A lot of the time, the titles of Doom Patrol are a stretch, or just don’t make a lot of sense. That’s not the case with this one. “Dad Patrol” does have a recurring theme of fatherhood, although, since it’s this crew of odd characters, none of them exactly distinguish themselves. Things are building up, as there’s only one more episode this season. The show has been renewed for a third season, although, as with all the other original shows, it’s jumping ship over to HBO Max as DC Universe becomes one of the early casualties of the streaming wars.
The episode starts off in 1954 Arkansas, as we see some of the horrific abuse Kay suffered from her father, back before she became the Crazy Jane we’re familiar with. It’s a horrible scene, made worse by another small tragedy during it. Returning to now, if that term applies in the strange place that is the Underground, there’s rising tension between Jane and the returned Miranda. Both of them make some good points, and Jane assigns herself a quest to try and prove herself. Out in the real world, Cliff gives his visiting daughter Clara a tour of Doom Manor, and finds out why she’s there. It’s good, if emotional, news, and Cliff handles it pretty well, for once. He shows her his racetrack that dominates his bedroom, mentions the blood feud with the building’s rats, and then offers her breakfast. It’s a tense scene, but they’re both trying. Jane stops by, clearly about to recruit Cliff for her journey, but sees he’s busy and leaves without saying why she’s there.
Elsewhere, the Knights Templar hold a ceremony and are very worried about omens of the near future. On the road, Niles fills up the car and sends Dorothy into the convenience store for snacks, including the chocolate he’s addicted to in the comics. After she’s inside, Niles gets a visitor, and isn’t happy with what Willoughby Kipling has to say. They disagree a lot about what they’re supposed to do next. Dorothy goes inside and gets a few unpleasant surprises, some because of people reacting to her looks, one that’s a natural event but bodes ill from what we’ve heard.
In his special radiation-proof room, Larry Trainor wakes up to find the Spirit has been busy. Larry gets another trip down memory lane, this one a rare glimpse of his younger (and still human) self being a great parent with his son Paul. After that, Larry argues with his “passenger,” but gets interrupted when Jane comes by. With her usual sidekick busy, Jane has decided Larry is coming with her, and isn’t in the mood to listen to him when he’s confused about the sudden trip to Arkansas. At the convenience store, Dorothy gets some very kind help from a stranger as she navigates something new for her. It’s a touching little scene, and a rare random act of actual kindness on this show. Nothing goes horrifically wrong, and it just plays out believably.
Back at the Manor, the last two regular members of our cast compare notes on Rita’s debut as the superhero Beekeeper. Cyborg teases her about it, and questions what she’s planning to do, long-term. Their banter gets interrupted when he sees an article in the newspaper that troubles him, and Rita invites herself along as he suddenly leaves for Detroit. His calls to Roni go unanswered. Dorothy finally gets back out to the car, proves she’s pretty good at manipulating her father, and they decide to go visit a local fair. In rural Arkansas, Larry complains about Flit dropping them off fairly far from where they’re going, and starts to realize how serious this is for Jane and the others in her head. They both muse about their places in their respective families, and Larry does his best to offer some reassurance to Jane.
Cliff demonstrates some of his talent while making Clara breakfast, although he manages to screw that up in a unique way, barely managing to hide it from her. Clara has some more surprises for Cliff, and, to his credit, he rolls with them really well. She expresses concern about her family’s history of domestic issues, and Cliff listens and makes some encouraging statements. He also offers a halfway decent apology. He then gets another surprise that thrills him. Larry and Jane get to their destination, a place whose importance in the Underground now makes a lot more sense. Larry offers more help, but Jane is determined to handle things as much on her own as she can. She gets some flashbacks that almost look like psychometry as she realizes some of what the much younger Miranda went through with Father Challis. At the fair, Niles and Dorothy are having a fun day, until she starts seeing some disturbing visions.
In Detroit, Cyborg and the “Beekeeper” visit Roni’s apartment, which is full of local cops and FBI agents. Cyborg is professional, if flippant, with the law enforcement folks, and Rita falls back on bad tv tropes. Cyborg gets some unexpected news and leaves to deal with it, annoying Rita by going without her. At the fair, Dorothy is doing her best to ignore the more and more frequent visions. Niles urges her to go into the Funhouse, which he can’t do, and we see a very overused sign that he’s gravely ill. She goes inside but gets a very different experience than the usual visitor. Fleeing, she rejoins Niles, worries about him, and he tells her he wants to stay for one last ride.
Playing to his strengths, Cliff tunes up Clara’s truck before she goes. They do some more awkward bonding, and she gives him something he’s very excited about. Jane does her own dirty work, and finally finds something that surprises her a lot. She has what could be a nice reconciliation scene with Miranda back in the Underground, but Miranda has her own agenda. Jane gets ambushed, and makes some horrifying discoveries as she tries to deal with it. Niles and Dorothy enjoy a ride on the Ferris wheel and have a conversation that seem fraught with omens.
The two wrap-up scenes hint at bad things to come (but what else is new?). In Detroit, Cyborg catches up with Roni in the restaurant they met in before. It has a few tender notes before things turn ugly, and there’s a confrontation that goes south quickly. Rita shows she knows how to strike a heroic pose, but can’t really follow up on it. At the fair, Dorothy gets sent off to buy treats, which leaves Niles alone to get another unexpected visit from Kipling. It’s a nasty scene that gives an idea where things are going for the final episode (there was supposed to be one more, but they lost it to the COVID shutdown). Dorothy has her own run-in, and dire things are clearly afoot.
What I liked: While he does make some of his own problems, Cliff has also had a lot of bad luck. It was nice seeing at least something go right for Robotman. I give Jane points for taking matters into her own hands and trying to do something good, even if she did have some selfish motives along the way. The recurring theme of Dads and fatherhood was played well, with several different takes on it. Larry’s indecision about what to do for himself makes a lot of sense. Mark Sheppard is great in everything I’ve seen him in, and does a fantastic job as the world-weary and worried Kipling. The kindness visited on Dorothy was nice to see.
What I didn’t: Making fairs and/or circuses into something creepy is really getting kind of old. So is the sign of illness they did with Niles Caulder. The show’s writers are a talented bunch, I think they could have done better than this. Rita’s newest attempt to do something seems like a combination of another ego trip and more mockery of the concept of superheroes.
It was a decent episode. They had some really good scenes, and a few bad points as mentioned above. I’ll give this a 3.5 out of 5, and that might be a bit generous.