New Doom Patrol Episode Delves From Dada Into The Subconscious (And Back!)
The past two episodes of Doom Patrol focused almost entirely on the backstory of the Sisterhood of Dada. These antagonists, much like Dadaism itself, are great in concept but often result in grown adults larking around while making goofy bird sounds. While they have shown a lot about what makes these “villains” sympathetic, the latest Doom Patrol episode “Subconscious Patrol” shifts the focus back to the characters we love. And after two seasons of dealing with their problems, there are still many areas left for these characters to mine and explore. As per usual, they emerge from this event changed, mostly emotionally but some physically, and I’m left wondering what direction this story will take next. Especially since Timothy Dalton’s Niles Caulder is gone because the actor wanted out.
While each Doom Patrol character’s individual subconscious journey was good, the standout in this episode is again the “Underground.” Diane Guerrero’s Crazy Jane, et al. are still the most interesting characters in the story. And there is an interesting twist happening with her other personalities, especially Baby Kay, the “original.” While some folks might think that it’s a bit of a beaten horse after two seasons, the lack of the Chief in the mix means the Doom Patrol has to focus on the mistakes and trauma on them. They only have themselves to blame.
This series remains the most unique comic book TV series on any platform right now. It also serves as a message, especially given the lack of outcry after Y: The Last Man was cancelled by Hulu. There is a place for “dark” comic book TV, but it also has to have at least some elements of fun and goofiness.
Spoilers for the “Subconscious Patrol” episode of Doom Patrol to follow.
How the ‘Subconscious Patrol’ Episode Spells Doom for the Doom Patrol
The principle point of divergence in this series from the comics is that the Chief is made a villain. He ends up being responsible for all of the characters’ ultimate fates, and last season revealed he’s also a shit father. The events happening in this season are also the result of his actions, yet he’s no longer around. (Timothy Dalton allegedly cited COVID concerns for wanting to avoid working on the series this season.) This is both a blessing and a curse. With time-travel playing a role, seeing him again makes narrative sense. Yet, his absence forces the Doom Patrol to focus on the circumstances that are the result of their own actions and flaws. In fact, it seems like that gang is breaking up.
During DC FanDome 2021, we learned that Doom Patrol season 4 is coming. So, it’s very possible that the group ends up (again) going their separate ways at the end of this season. It happened after the end of the first season, and it took a little while in the second for things to get going again because of this. So, while I understand the narrative choice behind it, as a fan I hope they agree to stick things out as a group.
Of course, things are changing. Larry Trainor (Matthew Zuk/Matt Bomer) lost the Negative Spirit at the top of the season, though he came back with…something. I suspect this strange creature will lead the character making a transition that happened in the comics. Robotman (Riley Shanahan/Brendan Fraser) is dying of Parkinson’s Disease, while acting very self-destructively. Jovian Wade’s Cyborg is, well, no longer a cyborg, having all of his tech removed at the end of the episode. April Bowlby’s Rita Farr is deeply traumatized by her “second life” after she time-traveled earlier this season. And, then there’s Jane.
The Underground Could Honestly Be Its Own Series
Image by Ben Mark Hozlberg via HBOMax
Until this week, we understood Crazy Jane’s “Underground” to be a collection of super-powered personalities that were created to protect Baby Kay. However, we’ve started to see that as Kay tries to heal, some of the personalities don’t want her to. They, naturally, are scared of “dying,” if she no longer needs them. This has led to Kay telling Jane that she wants the others to die or, at least, go away. It takes the concept of “internal conflict” and raises it by a few orders of magnitude. It further underscores how this individual story is the richest in Doom Patrol, and it could probably support its own limited series.
One thing that’s been completely untouched by the show is the “how” of Crazy Jane’s powers. Until now it’s been hand-waved away as “experiments” and vaguely connected to Niles. Yet, perhaps there is more to that mystery that we’ll uncover, especially as Kay, again the “original,” wants to exert more control over both the Underground and her, you know, body. It’s clear by the end of the “Subconscious Patrol” episode, of all the members of the Doom Patrol, Jane is most disturbed by her experience. In fact, this whole storyline would have been a stone-cold bummer, if not for the fact that Jane’s subconscious was represented as a children’s puppet show. It can be dark and have depth, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have to be fun and silly.
Image by Ben Mark Hozlberg via HBOMax
New episodes of Doom Patrol debut on HBOMax on Thursdays.
What did you think of the episode? Where do you think the story is going, and do you think the group will break up at the end of this season? Share your thoughts, theories, and favorite moments in the comments below.
Featured image by Ben Mark Hozlberg via HBOMax
Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.