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Doom Patrol - Season 4 Part 1 - Review

Our beautiful weird show is back folks. The Doom Patrol has undergone many changes since we first met them, losing their leader, dying, seeing one of their team members go a full one hundred years into the past, losing abilities, battling sex ghosts–all the standard superhero stuff. When we meet them again, they’re post-Eternal Flagellation and functioning as something like a superhero team. Rita (April Bowlby), having somewhat mastered her powers, is currently in charge of the team as they take the time machine around to various instances of metahuman crime. But of course, things are always more dysfunctional than they look, especially in Doom Patrol, and soon they end up 20 years in the future after the zombie were-butts that escaped last season overran the world, and just barely make it back home to make plans to stop the Buttpocalypse. Yes, you read that correctly. Each member of the Doom Patrol is going through it , Cyborg (Joivan Wade) is still trying to figure out who he is without his tech, and feels like he’s been relegated to the Doom Patrol’s backburner as their IT support. 

Jane (Diane Guerrero) is hiding from the world because she doesn’t know what to do with herself if she’s not constantly trying to protect Kay. After their jaunt to the future, Larry (Matt Bomer) and his new parasite Keeg have a falling out that leaves Larry feeling desperately alone. Can I just say they would really benefit from therapy, just some advise. Rita has been acting as the group’s leader, but finds out that none of the group members are actually okay with that. I´m honestly shecked with that, she does seem like the best option fdrom this disfunctional family, but perhaps her journey this season will be coming back around and actually becoming a leader that doesn´t need the group´s approval, so I´m here for it.
Cliff (Brendan Fraser), finally, gets a new hand from Silas Stone that has nanites in it that give him the feeling of touch and will likely ultimately begin moving him to his next incarnation in the comics, but he hasn’t experienced touch in decades and is nervous to accept it. Part of what makes Doom Patrol so much fun is that, being unhinged from time, space, and logic, it doesn’t have to adhere to any of the tropes of superheroism and comics–it can do whatever it wants, as long as it works for the characters. That’s been the case throughout the first three seasons, as we’ve watched each of them try to cope with their curses in different ways. Which is why this works so well for the show, they´re not afraid to go crazier by the minute. But right now, all the characters’ sadnesses are out there to see, with each one feeling alone and isolated in their own way. That hardly sounds like a fun way to start a show, but that’s what the butts are for. While these characters tangle with their metaphorical demons (and probably one or two literal ones), we’re getting background on the butts themselves, which is not something I ever envisioned myself writing. Before the Patrol unleashed them, the Bureau had brought in an expert to try to communicate with them. She trained them to do a song-and-dance number of the Music Man song “Shipoopi,” which is funny for at least two reasons that I can think of.
We also meet back up with Darren Jones, (Jon Briddell) the Bureau of Normalcy agent who was bitten by the zombie were-butt last season. He, it turns out, is still living on that same farm where he’s worked hard to stay away from humans and their tantalizing, delicious brains, and is instead raising heirloom tomatoes. One of the funniest moments come from this meeting, when Clif realizes he can still understand zombie speak. The decision to give the zombies subtitles last season was funny on its own, but this is the kind of smart, long-play joke that I come to Doom Patrol for. What a start of the season they gave us. Now into episode three. Having discovered their future fate, the Doom Patrol is scattered across Doom Manor, each wallowing in their own ways. Each member of the team is searching for a purpose–what should Jane and Larry do without Kay and Keeg? What do the lives of Cliff and Cyborg look like as they regain some of their (physical) humanity? And how can Madam Rouge (Michelle Gomez) and Rita lead the group with their own histories of leadership failure? This episode does slow down a bit and backs off of the weirdness just a little bit to let us get some quiet time with each of the heroes. Something else this show does very well is that when it needs to get emotional it absolutely goes for the heart. Rita finds a flyer announcing a film retrospective about her career when it blows onto the Manor’s doorstep. 

Despite the weird things she’s seen, she doesn’t think for a moment to question how an announcement specifically about her ended up in front of her, and heads to the theater. Because Rita´s gonna Rita of course. Throughout the episode, the writers do a good job of connecting where the team is at with earlier seasons. Jane has a brief encounter with a member of last season’s Sisterhood of Dada that leads her to talk to Cliff about his favorite subject, orgasms, and that moment in Season 1 when Flex Mentallo, the psychic bodybuilder, flexed the wrong muscle. Which has me praying we actually get to see more of Shelley Byron (Wynn Everett) because listen, my gay agenda needs to see her and Jane build an actual relationship outside that puzzle, I´m choosing to trust you writers of Doom Patrol, you have never let me down.
Later, when they’re trying to figure out what happened to Rita, the crew quickly realizes that their hometown of Cloverton is too backwards to have an arthouse theater–not to mention the fact that they hate the Doom Patrol for a variety of extremely valid reasons that we can trace all the way to the first episode of the show. While everyone is looking at their pasts, this episode centers on Rita and Madame Rouge and their relationships to the team as potential leaders. The theater is, of course, a trap. Rita is quickly pulled into her own films, where she has to act out her own parts. There’s a reason behind it, of course, but it acts as a way of making Rita reexamine her heyday as an actress. She begins to see how different those films look to this version of Rita that has lived for close to 200 years at this point. This relationship is also one of my favorites of the show, they´re just such an interesting, complicated dynamic that it´s tryinng their best to get past the pain and everything they´ve gone through. Madame Rouge sends the other members of the patrol to go support their friend before realizing that she may have sent them to their deaths, and she begins to drink herself into a stupor as she talks to herself. For Rouge, it’s a look back at her long history as a leader, both at the Bureau of Normalcy and within the Sisterhood of Dada, thinking through each of her own failures. Rouge has been a fun character from the get-go, but Season 4 is adding some serious pathos to the character and that’s helping the show move on from Niles Caulder’s death. 

And every parallel so far has been chef´s kiss. While this is all going on, Victor’s B-story continues as he makes good on his intent to meet up with his old friends from high school. It’s an awkward meeting when they realize he’s no longer the famous superhero known as Cyborg. Two of the guys seem to adjust, but the third continues to give Vic the stink eye throughout the meetup. When they finally get some quiet time (in the middle of a laser tag match), his friend explains to him how different the accident and its aftermath looked to them. For Vic, he was ashamed of his new appearance, and chose to hide in the identity and missions that his father was giving him. For his friends, though, it looked like Vic was avoiding them–they were looking for him to reach out.
We are now in episode 4 titled "Casey Patrol". When Dorothy (Abigail Shapiro) left Doom Patrol in the early part of Season 3, it seemed like she wouldn’t be coming back. Having escaped her eternal youth and allowed to begin aging, Dorothy left with Danny the Street, who is now Danny the Ambulance, never to be seen again–until now. If this all sounds too good to be true, though, it’s because it is. Things can never be good for long, though, when you live in a world that actively resists your existence. Maura Lee (Alan Mingo Jr.) finds one of the walls near their community scrawled over, and soon after a swarm of red-eyed robotic insects invades Danny’s space and begins stinging the Dannyzens. Recognizing the transformed people as having come out of the comic she’s been clutching to her chest all episode, Dorothy somehow summons the main character, Casey Brinke (Madeline Zima), out of the comic and into real life. What unites both Dorothy and Casey is that they are daughters of men they can no longer reach. Dorothy’s father is dead after living much too long of a life, and Casey’s father was transformed into a villainous being named Torminox (Tyler Mane). There’s another element, too, though, that helps bring all the different stories together. While Torminox is attacking Danny, Maura Lee finds someone with spray paint in front of one of their wall of art and goes to confront them. The young man tells her that not everyone in the community dislikes them and that he was trying to fix it back to how it was before the graffiti.
That and the attack itself are a shock to Maura Lee’s system, and she joins Dorothy and Casey in a realization. The same way that Casey lived in a fictional world, so did Dorothy and Maura Lee. Dorothy’s was the fiction that she had, or would someday be able to, say the things she needed to say to Niles about her years of neglect and stasis. Maura Lee’s was the idea that she and the other Dannyzens could stay safe within Danny’s confines forever. In the final moments of the episode, this all ties together as we find that the artist who created Casey is working in service of Dr. Janus, hoping to bring Immortus to life. There’s no formal Doom Patrol appearance in this episode, as the core team is trapped inside the reality Janus created for Rita, but the Patrol is an amorphous thing, and both Dorothy and Maura Lee are members just by virtue of them being misfits who protect other misfits from the weirdness at the fringes of reality. We’re four episodes into the season, so it might be time to reveal the season’s primary villain, Immortus, so that the team can start getting their stuff together. The Sisterhood of Dada was antagonistic, but not really villainous. They wanted to make the world look at their art, and were happy to disappear once they did. Immortus, meanwhile, seems like a proper villain for the team to fight, like Mr. Nobody or the Bureau of Normalcy. I’m looking forward to meeting him after seeing the unique ways he’s attacking the team.
Episode five is called "Youth Patrol" which is a great episode. After a week away from Doom Manor to visit Dorothy and Danny the Street, it’s back to Doom Manor where Rita is still comatose after being sucked into a simulation of her lifetime of movies meant to extract her immortality. When she awakens, she finds out she’s living in her worst nightmare. No, she’s not stuck in her movies still. She’s also not stuck being immortal. She’s aging. Of course, that means it’s wizard Willoughby Kipling (Mark Sheppard), the guy who shows up when John Constantine is busy (or just being held hostage by his publisher’s editorial team, which is quite literally why this character was originally created). While the team is formulating a plan to stop Immortus, though, Larry goes off in search of his electro-child Keeg, and Rita ransacks Doom Manor’s basement looking for ways to restore her youthful appearance–only to unleash a de-aging spell on herself, Willoughby, and everyone else. This, of course, gives the Patrol the chance to act like a bunch of idiots, which is one of the show’s greatest strengths–like that time they got turned into zombies and got their own zombie subtitles. Or when they got infected with little pink guys who help them make terrible decisions. Or when they got sucked into a pocket dimension inside a farting donkey. But even when the Patrol is stuck in idiot mode, they always find a way to dig some truth out of their characters. As the characters rapidly de-age, their ability to stay on task and operate based on logic is even more hampered then usual, and it’s not long before Cliff and Jane convince the crew that it would be cool to go to a party for just a little while. If there’s any place designed to play on peoples’ insecurities, it’s a teenage party. It’s like a minefield of faux pas opportunities, body horror, and feelings.

Victor, despite being a ripped dude who used to be a superhero, remembers high school as a place where he felt pressure to excel and where he was not given the freedom to make mistakes. Cliff, meanwhile, reverts to his ‘popular’ high school self, which is less of a popular guy and more of a guy so desperate to be liked that he’ll do or say anything. Jane has the most unique experience of the core team; as just one of Kay Challis’ (Skye Roberts) many personalities, Jane quite literally doesn’t have a childhood to revert back to–not mentally. She’s a separate person from Kay, but Kay only made her (or, as Jane says, shit her out) as an adult. At the same time, Jane has been struggling with her role in Kay’s life and in her own life. Having smoked probably a little too much–though not enough for this to be a hallucination–Jane walks across a series of glowing tiles in a swimming pool, where Kay sits, quietly playing. Jane tries to apologize–she feels deeply guilty for having sexual feelings about anyone, even herself in what she views as Kay’s body. Kay tells her, though, that the body belongs to both of them. Jane’s freedom to exist as the primary personality exists because she’s the best suited among them to both handle reality and live in harmony with the other personalities; Doctor Harrison is too controlling, Miranda is too selfish, Hammerhead is too violent, and so forth. Jane, despite her struggles, is the happy medium. 

By taking Jane back to her non-existent teenage years, she has the opportunity to experience some of the feelings and growth she never got to have. Let´s go character development, I really hope this pushes Jane to explore something with the fog, I told you the gay agenda does not rest and I will get them together, trust. Larry, meanwhile, is stuck in a room with the apparent villain we met at the end of the episode before last, Mr. 104 (Sendhil Ramamurthy). Most of this storyline happens in dreams, with Mr. 104 and Larry trading places in dream logic, watching as the Bureau of Normalcy experimented on them. Both seek peace and freedom from that terrifying experience, but have gone about it in very different ways. This storyline is more explicitly plot-focused, but Ramamuthy is once again playing a character who doesn’t stand firmly on the side of good or evil–he just wants to deal with his condition and live a normal life. Mr. 104 works with the Doom Patrol at times in the comics, and it seems like that will likely happen here. Also, a rabbit sneezes on Kipling to turn him back into an adult.

As we head into the mid-season finale for Doom Patrol, the show gets back to its roots of asking these broken and traumatized people to help each other survive. And if that´s not the best way to describe the show, I don´t know what is.Doom Patrol has never been afraid to take the long way around to get to its point in the strangest way possible if it means the idea lands better. This season, though, has seemed scattered with some weirdness for the sake of weirdness. This week feels a bit more directed. We see the group paired off: Rita wakes up on the bench that she and Rouge cried on, and the two set off on a mission. Stuck between her own needs and those of Kay, Jane gets a pep talk from Cliff. Larry seems to have a blossoming romance with Mr. 104, and the two try to meet in the middle about Immortus and the Patrol’s longevity. Finally, Vic and his friend Derek end up in the strange world of Orqwith, which will seemingly become a big part of this season in the back half. The throughline that intersects these stories–especially with Rita/Rouge, Cliff/Jane, and Vic/Derek–is the necessity of communication and intimacy with people we care about. After their intensely emotional time in last week’s episode, Rita and Rouge seem to have an easier time being vulnerable with each other, and when they sneak into the Ant Farm to find information about the Immortus project, Rouge is forced to come face to face with one of her biggest regrets. Michelle Gomez brings all of her talent to bear on this, making these scenes hit like a truck. Meanwhile, Cliff–who has been talking to his hand, literally–needs Jane to know that she’s loved, and how easy it is to forget about making sure the people close to us know that. 

He takes off his oven mitt to hold her hand in a moment that reminds us of how difficult it is for both of these characters to interface earnestly with their emotions due to all of the trauma they’ve gone through. when I tell you I cried so hard here, these two always get me. When Vic and Derek are heading back to Doom Manor following Vic’s return to adulthood, the two are at odds. It’s not until they jump through a portal into a strange world patrolled by men with giant scissors that they start to really talk and realize they should’ve verbalized their feelings a long time ago instead of assuming how the other felt and responding to that. Larry and Mr. 104 have their own discussion, but there’s a blossoming romance there, too, both helping and complicating the Patrol’s fight against Immortus.
So now we have these two big ideas going on: Immortus stealing the Patrol’s longevity, and a fictional world that intrudes on the real one. Is Immortus seeking the immortality of being part of a story? It seems unlikely, but that idea is one direction the story could push in. This episode takes us up to the Doom Patrol mid-season finale, after which we’ll likely get more of Titans season 4. Bringing the crew back together is a great cliffhanger to leave on, and I can’t wait to see what the show does with the strange new place they’ve found themselves in. And of course I left the best part for the end. We finally got to see Jane go after Shelley or at least give a step in the right direction in my opinion, hey would I have loved to see a make out session right away? Yes. But Now that I have had time to process everything I´m really glad that there´s going to be a lot more plot there before we get our reward, which for me is of course, to see this relarionship blossom. I will say thought that I want to see more of The Fog, character wise, and not just haver her be on the show to further Jane´s path. I think she would be an interesting addition. We will see. That´s it folks, part one of season 4 is done. 
  •  What are your thoughts so far? Let me know in the comments.

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