We don’t need to say anymore that Doom Patrol is weird, but I don’t think that when the heroes unleashed a bunch of feral butts upon the Bureau of Normalcy toward the end of season 1, we’d still be dealing with them three years later. Butt here we are.
“Doom Patrol” & “Butt Patrol”
The Doom Patrol has undergone many changes since we first met them, losing their leader, dying, seeing one of their team members go a full one hundred years into the past, losing abilities, battling sex ghosts–all the standard superhero stuff. When we meet them again, they’re post-Eternal Flagellation and functioning as something like a superhero team. Rita Farr, having somewhat mastered her powers, is currently in charge of the team as they take the time machine around to various instances of metahuman crime.
But of course, things are always more dysfunctional than they look, especially in Doom Patrol, and soon they end up 20 years in the future after the zombie were-butts that escaped last season overran the world, and just barely make it back home to make plans to stop the Buttpocalypse.
Under that, though, all of the characters seem to be stuck in the Eternal Flagellation–every one of them is lost in some way. Cyborg is still trying to figure out who he is without his tech, and feels like he’s been relegated to the Doom Patrol’s backburner as their IT support. Jane is hiding from the world because she doesn’t know what to do with herself if she’s not constantly trying to protect Kay. After their jaunt to the future, Larry and his new parasite Keeg have a falling out that leaves Larry feeling desperately alone.
Rita has been acting as the group’s leader, but finds out that none of the group members are actually okay with that. Cliff, finally, gets a new hand from Silas Stone that has nanites in it that give him the feeling of touch and will likely ultimately begin moving him to his next incarnation in the comics, but he hasn’t experienced touch in decades and is nervous to accept it.
Part of what makes Doom Patrol so much fun is that, being unhinged from time, space, and logic, it doesn’t have to adhere to any of the tropes of superheroism and comics–it can do whatever it wants, as long as it works for the characters. That’s been the case throughout the first three seasons, as we’ve watched each of them try to cope with their curses in different ways.
With just two episodes available right now, it’s impossible to say if they’re going to continue that, though we’re starting off from a good place. Cyborg is kind of the main character right now, if this show ever has one. Having discarded his tech, he’s stuck between the life he thinks he wants–normal, boring, day-to-day existence–and the call of superheroism that would require him to embrace the prosthetics he’s rejected. Joivan Wade has done a great job of bringing us a version of Cyborg that we haven’t seen before; he stands clearly apart from his counterparts in Teen Titans and Justice League, a somewhat more grounded version of the character that we can more closely identify with.
But right now, all the characters’ sadnesses are out there to see, with each one feeling alone and isolated in their own way. That hardly sounds like a fun way to start a show, but that’s what the butts are for.
While these characters tangle with their metaphorical demons (and probably one or two literal ones), we’re getting background on the butts themselves, which is not something I ever envisioned myself writing. Before the Patrol unleashed them, the Bureau had brought in an expert to try to communicate with them. She trained them to do a song-and-dance number of the Music Man song “Shipoopi,” which is funny for at least two reasons that I can think of.
Still got it
We also meet back up with Darren Jones, the Bureau of Normalcy agent who was bitten by the zombie were-butt last season. He, it turns out, is still living on that same farm where he’s worked hard to stay away from humans and their tantalizing, delicious brains, and is instead raising heirloom tomatoes. One of the funniest moments come from this meeting, when Clif realizes he can still understand zombie speak. The decision to give the zombies subtitles last season was funny on its own, but this is the kind of smart, long-play joke that I come to Doom Patrol for.
While the season is still early, it still very much has the core elements that make Doom Patrol what it is. It’s sad, weird, and funny, and often all three at the same time. I find myself wanting the best for these characters even as I hope they’ll do something stupid that will result in them meeting another being like The Shadowy Mr. Evans or someone like the Beard Hunter. When the Doom Patrol screws up, we get a good show out of it.