S01E11: While Larry pays a visit to his long-lost love, Cliff and Rita travel to Gator Country to reconnect with his daughter. Vic worries about his operating system.
So, let’s recap for a sec. The past two episodes were told from two different points of view; Cliff and Jane & Vic and Rita. Remember, the Negative Man was the one who was connecting Cliff’s consciousness to Jane’s…which means Larry was out cold on the floor. Episode 11 begins with…not a memory, not a dream per se…a projection?
Larry and Bowers meet at a hotel in Big Sur (which gave me a little more insight into the beatnik within Trainor) for a tryst. This projection is similar to the one from Episode Seven, and John brings up the pick up truck in case you forgot. There’s a weird sort of happiness here, and I’m reminded of Captain Marvel and Rick Jones, or even John Carter; Larry is in another entire world when the Negative Entity separates from him; a world that he has a hand in creating.
At first, he kind of bristled at the idea, but he seems to creating a utopian world that consists of only two people; “John” and him. There’s an ominous feeling (within me) about this, the most paramount being, “Who exactly IS this John Bowers?” I think I settled into the idea that it was an aspect of the Negative Man, but now I’m not so sure. Maybe it’s the alien life form itself that came into contact with Larry. Or maybe it’s Larry. Anyway, as Larry professes his love to John, he wakes up back in the basement of Doom Manor (the same scene we’ve seen the past two episodes).
And here’s where the episode starts to diverge from that timeline.
I said last week that this would probably be a skippable episode, and by and large, that’s true. While we were gifted with a lot of character development, we were only given one bit of plot development. In that respect, yeah, I can see someone missing this episode and being able to catch up pretty quickly with the next ep, but…and remember, I stand by calling this a skip week…to do so would rob anyone of some real moments of joy that, for me, make this one of the best episodes of the season.
I think it’s safe to say that this episode is largely about the relationships that the team has outside of Doom Manor. You could say that it’s about love, but I think that might be oversimplifying things. It could be the case with Cliff and Clara, but I don’t think Cliff has earned that reciprocity. He may believe he has, but being absent for so long from her life makes that hard to say definitively.
Conversely, I think it’s true for Larry and Bowers, but I think it goes further than that; I think it’s about the love the Negative Man has for Larry. Call it self-care, maybe. The two inhabit the same body, so the Entity is trying to help/protect/save Larry.
At the top of this review, I mentioned that Larry, when the Negative Man exits his body, appears to go into a utopian world of his own creation, and as we get further into the episode, we realize (I realized) that this isn’t true. Not exactly.
The world is one of Larry’s creation, sure, but it’s based on his memories. That is, until we get to the gay bar. See, the gay bar isn’t something that Larry is familiar with because it’s not from his own memory. He’s incredibly uncomfortable in this setting, and on the surface, you could say that it’s because he’s never been here, but it goes much deeper than that. It’s around this time, or at the very least at the end of this scene, that you find out the answer to the mystery of who this John Bowers is; it’s John.
Somehow, the Negative Man is connecting Larry’s subconsciousness with John’s, making this world one of their mutual creation. John says that he doesn’t have much time yet, which spurs Larry into action, visiting an old, ailing John in Erie, PA. They have a beautiful conversation (I mean that sincerely) and it’s easy to see why the two mean so much to each other. They’re friends, former lovers (John found another love after Larry shunned him, post-accident), but their connection is so deep and so true.
I nearly cried when Larry carried John out to the porch because it showed Larry as protective and vulnerable, two things we know he’s capable of, but perhaps he himself didn’t. John and Larry have a sweet moment, and as they did on the back of the pickup, they look out at the sunset. Larry turns to John, and John has died. Larry’s time with John, both in his subconscious and in person, were gifts from the Negative Man, and the two seem to have found peace together.
Cliff finds out that Bump has died (eaten by a large gator called Frances), so he decides to go see Clara (taking Rita with him). When they arrive at the Bump’s bar for his wake, Rita acts like a motivational speaker, giving Cliff spurts of courage as he tries to work up the nerve to talk to his (estranged?) daughter. Via a side conversation, we find out that Rita’s real name (as alluded to in the Therapy Patrol episode) is Gertrude Cramp. Rita is, in a similar way to Larry, trying to reconcile with the person inside, but in her case, it’s the REAL person she hasn’t been in a long time. Cliff meanwhile can’t quite confront Clara, mostly because he comes to the realization that he can’t compete with Bump.
Bump, contrary to Cliff’s hopes (and contrary to what we’ve seen previously), was actually a good father. Cliff takes no solace in this; instead of being happy that his daughter had a good childhood and was taken care of in his absence, Cliff is looking for any way that he can swoop back in and be that hero again for his daughter. When Clara reveals in her eulogy that Bump gave her Cliff’s gold watch, and that she gave that watch to Bump when he adopted her, Cliff decides to wade into the swamp to find the gator what killed Bump to get that watch back.
It’s knee deep in swamp water when Cliff realizes he’s on a fool’s errand (even after all of Rita’s cajoling). As he resolves to go back home, who should leap out of the water but Frances!
Later, we see Cliff return to Bump’s bar. He approaches Clara, with the intention of giving her the watch, but after leaving for a second, Clara comes back to find the watch…but no Cliff. Like I said, the episode is mostly character development, and these two arcs (Cliff and Larry) seem to have come to their natural conclusion.
So, how about that plot?
Vic is experiencing some problems with Grid ever since the Beard Hunter came to two and ate one of Vic’s stubble. During a diagnostic check, Grid reveals that Vic went from being 41% cyborg, he’s now at 63%; in other words, he’s becoming more machine than man.
This freaks Vic out, as he’s afraid of Jane’s drawing of him coming true. Jane, meanwhile, has found Flex Mentallo’s wife, Dolores, and takes Vic to meet her to see if she can help them find Flex which will then help them find the Chief, got it?
On the Doom Bus, Vic reveals what’s going on inside of him, and Jane gives as close to a heart-to-heart pep talk as she gets.
The conversation is interrupted by a domestic dispute outside of the bus, and they both exit to investigate. As they do, they are quickly separated; Vic meets an old woman he assumes is Dolores, but she’s actually an agent of the Bureau of Normalcy (we see this when Jane, fighting the man in the domestic dispute, finds a Bureau pin on his jacket). Vic is taken away to the Ant Farm, and like I said up top, this is the only piece of the plot moving forward.
I think it’s safe to say that the final four episodes are going to move really fast.
Will you watch the next episode?
While I know I’ll watch (as I said, the season story arc is coming to a conclusion), there’s a part of me that believes we won’t really see anything resembling a resolution. You’ve got three different people being looked for (Niles, Flex Mentallo, and the native woman). Now, add Vic to that. That’s a lot of dangling plotlines. While I think Vic gets saved and I now think Flex will show up in the finale, I don’t think Niles or the woman will be found.
EXTRA POINTS & NITPICKS:
- Animal Vegetable Mineral Man gets a funny shout out on a newscast. Totally worth it and I refuse to spoil it for anyone.
- “You haven’t fucked anyone since JFK?” This show is perfect.
NEXT WEEK: S1:E12 – CYBORG 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