If fans thought that two-thirds into the second season of Doom Patrol the gang would be together fighting some bad guys, they’re wrong. The latest episode of Doom Patrol, “Space Patrol,” keeps the characters on separate journeys and the larger narrative remains elusive. After last week’s “Finger Patrol,” it seemed like the team may split down the middle in a conflict between Abigail Shapiro’s Dorothy and Diane Guerrero’s Crazy Jane. Yet, instead, Jane is knocked out and dealing with her issues in the mental construct housing her personalities as known as the underground. Dorothy, on the other hand, is ready to flee Doom Manor and get as far away as she can. Meanwhile, Larry Trainor – played by Matthew Zuk and voiced by Matt Bomer – is accepting that Doom Man is his home, like it or not.
The first season of Doom Patrol had a very clear problem that the entire group was motivated to solve. Timothy Dalton’s Niles Caulder, also known as the Chief, was missing. These misfit superheroes had to find him. This year, the mission seems to be Dorothy and her power to imagine into existence fearsome creatures she calls “imaginary friends.” An outcast amongst outcasts, Dorothy is both a fragile person to be protected and a being of immeasurable power to be feared.
In “Sex Patrol,” Chief’s original plan to just lock her up on Danny the Street would no longer work because Danny moved on to the next phase of their existence. Thus, it’s on the Doom Patrol to become a surrogate family for Dorothy when the time of her long-lived father’s death inevitably comes. Or at least, that was the plan until this episode.
In “Space Patrol” the Betrayals Continue, Some More Inexplicably Then Others
Image via Warner Bros. Television
We’re not going to spoil major parts of the episode, at least not until the last section. Still, we’re going to talk about what could be considered thematic spoilers. So, if you’ve not watched this week’s episode of Doom Patrol, open up another tab in your browser, go to HBO Max or DC Universe and stream “Space Patrol.” Then we can get into the weeds.
The key theme in this episode has to do with characters trusting themselves. April Bowlby’s Rita Farr doesn’t trust her ability or motivation for trying to reclaim her old passion. Larry doesn’t trust himself to move forwards or backwards, leaving himself stuck in a place of sorrow and pain. Jane doesn’t trust her ability to lead the 63 other personalities (or, actually, 61 now). Chief and Dorothy don’t trust their own judgment either. Jovian Wade’s Cyborg trusts himself at least, but even he seems to be setting himself up for a disappointment rather than a revelation.
In fact, the only character who is finally acting like “himself” again is Cliff “Robotman” Steele. In this episode he finally behaves in a way I expected him to from the premiere episodes towards a certain character. Yet, he’s betrayed at the end of an episode in a move that doesn’t really make much sense. To quote Mister Nobody actor Alan Tudyk from Firefly, it is a “sudden, yet inevitable betrayal.”
As per usual, Larry’s story is the most compelling and fully realized. Some guests arrive at Doom Manor, and this leads to a particularly moving scene near the end of the episode. We also get slightly more information about the Negative Spirit and what it takes for true symbiosis to take root.
Okay, spoilers to follow, so if you’ve not seen “Space Patrol,” time to bail out of our Doom Patrol review like Larry should have in his kooky space plane.
The Negative Woman, A Visitor In the Underground, and Papa Cliff
Image via Warner Bros. Television
Since he spent the whole first season searching for a daughter-figure, it struck me as strange that Cliff hated Dorothy so openly. Yes, he’s mad at Chief, but he should have recognized that she was as much his victim as the rest of them were. He does realize this by the end of the episode. So, why Chief shunts him out the airlock of their magic spaceship (comic books!), I don’t know. We know from the trailer that Cliff survives, and it’s possible Niles knew he would. Still, even if Niles has some plan to take Dorothy away from everyone, it seems strange that he’d be so callous with Cliff’s life considering the ways they’ve reconnected throughout the season.
The Underground is an interesting concept, and we learn that even Jane and the other alters don’t know how it works. The reappearance of Miranda raises questions, especially for fans of the comic books who know what Dorothy’s Candlemaker really is. The villain was able to infiltrate the Underground, so he might have left something behind.
Valentina Vostok, eventually known as the Negative Woman in the comics, makes her second live-action appearance. Mariana Klaveno plays the character in Doom Patrol, and Stephanie Corneliussen played the character on Legends of Tomorrow but went by “the Soviet Firestorm.” Either way, she has fully bonded with her Negative Spirit but also seemingly given up her humanity. Larry is not so keen to do that, so it means we’ve likely not seen the last of his family.
With “Space Patrol” the Bigger Doom Patrol Story Remains Elusive
Image via Warner Bros. Television
This is a great season, with fun character moments. However, I am questioning the decision to not have a simpler driving incident behind the season. It’s difficult to see how all these character stories come together, especially Rita’s. I have no idea what they are getting at with switching her focus from wanting to control her powers to wanting to act in a community theater production. (Other than for that scene of the actress playing “the Blob Lady” dressing her down.)
For the other characters, like Larry, Cliff, Jane, and Vic, their stories make sense on their own. Yet, it’s unclear how (or, at this point, if) they will come together. The fact that the characters are broken up feels almost like a retread of ground covered in the first season. We see flashes of their burgeoning friendships when they pair off. Yet, there hasn’t been a full-group “mission” since the premiere. (And not really even then.)
If Doom Patrol season 2 had 15 episodes like the last one, this would be fine. There’d be time for the threads to weave together. However, with only three episodes left in the season (one likely shortened by the novel coronavirus outbreak and shutdown), fans may be getting a little impatient. Hopefully, a third season is all but a formality. Because right now, this season feels more unfocused than the last. It’s still plenty enjoyable, but it doesn’t feel like ensemble masterwork it was in season 1.
What did you think of “Space Patrol” and the Doom Patrol season so far? Share your thoughts, reviews, and theories about where everything is going in the comments.
Featured image via Warner Bros. Television.
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.