The Doom Patrol is back! Now I think we can all agree, the first season was a hell of a trip. Mr. Nobody breaking the fourth wall every episode, the excessive F-bombs, dimensions coming out of donkey butts, giant eyes in the sky, sentient streets, and beard-eating metahumans — all a weird, insane delight to see. For my money, no show in the history of superhero shows has ever gotten away with the go-for-broke, bizarre, random delights Doom Patrol Season One has brought us, whilst still staying as close to the mind-expanding ideas of Grant Morrison and his run on the book. So upon the premiere of its second season, fans are eagerly wondering whether or not the group of insane writers will continue the train of volatile craziness introduced in Season One. To ease the minds of those sitting on pins and needles to find out, the answer is a resounding yes!
On June 25, the weirdest superhero show of all time is returning, but this time to a second home: HBO Max. And thankfully the second season retains the (to quote Robotman in almost every episode) “What the f**k???” bat-crap crazy spirit of the freshman season, thanks to the wonderful writing of its creative staff and fantastic performances of its cast. This will be a review of the first three episodes.
The series has always prided itself in being the most unconventional genre show on the air, but those who are fans know that beneath the surface of kaiju cockroaches making out with kaiju rats is actually a sly tale of troubled individuals confronting their deepest fears, insecurities, and inadequacies for a united cause. The first season centered on saving The Chief from Mr. Nobody. This season is to help The Chief extend his life so he can continue caring after his special daughter, Dorothy, who we were introduced to at the end of Season One.
Dorothy, based off the Dorothy Spinner character from the comics, has the ability to bring her imaginary friends to life. Fans of the comics will recognize her odd friends, including one familiar candle-headed foe within the first two episodes. Those not familiar with the characters might be terrified. The character is retconned into Dorothy Caulder for the series, and the love child of Niles and Slava, the cavewoman Niles fell in love with in the first season episode, “Hair Patrol.” And young Abigail Shapiro, who plays Dorothy, is absolutely adorable. Getting to see her and Timothy Dalton together provides a warmth to The Chief that almost redeems his character’s sins as revealed by Mr. Nobody in the end of the first season. Almost.
As you’ll see this season starts off, rightfully so, with the group still completely pissed at the massive betrayal from the revelation that Niles was responsible for the unfortunate accidents that transformed them into the oddities they are in the present day (plus they’re also still tiny in the premiere episode). For Cliff Steele — Brendan Fraser, continuing his energetic and hilarious portrayal of Robotman from Season One — it’s especially personal because he lost a wife and a life with his daughter thanks to Niles’ manipulations and obsession with cheating death. So he starts dealing with his anger by beating rats, before eventually confronting The Chief about the issue, then driving down to Florida to terrify his real daughter in an attempt to prove he’s a better father than The Chief.
Rita (the irresistible April Bowlby) is the least upset with Niles, and is doing what she can to prove herself of use, and potentially become a real superhero like Victor/Cyborg. At points within all three episodes, we see her actually able to control her elasticity. Naturally, however, Rita’s still battling her insecurities and hasn’t fully garnered the confidence in herself to excel at heroism just yet, despite taking large steps in the previous season.
Larry/Negative Man (Matt Bomer and Matthew Zuk), the only one who isn’t tiny in the premiere episode, spends his days making tiny pancakes for the team, but also having the negative spirit show him flashbacks of his broken relationship with his sons. This prompts him to go off on his own adventure to revisit some of the severed connections we witnessed in the first season post his accident. We also explore a bit around the origin between Rita and his friendship.
Jane (played by the ever-brilliant Diane Guerrero), meanwhile, is battling the other 63 personalities within her in The Underground. The threat of constant danger that her primary “Jane” personality puts them in from her missions with the Doom Patrol have made the rest of the personalities angry, and as such, she has to keep them from staging a coup. Part of that leads to the minor addiction she developed to the personality suppressing drug introduced near the end of last season.
And lastly, Victor/Cyborg’s (the solidly consistent Joivan Wade) arc is the most disconnected from the rest of the team, since he leaves Doom Manor and returns to Detroit. Battling some of the PTSD he acquired from the heavy events of the battle against Mr. Nobody, Victor’s finding himself discouraged from hero work, and attending PTSD support groups. There, we are introduced to Roni Evers (new cast member, Karen Obilom), and a potential romance blossoming for the hero.
As with the previous season, each episode is very character-based, emphasizing the issues each of the respective characters is still battling, some literal and others emotional. Though a larger story arc for the season is being hinted at, within the first three episodes it’s not fully defined yet — which is fine honestly. This season has to be spent with Niles earning a relationship of respect back with the rest of the team that once looked up to him, and the seeds of that are planted here. Additionally, a lot of the mystery surrounding Dorothy and the potential threat the adorable, sweet girl is hiding is something that will take time to explore.
A great strength this season, as opposed to the previous one, thus far has been the inclusion of a bit more action. Within the first three episodes we’re introduced to showdowns between some of the more interesting villains in the Doom Patrol canon, Dr. Tyme and Red Jack. While both are twisted in their own ways, Dr. Tyme’s inclusion is at once comical and bizarre — vintage Doom Patrol Season One vibes, while Red Jack’s inclusion is terrifying and grotesque. How the introductions of these two characters will play into a larger season centered on Dorothy still remains to be seen, but they were still pretty exciting inclusions to witness.
If I had to identify the biggest issue though, with Season Two, it’s actually Cyborg’s storyline. While I know it’ll pay off sometime during the full nine-episode arc, within the first third of this arc, it’s not exactly going anywhere, and is fully disconnected from the primary storylines involving the rest of the Doom Patrol, Niles, and Dorothy. It’s great to see Victor getting some action, and I really like Roni so far, but with everything going on in the, so-far, busy first episodes, I don’t think a romantic subplot is something we need. The character exploration is needed, and perhaps that’ll pay off alongside the romance, but it’s a bit extra. We’ll see how the showrunners plan to weave this into everything.
That aside, it’s nice to have the strangest superhero team on streaming back for a second round. There’s so much going on, and all of it is incredibly scattered and insane, but that’s what Doom Patrol is. And I for one, would not want it any other way.
Overall Score: B+
Doom Patrol Season Two begins June 25 on both HBO Max and DC Universe.