This Doom Patrol review contains spoilers.
Doom Patrol Episode 4
The world of magic is introduced to Doom Patrol this week with a fourth episode that, while good, is a frustrating detour from the main mission of finding the Chief, and stopping Mr. Nobody. But, as far a two-episode side adventure goes, “Cult Patrol” succeeds largely due to the arrival of Mark Sheppard as Nonstantine chaos magician Willoughby Kipling, a character straight from the comic books.
Sheppard is the kind of actor who automatically injects any show he’s on with energy, and mischief, and Kipling is one those roles he seems born to play (and reunites him with Supernatural producer Jeremy Carver).
The heavy drinking sorcerer who is “very big in the world of international strangeness” was a creation of Grant Morrison for the Doom Patrol comics when he wasn’t granted permission to use John Constantine. That move works for the show because now Doom Patrol can utilize the talents of Mr. Sheppard without complicating matters by bringing in Constantine, who is currently in use over on Legends of Tomorrow (though I would love to see Matt Ryan’s John, and Sheppard’s Willoughby meet).
Bringing magic into the mix on Doom Patrol is not especially odd, either, considering the kind of Kipling trades in. A melodic blue horse/unicorn/demon Baphomet, and spells involving rosary beads and hot sauce, or backwards Beatles lyrics, fit within the weird world of DP. Plus, the minions of the Cult of the Unwritten Book (Dry Bachelors, The Hoodmen, Little Sisters of Our Lady of the Razor were just three we met) are a fun threat for the team to fight against.
I was surprised by the legit superhero moments in the episode where Cyborg reveals his sonic cannon – which was a solid visual effect – and Kipling pulled out a flaming sword as they pit magic vs. science against the hordes. Similarly, Rita has her own hero moment in a brief, but thrilling act of stopping Kipling from killing Elliot.
But just because we’re getting super powered action, the show continues to balance character development, and emotional subplots. The mystery deepens about the nature of Larry’s negative entity, and the lack of control he has over it. And I find his to be the most compelling character journey, especially compared to Cyborg who is beginning to come off more and more as an arrogant jerk.
The Rita/Cyborg stuff, with him constantly reminding her he knows where she stands, gets old fast. I don’t think the show has done enough with Rita yet, and it was refreshing to have her console the boy about the “beautiful, horrible” world. It isn’t that she needs to embrace being a hero, but, as good as April Bowlby is at talking to herself in scenes, I want her in on the action more.
This speaks to a growing concern I have about the series. While it makes sense to split the team up to deal with various threats, the pattern of separating Cliff and Jane prevents them from bouncing off other characters. It is a treat to see more Brendan Fraser this week, however, as he is forced to confront his perceptions of himself (and Jane).
It would also appear the show is going there with Jane’s origin, by introducing us to her core persona Kay. It will be interesting to see how this show handles the topic of sexual abuse. And while Hammerhead is the defense mechanism in the church, or to waking up in Cliff’s arms, I hope Jane comes back soon. And hope they both escape Nurnheim soon, because, well, “Nurnheim sucks.”
After last week’s compelling “Puppet Patrol,” that at least involved the mystery of where the Chief had gone, this episode is an entire departure. And the absence of Timothy Dalton and Alan Tudyk (and Tudyk’s meta narration) is felt. It would be disappointing if Doom Patrol experiences the same weakness as Titans of frequently breaking from the main plot, even though it does so with solid episodes.
As much as I enjoyed Kipling’s debut on Doom Patrol (and love Mark Sheppard in the role), “Cult Patrol” ends with a frustrating cliffhanger. The Decreator seems like too big of a threat to introduce four episodes in on this series when there has been very little progress made about the main mystery.
Listen to the Sci Fi Fidelity podcast discussion of Doom Patrol: