The Doom Patrol is not a superhero team. These characters aren’t heroes. They’re people who have lived too long with too much trauma to bear. Doom Patrol is the story of these burdened people trying to cope with the incredible pain they’ve lived through, with that pain often amplified by their powers. When that pain ignites, it often means things go badly for the team. Spoilers follow for Doom Patrol Season 2, Episode 6, “Finger Patrol.”
Doom Patrol always finds room for humor, horror, and sadness in its storytelling, and this episode is no different in that way. But all three of those are especially heightened this week. The Patrol tries to reach out and make connections, but finds the people they hope to trust to be the most dangerous to their safety. This is a pretty dark episode, especially after the SeX-Men last week.
The Patrol splits off into three groups this week: Cliff and Vic, Rita and Larry, and Jane, Dorothy, and Dr. Caulder.
Cliff and Vic’s adventure has Cliff looking for options to help deal with his failing prosthetic body, but Cliff ends up giving Vic romantic advice that works better than expected. While Cliff waits alone for his friend, he fantasizes about the two of them fighting crime as Steele and Stone. In Cliff’s mind, the two are a cop-buddy duo in the 70s, wearing disguises and high-fiving. Actor Jovian Wade has been a weaker part of the cast at times, but this sequence proves to me that he has some comedic chops. With how dark the rest of the episode is, this is some much-needed levity.
While Cliff is busy fantasizing (and later trying and failing to stop a crime), things are going even worse for Larry and his family and Jane at the mansion.
Larry goes to his late son Gary’s house to help his other son, Paul, pack his things. Larry meets his grandson and great-grandson, and it seems like he’s doing okay. He helps Paul and his family go through Gary’s things, complimenting the small family and connecting where he can. At the end of the evening, they make it the artifacts of Larry’s life that Gary kept. A model jet that his son had made is there, but so is a cloth belonging to Larry’s lover, the man he said goodbye to last season. Larry tells his son he’s a gay man, and his son takes it rather neutrally.
Everything goes sideways
But then we find out that his son, a decorated military general, holds Larry responsible for most of the pain in his life, and even more for coming back in when he did. His son has called in a black ops squad to bring Larry in, “back where you belong.” Larry, unwilling to simply surrender, unleashes his negative spirit. The negative spirit does its thing, taking down the soldiers.
Rita, who accompanied Larry and who has been griping about a failed audition all day and how she couldn’t perform in the moment, steps in front of a bullet to protect Larry’s great-grandson. For a split second, it seems like the Doom Patrol has heroes among its ranks. But the flitting negative spirit unintentionally drew gunfire toward Gary’s family, seriously wounding Larry’s grandson. The negative spirit, seeing the chaos, grabs both Larry and Rita and flies away with them under its arms.
Larry didn’t ask for any of that. He was unwillingly experimented on by Dr. Caulder, leaving him dangerously radioactive while also housing a secondary being he has only limited control over. That he would want to stay away from the people he loves only makes sense. He tried to make some form of amends, and his son held it against him and tried to have him taken away. This isn’t about the Doom Patrol being losers, but about how far reaching their trauma is. Larry did his best, and despite his hard work, things still went sideways.
Let the kids play
Back at the manor, Dr. Caulder and Jane are trying to work with Jane’s other personalities to understand why they want to leave and, ideally, give them fewer reasons to do so. Jane wants to protect young Dorothy, and she sees the rest of the Patrol as her family, even if her other personalities disagree.
Caulder and Jane settle on an idea that seems great at first. Jane’s childlike personality, Babydoll, is lonely and needs a friend, and Dorothy, an 11-year-old centenarian, is in the same spot. Both contain multitudes in the form of many, many inner beings that manifest to protect them.
All seems well at first, but it turns out that Dorothy isn’t quite as childlike as she would like to believe herself. Instead, I’m starting to wonder if she’s been holding herself in somewhat of a suspended childhood. Even if she looks like she’s 11, 100 years of life takes a toll on a person, and they simply have to grow. Dorothy’s been forced to grow lately, after finding out that her good friend Danny the Street, was less a friend for her and more a friendly prison. She’s also learning more and more that her father isn’t exactly the man she thought.
I don’t want to play anymore
Dorothy tires of Babydoll’s relentless playfulness, and Babydoll becomes offended that her playmate is no longer feeling so playful. The two snap at each other. A game of hide and seek turns deadly when Babydoll, who apparently has telekinetic powers, throws Dorothy into an unlit incinerator. As they continue to fight, Babydoll ignites it. The frightened Dorothy finally does what Caulder has been dreading: she makes a wish. The Candlemaker manifests and goes into Jane’s Underground where it apparently kills Babydoll after tossing a few of Jane’s other personalities about.
Again, no one here had ill intentions. But Caulder should’ve known that putting two immature people with superpowers together without supervision could be dangerous. Jane should’ve known how bitter Babydoll can get when left unsated.
This episode sets the stage for the rest of the season, I suspect, and I’m curious to see who lands on what side of the conflict. I can guess what certain characters will do, but I’m not so confident in others. Dorothy has the potential to make a very interesting villain, and one that’s not nearly so cut-and-dried as Mr. Nobody in the first season. Doom Patrol doesn’t so much do shades of grey as it does shades of every indescribable color under the sun, and Dorothy is the perfect point of conflict for that.
Doom Patrol season 2 is airing now on DC Universe.