The Doom Patrol has consistently been the weirdest comic book show airing, and that says something in the era of The Boys and the Harley Quinn cartoon. The team never quite recovered their more standard comic book standing after Grant Morrison got his hands on them, and they’ve been the poster children for bizarre stories ever since. Now, they deal with versions of the afterlife, strange magic, really weirdly expressed grief, and get some guest stars from one of the greatest comic book series of all time. “Dead Patrol” is a really busy episode.
The show opens with the team in being ferried across the river Styx by Charon. Apparently the Greeks had this part right. They debate what’s going on and what happened to them back at the strange resort they were at. Some of them formulate a desperate plan, but then get overtaken by something in the air that’s never explained. Most of the team collapses, although one doesn’t and plays dead (badly). Also never explained is why this weirdness affects some characters that aren’t really that close to human. At Doom Manor, a bored and lonely Larry sits at the piano, and gets interrupted by a very unexpected and gruesome delivery.
In a very strange section of the afterlife, which has departed sharply from the earlier Greek theme, Rita blames herself for everything going on, and not following up on the destiny the Chief left for her. The rest of the team finds themselves in various strange places with unexpected company as they try and figure out what’s going on and what’s expected of them. Cliff, of course, ends up with someone he doesn’t get on with, Cyborg has a more idealized companion, and Jane and Kay end up with someone from much earlier in their lives. Back at the Manor, Larry acts oddly even for him. Dorothy comes back from her trip to lay her father to rest, and isn’t sure what to make of what’s going on here. Over some attempts at cooking I don’t think I’d eat, the two of them decide there are some weird things going on, and Dorothy decides they need special help.
I’d have thought when dealing with the occult world they’d go see Willoughby Kipling, but I guess that would be predictable or something. Instead, we meet the Dead Boy Detective Agency. These characters were created over in the Vertigo line at DC, first appearing in Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. The team is two dead boys from a boarding school, and their live friend, a young girl named Crystal who can see and hear them. They have their own oddness going on, but get interrupted by a noise from outside. Danny, the former street, then brick, now Ambulance, has arrived, bearing Dorothy and Larry, who get the others to come give them a hand. Returning to the Manor, the newcomers are also taken aback by Larry’s display (congratulations, you weirded out ghosts). They come up with a plan, collect some things they need, and settle a new nickname on Larry that does kinda work.
Throughout the afterlife, things proceed as you might expect. Cliff is having a horrible time, cursing out his companion and finding out more things that shock and enrage him. Cyborg is having a much better time of things, and learns some things that make him reexamine some things he “knows” about his life. Kay gets to act her age for once, while Jane and their companion talk over things that have happened and what they consider to be some of their failures. While Cliff is his usual ornery self, Jane is actually much calmer and doesn’t even swear in her scene.
We get to know the detectives a bit better, and see each of their specialties. One of them produces a special weapon that, he explains, is in deference to their being in America now, but it’s also a nod to a different character one of their co-creators is best known for. With a few things lined up, they try and make contact with the Patrol. Larry gets some degree of communication with Rita, but it’s not as helpful as they’d hoped, and Edwin, one of the detectives, tells them most of what Rita is saying isn’t right. The characters in the Manor have a visit from what’s become a running joke in the background, while Rita has a close encounter with an odd creature. The Dead Boys have figured out enough to know they don’t want any part of this, and get ready to leave. A tearful appeal from Dorothy gets them to reconsider, and they embark on a risky plan, bringing Larry along with them.
While the Dead Boys fill Larry in on some important things, the Patrollers move along their weird paths. Cliff continues to argue and rage and find some of his companion’s habits appalling. While Cliff often looks for things to be offended by, I’d say he’s dead on with this one. Crystal and Dorothy chat and start becoming friends, something I don’t think either of them have very many of. Jane, spending time with her and Kay’s face from the past, learns something surprising and touching. We learn a bit more about Charles, one of the detectives, as they continue to try and save the others. Cyborg uncovers more of his own background, and has a lot to think about. Crystal and Dorothy continue to bond, albeit in a very strange, and arguably unhealthy, way.
The team reunites, in part due to the actions of Rita’s mysterious savior. Clearly he knows her, and just as clearly she lies to everyone about it, although they don’t catch it. They finally make their escape, and their final showdown with what seems like it’s going to be a end-boss proves anticlimactic. Finally, everyone ends up at the Manor, trying to process what they’ve been through. The Dead Boy team makes their goodbyes, and gain a companion in their adventures. Cyborg finds a few things still aren’t working for him, and the team tries to regroup. Before they can back to their version of normal, they get a very unexpected visitor in their kitchen, who seems to not know the answers to some basic questions. It’s an odd place to end, but then, it’s a weird show.
What I Liked: I’m thrilled to see a crossover, of sorts, with anything that comes from Sandman. It really was one of the best ongoing series I’ve ever read. The interactions between the Patrol and the Dead Boys were well done. The various afterlives were nicely tailored to the characters. I’m intrigued as to why Rita was left out. The weapon Charles used was a nice touch. It’ll be interesting to see what develops with whoever (or whatever) helped Rita.
What I Didn’t: I can’t figure out why they not only didn’t go to Kipling, but he was never mentioned. I’m not sure why Cliff’s time was so hellish, while the others were so much calmer. The process of them coming back from their afterlives was a little weird and didn’t seem to match some of what we saw earlier in the episode.
It was another fun bit of weirdness. I’ll give it a 3 out of 5. It’ll be interesting to see if the detectives come back, or how they follow up on some of the new mysteries.