Doom Patrol: The Complete Second Season
I have done myself, and you, a disservice, by watching Doom Patrol: The Complete Second Season several months ago (it was released at the end of January), making notes, and then neglecting to write them up while I still remembered the details of the show. (The studio provided a review copy.)
Now, the main recollection I have of these nine episodes is that I’m glad they got me to watch the first season of the show, because it’s a refreshingly brutal take on the idea of unusual abilities. It’s an R-rated comic book adaptation without super heroics.
None of the main characters know how to cope with what they’ve become, whether it’s an old-school actress whose elastic body betrays her by collapsing into a pile of flesh (played by Two and a Half Men’s April Bowlby, doing an excellent job), or a hedonistic race car driver who can no longer feel anything because he’s a brain in a robot body (Brendon Fraser in flashbacks, Riley Shanahan when you can’t see his face), or a closeted mid-century test pilot spending his life wrapped in bandages (Matt Bomer visibly, Matthew Zuk otherwise).
The cast is overall outstanding. It also includes Timothy Dalton as the Chief, who’s assembled them all; Joivan Wade as Cyborg; Diane Guerrero as Crazy Jane; Alan Tudyk as an insane fourth-wall breaking narrator and villain; and in the second season, Abi Monterey as the Chief’s part-Neanderthal daughter Dorothy.
This second season was cut short because of the pandemic, and the result is an inferior product. I mean that literally: The first season had a list price of $29.98 for 15 episodes, plus digital versions, while this was $39.99 for nine episodes with no digital copies. From a storytelling perspective, the finale, where the team confronts imaginary friends, is obviously rushed, and Tudyk and Dalton are not as involved in this season.
I would have loved to have heard the creators talk about the decisions they had to make and the situation they were in, but the special features are minimal, with a nine-minute “The Magic of Makeup” (half about Dorothy’s look) and a two-minute “Come Visit Georgia” PSA that seems required for any show that films in the area. That was a missed opportunity for interviews, but they were likely also impossible to do during the pandemic.
Anyway, this season begins with most of the team trapped in tiny form, due to their escape from last season’s cliffhanger. The Chief is dealing with his daughter and the question of his immortality. Larry appears younger than his sons, one of whose funeral he attends, while Robotman is fighting rats and his issues with being a dad for his daughter. (All the parents in this show are terrible, lying to themselves or their kids; even Rita has a stereotypically abusive stage mother.)
I find father issues generally overdone in comic-related media, so I was bored, particularly given the feeling of ennui the characters have and the repetition of some of the storylines and themes. Meanwhile, Rita wants better control of herself, so she works with Cyborg, which results in arm-stretching powers.
The robot swearing, unusual in the first season, I found overdone this time around. There’s more outright horror, which I dislike, and while some of the ideas are great, most of it looks as though it was made as cheaply as possible. There are few people around most of the time, with fewer scenes of the whole team, and various settings — such as Dr. Tyme and his roller disco — particularly sparsely populated.
My favorite episodes were those involving Flex Mentallo and Danny the Street, who is the focus of the fourth episode. I would have liked to have seen more, but avoiding that setting means not having to pay a lot of extras. It’s a classic approach to have various team members split up, but as an imdb reviewer said, “I think it’s time the members of the Doom Patrol do things together instead of having their own separate stories.”
The show has been renewed for a third season and moved from the now-defunct DC Universe streaming service to HBO Max. I hope it recovers some of its off-kilter charm.