This Doom Patrol review contains spoilers.
Doom Patrol Season 2 Episode 8
With the penultimate episode of the season, the newest Doom Patrol installment sets the table for at least two major conflicts that almost guarantee a cliffhanger next week. However, despite that potentially frustrating possibility, “Dad Patrol” once again features excellent character development, with Abigail Shapiro the standout performance this episode as Dorothy.
The episode opens by flashing back to Jane/Kay’s childhood where her abusive father would force her into the well to spend the night. It is a dark beginning to the story, with Kay’s trauma at being alone in the well punctuated by the loss of her stuffed animal Harry.
With the scene shifting to the Underground, Jane is discussing the disappearance of Scarlet Harlot and Lucy Fugue with the rest of the alters. As Miranda dubiously explains Scarlet and Lucy aren’t missing so much as “moved on” as Kay heals, it stokes an existential crisis for Jane. She sets out to find Kay’s missing stuffy Harry at that old well to give the girl what she wants, yes, but also find a purpose for her existence.
Diane Guerrero, as always, brings everything to her performance. Of course, Jane is a creation of Kay’s subconscious, but she’s a fully formed person as well, with her own wants. And that includes needing to feel useful, and not wanting to fade away. But as stubborn as Jane is she’s not entirely unreasonable. When she discovers Harry, along with the letter from Miranda to their monstrous father, Jane understands why Miranda has previously done a good job as Primary.
However Miranda has her own wants as well. She’s been tossing alters into the well and adds Jane to the watery grave. It would appear that Miranda isn’t so much interested in having Kay heal so much as wanting to become, not Primary, but solitary. Perhaps that even means eliminating Kay herself? This battle between fully formed personalities is an intriguing concept, and I’m curious to see how it will play out topside and in the Underground.
As it turns out, Larry doesn’t want to lose himself either. Despite Negative Woman “Moscow” suggesting in “Space Patrol” the best thing for him would be to entirely merge with the Negative Spirit – and despite how much time he loses in self-loathing and regret – he can’t let go of the man he once was. And letting go would presumably mean losing the precious, but painful, memories of his past. Similar to Larry, I find myself frustrated at times with the Negative Spirit because of how cryptic it can be, and Captain Trainor unloads on his alien partner. What does it want?
Let’s not forget that Moscow did tell Larry she was able to overcome her injuries and heal her body – thus not requiring bandages – by finding balance with the entity. Surely the Negative Spirit is tired of being trapped all the time. If that balance is achieved, would it be happier?
Also, Larry and Jane together are a nice change. Though Jane presents herself as a solitary figure, she does need her family around on her adventures. And since Cliff is busy with his daughter Clara, Larry has to hit the road to Arkansas with her.
Speaking of Cliff, damn it’s fun to see a happy Robotman showing Clara around the house like an excited little kid, and fixing up her car, and making pancakes with literal finger sausage. Brendan Fraser masterclass delivery of profanities is put to joyful use as he reconnects with the girl. And he follows the same advice he gave Vic to fess up and apologize that he effed up. Cliff even almost gives more good advice to Clara that she can be the one to break the cycle of bad marriages in their family.
I really hope we get to see Cliff in a tuxedo at Clara’s wedding. Also, is that fried finger now useless?
So, I guess Roni is a super villain now? At least she’s a killer, aided by some ill-gotten Uma-Jelly, and Vic is having none of it. For a show that excels in weirdness, having a love interest go super-bad isn’t the most compelling. Vic is a dick to Rita, but I genuinely enjoy Joivan Wade as Cy on Doom Patrol, but whenever we spend too much time in his more traditional crimefighting world, things immediately become less engaging. The scene of him confronting Roni in their aborted date spot would work in a different show, but Cyborg is more interesting to watch when he’s a straight man surrounded by the absurd.
However, Vic does get to star in his second opening montage dream sequence of the season. Whereas before he and Cliff were starring in a 1970s Starsky and Hutch cop show, this time around Rita imagines appearing in a 1960s version of The Avengers. The spot-on recreation of the mod espionage show (as opposed to the MCU superhero franchise), with a John Barry James Bond-esque theme song, is a damn delight. “Beekeeper and Borg” is a playful interlude and suggests that Rita (and Cliff) really do see Vic as a legit hero. And I actually have hope for Rita as a hero; it’s a lot to expect her to thwart a villain right away, after all.
Finally, onto Dorothy Day, and the adventures of Niles and his daughter – on the eve of him giving her up to Kipling, and the Knights Templar (who have some pretty fabulous ceremonial duds). But it turns out it would do Kipling good to listen to the sacrificial, prophetic rodent because Dorothy is growing up, and that means Candlemaker is breaking loose.
With her presumed demise right around the corner, there is a foreboding sweetness to Niles and his daughter having a day out in the world. As Niles mentions at the carnival – harkening back to the carnie freak show where he first met the girl – he wishes he shared this moment sooner. After all, it provided him with enough perspective to try and push back against Kipling. Unfortunately, that comes a little too late, when he’s on death’s door and Slava’s tribal god has arrived.
Shapiro as Dorothy has a few great scenes in this episode in the meanwhile. Dorothy enters the convenience store as a little girl, fascinated by toys, before encountering the curious insensitive stare of another young girl. But she puts away the childish things as her menstruation begins, and her life changes.
Doom Patrol plays with expectations here, because we are led to believe the store clerk will be unkind to the girl, like so many before her. Rather, she shows warmth to the child, and welcomes her into the tribe of womanhood, and tells her about a future filled with the red dragon she’ll have to slay every month. The advice is a little backwards, and homespun – because dads can’t bear to see their little girls grow up – but it comforts Dorothy. She emerges from the store with a confidence about her.
Gone are the little girl’s clothes. Rather, she now looks more like a hunter.
Then Dorothy appears to settle back into the role of the happy daughter long enough to enjoy carnival games with her father, until the visions come of her mother Slava: She’s a woman now and is ready. Along with having to bleed each month, she must wear the red boots, and contend with another monster: Candlemaker.
The following scene in the funhouse provides the clearest, full-lit look of the Candlemaker entity, and he’s freaky as hell. I admit I hadn’t noticed the Eye of Sauron looking thing on his forehead before. But I am left wondering if Slava is telling Dorothy she must serve, or submit, to Candlemaker – who no longer needs the girl’s permission to appear – or if her mother is telling her daughter she’s ready to become a warrior.
And I’m left believing she could be. Not only dressed as a hunter, but when Dorothy reunites with Niles after the funhouse, she actually seems older. Shapiro’s delivery, and posture, subtly shifts just enough to suggest we are witnessing a new Dorothy.
Of course, with clowns and lollies melting everywhere, Niles dying, Kipling at a loss – and the rest of the team spread to the wind — Dorothy needs to step up fast.
There’s only one episode left this season, with a lot of action happening. And I think we’re just getting started with Candlemaker. So, take a hit of Uma-Jelly if you got it, because we’re heading into Cliffhanger territory.