Dan: Doom Patrol is a special show. It adapts a comic with so much to say about being an outsider, an outcast, a freak and never makes you feel wrong for being that. Doom Patrol the show is no different. It never shies away from dealing with the heavy themes that so many people struggle with every day. It doesn’t sugarcoat its pain and trauma. It never tries to sanitize the fact that the world can be cruel, but in that cruel world, you can find places of refuge. You can find a home where your friends will beckon you to come in out of the rain. It’s a safe haven amongst so many Superhero IPs that says that sometimes it is going to be a little painful on your journey to becoming who you are. There will always be people being dragged through the mud just like you, but those people will be the ones who offer their hand to help you back onto your feet.
So let’s jump into Season 3 together, shall we? We, freaks, we and celebrate who we are…warts and all.
Gabrielle: There’s a clear theme in this premiere, which is resonant even in the real-world production of the show: it’s not fair; it’s fate. Doom Patrol was one of the few shows able to air a new season during the global pandemic we’re all enduring, but with one big downside being the lack of a real season finale. This premiere functions as both the season finale that should’ve been and a new door to all the great things in this third installment. Some things are solved faster than others to leave room for everything else, and that’s how it ties into the theme this episode handles.
Back Again Full of Dread
Gabrielle: The writers, the cast, the entirety of the production team couldn’t properly finish what they started. It was obviously for the best of all, given the situation, but it was still not what they had planned. Because that’s the thing, sometimes things don’t go as planned. Sometimes your whole body gets obliterated, and they have to put your brain inside a tin can, or you get possessed by an otherworldly being while piloting a plane, causing it to fall and melt your skin. Things can end up in the worst-case scenario of the worst-case scenarios. It doesn’t mean you have to give up and yield to everything that could come your way, but that sooner or later, you have to let go in order to move on, and that’s exactly what Doom Patrol does with this premiere.
I think my favorite moment across the three premiere episodes was the hug between Jane and Cliff. It’s such a milestone, not only for their relationship but for her. As far as we know, this is the first time she not only didn’t reject physical affection but actively looked for it. Every time it happened, it was with another personality, like Baby Doll. It was a really tender moment after some heartbreaking symbolism with the struggles she had to endure. It’s one of my favorite moments of the whole show, and it makes me think about how much I want the last shot of the show to be a reinterpretation of the last page of Morrison’s original Doom Patrol run.
Although my favorite episode of the three was probably the second. I loved seeing the Doom Patrol (although with one missing member) go on this vacation that, just by coincidence, is obviously a really weird place. Cliff’s attempt to gain a little bit of control over his life after finding out that, coupled with all the past tragedies, he might’ve developed a neurological disease is really moving. When his robot body started getting paralyzed the previous season, I think we all thought he was getting a new suit; I mean, it’s what happens in superhero shows, right? But not here. It’s such a grounded problem that I need to see how it pans out. Jane’s reaction when she found out was also great, and even if it was a short single line demonstrates how much she cares about him and the place he holds in her life now.
Although what impressed me most was probably Garguax. I expected a cartoony, silver age villain, but instead, we got a person who realized the mission he wasted decades of his life on is just not worth it. Someone who might’ve been just that in the past: a cartoony, silver age villain, but progressed in all those years and became a better person. Now, instead of looking at Rita like the objective of a mission, he’s just saddened because he’s able to see she’s just someone who needs help. A clear contrast with his sidekick, who cannot let all those decades of waiting go to waste.
What was your favorite thing (or things) about this premiere?
Dan: There is one thing in media that cuts through the walls of emotional defenses that I have built up over the years. That thing is dancing. It’s something that has the power to sway me to any emotion that they are trying to convey. Not like fancy dancing, but a group of friends like this just getting on the dance floor, letting loose, and moving their bodies. Even if they looked so silly dancing Rod Stewart’s “Forever Young”, there is something about dancing that is so raw to me. They’re all alone in this big ballroom and dancing together. There is something about dancing that is intimate in a way other things are not. None of these people are trained to do this, but they’re just cutting loose and letting the music take them. Four of our five misfits just dancing together because even when they are at each other’s throats, they see each other more than anyone else could. Cyborg can see that Cliff is trying to ignore something so scary because, for the first time in a long time, he feels like he belongs somewhere. Cliff sees that Cyborg is in love even if he isn’t ready to admit it. Before the dance, they were all screaming at each other and go off to blow off steam. But there, on that dance floor, they are one cohesive unit, a family.
Something else that has captured my heart and mind since watching these episodes is Cliff being there to hold his grandchild. Even if he is a Robot, you can feel it. You can feel the love and clarity that is filling Cliff at that moment. He’s reunited with his daughter after so long and holding his grandchild. All that Cliff wants is to care about people because for so long…he couldn’t. Now with his hand shaking, he is so afraid to lose all this. All this growth, feeling, and love that his life has been filled with for the first time since he became the robot. At one point, he comments that if he finds out that there is something wrong, he would get into another depressive episode where he isolates himself from the world again. That was something that felt so raw and real. As someone who avoids problems in themselves to avoid the feelings it could bring, it hit me hard. No other superhero media is giving us heroes like this. Heroes for people who are barely holding themselves together but are doing their best in this way. They are dealing with things that aren’t always giant world-ending monsters but those life-ending monsters that have wormed themselves into our hearts and brains.
The Problem with Beekeeping
Dan: I wanted to break this scene out into its own section because of the three episodes. I think April Bowlby’s monologue is one of the most moving performances of the series so far. Rita Farr is in a play that depicts what happened to the town in the first season, where Rita actually lost control of herself. What followed was an accidental rampage down the main street as the Doom Patrol tried to put her back together. I won’t get into the whole “being in a play where you are the actual villain” because I didn’t get my master’s in Psych, just the bachelors, so I am not well equipped enough to unpack that baggage.
What I wanted to focus on was her breakdown. As she repeats her one line in the show, Rita breaks character. Niles had left her a message that she would essentially be carrying on his work to protect people. Without asking, he left her this burden when she was already struggling with how to handle herself and his death. Typical Niles. But she starts to break down on stage in front of the cast. She admits that she loved him, and now it’s too late to ever tell him. As she has this breakdown, she loses control…everyone knows she is the one who caused the incident that inspired the play. Rita Farr was an actor, and this was her chance at a return. It was hard seeing the legacy of Niles Calder ruining that too. What’d you think of this?
Gabrielle: April’s acting is always marvelous, and in my opinion, that scene was one of her bests, along with the hospital scene in Flex Patrol, back during season one. Everyone’s acting in this show is phenomenal, from Diane’s to Riley’s. Which makes it hard to point to one and say, ‘’this is the best’’. April, in particular, has a presence on-screen that always makes her performance so captivating, drowning you at the moment and putting you through everything Rita feels.
This scene, for me, hits so close to home. Sometimes you just break over the most minuscule things. Niles passed onto her the job of keeping the world safe, helping people (although that last part is very questionable when it comes to him), but she already tried that, as the beekeeper, and failed. So here she is: in a bad play that antagonizes her, on a stage for the first time in around 70 years, and with all that weight, she can’t do that either. It’s all such a mess of emotions. She wants to do what Niles wants her to, but she also wants to decide for herself, have some agency over her life for the first time. However, she doesn’t think she’s capable of it even if she goes that path. So she breaks over two simple words, the line she has to recite for the play. It’s something so human and personal. As always with this show, everything aligns. The acting, script, cinematography, everything works together in an excellent way to bring this to life in a way that it’s so touching and unique. In a show full of complicated and insanely layered characters, Rita is the most complex one in my eyes, and this scene is so important for her character.
Back From the Dead
Gabrielle: Despite all the crying, sadness, emotional turmoil, Doom Patrol really makes me happy. It’s a show unlike anything there has ever been. It’s a miracle it exists and it makes me glad it does. It’s always fun to see what weird things they have to offer in each new episode, get emotional with Larry and Rita, Danny and the Denizens, Cliff and Jane, Vic and Roni, and see how the characters are going to progress. They’re a family, and they make you feel like you’re a part of it too. Each new season has been amazing, and I can’t wait to see the rest of these ones, and of course, the new seasons to come.
Dan: I really try my best to not sign up for more work as I do far too much, but the chance to cover Doom Patrol with you was something I would not miss for the world. You’ve been building such a wonderful part of this site for Doom Patrol content that builds and explores themes that the show is putting out there. All I want is for people to have heroes like them. Heroes who hurt, suffer and triumph because they finally have a place to belong. The Doom Patrol is the best thing to happen in a long time. Thank you for doing this with me and next week…well…let’s just say there is so much more to come.