We never expected Dr. Niles Caulder (Timothy Dalton) to be all that sympathetic, and yet …
While so much of Doom Patrol concerns itself with fathers, this week’s episode, “Dad Patrol,” goes right for the nose as we see the Chief finally be a good dad, Cliff (Brendan Fraser) get to be any sort of dad, and the truth about Jane’s (Diane Guerrero), er, Kay’s father. Oh, also, how about a side-order of Larry’s (Matt Bomer) ongoing guilt regarding his disappearance 40 odd years ago?
But thanks to this focus on fatherhood, we get to see a pairing we’ve never really seen before: Larry and Jane. Though they have traveled together in the past, seeing them walk down a rural Arkansas road gave them the opportunity to bond in a completely new way. The formerly abrasive Jane didn’t have much to say to him prior to this journey, and considering the mess Larry was before Mr. Nobody started messing with the group, one imagines he made her breakfast, but left interacting with her to Cliff. Nevertheless, seeing them here, both contemplating the loss of their consciousnesses, was a rare opportunity to witness them bonding. Granted, it is easy to fall into small cliques even in a quintet, and just by virtue of the decades they were born in, Cliff and Jane make for better partners. See also, Larry and Rita (April Bowlby), who also found herself working with someone else at a key moment. Disrupting the usual teams was definitely a conscious decision on the writers’ part and it definitely yielded some great results.
And you have to wonder if Larry was the one to go with Jane so he’d see the obvious change when Miranda comes up from the well. Normally, this would Cliff’s job, but he may be too lost in glee to notice the change in his friend.
His sense of joy in reconnecting with Clara (Bethany Anne Lind) was the highlight of the hour. It was also nice to see how much she’s his daughter with the swearing, externalization of interior fears, and hesitation. Since this is Doom Patrol, it is possible this could still blow up in Cliff’s face, but we’d love to see him actually be a hero of sorts at the wedding by just toning down his excitement by a degree. It might not be a happy ending, but it would be a happy state to leave him on heading into the season break.
Meanwhile, Niles and Dorothy’s (Abigail Shapiro) ride to the fair just ached with the season’s usual gut-wrenching emotions. The metaphor of Dorothy getting her period and ending the world might be a little too on the nose for any other show, but Doom Patrol pulls it off thanks to the scene in which the gas station attendant explains what’s going on and why, just in general, it’s better not to tell Niles that this change has occurred. And back in the wackyland of the series, Niles must hide his cruel intent from her. It gave all the scenes at the fair an added tension. And now that we think about it, it is interesting that Dorothy’s first “grown up” act is to keep a secret. While it seems the Candlemaker will not need to show Dorothy that her father meant to kill her to get his way, the new distance between Dorothy and the Chief may lead to interesting things if there is a third season of the show. And if it can play out with the frankness we received in this episode, it may also turn out to be the series’ great strength in the long term.
Also, we have to admit, there was also an unexpected strength in Vic’s (Joivan Wade) story despite our early misgivings. It is, to date, the strongest love story of any of the DC Universe shows — yes, even Swamp Thing‘s was less developed — and the arc of it was, ultimately, satisfying. So much so, in fact, we’d be thrilled if Roni (Karen Obilom) exits the show with her last scene in this episode. Sure, the rules of superhero stories mean Vic should track her down and bring her to justice, but the murder of the Quorum executive was metaphorical language for something more mundane. And since Roni has emotional depth, her admission that their time together was good stung more than any sort of superhero fight they could have next week. It’s better if this was just Doom Patrol‘s version of a relationship put through all its paces and ending as well as it possibly could.
Oh, and as add value attraction, we also get to see Rita lose all of the confidence she gained by freezing up as Roni walked past her. We imagine it will lead to an amazing interior confrontation with her mother in the not-too-distant future.
We also expect a confrontation in the underground between Jane and Miranda. Presumably, she will find the thing Miranda found in the well and use it to escape. But, bizarrely, it seems this confrontation may lead to a stronger primary persona. It’s pretty clear Kay can never really grow up or take possession of herself, so it is up to Jane or Miranda to “be” the full-time adult here. An interesting wrinkle in that, though, is the way Jane already seems more compassionate and self-aware than she’s ever been before. Is it a consequence of Miranda “drowning” some of the other personas or is Jane actually healing?
Presumably, some of these questions will get resolved as next week is the season finale. Yes, the second season is significantly shorter than the 15-episode first season, but we’ll argue the show also got stronger as a result. Speed is a good thing for the series and we hope it will continue with this pace should it return next year.
Doom Patrol streams Thursdays on DC Universe and HBO Max.