When people ask me what my favorite show is, one of a small group of shows will come out of my mouth, and Doom Patrol is near the very top of that list. It’s that good. That means that Doom Patrol‘s second season has a lot to live up to. Because this is a preview, we’ll be avoiding spoilers as much as we possibly can, though the entire first season is up for spoilage if necessary.
Doom Patrol Season 2 – Episodes 1-3
The show picks up shortly after it left off. The Patrol cut its way out of Ezekiel the cockroach to find themselves miniaturized, with the exception of Larry Trainor/Negative Man, who had helped them escape in the first place. Danny the Street was reduced to being Danny the Brick. Mr. Nobody and the Beard Hunter were trapped in the painting the others had escaped from. Oh, and Dr. Caulder’s daughter, Dorothy, escaped the painting with them.
Dorothy is an extraordinarily powerful character. Like Jane, she’s not alone in her head. But instead of personalities, she has imaginary friends that she can manifest. Like Jane, she doesn’t have total control of them. The ones we’ve met so far include a 1950s homemaker with no face called Darling-Come-Home, a giant spider, a wolf-thing with antlers (we met this last season when Niles was living with the neanderthal woman), and a terrifying being called the Candlemaker. There are certainly others, but we’ve only met these, and they’re each spooky enough on their own to warrant plenty of screen time.
As with the first season, a lot of what makes Doom Patrol so compelling are the performances. A stellar performance brings every one of the main characters to life in three dimensions. Newcomer Dorothy, played by 20-year-old Abigail Shaprio, is both intimidating and endearing. I can see at once while Niles is so focused on both protecting her from the world and protecting the world from her. It would be easy to make her your basic creepy 11-year-old child and give her serious Twilight Zone “It’s a Good Life” vibes, which is the feeling I pulled from the trailer.
But it’s not that simple. Dorothy is decades old, but she never ages up either physically or mentally, and so her emotions and reactions are genuine. I feel like her danger comes from how innocent she is, but that’s also why she’s so endearing. Her interactions with the Doom Patrol are sweet and cute, and I understand the drive most of them have to protect her.
Right back to body horror
Meanwhile, each of the members of the Doom Patrol are just as angry as you’d imagine and trying to deal with things in different ways. Rita is determined to face her weakness and turn her burden into a gift, turning to Cyborg/Vic for advice. Jane continues to shoot up opiates to control her 63 other chaotic personalities, though it’s clear the others are starting to get annoyed with her for it. Cliff vacillates between throwing a fit and trying to fix a teeny-tiny car. Larry does what he can to help the others, but he’s still learning to live with the negative energy spirit inside him.
The show almost immediately dives into weirdness and body horror. The third episode, featuring a character named Red Jack, is straight-up horror. Doom Patrol‘s stellar visual effects really hammer this home, too. When superhero shows have VFX on screen, the heroes usually aren’t interacting directly with it because that’s a recipe for the uncanny valley effect. But this third episode pulls them off with aplomb, and the look of them was absolutely dreadful. I mean that as a compliment.
Respecting my Tyme
When the Arrowverse started doing multiverse stuff, they tiptoed into it, with characters straight-up explaining the multiverse complete with whiteboards and markers. But Doom Patrol is a world where magic and science blend together such that it’s hard to tell where one begins and the other ends if such a thing is even the case. Things in Doom Patrol just are. When Niles tells Rita to just step into the butterflies, he doesn’t try to explain how the butterflies are actually an Einstein-Rosen Bridge or something, because we know enough to get what’s going on with hokey pseudo-science explanations for everything.
In short, the show respects its viewers enough to just dive into the weird stuff and let us get swept away with it. It’s the kind of weird that I love the most–stuff like Twin Peaks, Annihilation, Remedy’s Control. The kind of weird where one mystery always uncovers another without necessarily answering the first, nor leaving you feeling like it was unanswered.
But it never loses its heart through all of that. The relationships that develop between these characters are the most important part of the show. The two of the weirdest superhero shows–Doom Patrol and Legends of Tomorrow–are also two of the funniest and two of the nicest. Like Legends, Doom Patrol loves and cares about its characters with all their flaws.
A house full of mutants? Hmm…
The team and characters have a weirdly intertwined relationship with Marvel’s X-Men. They’re both teams of characters brought together by a wheelchair-bound mentor and who live together in a house while they try to figure out their powers. The X-Men writers treat their characters as cool and sexy, though, where the Doom Patrol writers know their characters are weird. It lets them be miserable together, and it lets them grow. The X-Men are supposedly outcasts but all the main characters have cool, enviable powers like danger claws and laser eyes and sexy muscles. When Rita gets sad, her face melts. If Larry takes off his bandages, his friends will die quickly.
The X-Men writers don’t seem to realize that their characters are a bunch of assholes. Doom Patrol knows exactly how many mistakes its characters have made and takes them to task for it. the characters grow and learn and develop relationships. Jane and Cliff have developed a kinship as the group’s lifelong misanthropes and while they fight, they also go to each other to gripe about life. Rita and Larry remember normal life and suffer terribly from their own identity crises, but they try to support each other. The members of Doom Patrol are deeply flawed and yet I can almost imagine myself hanging out with each of them. Hanging out with the X-Men sounds absolutely unbearable.
Right from the beginning, Doom Patrol season 2 is exactly what I expect from the show. It’s scary, weird, hilarious, self-effacing, and honest. For these first three episodes, at least, it’s every bit a proper follow-up to the first season.
Doom Patrol season 2 begins airing June 25 on DC Universe.