Doom Patrol 2×01 Review – Small heroes, big feels

Doom Patrol - Dr. Niles Caulder and Dorothy
Doom Patrol-- Ep.201 -- "Fun Size Patrol" -- Photo Credit: Mark Hill/ 2019 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Heavy is the robot head that wears the crown, and the king is back. Doom Patrol is, bar none, the best superhero TV show quite possibly ever, and thus begins the second season. The show picks up where the first left off, with the Patrol miniaturized after escaping the painting in which they almost died at the hands of a roach with a god complex and a mouse with lust for revenge. Spoilers follow for Doom Patrol season 1 and for Doom Patrol Season 2, Episode 1, “Fun-size Patrol.”

“Fun-size Patrol”

There’s a need among so many superhero shows and movies for their superhero to be the first superhero. Oliver was the first vigilante in Arrow until they retconned that in Elseworlds many years later. Flash was the first metahuman. Captain America was the “First Avenger.”

The Doom Patrol isn’t the first anything. The pilot episode made fun of it being just another superhero show. Over and over, the show reaches back in time to show just how long things have been weird for. The season 2 premiere starts out in London, 1927, at a freak show. Last season ended with the introduction of Niles’ daughter, Dorothy, and begins by showing us her face and the life she lived before her father found out that she exists.

Born from the union of a modern man and a neanderthal mystic, Dorothy has a more ape-like face and the magical powers of her mother, and as such finds herself in an old-timey freakshow where people throw things at her and taunt her as the ringmaster forces her to use her ability to summon her imaginary friend, a sort of sabertoothed wolf with antlers. This is the same beast her mother was able to summon in season 1.

Things go sideways quickly, though, and the circus turns into a bloodbath outside Dorothy’s small cage. Oh, and Niles is in the audience.

In the world of Doom Patrol, our heroes aren’t the first weirdoes by any stretch. They’re just the latest batch.

Tiny Tin Man

In the modern-day, Dorothy sits in a tent, telling her imaginary friends a story about the Doom Patrol. If you’ve forgotten what happened at the end of last season, this looks like a stage play featuring the characters, but they’re actually miniature sized, perfectly sized to live in Cliff‘s hand-crafted racetrack city, built over the decades he lived in Doom Manor before the Patrol finally ventured out into the world.

It would’ve been easy to make this episode focus on the recap. Instead, though, it’s aftermath. In fact, I went back and re-watched the season 1 finale after watching this to refresh myself on what all went down. The characters are all dealing with the repercussions of the finale in different ways.

Cliff swears and punches things while Jane blisses out on the drug she stole at the end of the previous season. Rita is trying hard to be constructive, working to master her powers, but Dorothy correctly surmises that “she’s made of rubber, but when she smiles I think she’s made of glass.” Cyborg/Vic struggles with nightmares and PTSD. Each of the characters is trying to achieve some kind of normalcy, but they’re cracking.

Everyone is struggling

Jane’s 63 other personalities are starting to get frustrated with the constant suppression and what they see as a toxic relationship with the rest of the Doom Patrol. Cliff’s frustration with the predicament and his knowledge that he has a daughter out in the world gnaw at him, and he takes it out by punching (currently) giant rats to death. Vic checks the painting that traps Mr. Nobody and the Beard Hunter each day, his trauma making him think they’ve escaped. Rita’s powers are directly connected to her state of mind, and they don’t seem to work unless she’s in a dark, dark place. Larry is the only person that seems to be kind-of okay, at least until working with Cliff’s miniatures starts to remind him of the struggles he had as a father in the 1960s.

The biggest thing this premiere spends time on is telling us just how truly innocent and dangerous Dorothy is. The young girl has a variety of imaginary friends that range from frightening to existentially terrifying; it’s unclear how much control she has over them. One thing I’m especially curious about is how the show will match up Jane and Dorothy. While their burdens aren’t identical, it’s hard not to draw parallels. Both are ageless people who carry multiple beings inside them. Neither has full control over those beings, and both struggle with that control.

My hope is the two will both develop from that similar background, whether it’s to form a bond or to come to blows. Jane’s personalities exist to protect her core personality, Kay, who is suspended around age 8 or 10. Dorothy’s imaginary friends seem to exist to protect Dorothy herself, who is explicitly established as being stuck at age 11. There’s a lot of interesting stuff to mine there.

Sacrifices must be made

While all this is going on, Dr. Caulder searches for ways to help the Patrol get back to normal size. The affliction isn’t entirely scientific, but it’s not explicitly magical, either. Eventually, Niles has to make a sacrifice to return the team to normal size, and that kicks off the main quest for what looks like the rest of the season–a search for immortality.

It seems like kind of a played-out premise, but the mysteries that are pushing it along are compelling, and Doom Patrol isn’t going to just dig up any old answer to the question. Having already seen the next couple episodes (read our preview here), I know just how weird it’s going to get, and I’m super excited for what’s to come.

Doom Patrol season 2 is airing now on DC Universe.