of Cliff’s origin, most of the characters have their backstory(ies) based in post-WWII America. There’s probably a reason for that, but I don’t think it’s entirely relevant…yet. The Chief is no exception; we’ve seen him hunting Nazis previously, but this week, we see that he was an adventurer much sooner.
Beginning in 1913, Niles and a comrade, Aleister, are somewhere in Canada searching for…something (it’s a bit vague, as the only clue we have is a crude drawing of a wolf-like monster, and the fact that Niles and Aleister are members of the Bureau of Oddities).
Aleister is dispatched by the monster (seemingly; he comes back later) and Niles, pleading for his life, is taken captive (I should note that the monster appears to be a wendigo, but I might be misremembering the features of it and just projecting).
While in captivity, Niles meets a woman who is not only possibly an immortal, but also possibly the missing link between Homo sapien and Homo erectus (purely my guess here).
She seems to have power over the wendigo, which may or may not be a figment of her imagination. Niles decides to stay there, in the north land, to study her, but eventually, he falls in love with her (I think; he never actually say it explicitly).
Three years pass. Niles is content in his new life and who should show up but Aleister. The scarred hunter informs Niles that the Bureau of Oddities is now the Bureau of Normalcy, and that he intends to bring in the native woman. Niles won’t let that happen, and let’s Aleister die in the ice.
Niles returns to civilization, declaring that there are no secrets in the North, choosing to keep the woman’s location a secret.
Now, it’s unclear whether or not Niles gained eternal life during his time with the native, as there is a sex scene and it’s possibly implied that she shared her gift with him (however, there’s no child, so, again…implied and vague). This is apparently Mister Nobody’s mission; to find her, but that seems like a red herring, as Nobody is already immortal.
Another very important thing to note is the change that occurs within Niles. He starts off in 1913 as an academic, someone who is more about the adventure and the lesson. He becomes a hunter in those three years, and a killer.
Again, this is important because when confronted by Nobody in his prison of nothing, Niles tells him that he would rather let the Doom Patrol perish than let Nobody break him.
Again, hugely important.
Now then…let’s talk about the Beard Hunter.
BH, or Ernest Franklin, has the unique super power of being able to track a person via their beard hair. When the Bureau hires him to find Niles, he relishes the opportunity. Tommy Snider, the actor portraying Beard Hunter, brings an equal amount of weirdness and comedy to his portrayal of the character. While I was questioning the concept of the Bureau hiring such a weirdo, Ernest is busy yelling upstairs to his mom from his basement “apartment” covered in posters of men with beards.
The Beard Hunter scenes are extremely entertaining, just the right amount of weird (and yes…I honestly almost threw up on my keyboard watching him consume the Chief’s hair from the sink). So much of these scenes are kind of…they’re borderline unnecessary, as they’re mostly comic relief.
That is, until he ingests one of Vic’s beard hairs. See, it seems that he not only can track a person after eating their beard hair, but he actually develops a kind of psychic rapport with them. He learns all of their secrets and, in Vic’s case, he has some control over their body. This doesn’t go well with Grid, Vic’s operating system. Grid goes rogue, and almost kills Ernest, but not before Vic can shut down completely.
In the post conflict scuffle, Rita manages to sneak a tracer on to Bead Hunter, but it’s ultimately meaningless, as BH is killed by the wendigo after following the Chief’s beard hair to a Coraline-esque dummy.
Will you watch next week’s episode?
Five more episodes left. We’re in the home stretch, sure, but next week’s seems like a bit of a filler episode…more character development (which is fine) as opposed to solving any of the season’s mysteries. Easily skippable, but you never know.
EXTRA POINTS & NITPICKS:
- Let me please be the first to admit that I have no idea what the actual fuck is up with that ending. Creepy as shit.
- It’s not a “blink and you’ll miss it” Easter egg, but it looks as though Flex Mentallo is on his way…more than likely next season, but who knows? His “disappearance” from a comic book ad is a huge clue, and may bear fruit in the last five episodes.
NEXT WEEK: S1:E11 – FRANCES PATROL
Vito Delsante is a comic book writer, graphic novelist, editor, letterer, and the co-creator/writer of STRAY with Sean Izaakse, and THE PURPLE HEART with Dean Haspiel and artist, Ricardo Venâncio. He’s written for DC Comics, Marvel Comics, Image Comics, AdHouse Books, and Simon & Schuster, among others, and his stories have been reprinted in other countries. He lives in Pittsburgh, PA with his wife, Michelle, his daughter, Sadie, his son, James, and his pitbull, Kirby. You can find him online at incogvito.com and you can follow him on Twitter @incogvito