After the table-setting of the season premiere, “Tyme Patrol” provides the simplest distillation of what one truly expects from Doom Patrol: a villain with a clock for a face and a love of roller skating and Donna Summer. That right there is what is expected of Doom Patrol — in addition to all the character work and cursing, of course — and “Tyme Patrol” understands that, as April Fitzsimmons and Neil Reynolds’s script somehow manages to deliver such a ridiculous image alongside those emotionally affecting beats that make the show tick. It also understands that spelling “time” with a “y” is comedy at its purest.
But first, the episode has to fill in a few blanks to move the story forward. It opens with a familiar set-up for Doom Patrol, a recorded interview session. Only in this case, Niles is in the hot seat, with Cliff interrogating him about what he did to the team and, more importantly, why. Niles doesn’t exactly answer in the way Cliff wants him to, but he does provide some necessary puzzle pieces. Niles’ story includes his perspective of the season premiere’s opening scene (at the carnival in London in 1927), as Niles (when he was moonlighting at the Bureau of Normalcy) was in the audience to confirm that the “ape faced girl” attraction was his daughter. This explains who the wendigo seemed to recognize in the original version of the scene, and also shows how The Candlemaker killed everyone else at the carnival that night. A couple of years later, Niles sent Dorothy to hide in Danny, which was “a young sentient alleyway” at the time, and set out to search for immortality, in order to always be around to protect her. His research eventually took him to Paraguay, where he stole a talisman (a rabbit’s foot, which he traded to Willoughby in the premiere) that provided him with immortality. But since that wasn’t a permanent solution, he began his immortality experiments on what is now the team.
With that, Niles also reveals to Cliff that he traded the talisman to Willoughby in exchange for making them all big again, meaning that Niles is now dying at the ripe old age of 139. And Doom Patrol doesn’t drag that part out, moving on to a team meeting about what this means for the future of Niles and Dorothy. Naturally, Dorothy doesn’t take her father’s mortality well, going from denial — despite overhearing the conversation between Niles and “the drunk wizard” — to dismay that her father won’t be around to teach her to cook or to drive or to watch her get married. It’s a testament to Abigail Shapiro that those latter rites of passage actually kind of hit the mark, despite the fact that she’s perpetually 11 years old.
But Niles’s new mortality is an interesting dilemma, as the team has all the reason in the world to hate Niles — which Cliff makes abundantly clear — but they still understand how necessary his life is for Dorothy’s well-being and possibly also theirs. Rita is so emotional over Niles’s impending death that she leads the charge on helping him find an alternate method of immortality, while Cliff is so emotional (in a different way) that he decides to eventually work to save Niles simply because he knows Niles doesn’t want to be saved. (It’s not intentionally reverse psychology, but Cliff just isn’t bright.) Again, Rita has all the right in the world to be the maddest at Niles, but instead, she continues to work tirelessly to save him, while Cliff is just so full of rage against the Chief. However, as much as he wants to proclaim that “it’s every man, woman, and brick for themselves now,” he continues to remain part of the team and goes on missions. It’s something Jane even somewhat calls him out on — as she decides to officially move back into the Manor — when she tells him she’s tired of “this co-dependent routine”: As much as Cliff tries to argue that he’s his “own robot,” he still stays. And a major reason why is revealed at the end, in the form of a question: “How is your kid more important than mine?!” For all of the answers Niles gave to explain why he did what he did, he still hasn’t answered that one for Cliff. As in the premiere, while everyone else is somewhat moving forward, Cliff can’t help but dwell on the past — which is understandable, as his past life is also more recent for him than the others.
In terms of moving forward, the way things ended in “Fun Size Patrol,” it looked like Vic was running away not just from the team but from facing his trauma head-on. “Tyme Patrol,” however, reveals that he was actually taking the steps to get better. He’s moved away from Doom Manor and its many possible triggers back home to Detroit, where he has joined a trauma support group. While he doesn’t share his story during group, he shares a lot just in the way he pushes back against turning off his Cyborg eye, worried that it will make him vulnerable.
That Vic is able to let go of even a little bit of control after last season is a major turning point for the character — as is the introduction of an obvious love interest in the form of Roni Evers (Karen Obilom), a war veteran who paves the way for Vic to learn an amazingly prescient lesson about “systemic injustice in America.” Doom Patrol has tackled the romantic comedy before in a satirical form with Jane’s Karen personality, but it also manages to play it straight with Vic and Roni, landing squarely in the middle of the insanity of Dr. Tyme and the somberness of Larry’s plot. (It helps that Joivan Wade and Karen Obilom have instant chemistry.)
Meanwhile, Doom Patrol continues to write Rita’s response to everything that happened in season one as a decision to lean into the hero role, even though she keeps being doubted. She’s harnessing her powers, she’s coming up with alternative solutions to size-related problems, she’s making mission briefing presentations (with impressive stick figures), she’s knocking brains out of masters of time (and tyme). Others keep underestimating her and refusing to take her seriously, but even in her screw-ups, she’s still showing true hero potential in a way she didn’t at the start of the series. And even when she fails in this mission, she still gets a tiny win in teaching Dorothy how to cook, even though she does so during another round of self-pity. In a cast of established talent who regularly bring it, April Bowlby might be the most impressive part of Doom Patrol, by virtue of the fact that she’s one of the lesser-known and, as a result, most surprising of all the series regulars, both in the little things she does as Rita and the big, sweeping moments as well.
In terms of the more established cast, unlike Brendan Fraser, Matt Bomer isn’t exactly allowed to go big with his performance of Larry. But it really is the perfect combination of Bomer’s voice acting and Matthew Zuk’s physicality that makes this character and his struggles land as well as they do. So it’s especially impressive that “Tyme Patrol” rips off the bandage when it comes to Larry and his living son, Paul (John Getz), unlike what it did with Cliff and Clara back in season one’s “Frances Patrol.” The casting of Getz suggests that things might go down differently, but instead, he’s cracking jokes about his late brother Gary’s conspiracy theories (which comes into play later in the episode) and immediately realizes it’s his father once he hears his voice, something that Larry doesn’t dance around at all. Of course, in true Larry fashion, he ultimately refuses to face this head-on, but he still makes some progress. And then he’s swarmed by butterflies, which is something that is either really good or really bad. There is no in-between in this case.
The same is apparently the case for the Underground, as the Secretary shows Jane the moment Miranda took over as Kay’s primary — which Jane had never seen before — during an attempted exorcism. The scene goes from upsetting to chilling when Miranda confronts Kay’s mother for her negligence, boiling down to the fact that the Underground considers Miranda (who threw herself down a well) a better choice for primary than Jane, because unlike Jane, Miranda knew what Kay wanted. And with the serum, she’s not just suppressing and taking herself out of commission, she’s doing the same for the other personalities inside of her. The Underground made their stance clear in “Fun Size Patrol”: “Time For a Change.”
Doom Patrol Patrol
• Larry: “My son is dead.”
Cliff: “Aww. Did Chief get him too?”
• In the DC comics, Ronald “Ron” Evers is a version of Cyborg and Dr. Tyme is an alias for Percival Sutter, not the character’s actual name.
• It’s a great touch that once Tyme loses his brain and his time thrall is broken, we get the reveal that all of the roller skaters were simply people who previously attempted to get his time-altering continuinium to bring back for their people… while Cliff’s motivation is simply, “I am not babysitting my nemesis’ kid!”
• There is perhaps nothing sadder than little Gary’s letter to his missing dad, but the line “I think you went to space but mom won’t stop crying” is especially sad.