Doom Patrol has returned for a third season to finally wrap up its cliffhanger second season! Thanks to temporary HBO Max access, I can review this one punctually! “Possibilites Patrol” would’ve been the second season finale had the production not shut down last year. It appropriately sets up tantalizing cliffhangers of its own. Those are elaborated upon in “Vacay Patrol,” which was intended to be the third season premiere but became its second episode. Riley Shanahan and Matthew Zuk are finally in opening credits! Let’s roll out the SPOILERS!
Since one of the ten episodes was a holdover, three is technically its shortest season at nine episodes. It feels especially short if you watched it while it aired because the first three episodes premiered on the same day. The coming attractions budget now features animated graphics & voice overs. There’s no Flex Mentallo, Beard Hunter, AMV Man, or Mr. Nobody this season. The official Doom Patrol Twitter account has some spiffy character posters including excellent fake magazine covers. Unfortunately they’re not collected in an gallery yet, so you have to scroll through to find them all. How dastardly! Here’s a Ritacursion. When will Todd McFarlane stop flooding the market with Batman variants & give the world the Doom Patrol action figures it deserves?
Dorothy & The Candlemaker are locked in mortal combat, but Dorothy decides that fighting each to the death is dumb. She traps The Candlemaker on The Moon until it agrees to become her friend again, & it quickly capitulates. Although I would’ve liked to see more of The Candlemaker in action, this anticlimax was nonetheless a good resolution. It certainly made Niles & Willoughby look worse for not trusting Dorthy to be able to resolve her own apocalyptic issue.
Crazy Jane emerges from The Well & frees the other personas for jigsaw puzzle catatonia by returning Harry, the lost lamb doll, to Kay. (Skye Roberts has also been upgraded to the main credits.) The false Miranda personality isn’t even her abusive father figure. It’s suicidal nihilism personified that tries to utterly destroy all the alters by hanging itself in the driver’s seat so they wouldn’t move on to the afterlife. With The Underground wrecked, the alters unite to push Jane in a biplane through their enemy before the hanging is complete.
Cyborg stops Ronnie from blowing up a building on her revenge tour but also explicitly lets her escape. This seems like an advanced hero move in that it prevents more suffering while allowing for redemption. Unfortunately the law & ethics aren’t in synch here. When the authorities discover he abetted a criminal, they have Vic’s GRID operating system deactivated. It’s a rare instance of a superhero facing negative consequences for making a moral choice. Now he’s at the power level of 80’s Teen Titans Cyborg before writers realized the Internet was going to be a big deal.
As I predicted, The Chief kicks the bucket. He asks Cliff to cremate him so his soul can be freed, but Robotman spitefully refuses & doesn’t tell the others. Before Niles can get in on Doom Manor’s sex ghost action, Willoughby cuts off his corpse’s head for future use.
Niles bequeaths Rita an important key. After going off script during dress rehearsal & melting slightly to the horror of her co-stars, she’s fired from Our Town! She gets a distress signal from her key but is unable to answer it in time due to wet noodle arm syndrome. So she misses Madame Rouge’s arrival in her gonzo underground drilling time machine after the musical’s premiere. Shipley is more baroque than a Technodrome transport module. The production’s lead falls into the sinkhole to reappear on milk cartons.
Although The Candlemaker catastrophe causes Cliff to miss Clara’s wedding, he gets to hold his grandchild in his uncontrollably vibrating hands. For once, it’s Cliff’s organic brain that’s failing not his outdated mechanical body. (Did The Chief copy The Brain’s homework?) Fortunately his cussing is unimpaired.
After being foreshadowed in the first season, we finally meet The Brain & Monsieur Mallah! (Mallah is Jonathan Lipow while The Brain is voiced by Riley Shanahan.) In 1949, The Brotherhood Of Evil
Mutants dispatches Garguax, the alien most likely to be mistaken for Brainiac, to the Catskills to wait for an assassination signal. He & his red servant, Samuelson (LOTR’s Billy Boyd) wait at the resort for seventy-two years until the Doom Patrol vacations there. The alien duo have a stellar vintage Doctor Who vibe. The mellowed Garguax doesn’t want to complete his mission anymore upon finally getting the signal, so Stevenson kills him & the Doom Patrol. This is appropriate since they were one of the earliest teams to get killed off (before resurrection was guaranteed). Their target was Elasti-Woman, whom is thrown into the line of fire by herself from the future to preserve a time loop.
Larry feels abandoned by the Negative Spirit, whom at least took him to see its home in space before departing. Negative Man incongruously looked like a Blue Lantern for a brief moment. He still emits lethal radiation & looks like violet Wade Wilson. When he returns home, he’s greeted by the horror of his teammates’ cadavers mailed back in cardboard boxes filled with packaging peanuts. The absurdity gets darker as he gives them all matching mummy wraps. Via Danny The Ambulance, Dorothy enlists the Dead Boy Detective Agency, including Crystal Palace Surname Von Hoverkraft, to resurrect them. (Rumor has it this trio will be recast for a spinoff?)
The Underworld is filled with anglerfish-headed lackeys & personal psychopomps. The ghost of Cliff’s dad hunts Pegasuses, which Jane believes is even worse than killing unicorns. It’s the second best “bad dad field dresses an animal in front of his son” scene since Tywin Lannister’s debut. Jane learns that Kay’s grandmother inspired her creation. The Dead Boy Detectives reference Death of The Endless, although Sandman’s sister doesn’t appear. (She’s reserved for Netflix now, yet TDBD weirdly weren’t despite debuting in the same Vertigo title.) The Night Nurse (not to be confused with Nightmare Nurse or any of Marvel’s Night Nurses) is another Supernatural alum, Ruth Connell. The team is relieved to only be drenched in vomit on their boat ride back to the land of the living.
The supernatural vomit zombifies them! I love that all their groaning is translated with color-coded subtitles. Kipling calls them “Solomons Grundy.” Amnesiac Madam Rouge instinctively remembers interpretive dance with The Sisterhood Of Dada! She accidentally transforms into an Ottoman! Nefarious Darren Jones, formerly of The Bureau Of Normalcy, got bitten by one of the ravenous butts & is now a were-butt! The Undead Patrol win by literally kicking & eating ass! (This inspired a wooden butt sign.) The severed head of Niles Caulder, reanimated by a Golem spell, nobly sacrifices his deceased brain to cure them of zombieitis. Cliff somehow ate his share of brains despite his body not being built to eat anything. So I guess Timothy Dalton may still return for spectral guest spots unless this is as good as cremation. This ignominious exit will teach him not to steal roles from ginger actors!
Doom Patrol & Michelle Gomez are such a gloriously gonzo match! Jane calls Laura DeMille “Doctor Who” to her face. (Her Doctor is slumming with The Suicide Squad.) Since The Flash’s Mirror Monarch wasn’t Scottish, she is. I expected Madame Rouge to be French, but Monsieur Mallah gave her that cryptonym. She joins The Brotherhood Of Evil out of a mutual hatred for The Chief. Her mission is to steal Caulder’s inventions from 2021 & bring them back to 1949. Garguax is charged with killing Rita to prevent her from thwarting this scheme.
“Dada Patrol” could’ve been “Sapphic Patrol.” The genderflipped The Fog (The Brotherhood Of Dada is now The Sisterhood Of Dada too.) is trying to seduce Jane, whom I’d never considered repressed before. She’s frequently used power/persona suppressing drugs & arose after the previous primary had a bad sexual experience, so I suppose it tracks. Elasti-Woman & Madame Rouge get drunk, dance, & repair a time machine together. Rita chooses to take becoming a world-renowned time traveler into her own hands by stealing the vessel. I appreciate using a closed-loop time travel story over the more popular destiny changers where everything is wibbley-wobbley timey-wimey.
Likewise “1917 Patrol” should’ve been “Piffle Paffle Patrol.” If “Poker Face” did not exist, it would be necessary for The Sisterhood Of Dada to invent it. Madame Rouge formed it by arranging for The Bureau Of Normalcy, which is much more integrated than I expected for the time period, not to deploy these metahumans as WWI weapons. They’re the found family the Doom Patrol would’ve been if they’d prioritized happiness over self-loathing. (I’m sick to death of everything in fiction being found family nowadays except for The Sisterhood.) The team is made of original era Dadaists as opposed to just being inspired by them like the comics. Amnesiac Rita effortlessly uses her powers without her baggage & becomes known as Bendy. The Chief officially sucked at teaching her to master her powers for seven decades. Bendy canonically forms a doomed romance with Malcolm (Micah Joe Parker) although everyone thinks she was involved with Laura too. Madame Farr shippers may revile him, but can we at least all agree Malcolm is an improvement over Mento?
The Dadaists’ costumes aren’t comic accurate, but they get the point across. The germaphobic Quiz’s (Gina Hiraizumi) attire is much skimpier than her question mark festooned hazmat burqa. Frenzy (Miles Mussenden from Cloak & Dagger) keeps the back-mounted bicycle wheels but no longer resembles Basquiat as a blue Babadook. Agent ! has the birdcage in his torso but lacks the garish clothes & giant exclamation mark on his forehead. He can turn himself invisible in the show whereas his appearance in the comics was so outlandish that that others subconsciously refused to notice him. Sleepwalk (Anita Kalathara) & The Fog (Wynn Everett) are more faithful adaptations.
Monsieur Mallah is superb at sketching Shipley the talking tunneling time machine from afar! (Shipley is a bootstrap paradox in that it’s actually the same ship at different points in time without another copy.) Gorilla fingers are far more dexterous than robot fingers. He looks adorable in his chauffeur uniform. Are they going to do a riff on The Blues Brothers to reveal he & The Brain are a couple like the comics. (Killing them immediately after they declared their love was in bad taste, but subsequent writers developed their romance further once they ceased to be dead.) Morden says he was replaced by a gorilla in season one, but Mallah appears to have predated his tenure on The Brotherhood Of Evil. The Brain ought to treat Mallah nicer. They made an album together!
Hopped up on dubious medication, Robotman becomes addicted to online gaming, gambling, & cam girls. He gives a manic plot recap about disparate events being his destiny. When he runs out of his housemates’ stuff (including Jane’s My Chemical Romance albums & Rita’s headshots) to sell online to support his habits, he sells the blueprints to his robot body.
Jane unilaterally lets Kay take control of her body for the first time in decades.The other personas are not pleased with this. Instead of buying shoes, Kay steals a kid’s bike.
Larry’s living son has joined the Bureau Of Normalcy & tries to give his dad a guilt trip after he rescued him from The Sisterhood. Negative Man has a moment of great catharsis by rejecting his son’s negativity. He then bonds with the space parasite he horked up.
Silas restores Vic’s GRID access at his career’s expense in an attempt to make amends with his son. Vic wants to have his cybernetics deactivated so he can get synthetic skin grafts. Ronni suggests that being a black superhero is more important than the illusion of humanity. Does he prioritize his needs or society’s? Can he do both? Both his dad & teammates resent him for getting grafts at the expense of his cybernetic abilities. This should be a very complex series of surgeries, yet the show treats it as a simple overnight procedure? Now he’s useless in a metahuman battle, he makes his friends feel more self-conscious about their conditions, & Cliff has to give a $25 refund to whoever won his “Cyborg meet & greet.” (According to an incredibly scientific poll, people prefer Cyborg to be made with Fourth World technology. Is that just because the New 52, Justice League, & Young Justice being more current?)
The Sisterhood Of Dada gives the Doom Patrol existential identity crises. Of course, pretty much every foe gives them existential crises. The team has existential crises even when they aren’t battling external threats. I wish they’d occasionally switch up the formula with a regular supervillain fight. “Subconscious Patrol” is especially like watching others’ group therapy albeit much more engaging. The Sisterhood combine their expansive yet bizarre grab bag of powers to create The Eternal Flagellation birds (in a metaphorical Legion sense not a logistically intuitive one) that switch people with avatars of their subconscious until they confront their trauma. (Their “The Painting That Ate Paris” scheme was already adapted in season one.) So the team’s subs hide in a giant pillow fort together. Vic shut himself off before the lab accident. He was deprived of black action figure options as a child. (The selection is moderately better now.) Kay personalities turn into Muppets ala Puppets Of Tomorrow & viciously dismember Harry. Kay resents her alters & they abandon The Underground. Brendan Fraser’s monologue about how Cliff is trapped in a shame cycle is awards worthy. Matt Bomer looks superb in a tux. Rita Farr is a top!
Once Laura regains her memories, she runs back to The Brotherhood of Evil for protection from enraged Rita. Her surprise visit to their Boca Raton retirement home invigorates Brain & upsets Monsieur Mallah. She’s dispatched by The Brain to steal Robotman’s body. She accomplishes this with a comically horrifying CGI baby transformation. Rita pushes the team to go after them but is chagrined to find she’s the only one with working superpowers for a change. This Ahab-like quest crashes the bus. Her Dada pacifist cohorts are even less inclined to help now that The Eternal Flagellation was a success.
The Brain looks even more like a Dalek atop a Roomba base in the present. As expected, he bought Robotman’s blueprints online. He can’t make his own robot body because Caulder imbued Cliff’s new form with magic, so he hijacks the original. Having Shanahan voice Brain allows him to now play all of Robotman.
Once Brain says he’s going to use his new body for hedonism, he’s off dancing with retiree women instead of with his loyal gorilla? Wait, are The Brain & Monsieur Mallah not couple in this? That’s bestiality x sapiosexuality erasure! (I made this recap’s first meme before I saw the whole season.) At first I thought Brain & Mallah bickering was because they were an old married couple, but now I’m not so sure. Maybe The Brain is bisexual? Mallah calls him his friend & partner in his goodbye letter, but it’s ambiguous as to whether he means platonically, romantically, or both. This is not a series I expected to err on the side of cowardly subtext since it gave us a gay cockroach & rat makeout complete with smutty dialogue. If I know that they’re a power couple in the source material but can’t tell they for certain they’re romantic in the adaptation, that’s going to be an even bigger hurdle for viewers meeting these two for the first time.
Mallah ditches Rouge & Cliff’s brain at The Brotherhood Of Evil’s dumping grounds. There she salvages the enormous Rog/Ultimax robot by plugging Cliff into its command center. She uses this to squish The Brain & his new body underfoot. Now alone on her revenge & rescue mission, Rita finds the mangled exoskeleton of her missing teammate. The newly vengeful & alone Brain tries to recruit her because he needs some help repairing his shell from the blueprints, but she apparently murders him by pouring boiling water onto his exposed lobes. (Perhaps they didn’t want to make his relationship with Mallah more explicit to avoid viewers misconstruing his execution as a hate crime?) He screams in agony despite the human brain having no pain receptors.
There’s a psychic cave-in within Jane that seals off Kay in The Underground. The other personalities would rather disintegrate in The Fog than rescue her. Jane only saves them & enlists their aid by agreeing to make Dr. Harrison the new primary persona. Driller Bill finally gets her moment to shine as she takes charger of the alters’ excavation efforts to rescue Kay.
The space parasite turns out to be the larva of a new negative Spirit named Keeg. This energy baby’s life is endangered once its shell is cracked. Vic volunteers to be its temporary host until Larry can get to his radiation shielded room. Once there, Larry chooses to bond with with it. Larry has opened himself up to letting love in. The two synching up into a fully functional superhero is going to be their next arc.
After Rogue departs his new body, he goes on an unstoppable amends tour. Rita turns into a giant woman to stop him from accidentally trampling a little league game. (It reminds me of Atom vs. Leviathan from Legends of Tomorrow’s first season, which the cool kids refuse to witness.) This time the Doom Patrol saved Cloverton! This was a great callback to the first episode. Rita wears yellow in case Wonder Woman 3 doesn’t deliver Giganta. It’s unclear whether the self-destruct mechanism Jane tripped was a dud or if she was able to switch it off offscreen. Cliff must’ve smushed plenty of towns on the way from Florida to Ohio, but they gloss over that.
The season ends with these misfits finally choosing to become Doom
Patrol Force! I’m excited for them to wear red & white team uniforms with superfluous pouches! Or will they be Doom Squad? Even with his cyber-capabilities disabled (Wouldn’t he still have GRID & enhanced strength?), Vic is committed to being a superhero. Although I’m unsure how sincere her desire for redemption is, Madame Rouge convinces Rita to spare her life. This shapeshifter is a compulsive traitor like Mystique, so let’s place bets on whether her joining the team officially works out better than Shiv joining the JSA. The team time-teleports to vanquish a scrotal behemoth by boarding the giant-size Robotman holding Shipley piloted by Elasti-Woman. Cliff hasn’t gotten his Parkinson’s addled brain looked at by a doctor yet either, so him piloting a gigantic mecha remains a hazard.
The team’s transition into legitimutant superheroes ought to be a hoot. They’ve had enough deconstruction; now it’s time for synthesis. The writers need to carefully thread the needle between the team screwing things up for the better & screwing things up so badly they should abandon heroism altogether. It’ll be like getting modern day LOT but with season one’s brand name characters. I wonder what threats they’ll face since The Sisterhood Of Dada are sort of allies (Shelly Byron definitely wants to fog Crazy Jane.) & The Brotherhood Of Evil is even more dismantled. Perhaps The Brain survived, & this ordeal will motivate him to reconcile with Mallah? Will season four be Animal-Mineral-Vegetable Man’s time to level up? They can subvert the show’s formula by pummeling their adversaries in epic slobberknockers without being subjected to introspective catharsis.
While the whole cast has rich material, season three belongs to Rita Farr. While earlier seasons portrayed her as a constantly failing sadsack, this is about her finally reclaiming her agency. Not only does she finally master her Elasti-Woman powers, her time traveling arc lets her display the full emotional spectrum including depression, joy, heartbreak, fury, & compassion. Fulfill the prophecy by making April Bowlby a Golden Globe nominee! Ditto her co-stars, crew, & the show itself, of course.
If you couldn’t tell by now, this was a superlative season! This is the true face of prestige television! The finale definitely got me excited for more, so I’m glad a fourth season has been confirmed. We won’t have to imagine our own superhero shenanigans! (Now if only HBO Max would do right by Swamp Thing!) Will they deliver an episode called “Dune Patrol” where Cliff Steele states “I F***ING HATE F***ING SAND!”
The Flash & Riverdale return next week for five part events. Do you want season premiere recaps of those, or should I wait until they finish for giant-sized blogs on the entire arcs? Do you want a kitty post next? You gotta let me know or I’ll choose unwisely! I spent an inordinate span of time comprehensively reviewing Supergirl’s final season, so y’all better read it whilst pondering your options!