Doom Patrol continues to show off its disciplined writing with a superhero show that is unlike any other. Spoilers ahead.
The seventh episode of Doom Patrol (entitled “Therapy Patrol”) from the DC Universe streaming service is one of the strongest episodes of this first season. Check out my previous review for episode three. While I find this show to be a bit wacky at times, it is the continuous absurdity that makes Doom Patrol an interesting watch.
The main drive of this episode is that each of these heroes is in desperate need of therapy. So the show gets broken down into smaller segments – one for each of the main characters: Rita, Larry, Vic, Jane, and Cliff. Each name is superimposed on a black screen, as each character is given their time in the spotlight.
The segment for each character begins with some kind of trauma when they were young. Some of these moments were stronger than others, but the point was clearly made. These characters have flaws and some of that comes from their imperfect childhoods.
After the visit to the past, each story shifts into the present. Each character has a different perspective on the morning’s events. So, as each story is revealed, the individual pieces begin to fit together. This method of jumbling perspectives kept the story more engaging as a viewer. But, more importantly, it all built towards Cliff/Robotman’s story, which was by far the most fascinating.
Robotman is dealing with serious hallucinations involving his daughter (Clara) and her surrogate father (Bump Weathers). While it may seem like emotions are washing over Cliff because Clara has found a substitute for him, it is actually a rat inside Cliff that is causing all the problems.
So at the end of the episode, Doom Patrol provides another segment. But this time for the rat – “Admiral Whiskers.” The childhood trauma for the rat is that the Admiral’s mother was killed “six episodes ago” by Robotman. She was struck by the Doom Patrol bus, and probably without Cliff even knowing it.
But The Narrator/Mr. Nobody encourages the rat to take revenge on Cliff for killing its mother. Basically, the rat has been messing with Cliff’s insides, which has made him see things that aren’t actually there. It is weird in every sense of the word, but it is also funny and works quite well in this crazy little corner of the DC universe.
Discipline of the absurd
What works best in this episode is that all of this craziness has a purpose. Mr. Nobody defeated the original Doom Patrol team of the 1950s with little or no effort. They were fairly powerful meta-humans, but they could not stand the mental anguish that Mr. Nobody administered.
That original team was left mentally broken for the next six decades by their battle. This new Doom Patrol is facing the same problem. So this therapy episode is about finding a way to defeat Mr. Nobody, and avoid the fate of the former Doom Patrol.
Mr. Nobody will defeat this new team just as easily, if they cannot get it together. Everything that bothers them (or that they are hiding from one another) must be brought into the open – to prevent Mr. Nobody from having the advantage.
This is what I like best about this show. This entire season has been about trying to build this team. DC has a great tradition of telling compelling stories about superhero teams when it comes to their television properties. Whether it be the CW shows (Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl), animated series (especially those involving Bruce Timm), or even Titans (also on the DC Universe streaming service), this is where DC shines. Doom Patrol is no exception.
Doom Patrol is a different kind of team, but in the end they are just like than any other group of heroes. They must trust each other and be able to count on one another. And that takes time to develop. Television shows provide this kind of time, and DC is good at making these teams shine on the small screen.
Final score – 8/10
This show is just about to reach its halfway point (15 episodes in Season 1), and the storytelling has only just begun. Hopefully as this show begins its second half, it can continue to find its footing in the absurd, while providing the audience with compelling television.