Doom Patrol: Dad Patrol

"I really don’t know how any of this works."

Season two of Doom Patrol enters the home stretch with a death defying race against time between Willoughby Kipling and Dorothy's period.

Having reached the penultimate episode of Season Two it feels like a good time to sit back and ask that time honored question: 'I wonder at what point COVID started causing production problems?'

My vague understanding is that season two of Doom Patrol was largely finished by the time of the initial outbreak, and that the only real effect was the concatenation of a planned run of ten episodes into a shortened run of nine. Now, whether this means that episodes nine and ten simply got combined, or whether there was a larger degree of plot point reshuffling to accommodate the change I couldn't even begin to guess. But I can't help but notice that there's a bit of a schism in this week's theme.

It's subtle, what theme they're exploring this week, but there's a tiny hint in the fact that they included it in the title.

We're presented with a variety of Fathers in this one, from Jane's indescribably abusive one, to Cliff's adorably over-enthusiastic attempts to form a paternal bond with Clara, to Niles' seriously dark parental pivot, and Larry's spirit-prompted flashback of him actually being a really good father to Paul, back in the day. It's not entirely clear what point the episode is trying to make regarding these differing facets of dad-ness, but it's undeniably an omnipresent motif this week.

Almost.

And here's why my initial question springs to mind. Everybody's doing deep dives into dad-time, with the strange exception of Rita and Vic. Now, for Rita this isn't particularly notable, as we know precisely two things about her father. 1. He existed, and 2. We don't know a second thing about Rita's father. While it does feel like a missed opportunity to not explore Rita's ongoing issues with her mother via finding out how her dad might have felt about the situation, it's not a huge loss from a storytelling perspective.

But an episode with a strong and deliberate 'difficult father relationships' theme that doesn't even at any point mention Silas Stone? That's just weird. And it really makes me wonder if there wasn't an original story breakdown in which both of those things were given a little screen time, thus allowing the Roni plotline a little breathing room between her stealing the Uma Jelly and 'whoops, Roni's gone all murder-y and has been immediately identified as the murderer by literally everybody.'

Roni's hop to the dark side was set up really nicely by everything else that's happened this season, and here it feels like it had to get brought forward just a little earlier than planned, resulting in it feeling out of left field despite having been foreshadowed all season. In literally one line of dialogue we find out that the Uma Jelly fixed her all up inside and she's already started murdering the scientists who did this to her.

And let me try to remember, other than the guy she just killed, who's the other scientist who's responsible for what happened to her. I just can't quite think of it... oh yeah, that's right, Silas Stone. AKA Vic's Dad. Yeah, I've officially convinced myself that the original plan involved a Silas Stone plot thread which allowed the show to tie Roni to her next target in an organic way.

Regardless, the murder investigation plotline had a lot going for it, although I am not personally a huge fan of the 'hero learns important information by holding up an unrelated newspaper article and seeing a nice big article about something they need to know on the back side' trope. Roni and Vic's fight at the end was appropriately heartbreaking, and also served as a nice cap on Rita's storyline about trying to become a superhero just by dressing like one. It's telling that she made no attempt to either stop Roni from leaving or to go help a clearly injured Vic. All she could do was stand there and be stunned. That's a nice way to tie a huge character moment into an unrelated plotline.

Of the remaining dad-related storylines, mileage varies. Larry being reminded that he was, on occasion, actually a really good dad to his sons was nice, if a little inconsequential to the rest of the episode. Jane choosing to ask Larry to help her so that she wouldn't interrupt Cliff's reunion with Clara was a sweet little touch, and Larry and Jane's mutual confessions of fear and weakness really worked. I don't think Jane's allowed herself to acknowledge a feeling of weakness before ever, so having Larry be the one she tells felt like a good choice.

Jane's relationship with her father really bookends the episode, both in terms of plot structure and theme. In the opening we see that Kay, as a young girl, couldn't climb up the rope to free herself from the well. In the end we learn that Miranda damn well could, did, and deliberately left behind the symbol of her childhood dependence on others with her own sternly worded declaration of independence. That's a nice visual metaphor for overcoming abuse.

It's a little unclear what exactly Miranda wants at this stage. Deliberately so, so that's a good thing. She clearly appears to be serial killing the other alters, if indeed getting thrown in the well does actually kill them as we'd been told before. Maybe she's expecting them all to come out of the well stronger, like she did. On the whole I doubt it though. She definitely seemed to be murdering Jane to prevent Jane from returning Harry the stuffed lamb, the aforementioned symbol of childhood.

And then there was Niles, determinedly attempting to give Dorothy one last perfect day before Willoughby shows up at six O'clock and does... something. Probably something murder-y, but they're still being coy about that. I love the way we're not drip-fed so much as 'drip-implied' information about Candlemaker and his real role in all this. Reading the signs, it's strongly implied that Dorothy, upon reaching 'womanhood' has to ceremonially fight the Candlemaker, who has existed for all time and isn't just one of her imaginary friends as we previously assumed.

This implies a whole shedload of interesting answers to things I've been wondering about all season. Why hasn't Dorothy aged at all since Niles found her at that Circus? We don't get an exact answer, but we do know that she was about the age she should have been at that point and got no older afterwards (until recently. In fact, about the time that Niles lost his immortality totem. Hmmm.) We also know that Niles believes it is absolutely crucial that she not grow any older or it will be the end of the world.

That totally explains why he's always kind of infantilized her, and why the Candlemaker was berating her for holding on to little girl things. This episode does a really great job of giving the viewer just enough information through both dialogue and visuals to allow you to piece together the backstory without either feeling too vague or beating you over the head with it. Well done.



Bits and Pieces:

-- I've been coy about this in the past, but I'll be upfront about it here. I'm a guy. In fact, so is my partner. So I don't have a lot of first hand experience with the menstrual cycle beyond being vaguely supportive of it in a general way. That said, I cannot imagine the trauma of being a young girl alone in a convenience store and realizing that you'd gotten your first period. Your only possible help being your father outside in the parking lot a good thirty foot walk away. Thank god for that amazing,, compassionate counter worker who was quick to realize what was happening and followed a scared little girl into the restroom with maxi-pads and reassuring advice. The fact that she even bought Dorothy an entirely new outfit so she wouldn't have to wear the dress anymore made me love her even more.

-- The counter worker's knowing eyeroll when Dorothy says she's there with her father was priceless.

-- Did we already know that Clara was gay? I don't think so. Interestingly, this means that her soon to be born son will have two moms and won't have a dad, but I'm not sure how that plays into the episode's themes. Maybe signifying that she'll break the cycle of parental neglect that she was worried about?

-- Did we only keep the severed finger around for the 'oops, fried with the sausages' gag?

-- Why does everyone keep imagining themselves in era-specific crimefighting shows with Cyborg?

-- I really hate the way that every single carnival on television only requires you to win one quick game before giving you the biggest gigantic stuffed animal in the universe.

-- Dorothy seeing her mother offering her a pair of red boots as a symbolic way to visualize her growing understanding of her own womanhood was really nicely handled.

-- I have so many questions about the Peanut Butter Cup telephone.

-- And speaking of so many questions, who were those guys that Willoughby was doing exposition with? Why is one of their member a guinea pig named Bunbury? Can all exposition be done by a sassy guinea pig now?

-- Niles ends the episode coughing up blood. I assume that means the ticking clock on his mortality had now run out, on tip of everything else.



Quotes:

Cliff: "It’s all circle of life, hakuna-matata shit."

Cliff: "I know I’m like, thirty years late, but I need to spit this out. I’m stupid. I fucked up. I’m sorry."

Kipling: "What is the difference between now and later?"
Niles: "The difference is that I get to say goodbye to my daughter."

Clerk: "So…. Your Aunt Flow is visiting."
Dorothy: "I’m sorry, I don’t know what you mean."

Jane: "I don’t want to fade away."
Larry: "Me neither."

Cliff: "A gay shotgun wedding. Love it!"

Vic: "Just figured I’d let you get back to your golf game. Or whatever you angry, old white guys like to do instead of working."

Miranda: "I hope you die knowing your daughter was stronger than you could ever dream of being. Men like you don’t deserve to be happy. But we do."



Overall a really strong episode which a couple of strange jarring points of disconnect. Maybe I'm wrong and this one was always structured this way, but the way it lays out the stuff with Roni happens too abruptly and it's odd for them to be so removed from a theme that so pervasive everywhere else.

Seven out of ten kindly desk clerks.

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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