One of the many frustrating side effects of the Coronavirus pandemic currently slamming the United States is that basically all television and movie production is currently on hold and has been for months. While networks and studios struggle to keep people entertained and eyeballs stuck to screens, though, we’ve seen a trend emerge: the Coronavirus Finale. Spoilers follow for Doom Patrol Season 2, Episode 9, “Wax Patrol.”
Just about every new show I’ve watched in the last five months has had a Coronavirus finale. The Flash, Supergirl, and Batwoman all had truncated seasons. Even Netflix shows like Warrior Nun have had abrupt, jarring endings. That last show literally ended mid-fight.
So does Doom Patrol Season 2.
Nothing about this episode feels like a season finale, and that makes sense. It wasn’t supposed to be. WB intended Doom Patrol Season 2 to have 10 episodes according to Dorothy herself, actress Abigail Shapiro. The episode we have for the finale is likely a cobbled together version of episodes 9 and 10.
So what happens?
We get a deeper dive than ever into Jane’s history, for one thing. Jane is around 70, but she doesn’t look a day over 34. When we meet her, she’s living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and working as a waitress in a diner in the 1960s. At that point in her life, Miranda was in control, as the personality who seemed most capable of handling life in the real world. In the flashback, she meets and starts talking to a guy. For a climactic episode, this is a slow-burn storyline. We watch as Miranda starts dating and then moves in with this guy.
The guy pushes Miranda into partaking in an orgy. The trauma breaks the composed Miranda’s worldview and after a pretty tough scene, Jane takes over. In the present, Jane is in the well at the back of the Underground, pushed in by Miranda. The other personalities confront Miranda, but don’t make much progress. Jane, meanwhile, swims toward a bright light while Kay, the owner of the body Jane and Miranda live inside, looks for her. At the same time, Jane finds the necklace Miranda wore so many years ago and Kay realizes: Miranda isn’t Miranda.
But we never find out who she is.
Armageddon tired of knock-knock jokes
Out in the real world, Cliff is prepping to go to his daughter’s wedding and Vic is listening to sad music as he mourns his relationship with Roni when Herschel the giant knock-knock joke-loving spider pops out of the wall to tell the crew about what’s going down at the fair. Cliff reluctantly cancels his plans and the team shows up to an entire fair covered in wax. It’s pretty disgusting.
But I absolutely love what Doom Patrol does here. The CandleMaker isn’t an imaginary friend at all, but rather some kind of extra-dimensional being linked to Dorothy. The Candlemaker, now that the Patrol is on-site, takes over each of their imaginary friends. They represent the most tragic parts of each character’s early history; Rita’s represents her childhood body image, deformed by her mother’s ill-advised attempts to help her get ahead in life. Vic’s gives him the friendly approval he could never get from his cold, calculating father. Cliff’s represents his loneliness and lack of a meaningful father figure.
Because I think this part is so clever, I’m going to post another spoiler warning in case you want to see it for yourself.
Each of the imaginary friends fits their host perfectly. Mademoiselle Roxy is a woman made of disparate facial and body features cut out of magazines to assemble what young Rita’s ideal woman looked like. Vic’s friend is Doctor Cowboy, a cowboy with test tubes instead of pistols, who happens to be played by the same actor as his father, Phil Morris. Cliff’s is the best. Cliff’s imaginary friend is just Jesus, but mean. Oh, and Larry never had an invisible friend, so none shows up for him.
Each of the three characters tangles with their imaginary friend in some way. Cliff starts punching as usual. Rita talks to hers and they dance. Vic asks his for advice. They all come to some reconciliation just in time for Candlemaker to twist the knife and turn each of them to wax.
To Be Continued…
Dorothy, meanwhile, has been curled up in a ball crying this entire time, and she finally ventures out when she hears her father’s voice. He plans to kill her, but her mother appears to both of them and tells Dorothy she has to grow up. Dorothy conjures a rad quadrident and offers herself up to the Candlemaker to do battle. Meanwhile, Rita, Larry, Vic, and the mage Kipling Willoughby have all been turned to wax, while Cliff is literally exploded into pieces and then turned to wax. Miranda/Jane is the only member of the patrol left intact.
End of season.
It’s frustrating to see a season end this way when we don’t know if it’ll see another. But even then, I still have mixed feelings.
I’m willing to give Doom Patrol a lot of leeway. No one expects a pandemic (or the Spanish Inquisition) to bring show production to a premature close. And the first season was so good that any season that follows is bound to be somewhat disappointing. But I don’t see how even another full episode could’ve brought any of these storylines to a satisfying end. It makes me wonder if the writers got wrapped up in trying to end the season on a bunch of cliffhangers. I can’t see how they could’ve figured out what’s up with Miranda, defeated Candlemaker, put Cliff back together, and whatever else in just one episode.
This season, overall, suffers a lot more for its episodes that don’t directly engage with the story. Some of them are my favorite, like Pain Patrol and Dumb Patrol, and I love the things we learned about the characters throughout the season. But the point of conflict, Dorothy, didn’t provide as much of a narrative hook as the quest to find the missing Dr. Caulder did, even if Abigail Shapiro absolutely nailed the character.
I’ll stump for the first season of Doom Patrol until I collapse from exhaustion, but the second season is much harder to recommend without qualifications. The third season, should it happen, could tie up all these storylines in satisfying ways. But right now, Doom Patrol‘s 9-episode season 2 feels half as complete as the first 15-episode season.