Well, this was certainly unexpected. We’re four episodes into the new ‘Doom Patrol’ series… the perfect spot for general character development, team cohesiveness, etc. … and boom, DC hits us with the first of a two-part “cliffhanger” style story that threatens the end of the world! This, oddly, is actually right in line with the vibe that the creative team has set for the show: not all super-powered people know how to use their powers effectively or are even mentally stable enough to do so.
WARNING: Spoilers for this episode of ‘Doom Patrol’ lie ahead, obviously. If you haven’t seen the episode and don’t wish for any of its content to be spoiled for you, the time to turn back is NOW!
RECAP: The episode opens on the same trend that the last few have: the team is trying, in vain, to find The Chief. Fortuitously, before this story became a thematic retread of the previous episodes, things are thrown sideways pretty quickly for the team: Willoughby Kipling, a paranormal P.I., comes a-knocking to Doom Manor, looking for Niles Caulder. We’re close to the end of the world, you see, at the hands of a cult called the Unwritten Book of the Eye, and Caulder is Kipling’s best chance to stop them. Except, y’know, he was sent into a parallel universe at the hands of Mr. Nobody.
Kipling’s mostly out of luck, then; he supposes the Doom Patrol will have to do. The team itself, of course, is still highly fractured and incredibly low on self-esteem. Nonetheless, they don’t see a lot of choice either, since they like living in the world and all, and saving it is probably in their best interests. So, the team splits up: Crazy Jane and Robotman head off to Spain to find a priest whose stigmata is the doorway to the cult’s HQ, and the rest of the team stays at the manor to help Kipling safeguard 18-year-old Elliott, who is the physical representation of the aforementioned “Unwritten Book” that the cult is trying their hardest to find and, uh, read.
A decent amount of character development also envelops the episode – particularly, we get many more morsels on the tenuous mental and physical relationship between Larry Trainor and the “negative man” that lives inside of him. It’s also revealed that Jane is clearly not in control of her group of personae, and Robotman continues to struggle mightily with his feelings about failing as a father. It’s a nice grounding for the episode and a keen reminder that these are some of the most “human” superheroes that DC is putting out right now.
But this is the Doom Patrol, after all, and they are not great at the whole “mission accomplished” thing, so wouldn’t you know it, the Cult does manage to get their hands on Elliott, and the episode ends with a big fat “To Be Continued” as the god-like figure the cult worships starts to make his (ostensibly) world-ending appearance in the night sky…
- As mentioned above, ‘Doom Patrol’ drops us a two-part “cliffhanger” style story early on, in just its fourth episode into the series? It’s ambitious, but I don’t hate it. The interesting thing about showing us characters that are heavily flawed is that, even though we are still learning more about their backstories with every new episode, it feels like we know the team and their “M.O.” fairly well at this point. So, jumping into a big storyline like this, it doesn’t feel rushed to me at all.
- There was a fairly good balance on the diving into each of the Patrol members’ back-stories in this episode, but each still has plenty of gaps left to be filled in – especially Rita, who is the one team member I feel is lagging behind in the “Exposition Department.” I continue to be intrigued by Negative Man’s mysterious relationship with his live-in energy being, and I continue to be impressed with the surprising depth of Robotman’s pathos-inducing family origins.
- I love the simple acceptance of everything that Mark Sheppard’s Willoughby Kipling is doing in terms of magic & the occult. That was a heavy theme for me this week: yes, there were some things with Nurnheim and the cult that don’t always make perfect sense, but in the case of this show, things are significantly more enjoyable when you just accept the stuff as it comes – nod and smile, it’s definitely more fun that way.
- There are “37 known dimensions,” Cyborg says during a classic Cyborg debrief – what, we couldn’t get 52 dimensions to better sync up with DC Comics’ recent “New 52” story lines across their comic books?
CLOSING THOUGHTS: ‘Doom Patrol’ continues to roll strongly along for DC Universe, making it an oddly-awesome tentpole for the streaming service. I for one can’t wait to see what next week’s episode has in store for us!
PRINCIPAL CAST FEATURED IN THIS EPISODE:
Timothy Dalton as The Chief
Brendan Fraser as Cliff Steele/Robotman
Diane Guerrero as Crazy Jane
April Bowlby as Rita Farr/Elastigirl
Matt Bomer as Larry Trainor/Negative Man
Alan Tudyk as Mt. Nobody
Joivan Wade as Victor Stone/Cyborg
‘Doom Patrol’ features new episodes on Fridays via the DC Universe streaming service.