After a trip to 2024 in the season opener, the Doom Patrol have some Zombie Butt containment to do. Read on to see how they attempt to begin in episode 2, “Butt Patrol.”
We start in 2016, in an eerie store of full of broken mannequins. Elaine Stritch’s “The Ladies Who Lunch” echoes around while the dummies and crumbled buildings change to a shot of a man getting dressed up in a space suit-like protective coverall so he can enter the area. It becomes clear, then, that this bizarre empty town isn’t real — it’s a set, in some kind of testing facility. The man begins to load up the mannequins, but then he spots a hole, a rip in the boards of one shopfront. Immediately, panic — he makes his way to a red emergency button, slapping it with his palm before trying to make his escape. But it isn’t to be. From the point of view of the scientists who dressed him minutes before, we watch as fog fills the area and he slams, bloodily, into the viewing window of the lab.
A New Leader
Back in the present day, Rita descends the stairs at Doom HQ with an armload of documents and plans. She’s glad to see everyone is already gathered; she’s been rehearsing various ways to save their future selves. Rita believes that the best way to avoid the world ending up as it did in the future 2042 that they saw — “The impending asspocalypse,” Cliff clarifies — is to do things differently. She’s already started wearing flats instead of heels. She recommends that Jane wears some color, and Cliff could curse less. Vic carefully suggests that they need to think bigger, given that the entire planet is at stake if they don’t make real change. Starting with, oh, y’know … the impending horde of Zombie Butts.
Rita agrees — that was the core of her plan. She hypothesizes that the Doom Patrol created the Zombie Butts, and anything they can create, they can destroy. She suggests starting with the scene of the crime: Darren Jones. The old barn.
Unfortunately, the rest of the team were thinking of something more like a change in leadership. A flabbergasted Rita asks them to put it to a vote, thinking that her egg salad sandwiches have to win her a few. Unfortunately, they don’t win her any. What they can agree on is that most of the team are unsuitable — Vic has no tech, Cliff and Larry are unqualified, and Jane just plain doesn’t want to. That leaves only Rouge. Rita, predictably, is not for it. Rouge and Rita clash, but ultimately the team decide to go hunt for Darren Jones, with or without Rita.
Rouge insists that they take an hour to ready themselves — before pulling Cliff aside to take him on a top-secret mission with her instead. Having distracted the others, she splits the team. Rouge wants to take only Cliff to destroy Darren. Cliff needs no ego massaging beyond being told that he’s an “indestructible zombie-killing machine,” so off they go.
It’s 2017, and Doctor Margaret Yu is admitted to “The Ant Farm” for a highly classified project. The renowned anthropologist, linguist, and musical theater fan dances her way through a brief orientation. A year before, the Ant Farm’s R&D department created a creature that could be bred as a weaponized force of nature. Yu is to establish a means of communication, so that the team can command the creatures.
The viewing window of a familiar lab opens up to reveal a cadre of Butts, tearing apart a mannequin-filled faux shopping center.
“They’re beautiful,” Yu croons.
Vic is on his computer trying to get more info, but he’s interrupted by his phone. Deric, the friend he reached out to last episode, texts to see if he’s serious about getting together. Vic’s about to respond when the computer beeps with a Bureau of Normalcy hit — a grainy picture of a butt, crack full of teeth and all.
In the greenhouse, Larry is trying to convince Keeg that everything will be okay. He begs the parasite to trust him, but Keeg jumps out of his chest. Larry tries to claim he’s still in charge, but Keeg zooms away — just as Rita barges in to confront Larry for betraying her during the leadership vote.
Meanwhile, Jane tips out the puzzle that Kay gave her. She starts spreading out the pieces, only to discover there are no edges or corners. They all look the same, and spin when she tries to connect them.
Jane finds Vic in the kitchen. He tells her that Rouge and Cliff left without them. Jane is angry everyone is ditching her lately, and clocks that Vic was packing too. He’s going to follow up on his Zombie Butt lead from the Bureau and try intercept it. He asks Jane to join, and they consider inviting Rita and Larry — until they hear Larry chasing down Keeg, and Rita chasing down Larry. They quickly leave by themselves.
Cliff is riding a bicycle. As he says, who needs a Doom Bus or time machine when you have two wheels and unlimited stamina? Rouge doesn’t have the same perspective, but on the plus side, at least they both remembered to wear helmets. Cliff gets distracted as they pass an abandoned 1974 Gran Tourino. He reminisces on fixing cars with his dad, but at Rouges suggestion that he pops the hood to feel the sensation again he declines, still determined to save his first touch for his family. The oven glove remains on.
Rouge tells Cliff that they are both quite alike — relics from a time long past, discarded. They start arguing over whether the car is a metaphor but are interrupted by a tractor driving past. A tractor with a snarling, growling, strangely familiar driver. It’s Darren Jones, and Cliff thinks that he was … singing?
Back on the Ant Farm
Musical theatre Butts! Back in 2017, it seems Doctor Yu has found a way to communicate with the Butts, if their synchronized rendition of “Shi-Poo-Pi” is anything to go by. They all have hats. Yu and a room full of scientists are putting on a show for the General, and she tries to explain that the Butts are highly intelligent creatures with advanced social dynamics and a love of music. “Boring!” the General yells, smacking on the glass. Oh, no. The Butts stop their musical number and all turn, not hesitating before launching themselves at the glass, snarling. It’s quite a sight, watching them attempt to attack, all parted cheeks and rings of teeth. “Don’t upset the Butts!” is a repeated refrain that calms the General, but also seems to be quite good life advice as a whole.
The General and his agents have seen everything they need. They praise Yu, saying that the project is a success and that they have everything they need to be able to move on to weaponization. Yu is horrified, trying to convince them that what they have here is a hugely important discovery that shouldn’t be weaponized. But, after a little polite threatening, she is told she will be reassigned, and summarily ignored.
Larry is still tryin to reason with Keeg after whatever Future Keeg told him. It isn’t going well. Rita interrupts, still angry at Larry over his betrayal. Larry, already stressed, finally snaps. He delivers a scathing speech to Rita about her stint in control and the “vanity play” of her leadership. But that wasn’t what made him vote against her. He admits it was what they saw in the future. Rita of all people should understand that time travel can change a person’s perspective. She asks if Larry thinks his future is her fault, but he doesn’t. Actually, it’s that he saw his future self separated from Keeg, and he can’t have that. Keeg is all he has left. That angers Rita further, as being team leader, she says, was all she had left.
Jane and Vic are (badly) undercover as Bureau of Normalcy agents. Jane quizzes Vic on his plan — what he’s going to do if it works. Vic says he just wants to stop the end of the world. He just wants to move on.
“You keep telling yourself you’re going to move on, but it feels like you keep finding reasons to stay,” Jane points out. Vic tells her he just wants some time to himself; Jane counters that it must be nice to know what you want. Vic asks if she’s spoken to Kay lately and suggests that maybe what Kay wants for Jane is different than what Kay wants for herself. Upon being questioned, Vic admits that he met Kay, and that she had him record an interview with her.
Before he can tell Jane everything, his phone buzzes with an update on their Butt lead.
“So, what, we just wait for him in a barn and ambush him?” Cliff asks Rouge. “Won’t he smell us coming?” Rouge reveals that she doesn’t have Kipling’s hats infused with secret pine air freshener, but she has doused their bicycle helmets with Niles’ old cologne.
Darren whistles his way across the property. The pair confront him, and in his zombie snarl, he welcomes them to his farm. Cliff is amazed he can still understand him. “I knew this day would come,” Darren says in response to Cliff’s proclamation that he’s there to kill him to save the world.
To Cliff and Rouge’s confusion, Darren seems to have sworn off being a zombie. He doesn’t eat brains; he isolates himself on his farm and grows heirloom tomatoes. Even so, he knew there was only one fate left for his soul. He invites Cliff to kill him.
Cliff isn’t sure he can just kill an unarmed Zombie Butt farmer — so Rouge pulls off Cliff’s helmet, revealing his tempting brain smell to Darren and making the decision easier when he attacks.
Unfortunately, Cliff loses his oven glove in the fight. His first touch, after 40 years, is the bloody and cold remains of Darren’s smushed-in zombie face.
Butt on Ice
Still undercover as Bureau agents, Vic and Jane meet with a mercenary Butt hunter that worked with the Bureau to contain an outbreak. He recently came into possession of the final target. This Butt didn’t behave like the others, it seemed sick. He put it on ice to transport it. Jane and Vic escape with the iced Butt just as the real Normalcy agents arrive.
Back in 2017, Doctor Yu eats a sandwich, listening to classical music, as the Butts rampage around the facility. When she finally realizes what’s going on, her colleague advices her to get out before the exterminators arrive. As he flees, she discovers one of her favorite Butts — Nicholas — hiding in a cabinet.
In the current year’s Doom Manor kitchen, Rita approaches Larry and asks if he’s had any luck with Keeg. The lights flickering are answer enough. Rouge and Cliff arrive back, victorious after defeating Darren Jones. “Why are you all acting so sore?” Rouge asks at their lack of enthusiasm. “The world is saved!”
Arriving with the iced Butt in a crate, Vic contradicts her that it isn’t. But they all get gold stars, and Cliff agrees — happily — to killing the last Zombie Butt.
When he opens the crate, though, Cliff has a moment of hesitation. The Butt is on ice and defenseless. The first thing he felt in a long time was someone’s skull popping like a grapefruit. Shaking, he needs a minute. The camera pans out to Rouge listening from the stairwell.
Vic returns to his computer and finally texts Deric back that his weekend has just opened up.
Jane sits alone, watching the recorded interview with Kay. She talks about the Underground — what it is, it’s purpose. She used to know. It was to protect her. But something has changed. She doesn’t need the personas for that purpose anymore. They all need to find their own purpose — including Jane.
The Ladies Who Lunch
In the present day, Doctor Yu enters her apartment. She’s humming “The Ladies Who Lunch” as she pours some cereal, before placing it on the table in front of…Nicholas the Butt. He sings along with her as he digs in.
The first two episodes of Doom Patrol season 4 are streaming now on HBO Max. A new episode releases every Thursday. Be sure to stay up to date with all of our coverage, including news and recaps.