WARNING: SPOILERS may be inferred ahead. Continue with caution!
Season 3 of Doom Patrol from DC and HBO Max has come to a cathartic close, with the final four episodes delivering gut punch after gut punch, as our misfit, not-so-superheroes are pushed to their furthest limits. Chief isn’t around to conjure a magical/scientific deus ex machina from the ol’ mad scientist files (because he’s dead), so the Doom Patrol must learn “why” they are. Without the bonding element of Chief, what do our reluctant roommates do now? We get the answer to this question in ways that made me cry (weep) and laugh (guffaw) in back-to-back moments. Rinse. Repeat.
Doom Patrol is one of the best comics adapted TV shows running now and demands attention with its absurdist approach to characters who aren’t superheroes, but rather humans in need of their own kinds of healing. Season 3, in a way, wraps up with a hopeful trajectory that sees our team as exactly that, a team. Finishing this season made me remember watching season 1.
The growth and depth from then until now has been so well done as to go almost unnoticed, naturally. Characters step up in new ways I wouldn't have imagined previously. One character must live and lose an entire lifetime. Another struggles with the idea of becoming a parent, while still another begins moving towards the side of evil. Each character is made to ask "why" they are face the answers, whether they like it or not.
“We are not a super team.”
This is spoken more than once this season and encompasses why I love this show. They are not a super team. They don't rally to a giant spotlight in the sky. They aren't the Justice League, and they just want to be left alone.
These are traumatized and powerful individuals with a desire to heal, that constantly become embroiled in the consequences of the Chief's actions, though no one in the Doom Patrol mansion is a saint. The absurd elements of the show allow abstract thought to become a flying butt, or any existential metaphor needed. These visuals would challenge the reality of any Burning Man attendee, but never overpowers the human emotion laying underneath it all.
They never asked for any of this. After decades of life granted to them by the Chief (albeit as a side effect of his immortality experiments), the Doom Patrol has to decide how to move forward as individuals. This forms the focus of the latter half of season 3. The real villain of season 3 is resigning one's self to suffering.
Rita and Larry hide away. Vic puts on his superhero persona and shouts catchphrases. Jane literally retreats into herself. Cliff...well, Cliff rolls the die on which self-sabotaging habit he uses to cope. These people are so imperfect and struggling, that being a "super team" is laughably off the table, until it isn't. Season 3 builds not to a battle but catharsis (that's as specific as you'll get from me), which fits this show so well, while representing something new.
The differences from the comics serve Doom Patrol well, as an interesting counter to the show and as a nice place to end my review. The 'Brotherhood' of Dada is quite evil in the good ol' pulp pages. Mr. Nobody (from season 1) is the usual leader, and they seek to change the world through torturous art (very Jack Nicholson Joker). The show goes a different way, using the 'Sisterhood' of Dada as a means to push our characters forward. This Sisterhood is not evil. Its members are abused and betrayed through the years. All they want is art and the beautiful freedom of self-expression. The tv show's Doom Patrol themselves are more embroiled in their own traumas than in the comics. This is a preferred approach to me and is pulled off so well. Each character follows their own arc that hilariously leads them all together, often against their will.
Doom Patrol is a show that keeps getting better and I highly recommend you jump on the train while it's at station. Check it out now on HBO Max! If you're hankering for more Doom Patrol, go pick up Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol Vol. 1 & 2 from your LCS(!!!) or Comixology!
Austin Kemp read Batman #315 (Batman vs Kite Man) when he was 5 years old, and hasn't stopped reading comics since. Austin is a college writing teacher and has a masters degree in Comics Studies. Austin and his partner, Savanah, live in Massachusetts with their master, a cat named Chaplin.