Television is very rarely like real life, but one thing they have in common is that endings are always weird and they’re always difficult–even when it’s time. As weird as Doom Patrol has been at times, this is one thing that it does have in common with so many other shows. The finale is a mixed bag of things that work and don’t, as well as plenty of emotional peaks and valleys. Spoilers follow for Doom Patrol Season 4, Episode 12, “Done Patrol.”
This final season of Doom Patrol has been about giving these characters some closure on all the things they’ve suffered for. Cliff wanted to know what it was like to feel again, and to be emotionally ready to be a father and grandfather. Larry needed to admit to the world that he was a gay man, and also not a monster, as well as find some meaningful connection outside of watching old movies with Rita. Jane needed to admit that she, too, was affected by the events that fractured her mind into so many pieces. Rouge needed to acknowledge and atone for her past as a former member of the Ant Farm and an accomplice in the deaths of so many metahumans. Vic needed to find a way to be the hero he wanted to be without it being a daily reminder of his grief and of the things that were done to his body without his consent. Rita, finally, needed to see a world where she made an impact on people–and one with relationships that mattered to her.
That’s what this episode is about. The conflict is resolved in short order, and in a pretty dumb way–but appropriately dumb. The were-butts break into the theater, but the one were-butt who had a relationship with a human also shows up and gets them to start singing show tunes. Immortus, the theatrical god that she is, loved this. They got sucked into the time stream together, releasing the Patrol from the battle.
We spend the rest of the episode, then, saying goodbye to each of the characters–watching them acknowledge that while being part of the Doom Patrol was a huge section of their over-long lives, it wasn’t what they ultimately wanted. Cliff kind of already knew that, as he demonstrated repeatedly throughout the season, albeit in the most destructive and potentially world-ending way possible.
For those looking for a more standard conflict, this ending may feel a bit hollow. It’s definitely not your standard superhero conflict any more than any of their other ones have been. Looking back through the series, it’s hard to find a time when the Patrol conclusively won. They ruined the day and cleaned up after themselves after being guilted into it. They even try to do that here, it just gets yanked out from under them with the were-butts and Immortus finding friends in each other. It’s decidedly on-tone for Doom Patrol, and I liked that about it. It just doesn’t have the triumph and sense of accomplishment that usually comes with these kinds of potentially world-ending conflicts.
It’s hard to tell, then, how much of that is the show ending sooner than the creators would’ve liked, and how much of it was the team getting to end the show how they wanted, and it’s hard to say if we’ll ever know.
The time we spend with these characters afterward is similarly bittersweet. Jane is something resembling a whole person now, and she’s one of the last people to leave the mansion as they close things down. By chance, she runs across Space Case Casey, the air-y space hero from earlier in the season. The two had chemistry before, but Jane wasn’t in a place to return the interest. Here, she finally feels free and unburdened enough to do so. It’s great to see this character happy without any asterisks. At the same time, the pair didn’t get enough time to develop an actual dynamic. They’re together because the writers say they should be. Larry reuniting with Mr. 104 feels less contrived, but is still mostly there because the writers put it there–not because it was an inevitable ending for Larry.
The ending that hits the hardest is Cliff’s. Despite having his longevity back, in theory, he’s still coping with Parkinsons. We find him at his daughter Clara’s house spending time with his grandson Rory. Immortus lets him see the future–Rory growing up, having a kid, and even a grandkid of his own. All the parts of his life that Cliff would want to be there for. And then his red eyes go dim–he’d lived his life.
Vic, Rita, and Rouge have more satisfying endings. The award for best comeuppance goes to Rouge as she walks into the Ant Farm with a flamethrower and a smile on her face. We already know Vic’s future–he saw it for himself in the previous episode. Rita, meanwhile, gets the brunt of the time. Her ending is the closest to satisfying. She got what she wanted from life–finally–and it makes sense in the context of the show and in the context of her story. She admits that it’s not what she’d imagined, but she’s satisfied with it all the same.
The ending is sweet and emotional overall, but it feels weird in the face of the show’s primary thesis–that the strength of the Doom Patrol was what they had in each other. This is, I suppose, them graduating from the weird halfway house they lived in for decades. They needed each other to get to a place where they didn’t need each other.
I’m going to miss this show. What other show was confident enough to let its characters fail over and over again? To have them meet weirdoes like The Shadowy Mr. Evans and the Sex Ghosts? To have a villain a fabulous and perfect as Mr. Nobody? To be constantly gross and real even as the characters traveled through time and space?
Doom Patrol is an incredibly special show among superhero shows, holding a place alongside unique ones like WandaVision and The Boys. It’s ostensibly a superhero show, but for four seasons it railed against that whenever possible, rethinking what a hero could be and what conflict could mean, and what the ultimate goal of a team of metahumans living in the same world as Superman and The Flash could be like. We probably won’t ever see something so absurdist and strange as Doom Patrol for a long time–if ever. At least not strange in the same way that Doom Patrol was.