The first two episodes of DC Universe’s Doom Patrol were amazing. The team tends toward the absurd, and they mixed that with super not-quite heroics really well. I think Alan Tudyk’s Mr. Nobody narration helped tie them together so well. That theory got some supporting evidence with the narration not being in episode three, and it being not quite as good. There’s still lots of absurd, though. Even the title gives you a clue it’s going to be a strange trip as we see “Puppet Patrol.”
Jane wanders around Cloverton putting up her version of those lost pet posters you see all over. The townsfolk are less than happy about this, and nearly mob her. She reacts in that subtle, understated style we’ve come to expect from Jane. Cyborg/Victor Stone has a flashback about a very important event from his past, and calls up video of it from his onboard computer. He’s shaken by what he learns. Cliff and Rita poke around some in the Chief’s workroom, where Cliff forms a few theories about their missing leader, and Rita sighs that she’s been trying to get him to neaten this place up for years. Rita finds something that at least might be a clue, and then leaves just as Cyborg comes in. Cyborg’s professional-level heroics really aren’t meshing with the team very well so far.
Larry has a rude awakening, which it makes it seem like his energy being is playing games with him. This leads to a flashback to Larry’s time in California in 1961. We see a lot more about what his life was like, and the pressure he was under, especially given the era. It’s a nasty conversation that really doesn’t put Larry in the best light. Cyborg tries to run a meeting of the team, which goes about like you’d expect with the different personalities involved. He takes their griping for a while, and then makes some really good points. Cyborg’s confidence and “I have this handled” attitude takes a major hit when he talks to his father, who isn’t sympathetic to Victor’s, or the team’s, needs.
The team is less than impressed about the secondary transportation they end up with, and there’s a montage/map scene of their painfully slow progress. During one of Larry’s turns driving, he gets into an argument with himself, and bad things happen. The team ends up at a motel, after some strong displeasure at Larry’s holding a few important things back.
This leads to another flashback, this one focusing on Larry’s home life. He’s got too many balls in the air and he seems to be bobbling all of them now. His discussion with his wife, Sheryl, doesn’t go well. Larry wakes up from this and sees Jane. Figuring she might have some insight into being in conflict with yourself, he asks her advice, but doesn’t like the answer he gets.
The next morning is a lot of team bickering, and Cliff having some indecision issues. Things get more and more tense, and they get to the point where splitting up, at least a bit, is seriously considered. Jane, or one of her, decides enough is enough and takes action on her own, splitting up the team, but in a different way than was discussed. Larry and Cliff bicker about some of Jane’s choices as they find a comic relief character waiting at a bus stop. He does have a few useful pieces of information.
Victor tries to get their vehicle working again, and has a run-in with a fan. There are passing references to both the Justice League and “super friends.” The Superfriends cartoon was Cyborg’s first appearance outside the comics, which might be a coincidence or might be a nod to that. The other team asks their new friend some questions, and at least figures out where they need to go. They end up in a truly weird place that we saw in passing during the first few minutes of the pilot episode. They get a truly unique orientation, and aspects of it even dampen the enthusiasm of their new friend Steve. Cyborg and Rita clash, and she asks some good questions.
The ridiculously long (and just plain ridiculous) orientation finally comes to an end. Steve is all in, but the team is less enthusiastic, even after getting a clue during the presentation. For some reason or other, they get separated, and Jane deals with one staffer while Cliff and Larry talk to another. Jane has an interesting collection of things she shows to the woman, while Cliff and Larry try and get some answers. Jane makes an interesting offer, and eventually gets taken someplace else. Larry wanders around (there is remarkably lax security here) and finds the power chamber they saw in the orientation. This triggers another flashback to the days immediately after his crash. He learns one of the nastier side-effects of his powers, and then, back in the present, decides to try something out.
Victor and Rita reconcile a bit, and Victor gets a surprising offer that could solve some of their immediate problems. Jane meets the man behind the marionettes, and they discuss the deal she offered. He also has a lot of questions she’s not going to answer. Larry experiences a weird trip of his own. Jane and the boss’ interview goes downhill quickly. I’d say she’s not the most tactful one on the team, but I don’t know who is, really. Larry, maybe? As that gets worse, Larry has a confrontation, and Cliff is left to deal with the rest of the staff. What follows is ugly and very one-sided. Just like there wasn’t much the team could do against the things lined up to oppose them in the first few episodes, the people here aren’t equipped to handle meta-humans. Which is weird, when you consider what this place is. Jane and Cliff kick a lot of ass, with Jane showing an impressive variety in her personas. Jane’s part of the fight ends with some really interesting implications about who and what she really is. Cliff’s battle is brutal, and even Jane seems taken aback by the results.
The team eventually reunites and goes home, leaving wreckage and worse in their wake. Cliff makes a decision about what he was doubting earlier. Larry gets another flashback, and we see how another part of his previous life was dealt with. Victor has a chat with his dad, who seems to be a very notional critter at this point. Back in the ruins, the comic relief turns out to be one of the stranger characters in Doom Patrol lore (and that’s really saying something).
What I liked: I’m amused that Cliff, who arguably looks the farthest from normal, keeps having the most human reactions to the things they run into. I sympathize with Cyborg trying to be a “normal” hero in the midst of all this. Jane made a really good point to Larry in their little exchange. The research place was interesting. Jane’s rapid shifts in combat were good, and I’m intrigued by the hint about her true nature.
What I didn’t: Larry is pretty much a coward, then and now. I missed Tudyk’s/Nobody’s narration. I don’t know that Cliff’s fight needed to be as ugly as it was. I’m not sure what game Victor’s dad is playing. They didn’t make any actual progress towards finding the Chief.
I’ll give this a 3.5 out of 5. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t as good as the previous episodes.