Doom Patrol: Possibilities Patrol

Game night takes an interesting twist.

The Doom Patrol started off as an unusual superhero team, often compared to Marvel’s X-Men (the two teams debuted the same year within months of each other). Then, decades later, they got much stranger when Grant Morrison got his hands on them. Morrison is known for taking a very different approach to his writing and characters, and he took this band of “freaks and outcasts” and gave them a spin deep into surreal territory. Their live-action series, originally a DC Universe program and then migrating to HBOMax, follows Morrison’s turn for the strange. This episode is odder than many, but in part, that’s actually due to the pandemic. Last season was cut short, so this is both a season opener and wrapping up some details they didn’t get to. They have a lot of ground to cover in “Possibilities Patrol.”

The second season ended with a catastrophic confrontation between Dorothy Spinner, the Chief’s daughter, and the Candlemaker, a being of immense power that more or less lives inside her head. The rest of the patrol has been taken down, and now Dorothy has to take on her not-quite imaginary friend on her own. Rather than a protracted battle of powerful beings, which most shows would probably do, Dorothy takes a unique approach to resolving things. Slowly, the carnival where the initial fight happened comes back to life, and the team frees themselves from the Candlemaker’s power. For different reasons, two of them don’t come back into the action, which will be the cause of a lot of grief throughout the episode.

When things get as resolved as they can, we skip ahead a week. The two members down are still down, and there are some very different reactions to this. Filled with his usual rage, Robotman rales against the Chief as Cyborg scans Robotman’s body to try and find out what the cause of the new problems he’s developing is. As Robotman continues to bitch, Cyborg finishes his work and delivers some surprising news, that Cliff/Robotman doesn’t know how to deal with. Larry and Rita are in the kitchen, making sandwiches and trying to sort out their complicated feelings about recent developments. Rita goes from composed and gracious to ranting in the space of a few minutes, and then tries to pull herself together when Dorothy comes in to take some frozen vegetables for one of her projects. Rita, using some questionable reasoning and not above a bit of manipulation, gets Larry to talk to the young girl about her delaying something everyone else wants over with.

Larry does his best, and offers some advice based on his own experience with grief and avoidance. Dorothy is touched by his sharing and they hug as she sobs. Rita, alone up in her room, finds a gift and a note from the Chief, and neither is anything she wants. You can practically see his words haunting her as soon as she reads them. Then the odd tale turns even odder when we check in on Jane.

Her body has been unresponsive since being freed from the Candlemaker’s power, and down in her Underground, Jane emerges from the infamous well, trying to bring Kay something important to her. Kay, however has a new issue to deal with, and Jane can’t get her attention. Moving to the more familiar environs of the Underground, Jane finds that all the rest of Kay’s personas have something similar to Kay capturing their focus. Unable to snap them out of it, Jane faces off against the new threat, and ends up succumbing to her power. Rita goes to rehearse the play she was so worried about before, and has a breakdown on several levels. I think she’s going to have a lot of problems here in the future. Cyborg has a chat with his father and gets some actual good advice from the older man as they talk about the Chief’s current difficulties.

Robotman tries to follow up on Cyborg’s information, but net searches aren’t easy with fingers like Cliff’s. His research is interrupted by an unexpected conversation with the Chief, and their usual dysfunctional dynamic is on display. The Chief finally makes a request of Cliff that goes along with Cliff’s usual inclinations, to a point, and Cliff refuses just to be difficult. It’s a complicated discussion, and ends at least on a somewhat better note. Rita, upstairs in her room, gets a very unpleasant phone call. The woman has had to deal with a lot, and this isn’t going to help anything for anyone. Larry, holed up in his special room, deals with some snippets of past conversations before having a somewhat disconnected conversation with the Negative Spirit. Larry figures out what his companion wants, and offers a good reason for not going, but the person concerned overhears it and looks troubled.

In what really seems like it should have been a scene from the cut episode ten of last season, Cyborg’s former love interest Roni Evers is trying to carry out her vendetta. She’s going to really extreme measures to do it, and Cyborg reaches out, using his influence to stop her. Showing how conflicted he is, he also cuts her an unexpected break. Kay, finally free of the other influence, comes to find Jane and very touchingly expresses her gratitude and support. Cliff reaches out to his daughter, and there’s a profanity-laced series of miscommunications until he is told what’s going on. Cliff’s tirades are often amusing, and this one might have been one of the highlights of the show. Dorothy has a very difficult conversation about letting go and trying to move on.

Kay, despite her apparent youth, has some tricks, and brings Jane to a way around their current dilemma. They arrive at something that looks really out of place, and Jane tries to stage her escape. Their foe appears to oppose them, but Kay has brought help. They have a very strange and uneven struggle that ends up carrying over to the real world. With a new threat in Doom Manor, Dorothy is first to face it and gets knocked around pretty good. Not being a fool, she runs for help. Robotman, reeling from his own discovery, isn’t paying enough attention and gets sucker-punched, landing more confused than hurt.

The next few scenes have a lot of quick cuts, as Jane is put in danger in the Underground and in the real world. With Kay’s help, Jane manages to tip the scales in both struggles. She almost ends up dying after all, but gets some well-timed help from Robotman, and he finally gets something neither of them have admitted he’s wanted from her for a while now. Tying things up in the real world, Jane leads the personas in the Underground to start recovering and dealing with some leftover issues in a most unexpected way. Then again, it’s Crazy Jane of the Doom Patrol, so I don’t know what you’d expect in the first place.

The rest of the episode is a combination of wrap-up, set-up, and a few mid-credit scenes. Larry and Rita have an emotional talk about a few different things. In the end, Larry and the Negative Spirit take off for a new adventure, and, to me, this scene also feels like it should have been in the missing episode ten of last season. Cyborg does some follow up on his earlier endeavor, but I don’t know if that was finishing that plot or getting ready to carry it forward. Robotman gets in a visit he’s wanted for a long time, and manages to turn his recurring flaw into something good and useful, as well as reliving a happy memory. As Larry’s trip takes an unexpected turn, Dorothy sets off on a new adventure with Danny No Longer The Street.

As near the beginning of the show, there’s another one week jump to finish things up. Rita’s gift from the Chief forces her to take action, but, despite her trying, she’s not quite up to it. Being conflicted anyway, she gives up on this a bit too easily and tries to convince herself it wasn’t important. Then, bizarrely even for this show, we skip to the play we saw part of earlier for a musical number that works in part of the episode title. A lot. The lead actress goes outside, riding the high from all the applause, and has a run-in with what I suspect is going to be the big bad of season three, played by the wonderful Michelle Gomez (perhaps best known as Missy on Doctor Who). It’s a scene strange enough to be in keeping with the general tenor of the show, and the new threat isn’t going to be happy when she learns something about the person she’s looking for. The Chief has an unexpected encounter by the fireplace that ties back to a recurring joke from a while back in the series. Then he suddenly gets pulled away in a new direction and we see a familiar face up to something new and weird.

What I Liked: The Patrol has an off-beat sense of humor that I keep enjoying. Not that the show is a comedy, it’s absolutely not, but the absurdism they infuse keeps being unpredictable and entertaining in a very dark way. Cliff/Robotman’s tirades are in a class by themselves. I loved Michelle Gomez on Doctor Who, and her small part in this episode was fantastic. It was nice seeing Cyborg and his father actually getting along finally. Dorothy’s devotion to her father was touching, and Jane’s mess in the Underground was nicely executed. I’m glad Cliff finally caught a break. I’m intrigued by the final credit scene.

What I didn’t: This episode felt cobbled together, like it was both trying to end last season and kick this one off. I get that COVID caused a lot of complications, but this was one of the more noticeable examples I can think of. I’m still not sure what the point of the musical number was. It almost felt like they were being weird for the sake of being weird.

I’ll give this one a 3.5 out of 5. They’re getting some leeway from me with all the complications that really were beyond their control. They’ve certainly set up for an interesting season.

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