A lot of this sophomore season of Doom Patrol has been a waiting game. The biggest wait, of course, has been regarding Dorothy and her whole thing. “Her whole thing” is the best way to describe it, honestly, because even now, eight episodes in — keep in mind, this is a nine-episode season — it’s not too clear. She’s definitely a special, dangerous little girl … even the talking bunny knows this. But the “whys” of everything aren’t all too clear, and cryptic magic talk can only be interesting for so long before you start wishing everyone involved would just speak plainly. British accents can only do so much heavy lifting, even if they belong to Mark Sheppard and Timothy Dalton.
Some clarity is provided in this episode, though, in the sense that Dorothy isn’t just naturally forever 11 years old: She maintains that age and youth because Niles continues to treat her like she is 11 years old (and even younger). Technically, she could grow to an older appearance, but her father very much hasn’t treated her as old as she actually is at all this season, or in their past. And as it turns out, that is for good reason beyond just a father’s inability to let his little girl grow up. (Yes, the metaphor is there, but the show is making the metaphor literal. This is how TV works.) Dorothy has been doing everything she can all season to grow up — with a lot of nudging from the Candle Maker, who ends up having a vested interest in that — which is very much at odds with her father’s desires. The result is a little immortal girl getting her first period and all hell breaking loose. Again, the metaphor becomes literal, the subtext becomes text, and now puberty rears its ugly head as the true Big Bad of Doom Patrol season two.
Another little girl’s demons are at the forefront of this episode, as “Dad Patrol” (an episode title that takes on a less fun connotation when you apply it to this plot) opens with a flashback to young Kay, as we see how her monstrous father punished her by making her spend the night in a well. It’s in that well that Kay — prior to having the comfort of her multiple personalities — loses her stuffed lamb (and best friend) Harry in the watery sludge, which brings us to Jane’s mission for the episode. “Dad Patrol” makes clear that the deal hasn’t been completely done, and Miranda hasn’t officially taken over the role of primary. It’s more like a test drive. But the episode also reveals that more personalities are disappearing, as Lucy Fugue has gone now, too. Miranda chimes in from up top, telling Jane that “it’s a little tragic when [she] can’t see hope staring [her] right in the face,” while also giving us a clearer understanding of what Miranda’s deal is: She’s basically Jasmine from Angel season four. The conclusion to this plot in the episode confirms it, too, as it reveals she’s been killing off personalities by dumping them in the Underground’s well. (No, they’ve not “moved on,” as Baby Doll’s lifeless underwater visage makes very clear.)
But before that’s officially confirmed, Miranda spouts off nonsense about the personalities moving on as a result of Kay finally starting to heal, which is, of course, the point of the personalities, right? While Jane tries to figure out from Kay if that’s actually what’s happening, all Kay can think about is Harry the stuffed lamb and how much she wants him back. While every personality is afraid to go search from Harry — including, seemingly, Miranda—Jane decides she’ll do it, to prove why she’s still the primary. To prove that she’s the one who can really get things done. What follows is the rare pairing of Jane and Larry — who’s struggling with the idea of leaving his past behind to finally know peace with his negative spirit — on their way to Kay’s family farm in Arkansas, as they bond over not wanting to fade away.
Jane finds Harry, but she also finds a letter from Miranda to Kay’s father, again showing just how formidable and strong Miranda was but also suggesting to Jane that Miranda was scared to come back to this place. Which is why Jane decides to “fall in line” with Miranda when she returns to the Underground and even gives her Harry to return to Kay herself. Instead, Miranda chucks Harry into the Underground well and then does the same to Jane (where Jane sees the dead personalities). Pretty sneaky, sis.
In terms of the potential for fun in the title “Dad Patrol,” the Cliff and Clara Steele plot is the one that really delivers — although, due to the gloom and doom of the rest of the episode, it really does feel like the other shoe is going to drop by the end of it. But blissfully, it does not: Cliff reconnects with his daughter, accepts that she is a lesbian, gives her good life advice, and then gets invited to her wedding. He even learns he’s having a grandson and sings some Mike + The Mechanics’ “The Living Years” in the process. The only “bad” thing that happens in this plot is that he cooks up his beloved severed finger with the sausage he makes Clara for breakfast. But the rest of it? Everything’s coming up Cliff, baby.
Except for when it comes to Doom Patrol spin-offs with Cyborg, that is, as Rita’s imagined Beekeeper & Borg spin-off — a riff on the Emma Peel version of The Avengers, not the Marvel one — might actually have Cliff’s Steele & Stone beat. Rita is, of course, on a high from saving a mugging victim in “Dumb Patrol,” and now she’s back on her superhero kick. Vic is also back on teasing her about that, as though he’s not part of this ragtag bunch of misfits and being called a member of the “peewee Justice League” by FBI agents. Glass houses, Vic Stone. On the other hand, as hyped as Rita is about her new superhero persona The Beekeeper — an upgrade from Blob Lady, surely — and about accompanying Vic to Detroit to figure out what happened to Roni, when it finally comes down to possibly confronting Roni (after she’s taken down the established Cyborg), Rita is obviously terrified. Your run-of-the-mill muggers are one thing, but ability-infused villains are actually “super” hero things.
Also, remember when Roni taught Vic about systemic injustice? Remember when they were in a support group for PTSD? Remember Vic’s PTSD? Remember any of the genuinely interesting aspects introduced in the Vic/Roni storyline that were apparently just a means to an underwhelming fight scene in this episode? (Roni punches Vic a bit before he just draws Cyborg arm at her. It’s impressive what a little uma jelly from the Scants can do — she’s no longer dying, thanks to it — as this episode reveals she definitely didn’t even ingest all of it.) While the Niles/Dorothy plot this season suffers from being vague, the Vic/Roni plot suffers from rushing this relationship and skipping all the actually interesting components in favor of telling an epic love story that’s missing some important parts. It’s kind like the Robotman of Doom Patrol plots.
The other issue with this plot is that, in Vic’s black-and-white view of the world, even though he’s right that cold-blooded murder is wrong, Roni taking out the head of one of Doom Patrol’s many shadowy organizations offscreen isn’t the type of thing that’s going to really make anyone turn on the character. In fact, it’s that she gets caught on camera and there isn’t even a possibility she didn’t that straight up hurts the character, not the fact that she killed this guy. Roni does make a good point that she’s told Vic the whole time who she is — while he still thinks it’s a matter of who she “was” — but the story also relies on Vic simply ignoring that.
Plus, the pinnacle of romance for them was apparently eating at a sub sandwich shop. A tale of true heartbreak, this is not. If there’s any plot in “Dad Patrol” that needed more daddy issues, it’s definitely this one.
Doom Patrol Patrol
• This week, in “I’m Cyborg”: Actually, it’s more like, “This week, in “I’m Cyborg’s partner.” Vic definitely one-ups the FBI agent who insults him, but Rita gets the most out of the whole Cyborg thing due to her excitement over being The Beekeeper. It’s early, so no one questions the lack of bees or bee-related abilities when it comes to Rita’s superhero alter ego. But they really should.
• Also in the Cloverton newspaper? “Our Town’s Our Town! Is A Conduit For Cloverton’s Chaos.” The article must not have mentioned Rita, though, so it makes sense she doesn’t mention it.
• Niles uses a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup as a burner phone, and it is truly the best thing Niles has done since he created a bunch of immortal weirdos.
• Clara calls Cliff “dad” on her way out, and Cliff almost cries … as much as robot men can cry, that is.
• For all of Niles’ worry about Dorothy getting into trouble and destroying the world, he sure lets her run off by herself all the time. That the gas station scene turns into a touching period moment instead of a massacre over people pointing at the freak is impressive. But then he lets her go off alone at a county fair’s funhouse, where she ends up being haunted by her mother’s spirit and the Candle Maker, so way to go, Niles.
• While Niles remains a bad dad, at least episode writers Tom Farrell and April Fitzsimmons know what they’re doing. Case in point? They have Niles cough a bunch into a handkerchief, revealing blood … and the fact that Niles is dying. Again, this is how TV works.