Exactly nine months. That’s how long it’s been, as I write this, since Doom Patrol episode 6, which aired on January 5, 2023. Spoilers follow for Doom Patrol Season 4, Episode 7, “Qrqwith Patrol,” and Episode 8, “Fame Patrol.”
“Orqwith Patrol” and “Fame Patrol”
That’s really weirdly long time to pause a show in the middle of a season. If we didn’t already know Doom Patrol was ending with Season 4, I would think this was an intentional move to try to kill it. The truth is, Doom Patrol shouldn’t have made it to 4 full seasons. It’s one of my very favorite shows but it’s a really weird show. I don’t know how the cast and crew managed to get the show to go for this long. Every episode is truly a gift. I just wish that they wouldn’t have made us wait nine full months for
Immortimas Day Doom Patrol Season 4.5 Premiere Day. That will make sense next week, I promise.
Where we left off
Episode 7, Orqwith Patrol, picks up where Episode 6 left off. Most of the Patrol is in the strange land of Orqwith in pursuit of the followers of Immortus and their sapped longevity. The Patrol is aging rapidly, and you can see it most visibly in Jane’s graying hair and Rita’s wrinkled skin. That’s mostly because Larry and Cliff are a robot and a mummy, respectively. But Larry is highly radioactive, and aging radioactive material can get dangerous fast.
By the end of the episode, the whole team has assembled from various directions to try to stop Immortus; Jane and Cliff, Vic and his friend Deric, Rita and Rouge, and Larry and Keeg. As always, though, things go poorly and get weird quickly and soon the Doom Patrol is waking up in a crater with Isabel Feathers, the actor who played the part of “Blob Lady” in the local theater troupe’s production of Our Town. That’s a play about their town, not a production of the play “Our Town.”
With Isabel back, the town is celebrating in Episode 8, “Fame Patrol.” A beloved missing person is returned and Cloverton’s local superheroes, the Doom Patrol, is seemingly responsible! The team finds themselves in the limelight in a way they never expected, and Isabel-Immortus is growing increasingly furious as the town celebrates the Doom Patrol’s valorous actions rather than her own return. The Patrol ends up in a Rescue Day parade, and Isabel presses rewind.
This isn’t a time-loop situation, don’t worry. It’s more like Isabel has cosmic white-out that she can use to rewrite any situation that doesn’t go her way. She’s exercising a growing amount of control over reality, and the Patrol is struggling to even notice it happening in the first place.
Is Cliff the baddie?
But while Isabel is unquestionably the real villain–she’s trying to rewrite reality, again–we should shift our focus to Cliff, whose actions repeatedly endanger the group. Over the last three and a half seasons, each member has had their issues. But for Cliff, an outsized number of these issues can be boiled down to “Cliff Steele is an asshole.”
And it happens again. Immortus offers Cliff a glimpse at a potential future where he gets to spend time with his grandson and promises that he can be part of this future. This is, of course, a false future created by a godlike being, but registered stupid idiot Cliff leaps for it with the full force of his metal body, leaving his friends behind with very little hesitation to pursue a potential future with a person that doesn’t yet exist (Rory exists, but Rory is an infant and may not turn out the way Immortus promises), that he’s only met a small handful of times.
This is that whole toxic idea of blood family being somehow inherently more important than found family. The people around Cliff have been helping him work through his crap since he woke up, and his actions have endangered their lives multiple times. Despite that, he’s established growing relationships with each of these people, and they’ve repeatedly given him the benefit of the doubt. Now, he repays them by running headlong into something that actively harms all of them. It is, of course, the most authentically Cliff Steele thing that Cliff Steele could do, but that makes it that much more frustrating.
In the final episodes of this show, it’s hard not to dislike Cliff despite everything he’s been through. Immortus had to get out somehow, but couldn’t it have been because of something other than Cliff being a dumbass?
While Cliff is getting stupider, though, the other members seem to mostly be working on healing. Vic and Deric have some great conversations about Vic’s identity as Cyborg–what it looks like from the outside and how it feels from the inside. This moment helped me get on Vic’s side about giving up his sick cybernetic enhancements. To become the hometown hero, he essentially had to become something unrecognizable to himself, and it happened without his consent. If he does get his metal back before the show ends, it’ll be on his terms.
Deric ended up being an unexpectedly fun character, and a regular reminder that the Doom Patrol might be special, but they aren’t super. Deric gets his hands on a magical pen and paper and is quickly finding ways to make himself more useful than the rest of the Patrol. His presence in the first half of this season feels crucial to Vic’s growth as a character–a jolt of mundanity (but not Normalcy) and outside perspective to counter the extreme weirdness that he’s been exposed to on the daily for the last few years.
Most of the screen time between Madame Rouge and Rita is shared thus far; they’re rarely without each other for long. When they were de-aged, the two found common ground and were able to cry together for all the ways they hurt each other. This marked a change for Rouge, who approaches each of their conversations from the perspective of healing and growth. She wants to apologize for and make good her past mistakes, though she knows that some of those mistakes won’t be things she can apologize for. Rouge consistently shows Rita the kind of compassion and gentleness she’s had only rarely in her 180-year-plus lifespan (Remember, she was born in 1919 and then, in the 2020s, sent back to 1917, and then lived forward from there.
Another pairing that is working surprisingly well is Jane and Casey/SpaceCase. They only interact briefly in these episodes but they’re both lost. Jane is struggling to connect to the Underground; it’s a weirdly normal turn for her, but she’s been connected to the other people who live inside her for as long as she can remember. When they come out, they’re as real as Jane, Kay, or anyone else. Meanwhile, Casey Brink was by her own admission fictional until very recently, and thus always had a clear mission. She doesn’t have one anymore, and she’s trying to figure out what comes next. She sees in Jane someone who is lonely and in need of closeness, but anyone who has made it this far into Doom Patrol knows that that’s not something that comes easily for Jane.
Doom Patrol has consistently managed to find fresh and fun things to do with its characters that are both amusing at a conceptual level and work great with the characters on an emotional level. This final arc promises to be an interesting one, and I really hope the writers can land it in a way that makes sense for the character and their stories.