Doom Patrol’s Unfinished Second Season Deserves Praise

To celebrate the release of Jupiter’s Legacy, I finally watched Doom Patrol season two! I have no regrets! Better late to the second party than never! I’m still gobsmacked that this is a real television series verified by assorted strangers rather than a private ayahuasca hallucination. This HBO Max show survived the death of DC Universe. The following cold take is full of season two SPOILERS that sound like gibberish!

NegativeMan_CrazyJane

Nobody questions clipboards!

There’s no sophomore slump! The scripts remain zany & empathetic. The stories, developed by Jeremy Carver, are a clever mix of eras. Brendan Fraser deserves an award for how he melodiously enunciates profanities so they don’t blur into blandness. The team doesn’t don their uniforms but still look nifty. The one-off adversaries especially look sharp. There’s a carnival fun house with a whole eye theme down to an inflatable eyeball pit! Why don’t the local carnivals ever have such great art design? It’s an art house series on a blockbuster budget!

Season two picks up where the first left off. (I remembered it for you!) Aside from Negative Man, the team plus Dorothy & Danny has been shrunk for weeks. The Diminutive Patrol resides in Cliff’s model town racetrack. Larry has to cook his teammates tiny flapjacks that are still a feast proportionate to them. Robotman wears the full pelt of a mouse he slaughtered. Cliff taking Dorothy for a ride in a miniature convertible was joyous until the trauma kicked in. Niles trades the amulet that was keeping him alive to Wiloughby Kipling for the magic to restore their height. Danny the Street remains stuck as Danny the Brick though.

Dorothy Spinner, portrayed by Abigail Shapiro, is Dr. Niles Caulder’s adorable monkey-faced daughter. (The barker in the sideshow she was rescued from is played by Stargirl’s Shining Knight.) Her father had Danny look after back when he was just an alley for ninety years. She didn’t even get to socialize with the other Dannyzens as sh was confined to The Doll Hospital’s cellar. Niles only visits infrequently & she doesn’t age. Precious & Herschel are her imaginary friends. She also inherited Nanny, the antlered werewolf, from her late mother. Dorothy can wish upon the terrifying Candlemaker for aid, although it has nefarious ulterior motives.

DrTyme

Doctor Tyme, Chronos, & Clock King should join forces as The Watchmen!

The terrifying Dr. Tyme is delightful. Like Animal-Mineral-Vegetable Man, he’s a Silver Age foe that somehow wasn’t used during the Vertigo era even though he’s already bizarre. His name has been changed from Percival Sutter to Jonathan Tyme. The Chief uses reverse psychology to send Rita, Cliff, & Jane to steal his supply of continuum to expand his longevity again. His “helmet” looks just as angry as Rita’s sketch. It turns out he continumium is his brain! The mission failed, but Rita was cleverly able to reverse time using the hands on his face.

As the only patroller who isn’t an experiment of The Chief, Cyborg is the odd person out. As soon as he gets embiggened, Victor Stone departs back to Detroit for plenty of solo development. (I presume Joivan Wade’s experience portraying him was less fraught than Ray Fisher’s.) I wonder if he would’ve gotten as much focus if he’d instead been on Titans, which seems like it’s another Bat-series at this point. His girlfriend, Roni Evers (genderswapped from the comics), also used to be a cyborg until her black ops employers repossessed her augmentations. The series makes an interesting point that Victor’s cutting edge enhancements would be very expensive even in a world of advanced robotic prosthesis. (Contrariwise Cliff’s outmoded body becomes jankier.)

Cyborg’s not celibate! (Larry is because his radiation is instantly lethal to would-be lovers, & Cliff doesn’t have the equipment.) The notion the DC’s highest profile black superhero could be a emasculated is a sensitive subject. If he is, would it expand his disability representation or is it just racist messaging? As this isn’t XXX Patrol despite the Sex-Men, we don’t learn whether Victor’s genitals were spared from the explosion or if he has a cybernetic replacement. Debate this amongst yourselves.

Red Jack the decadent sadist transforming people’s pain into colorful butterflies for his collection is a great visual. He thought Niles would be his apprentice since he’d already had so much practice ruining lives. Caulder made the Doom Patrol as immortality contingency plans, which seems monstrously unnecessary since he already had an immortality amulet without any of the downsides his experiments endure. Red Jack was defeated too quickly. (Grant Morrison was watching Star Trek!) Caulder stabs him with one of his own knives, so does that mean he died? Or is this immortal just wounded?

Despite being an aware absentee dad, The Chief is adamant he’d to anything to keep Dorothy safe. He prioritizes her over the Doom Patrol’s children since they lack her potentially catastrophic power. Cliff tries to prove he’s a better dad (he was an absentee father due to Caulder’s lies) by revealing himself to his daughter. It does not go well at first, even though her brought her a stuffed giraffe. Larry feels guilty that he neglected his sons, especially after the one who correctly thought his death was a cover-up commits suicide. His family reunion goes even worse.

Kay Challis’s other alters dethrone Crazy Jane when their anti-drug & anti-DP intervention is unsuccessful. (Jane ran out of suppression drugs by that point.) After Hammerhead powers through Flex Mentallo’s & Rita’s orgasm field to punch an apocalyptic baby back into Shadowy Mr. Evans when Robotman on ecstasy wouldn’t (I’m inordinately pleased at getting to write that clause), the alters decide Jane can be the primary personalty again.

Will the healed Danny The Wheel become a double-decker party bus? (That is a possible Kill Your Boyfriend reference.) Or is Danny actually the star of Rubber?

Steel & Stone is the best detective show that doesn’t exist. The thing just writes itself. It even co-stars The Chief as The Chief! Sign me up for Beekeeper & Borg, the perfect The Avengers homage, too!

Although they seemed fast friends at first, Dorothy is exhausted by Baby Doll’s immature exuberance while Baby Doll sees Dorothy as a rival for Caulder’s affection. Baby Doll & Flaming Katy spitefully kill Nanny. Dorothy wishes The Candlemaker kill them in Crazy Jane’s The Underground. Miranda arises from the well, however, claiming dead alters can be restored.

PioneersOfTheUncharted

Pioneers Of The Uncharted are cooler than Challengers Of The Unknown, the Terrific Trio, & the accursed Fantastic Four. Dr. Valentina Vostok previously appeared on Legends Of Tomorrow, where they made Stephanie Corneliussen hotter by setting her ablaze. Add in her Young Justice & Teen Titans Go! appearances, & this obscure character is doing surprisingly well outside of comics.

Of course The Chief had a magic spaceship sitting in his garage for decades. Larry misses out on going to space again! After being jettisoned from the capsule in orbit, Cliff miraculously returns to Earth without his clothes burning off. What did Niles do with his spaceship after he left the Yukon?

Rita is elated then mortified that she gets cast in Our Town!, which is about the catastrophic events of the first two episodes not Thornton Wilder’s snoozefest. She fears she didn’t earn her acting careers & is desperate to reinvent herself as a superheroine. She doesn’t arrive at Elasti-Woman yet (Is DC is letting Disney keep Elasti-Girl like Captain Marvel? Helen Parr even rhymes with Rita Farr!), but The Beekeeper is a fun detour.

The “Dumb Patrol,” named after two Looney Tunes shorts, is just addicted to bad ideas! (RIP Jack Terricloth) The scant infestation may be the single best episode of the season. (Cliff taking home an accidentally severed carjacker’s finger surprisingly happened beforehand.) Why didn’t the labcoats & clipboards disguises work?

The Beard Hunter continues to be the inverse of his inspiration in that he’s very competent despite his schlubby appearance. While still trapped in the blank canvas, he paints the front half of his body white to camouflage himself from scants. This works! He explains out Mr. Nobody is absent because he got a gig on The Venture Brothers Harley Quinn.

Miranda threw herself into the well out of shame after endangering Kay’s welfare. After “Miranda” throws Jane into the well, she learns that alters don’t resurrect from there. Scarlet Harlot & Lucy Fugue didn’t vanish because Kay outgrew them; they were killed. The Miranda impostor is actually the alter embodying Kay’s abusive father in disguise. It’s on a quest to be the only personality by killing the rest.

The Candlemaker is horrifying. It no longer needs to be summoned to Earth by wishes once Dorothy matures. Niles & Willoughby plan to kill her after one more happy day to prevent this, but Dorothy finally getting her period upends their timetable. Dorothy’s maturation is further metaphorized by the ghost of her mother giving her a pair of red boots. Not only is the hue symbolic of menstrual blood, it further links her to the cinematic Dorothy Gale. (Cliff has dibs on Tin Man since he only has a brain.)

When the Doom Patrol arrive to avert Armageddon, Candlemaker conjures up their childhood imaginary friends to give them catharsis. Negative Man has none because he’s the epitome of repression. Then it smothers them in wax.

The Candlemaker seems to be some sort of ancestral tribal spirit monster like a Tuunbaq. (It you haven’t read The Terror by Dan Simmons or seen the TV adaptation, do both now! The differences betwixt the two make them equally worthwhile. it reaffirms my desire to never search for the Northwest Passage.) Perhaps they’ll further the Gale parallel by having Spinner douse it light to death? Or she’ll just wish it away.

This series avoids falling into the same ruts as other “mature” superhero fare. The ultraviolence is used sparingly enough so that you’re not desensitized to it. There’s no debate about whether superhumans should govern the world because this team can barely govern itself. The question of whether killing is acceptable arises so late in relation to a side character it’s practically an afterthought. Instead the series grapples with a more novel yet relatable philosophical question: Should people be judged by the worst thing they’ve ever done?

Rita, Larry, & Cliff were so blinded by their ambitions that they didn’t appreciate the lives they had. After their “accidents,” each was reduced to a footnote in their profession’s annals. While most tragic immortality fables are content to stop at mortal loved ones constantly perishing, this adds grotesque body horror & professional failure to the immortals. Although none of the Doom Patrol can reverse their predicaments, there’s an understated optimism that each can move forward.

Niles Caulder is arguably a bigger bastard than Charles Xavier, but I don’t dislike him as much? Is it because Timothy Dalton, despite being another brunet stealing a ginger’s job, is cooler than both Patrick Stewart & James McAvoy? Will The Chief pull a Darth Vader/Shadow Weaver to avoid further consequences redeem himself in the season three premiere? Or will his daughter wish his immortality back?  He’s credited with “special appearance by” despite being in all the episodes this season, which may indicate Dalton is too pricey to stick around.

This is a series that keeps you watching not because of cliffhangers but because of the overall quality. I watched three episodes per day as per the DVDs’ recommended serving size. Binging the whole series in a day would also be understandable, but I wanted to relish these meaty episodes. The two special features are quite underwhelming. This volume continued to not include the kooky next time promos.

The pandemic shut down production before the final episode could be filmed. “The complete second season” touted by the box is technically true although the season’s overall story isn’t. Luckily it has been renewed for season three so closure eventually be had. Phew! Does that mean season three will have an extra episode, or will its new narrative be one episode less?

My hunch that The Brotherhood Of Evil would be the foes of the second season was wrong. Two was the season of extradimensional oddities. Michelle Gomez will be playing Madame Rouge in season three, which may mean her teammates will join her. (The Doom Patrol was the result of Project: Immortus, which could imply that Niles is this universe’s General Immortus.) The Dead Boy Detectives & The Brotherhood Sisterhood of Dada will appear also. Since the Beeboverse has squandered numerous opportunities, can they fit in Gentleman Ghost & Ambush Bug too?

Based on the comments of The CW’s CEO & Constantine saying he knew Swamp Thing Pre-Crisis, I advocated for Legends Of Tomorrow The Preventers to do an arc that gives closure to Swamp Thing. According to Crisis On Infinite Earths, his axed show is set on the new Earth-19. I don’t think it necessarily rules out a crossover though. Maybe Prime-Earth or DP’s Earth-21 have a Swamp Thing that’s indistinguishable from the cancelled version except his Abby has reverse Rogue hair? Or maybe they can work it into the forthcoming Naomi instead? Isn’t being multiversal her thing?

Will The Candlemaker burn the universe down? Can Jane save The Underground from Faux-Miranda? Will Cliff make it to his daughter’s wedding? Will The Cloverton Players’ Our Town! be a smash? Will the central philosophical quandry be answered unambiguously? I don’t know for sure if it’ll stick the landing when it returns, but the first 9/10 of Doom Patrol’s sophomore season were stellar!

~

I’ve gotten both my vaccination shots so I can be your friend again! I was walking around town wearing my mask when a motorist yelled at me that masks being a tool of compliance according to Facebook. Not only was that uncalled for, he expected me to hear & remember the URL! If you can get vaccinated, you should!

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