Doom Patrol: Fun Sized Patrol

fun

I get by with a little help from my friends.. I get high…. 

After an impressive first season, the arguably strangest superheroes in the world are back. The Doom Patrol apparently has a much shorter second season, but they’re off to a crazed and crammed start. At the end of last season, after clashing with the incredibly powerful Mr. Nobody (sadly absent so far), the team was greatly reduced. Literally. Now they start off at less than action figure size, dealing with the aftermath of some shocking revelations about the Chief last season.

The initial scene is in 1927 London, and it’s not a happy one, even by Doom Patrol standards. Let’s just say that Dorothy had some very unpleasant times at the circus,  that she and Niles Caulder are aging remarkably well, and that Dorothy has a remarkably active imaginary friend. In the present, Dorothy is chatting away with someone unseen, and runs through an interesting version of the team lineup. This also shows us how the various characters are passing their time, and how Larry, the only full-size one left, is doing his best to care for them and keep up with some of Caulder’s experiments. The Chief himself is doing his best to present an optimistic front to everyone, but the team isn’t having it.

When the next attempt of the Chief’s doesn’t work, and most of the team stalks off, Rita makes a suggestion. Niles doesn’t want to hear it, but she makes some valid points. While they argue, Dorothy chats with Cliff, who isn’t really interested in spending time with the kid. Cliff leaves, showing the way they get off the table where they’re living and what Cliff’s new hobby is. Robotman holds a grudge. Down in the Underground (to quote a great David Bowie song), we see that Jane’s alternate personalities aren’t happy with how she’s spending her time. Then she gets a hint that there’s unrest among the alternates. Coming back to the outside world, Jane finds Dorothy hanging around. The child does seem to want to get to know the team, although they aren’t that interested in her. Jane and Dorothy have an odd conversation, ended when Niles wheels in. After sending Dorothy out, the Chief makes a request of Jane that doesn’t go how he hoped. Neither does an offer he makes to her.

Negative Man has taken to arts and crafts to both pass the time and help his team. But the Negative Spirit has its own ideas about what Larry should be doing, and sends him a flashback from 1961. Larry really left a lot to be desired as a father and husband. Back in the present, Larry puzzles over why he’s being shown this, and Cyborg checks in on some old enemies. After that, the young hero meets up with Rita for some special training. She’s come to a decision about her future, and wants Cyborg’s help to get there. He relies on a tried but true training technique to get her pointed in the right direction. Larry doesn’t have a monopoly on the flashbacks, as we see some of Cliff’s life back in Florida in 1984. In addition to all their “accidents,” I’m starting to think what unites the team is horrible family situations.

Returning again to the present, Cliff shows his lack of people skills when Dorothy comes to hang out with him. He manages to mostly redeem himself, and draw on some of his old skills, but Dorothy’s a complicated person, and there are some surprises that freak Cliff out. In his defense, I’d probably have been thrown for a loop by this too, I just hope I would have handled it better. This, in turn, leads to some angry words between the Chief and Cliff, and yet another reference to Cliff’s time with the rats. Later, as the others have a version of a drive-in movie, Cliff returns looking particularly savage, upsetting the Chief. Shaken by all this, Niles finally gives in and performs the most ridiculous summoning I’ve ever seen, leading to a really cool entrance for the magician we saw last season: Willoughby Kipling. Kipling and Caulder barter and bicker, clearly having no great love for each other. Kipling demands a steep price, and Caulder isn’t willing to pay it.

Rita and Cyborg talk about the future, and her offer to the young hero isn’t well received. Outside, Larry shows how far he and his strange passenger have come, but once again gets sent a vision, this time blurring several different eras, and leaving the man very confused. Kicking back in their own unique way, Cliff and Jane talk about Danny the Street, now Danny the Brick, and what might come in the future. Their conversation drifts into some strange territory, and once again the Chief comes out of nowhere to admonish them. If the man spent less time eavesdropping, he might actually be making more progress towards restoring them. Their argument gets cut short when he tells the two that Dorothy has gone missing.

After a quick search of their table/reduced base of operations, Cliff figures out what happened. Rita gets shanghaied into the rescue party, and they all race off. I kind of wonder where Larry is at this point. Maybe he’s sleeping, or communing with the Spirit. Cyborg has some trouble on the way to the rescue, and Rita stops to help him, while Jane and Cliff charge onward. They finally find Dorothy, get a surprise about an unwelcome resident of Doom Manor, and Dorothy gets a nasty lesson about nature being red in tooth and claw indeed. At a loss of what else to do, Cliff runs back to their base, carrying Dorothy, and gives a very incoherent explanation of what happened to the Chief. Thoroughly rattled and very upset, Dorothy starts to lose control and strange things happen. Cliff does his best to handle the physical end of things, while Niles tries to calm her and finally resorts to a grave threat to get her to cooperate.

Larry’s dinner preparations (was he in the kitchen this whole time?) get interrupted by a crash from elsewhere in the house. Rushing back to the team, he finds they’ve all been restored, finally, if not exactly gracefully. Kipling and the Chief have another chat, and we see how far Caulder is willing to go for both Dorothy and the team. Cliff has a change of heart about a foe and does something nice. Rita manages some real progress, and rushes to share her news, only to get another surprise. Jane keeps having some issues on at least two fronts, and I don’t see either of them going well for her. Negative Man does some research and gets some sad news that I’m not sure how he’ll handle down the road. The show ends with a very tender scene between Niles and Dorothy, although he’s once again creating some problems for himself. Dorothy wraps it with a somewhat unusual monologue.

 

What I liked: It was great to see this band of misfits again. A lot of shows would have skipped over the size issue, or wrapped it up quickly, but they handled it well here. Cliff’s vendetta was sort of amusing and made a lot of sense. I’m interested in Rita’s new focus, and not sure what to think of Cyborg this episode. I’d argue Larry has suffered enough already. Kipling got a great entrance and some good lines, played by the talented Mark Sheppard.

What I didn’t: I’m not sure how Cliff’s flashback ties to anything yet. Dorothy’s story just isn’t really grabbing me. Since Crisis split all the shows into their own little worlds, I don’t know if there was someone else Caulder could have contacted, like Ray Palmer. It’d be nice to see larger pieces of the Patrol’s world, but they are a very insular group.

 

It was a good return for a really unique group. I’ll give this a 3.5. Even if it’s shorter than usual, I’m looking forward to seeing where the season goes. I have no idea if the short season was planned, or yet another ripple from COVID.

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