WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for the Doom Patrol Season 1 episode "Donkey Patrol," streaming now on DC Universe.
Given that our introduction to Doom Patrol is a shot of a donkey being led through the rainy streets of a nondescript village in 1948 Paraguay, we probably should've suspected that particular jackass would have a larger role to play in the series. Its proximity to a Nazi scientist (or is that cobbler?) and to the origin of the sinister Mr. Nobody might have provided another clue. However, this is a comic book property founded on a certain Silver Age randomness -- cosmic radiation, mysterious gases, and the like -- so viewers perhaps can be forgiven for overlooking an albino donkey that wanders into the occasional scene.
But when the beast of burden reappeared in the closing moments of the pilot to emit a green cloud -- OK, fart -- that transforms into skywriting that reads, "The Mind is the Limit," before exiting stage right, we may have started to think there's something more to this animal than meets the eye. Or the nose, as the case may be.
It's not the agent of Cloverton, Ohio's destruction, however; that's Alan Tudyk's Mr. Nobody, who claps his hands, opening the hole that consumes not only the town but also his nemesis Niles Caulder (Timothy Dalton) and Crazy Jane (Diana Guerrero). Instead, as we're told repeatedly in the aptly titled second episode, "Donkey Patrol," the donkey is a door. Bear with us a moment.
Embracing his role as snarky narrator, Mr. Nobody initially characterizes the flatulent beast as the manifestation of his desire for chaos. Whether the donkey is tied to the procedure seven decades ago that transformed Mr. Morden into Nobody, or became connected to him afterward, remains to be seen. Or not, because "Donkey Patrol" doesn't dwell on that aspect of the animal. Instead, the episode, and the Doom Patrol, focuses on what's inside of it: Cloverton and, briefly, Crazy Jane, within what we can presume is some sort of pocket dimension.
That first, and most obviously, becomes evident after a frustrated Cliff Steele (voiced by Brendan Fraser) catches the donkey among the rubble of Cloverton, with the timely help of Victor Stone, aka Cyborg (Joivan Wade), a friend of Niles Caulder who arrives following reports of the disappearance of the small town. The jackass (the donkey, not Cliff) spits out Jane, hinting at the mysteries contained within the animal.
It's Larry Trainor (voiced by Matt Bomer), not Cyborg, who first suggests the donkey might be a door, despite the seeming absurdity of the idea. That's confirmed following a closer inspection by Vic, who discovers the animal's throat is actually a keyhole. The bad, or worse, news is that it's so small that only Rita Farr (April Bowlby), with her gelatinous body, is able to ooze in to explore. She does so, reluctantly and with plenty of complaints, and declares what's within the beast as "beautiful," mere moments before she, Larry and Vic are drawn inside. It's only then that they realize the donkey is more than a door; it's a trap.
It contains a world much like ours, or at least theirs, in which Cloverton and its residents are safe in what amounts to an art installation devised by Mr. Nobody, who proves himself more than merely a narrator. Contrary to Niles Caulder's earlier expression of disbelief, Nobody is shaping events, and reality itself. Supplied with headphones, the three "meat puppets" -- that is, Larry, Rita and Vic -- set off on a narrated tour of the exhibit, which swiftly devolves into a horror show, as Nobody subjects each of them to the nightmares of their pasts. However, he misjudges Larry's relationship to the Negative Man contained within his body: Reacting to Larry's stress, the energy being is unleashed, and frees them from their prison.
The donkey spits them up, along with the rest of Cloverton, which reassembles, just as it was before. But then, the animal explodes in a gruesome burst of blood and gore. So, yes, as Rita later explains to a confused Cliff Steele, the donkey was a door. Was.
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.