Doom Patrol: Fun Size Patrol

"Help… Girl…"

Welcome to season two of Doom Patrol. Why don't we start small...

Season two appears to be centered around Dorothy Spinner, about whom I remember very little although she was around when I was reading the comics. Specifically, they appear to be adapting – minor spoiler here regarding the name – the Candlemaker storyline, about which I remember even less, beyond that he was a creepy and super-powerful being that tries to make Dorothy make wishes which go bad in some way I don't remember any of the details about.

I feel comfortable saying this, as the only part of that that isn't established this week in the cold open is the name 'Candlemaker.'

Also worth noting, I'm not letting myself watch any further in the series until I review the episode I've just watched, which means I've only seen this first episode so far which is absolutely killing me. Long story short, all of the reviews of season one were done with the benefit of knowing the big picture, whereas I'm now flying blind.

We open with the characters still shrunk to what appears to be the inch-and-a-half-or-so range after the events of last season. This was a great decision for a few reasons. First, and most pragmatically, it stalls everybody in one location and makes them deal with the fallout from the season finale.

See, the goals of a season opener are a bit of a tightrope. You need to reintroduce the characters for viewers who are either new, or just haven't watched the last season in a while, but do it quickly and cleanly enough that the rest of the viewers don't get bored. You need to acknowledge the events of the previous season finale, and if necessary deal with the emotional fallout for the characters involved. Buffy was always particularly good about this. Then, if you have time, you can start planting the seeds for the new season's storylines.

It turns out that having the team all physically stuck in miniature and being forced to live on the table top race track together is a great way to facilitate all that.

The main issue they'd be dealing with, were the team all their normal size, is that after what they learned about the Chief last year none of them would be willing to stay within a thousand miles of him. As things stand they can neither leave because they're too small, nor can they kill him (another definite option, particularly as far as Jane's concerned) because they need him to figure out how to 're-embiggen' them. And the script here does a great job playing with that tension. There are several moments where the Chief appears to have the moral high ground in some way, only for both the team and the show to turn around and not let him off the hook in even the tiniest little way.

So they're all dealing with their circumstances in the most 'them' ways possible. Rita's working on controlling her powers so that she can in turn feel like she's taking control of the situation. Cyborg is obsessively checking on Mr. Nobody and tough-love training Rita in her development. Cliff is beating the crap out of rats, so apparently he still has some feelings regarding Admiral Whiskers. Jane is taking drugs to numb the everything. Niles is desperately trying to pretend that things are still like they were in the hope that they will be. And Dorothy is our eyes and ears in observing all of this.

I've seen a couple of comments that there's a shift of tone this season that's not quite jiving, and I think it's pretty clear what that is. They've lost Mr. Nobody's voice from the mix, which means they've lost the meta-commentary and fourth wall breaking that characterized a lot of last season. I don't think that's a bad thing, but it definitely is a change of tone. They seem to be attempting to fill that general space with Dorothy's voice-over, which might work long term, or they might drop it. I suspect it would be better if they dropped it, although it was a good way to re-introduce the characters by having her describe how she sees them. It was worth noting that in each instance she described them in the kindest possible interpretation of who they were and what they were going through. I found the description of Rita as possibly made of glass particularly touching.

It's interesting to me how many times in this episode they demonstrated that as angry as Cliff gets and as many bad choices as he's made in the past, he can't help but reflexively do the kind thing. He goes to beat up the rats, but he tells Dorothy he's feeding them to avoid freaking her out. He can't resist giving Dorothy a ride in the race car, but even as he's sternly telling her how it won't be a regular thing, he's also asking if she wants to go faster. After he sees the pregnant mother, he ultimately does start feeding the rats. 'Kind' is his factory default, and it keeps working its way out regardless of what life throws at him. This was deliberately underscored by the flashback with his father, in which we learn that Cliff intended to be a good father and husband, but ultimately we know that he turned into exactly the same man his father was.



And finally we learn that the Chief had the way out available the whole time, although the personal cost to him was high enough that he was desperate not to use it. Clearly, whatever the thing around his neck was that he traded away for everyone's bigness, that was what was keeping him the same age he'd been since 1914. And Dorothy is aware enough that he's now on his way toward a long awaited death. That's a super stable position for an eleven-year-old with nearly infinite power and little to no emotional processing skills to be. I'm sure that will be fine.

Meanwhile, Larry makes tiny furniture and cooks them tiny pancakes, while he hangs out in Doom Manor, full sized and with only the Negative Spirit for company. The tiny food was adorable. The tiny vanity that he's clearly making for Rita is adorable. The fact that they plant an erector set Ferris Wheel in Larry's son's room to let us know that Larry had built the erector set elevator off of the table is genius level subtlety in storytelling, and I adored it. I'd been wondering what the story was with Larry's sons. I'm glad this season is getting around to telling us about them, and I look forward to hearing more.



Bits and Pieces:

-- The rest of the alters are tired of Jane drugging herself into oblivion and appear to be calling for one of the other to take the big job upstairs. I thought none of the rest of them were willing to go up there?

-- Dorothy's timeline raises a lot of questions that I hope get answered. So, she's eleven. We first see her captured in the London circus in 1927. If she was actually eleven then (and I assume she wasn't born that way, or... ouch) then she would have been born around 1916. Which is vague-ish enough that Niles may or may not have known about her before leaving for the Bureau to protect Dorothy's mother. Clearly, seeing Niles in the crowd is enough to provoke Man/Bear/Wolf/Stag to react.  What made her stop aging?

-- Speaking of that creature, I'd just made a note to begin calling him 'Ted,' when the show elaborated that Dorothy has imaginary friends Darling and Herschel. Darling is clearly the woman with the mirror face, but it's not clear if Herschel is the beast or the giant spider. I'm going to stick with Ted for the wolf/bear/stag until I get further clarification. He just feels like a Ted to me.

-- I thought there was an error until I went back and checked the footage. Dorothy is not wearing her Wizard of Oz Dorothy outfit in 1927, as the film didn't come out until 1939. That implies that she saw the movie and seriously mapped herself onto it.

-- I saw what was coming regarding the runt rat-baby, but it was a good surprise that Jane was just as freaked out by it as Dorothy was.

-- Vic freaking out about Mr. Nobody in the painting came across as a forced way to keep him and Rita from being part of the following scene. It's not at all clear what was going on with Vic in this one.

-- Clever move, having Vic use tough love on Rita earlier so that we would recognize what Niles was doing to Dorothy later and not hate him for it.

-- The process that Niles had to go through to summon Willoughby Kipling was clearly not a spell, just a mandatory session of humiliating himself before Willoughby would show up. Willoughby was recording it on his phone, after all. The pink umbrella was a nice touch. Is Timothy Dalton really that bad a singer, or was he leaning into the moment?

-- The 'husband stitch' is, sadly, a real thing. And it's horrifying.

-- Cliff referred to his unborn baby as 'the burrito.' I think that's a shout out to the Gerard Way run of the series.

-- I hate to be that guy, but electric model cars would in no way work like we see here. There's nothing underneath for Cliff to tinker with, they don't have working steering wheels. There is no peddle for Cliff to accelerate with. Oh crew it, nobody likes that guy. It was a fun sequence.

-- That really is an amazingly detailed model car set they have there.

-- Speaking of, the 'giant' sets here all looked like they were practical effects, and looked amazing. Great job. It took me ages to realize that they were eating giant single pieces of popcorn while watching the movie.



Quotes:

Dorothy: "Maybe we’re not all friends just yet, but I just know we will be eventually. Someday, we might even be better than friends. Maybe someday we’ll be a family."

Rita: "At the very least he could point us in the direction of a book, or a boy, or a horsehead. She seemed nice."

Cliff: "Squeak squeak, motherfucker! Oh yeah!"

Jane: "Being a grownup doesn’t give you a pass on being an asshole."

Cliff: "Hole filled, asshole."

Niles: "Cut the crap, Willoughby, we’ve got work to do."
Willoughby: "And we will. It’s just, you’re adorable. I’m adorable. The whole thing’s just –"
Niles: "Enough. Please."

Willoughby: "Is this supposed to be a grovel?"

Rita: "Very Great Santini of you, by the way."

Cliff: "It’s entirely possible that that is the world’s tiniest joint."
Jane: "Larry rolled it for me. He uses tweezers or some shit."

Jane: "Okay, okay, on the count of three, we both blurt out what we think he fucked."

Cliff: "Jane. You want to go fuck up some rats?"
Jane: "Fuck, yes."

Jane: "Natural order. The weakest one is a liability so it has to go."



A solid season opener and a lot of fun and a particularly good set design. A couple of points that were clearly set up for later events of the season are a little unclear, but that's not a huge problem for now.

Eight out of ten pink umbrellas.

Mikey Heinrich is, among other things, a freelance writer, retired firefighter, and roughly 78% water. You can find more of his work at the 42nd Vizsla. If you'd like to see his raw notes for this and other reviews, you can find them at What Was Mikey Thinking.

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