Warning: There will definitely be some SPOILERS in this review — I’m literally going to riddle the beginning with them — so imagine the CryptKeeper’s voice in your head, saying “BEWARE!”
Doom Patrol knows all the weird backroads to my heartstrings, some riddled with farting donkeys, while others are riddled with moments of self-affirming peace. DC and HBO Max’s Doom Patrol follows a group of superpowered ne'er-do-wells and their mad scientist leader as they all careen through one darkly, outlandish shenanigan to another. However, these comic book antics are simply the background for characters learning to cope with the traumas they’ve endured, which results in amazing moments of long-sought-after acceptance and emotional closure. Appearing for the first time in DC Comics' My Greatest Adventure #80, the Doom Patrol has varied in roster and changed tones over the past six-ish decades, leading to two unmissable (in my opinion ) pieces of media: Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol and this, freaking, show.
Season 3 picks up immediately following the wicked (candle pun) cliffhanger of Season 2. The Doom Patrol are encased in wax, Dorothy must face the Candlemaker, and The Chief isn’t long for this world. The situation is then handled through the power of friendship. No, really. It was amazing. The Doom Patrol are freed from their candle prison, Dorothy and the Candlemaker are friends, and The Chief is dead. Yes, really (kinda). And thus begins a new season that, in the first three episodes at least, shows our characters healing. They begin stepping into new roles, accepting themselves while dealing with trauma and moving forward. Much of these themes are pulled straight from Grant Morrison’s run of Doom Patrol, alongside the abstract plots and ridiculousness. Yet, this show captures a lot of the heart I didn’t get in the comics run, that heart coming from genuine character moments.
In the absence of The Chief, each member of the Doom Patrol must take control of their own lives, and step outside the house they’ve been hiding in for years. The Chief's daughter Dorothy steps up in maturity and helps the Doom Patrol feel more like a family. Cliff/Robotman reconciles with his daughter and becomes active in her life (dealing with his own — and his dad’s — failings). Cyborg struggles with his new love and her insatiable quest for murderous revenge against an evil corporation. Larry/Negative Man deals with an ever-changing relationship with the Negative Spirit that lives inside him, while growing into a wiser, self-assured person (a particular moment between Larry and a dead detective boy sticks out as an emotional step forward for Larry). Jane is...Kay is...They are putting their pieces back together after last season’s shattering events. As a result, we get to see a more healthy Jane as she interacts and trusts her “family” of multiple personalities more.
A huge part of why I love this show is the pacing, especially in how it takes its time building relationships. Season 1 began with no real family vibe, despite living in the same house for decades. By the time Season 3 begins, these characters trust each other and make sacrifices for each other (though not without some hilarious Thanksgiving-style family bickering). The best part about this is that I believe it. These relationships were built over time, right under our noses, while we gawked at reality-eating paintings and sex ghosts.
I say all this to avoid beating you in the face with spoilers while still giving you a taste of how AMAZING of a start Season 3 has gotten off to. Doom Patrol revels in its absurdity but doesn’t let that derail the story of these characters, these humans. The direction of Season 3 points in MANY different and interesting directions, including the Brotherhood of Evil. Originally introduced in Doom Patrol #86 back in 1964, the Brotherhood of Evil is captained by The Brain (a brain in a machine) and Monsieur Mallah (a talking, beret-wearing gorilla; think Grodd’s French cousin), The Brotherhood of Evil swears vengeance on the Doom Patrol, and I can’t wait to see what form that takes. Alongside the Brotherhood of Evil is the introduction of Madame Rouge (introduced in the same comics issue as well), who torpedoes from within the Earth with a giant drill (yeah, that’s the best way I know to put it).
Madame Rouge is a delightful introduction to the show. In the comics, Madame Rouge is split between two personalities: one good, one bad. She was a master of disguise until blessed by the Brotherhood with the good ol’ Reed Richards's stretchy-stretch powers, much like Rita's. Obviously (like many who show up at the Doom Patrol mansion have done), she’s slept with Niles Caulder, and that’s what brings her into the Doom Patrol’s orbit. All of this could be the case in the show as well, though we don’t know enough yet to be sure, I’m excited as hell to find out.
Doom Patrol will make you weep and laugh at the same time, a confusing combo of emotion that is as haunting as it is absurd. You will be treated to heartfelt moments in Purgatory and emotional breakdowns at a local community theater so please, please, please watch it. New episodes appear every Thursday on HBO Max.
If you want to deep dive back to the panels that started it all, check out Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol from (preferably) your LOCAL COMIC BOOK SHOP or Amazon. Gerard Way also had a very stylized approach when he wrote Doom Patrol, so be sure to check that out from your LCBS or Amazon should that be something that puts wind in your sails.
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.