The members of the Doom Patrol aren’t superheroes. They didn’t want to be and they didn’t ask to be. But their sheer proximity to weirdness means that they end up having to play the part. They’re pretty bad at it, but when weirdness lands in their laps, there’s no one else around to handle it, so they do the best they can. Spoilers follow for Doom Patrol Season 2, Episode 8, “Dad Patrol.”
Three of the four storylines this week are dad-centric. Considering the episode is called Dad Patrol, it kind of makes sense, right? Even so, this episode feels weirdly disconnected. It feels like a classic case of the Dungeon Master letting the D&D party split up and then having trouble getting them back together.
The most interesting story this week comes from Jane. Jane discovered last week that one of her personalities, the Scarlet Harlot, was missing and that her station was down. Miranda, the ultra-competent and newly-revived personality tries to convince Jane that the personalities were no longer needed because Kay, who houses all of these personalities, is healing. Kay sends Jane off in search of her stuffed animal, though, which she lost at the bottom of a well as a child.
Here we see why the well is so terrifying for Jane. As a child, her abusive father would order her into the bucket used to pull water up and then lower her down to spend the night down there. Despite the short scenes, this is all pretty terrifying.
Despite that Jane goes after the stuffed animal with the help of Larry. On the way, they talk about how their pasts are holding them back, and discuss whether they should let them go or not. Trauma is never that simple, though.
When Jane gets to the bottom of the well, she discovers the toy and a note hidden in a gap in the well wall, realizing that Miranda hid them there years ago. When Jane goes to Miranda to apologize for doubting her, Miranda responds by pushing her into the well in the Underground, where five personalities, including Jane, now float.
While that’s happening, Cliff has a guest: his daughter Clara. This story’s a lot simpler, shorter, and sweeter. Cliff had sent her the tape of Niles confession about their family, giving her reason enough to give her dad a second chance. While the previous storyline is a condemnation of Jane’s horrifying father, this story is Cliff trying hard to do everything right. Much of the episode is spent taking Clara on a tour of Doom Manor, with Cliff telling her about all the weird things that go on in the house while he tries to make a case for himself as someone capable of being a good father if given the chance.
Cliff is a lapsed father who is working hard to do right by his child. Over and over we’ve watched Cliff tangle with his rage, but lately the rage has been more focused. While he dealt with his failing body, he dropped an ultimatum in Clara’s lap, basically saying he was ready if she wanted him in her life. The episode ends with her handing him an invitation to her wedding and him saying he wouldn’t let anything keep him from going. You know something is going to keep him from going, though.
The third story is the one that isn’t dad-centric. Rita, fresh off her first superhero moment last week, is ready to become a full-fledged superhero. When Cyborg goes off looking into a case, Rita accompanies him in her full Beekeeper regalia. The way she walks around and looks around reminds me of Dorothy. Throughout the show, anytime Dorothy feels like an adult, she gets this cocky look and posture. For an 11-year-old (or someone who acts like it), it doesn’t seem out of place.
For Rita, though, it’s kind of depressing. She should know better. But all the members of the Patrol have been in a kind of emotional suspended animation, living as immortals cloistered in a house with no contact with the outside world aside from pop culture. In a way, Rita is still the little girl watching her mother have sex with a producer to get her daughter an acting gig, and she’s acting like that little girl. But Rita has no experience as a hero. She’s used her powers intentionally three times. She has no idea what she’s doing. After Roni and Vic come to blows, Rita is stunned with fear when Roni walks toward and then past her. She could’ve done something, but froze up.
Like Cliff when he hung out with Vic, Rita dreams up a theme song for their superhero pairing, this time parodying the 1960s television show The Avengers. It’s almost a shot-for-shot recreation, and it reveals something about the team. Vic has always been kind of an outsider and that’s because at least half the team views him as a Real Superhero. They think that by hanging out with him, they’re going to get to do real superhero stuff. As viewers, we know that Vic is just as messed up as they are. His powers come from just as much trauma as theirs, and he has issues with his parents and his confidence just like everyone else in the house. They idolize him, but he’s struggling.
Finally, Dorothy and her father, Niles. The two are out having what Niles calls “Dorothy Day.” Last time we saw him, he was in the Yukon Territory, calling on his friend Kipling Willoughby, with the two speaking around the fact that they planned to kill Dorothy to protect the world from her imaginary friend, the Candlemaker.
We have what I’m pretty sure is a huge revelation this week. It’s not that Dorothy couldn’t age past 11, but rather that Niles had been suspending her there. Apparently, if Dorothy were to mature, her imaginary friends would run rampant–worst of all being the one who can grant dark wishes. Dorothy has her first period and decides not to tell her father about it. At the county fair they go to, she starts to see visions of her mother telling her it’s time for her to grow up. And so she does, and all hell breaks loose.
None of these are bad stories. Actually, they’re all pretty good. Jane having to deal with the conflicts of her personalities gives room for huge character growth. Rita needs to see that she has a long way to go and that Vic isn’t some perfect superhero. Cliff is finally getting to act like a dad. Larry is finally actively pursuing peace.
But right now, the party is all split and they have one episode left. How does the show come together with just one episode left? I’m ready to be surprised, but I won’t lie–I’m kinda worried.
Doom Patrol season 2 is airing now on DC Universe and HBO Max.