WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for the Doom Patrol Season 1, Episode 13 "Flex Patrol," streaming now on DC Universe.
Throughout the duration of Doom Patrol, there's been something lingering beneath the surface of Rita Farr's troubled past, and no, we're not talking about her shapeshifting abilities. From the start, Rita (April Bowlby) has been a tortured soul, scared, not just of the outside world, but of the concept of doing good and being a hero in general.
Now, courtesy of "Flex Patrol," we finally discover the dark secret Rita's been clinging to, and it's one which perfectly informs her behavior as Elasti-Woman so far.
We've seen weird idiosyncrasies from Rita at various intervals, one minute she scolds the team at the manor, the next she's like the den mother. As she stays by Cyborg's side after he put his dad in a coma, it's evident she gets a sense of satisfaction and calm from looking after him, as well as the rest of the team. And yet, it's long seemed she has a fear of motherhood, a condition that manifests as panic when seeing moms and kids together. Theorists believed she may have terminated a pregnancy for fears of stalling her Hollywood career, but while Rita's self-punishment and emotional torture has to do with parenting, it's actually darker than that.
As guilt wracks Rita at the hospital, she confesses to an old man how she found aspiring actresses and set them up with an Oscar-winning producer so they could land roles. Of course, sex would be involved, but Rita never felt guilty, as these young ladies, usually in their late teens, would end up becoming stars, all while she and the director profited. However, one girl, Mary, got pregnant, only for the director to disregard and shun her. Feeling sorry for Mary, but also because it's her job to clean up such messes involving exploited actresses, Rita advises her to go her own way, away from scum like Gene, and offered her $100 to do just that.
Stunned, Mary left, and a few days later made the news having committed suicide. And just as Rita decides to find and raise the now-orphaned child, she's cast in the film where she'd end up in the accident which turned her into Elasti-Girl. Rita sees her grotesque powers as punishment and karma for presumably ruining the child's life. It's never been a matter of if Rita can control her powers -- it's that her subconscious refuses to let her, as she sees herself as a villain in someone else's story.
Clearly, she believes she ruined Mary's life; the haunting vision Rita's been having throughout the season is of Mary slitting her wrists, admitting she was "too scared to say no." This confession reveals Rita as an accomplice, someone complicit to what was going on, ignoring the ills of the matter just to maintain her star status. But as much as she was at least partially responsible for Mary's fate, the old man convinces her to step into light and stop wallowing in self-pity.
Rita knows he's right and she heads home to take command of the squad, ready to use her amorphous abilities and the reality-altering Flex Mentallo to find Niles Caulder. With Cyborg still at his dad's side, Rita's finally letting go of the past and embracing her heroic side. Ironically, though, she's been inspired by Mister Nobody, who was disguised as the old man all along. He may be the series' main villain, but he also wants the team at full-strength for their next encounter.
Streaming now on DC Universe, Doom Patrol stars Brendan Fraser as Cliff Steele, Matt Bomer as Larry Trainor, Diana Guerrero as Crazy Jane, Alan Tudyk as Mr. Nobody, April Bowlby as Rita Farr, Joivan Wade as Vic Stone, and Timothy Dalton as Niles Caulder.