Doom Patrol S4 Eps. 4-6 REVIEW: wizard drugs & imaginary friends make the impending doom feel better
Doom Patrol on HBO Max occupies a comforting space in my heart, the space that holds my idealism about superheroes and how they represent the best of human intentions. Ya know, that hopeful nerd stuff. Season 4 of Doom Patrol is nothing less than an affirmation of this idealism. The first three episodes find our titular team in a stable(ish) place; the team became a team, fighting cod-pieced thieves and their own existential struggles with a relatively higher level of effort. Though all mediocre things must come to an end. Just as the butt-pocalypse is seemingly spanked, another threat looms, but this new danger is integral to the origins of our team. Episodes 4 through 6 cashes in on the subplots layered throughout previous seasons. Weighty empathetic moments are painted with brilliant performances and outlandish contexts; however, though our characters are reaching new heights of humanity in their dopey derring-do, "Immortus" is here and time is running out for the Doom Patrol.
Episode 4, "Casey Patrol", is a tear-jerking homage to superhero narratives, acceptance, and grief. This episode tears us away from the team and drops us in with Dorothy, now a Danny-zen and grieving daughter with very complicated emotions about her father. The abrupt shift in narrative away from the Doom Patrol doesn't feel intrusive as it definitely could've been; rather, this episode takes the time to check-in on a number of characters the series has always invested in outside of the main gang. Our last encounter with Dorothy saw her still in mourning when she took off with the newly corporeal Danny the Ambulance and fellow Danny-zens. Chief was a complicated figure with an even more complicated relationship with his daughter. This episode is wrapped around his absence and the various ways Dorothy tries to fill it. There is an absolute charm and imagination to this episode that revels in how cheesy yet impactful it inevitably knows it is.
"Youth Patrol", episode 5, veers back to the Doom Patrol just as a youth curse goes awry and delivers a bad case of the Benjamin Buttons. The tone of this episode is drastically different to the previous, episode 5 being reminiscent of a drunk and disorderly Dungeons & Dragons campaign with its having an abundance of spells, talking rabbits, and wizard weed. Yet this narratively psychedelic buckshot of what the hell is happening demonstrates all the best aspects of Doom Patrol as a series. Jane and Cyborg see a lot of the spotlight in this episode, but it's Jane in particular who shines. Her struggle coping with DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder) crosses a huge milestone here that is contextualized beautifully and feels earned, given all that we've watched her experience. Very much in the spirit of Grant Morrison's run in the Doom Patrol comics, this series tackles perceptions of disability and mental illness through the lens of superheroes. The series' compassionate approach to representation — greatly exampled in this particular episode — sets Doom Patrol apart from other superhero shows. Episode 5 carries a lot of emotion accumulated from seasons past, framing the lovely within the ludicrous.
Closing out Part One of season 4 is "Hope Patrol", wherein multiple threads come together in beautiful fashion. Rita and Rouge, intent on finding out what this "Immortus" thing is, take a friendly trip to the Bureau of Normalcy, while the rest of the team self-actualizes and scrambles in the face of impending doom. This episode ties the first half of the season together in unexpected ways with encounters that lend a heavier gravity to the show than I'm used to, though it's not unwelcomed. Episode 6 brings together the lingering subplots into an impactful display of character growth and storytelling. Though each of the Doom Patrol has been tackling the "Immortus" threat in their own way, this episode sees time run out and leaves us, as every good show does, wanting for more.
Episodes 4 through 6 of Doom Patrol's fourth season deliver the strongest episodes of the series thus far. With untold emotional depths and unspeakably whimsical heights, the ending crescendo of Part One celebrates all that sets Doom Patrol different with finely orchestrated storytelling and committed performances that make this a series worth keeping up with. Catch up with Doom Patrol on HBO Max!
If waiting for Part Two seems too heavy a burden then I might recommend taking a gander at the source material itself. An abundance of the series is derived from Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol, Book One and Book Two wherein heavier concepts of mental illness are addressed in a capes-and-cowls context. If you end up being as a big a fan of Casey in episode 4 as I am, then you'll want to see more of her. For that, you'll want to read Gerard Way's Doom Patrol: Brick by Brick. If you're actually interested in the representation of disability and mental illness in superhero comics — on the off chance — you make find the scholarly work Uncanny Bodies: Superhero Comics and Disability interesting!
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.