Home Featured TV Shows All TV Shows Movie Reviews Book Reviews Articles Frequently Asked Questions About Us

Doom Patrol: Possibilities Patrol

Candlemaker: "It is destiny. It is the way."
Dorothy: "Then let’s change the way."

Doom Patrol is back for its long anticipated third season. And thanks to the COVID-related loss of season two's finale, they have kind of a lot of housekeeping to get through.

Welcome back to Doom Manor!

Similar to season two, season three has begun by dropping the first three episodes in one go, and from then on will drop one a week for the remainder of the ten-episode run. Now, if you recall from my reviews of those first three episodes last year, they were a source of confusion to me as to whether we were supposed to consider them to be one three-parter, or three distinct episodes that just happened to be available at the same time.

The answer, if you don't feel inclined to go back and re-read the reviews in question, turned out to be 'Yes.'

So let's be clear up front, thus sparing you from listening to me waffle on about it later. I'll be reviewing these first three individually, and we'll probably have a little discussion in the third review regarding thematic cohesion, or lack thereof. I should also note, I'm not watching ahead before reviewing these, so I don't have any idea where things are going beyond this first episode.

And now, we join our scheduled review of 'Possibilities Patrol,' already in progress.

This episode had a thankless job to do from the get go, and far more expected of it than is really fair. We left our heroes on an epic cliffhanger; Cliff destroyed! Everybody sealed in wax! Dorothy being swept off by the Candlemaker for their inevitable final battle brought on by her finally growing up! Roni's plotline being completely dropped due to lack of space! And last but not least, Jane's been thrown in the Well of Destruction, her body seemingly taken over by the malevolent presence of what's strongly implied to be 'Daddy'!

And then thanks to circumstances for which the production staff is entirely blameless, they lost their final episode, and so they had to just leave things sit on those cliffhangers to be picked up later on. Now, that's perfectly fine. Lots of shows are structured to have a big cliffhanger of a season finale to keep people interested over the hiatus and then open their next season with a great big barn burner of a resolution episode. Star Trek: The Next Generation basically made that structure the core of their identity. The problem is that it's much easier to use that structure successfully when you're telling episodic stories. The fact that the first episode of your season is entirely devoted to dealing with the repercussions of the previous year's finale is no big deal at all when every single week is a new and different self-contained story anyway.

But serialized storytelling is a different beast entirely. If you have ten episodes to work with, deciding to devote the entire first one to cleaning up last year's cliffhanger means that you only get nine to tell the complete, serialized story that you want to tell THIS season. Plus it gives your season a strange, fractured feeling, much like the year that Legends of Tomorrow was forced to have the first episode of one of their seasons be the big wrap-up of the Crisis on Infinite Earth crossover. You've started your season, but you also haven't, and the flow feels strange.

The powers that be at DP have opted for the more difficult option. They've made the fact that they have to spend a lot of this episode wrapping up old plotlines a feature, instead of a flaw. That's the entire point of the 'Possibilities' dance number at the end. They literally sing to us, 'Every ending is also the beginning of something else, so this isn't really the wrap of of season two, it's the organic beginning of season three's storylines growing naturally out of the fact that we have to spend a lot of this episode resolving things that we'd ideally like to have already moved on from. See? We've made lemons!'

And, fair enough. They put a reasonably good spin on the situation as they find it, and the resolutions to the parts that needed resolving are mostly satisfactory. It's probably worth noting how much better everything gets once Michelle Gomez shows up near the end, bringing season three officially to the forefront, but then everything gets better when Michelle Gomez shows up, just as a general law of nature.

Now, it's a subject for debate as to which of these plotlines they were intending to wrap up at the end of season two, and which were going to be ongoing concerns. It seems fairly certain that the storyline about Rita's adventures in community theater were going to be wrapped up. It also seems pretty clear that the 'Fake Miranda' storyline was intended to wrap up there as well. And there doesn't seem to be any question that the Candlemaker storyline was going to be brought to, if not a close, then at least an establishment of the status quo we see them getting to here.

So let's start with the Candlemaker, as I'm reasonably sure that that's the part people are bitching about elsewhere on the internet. I haven't looked, just a gut feeling. And I'm similarly assuming that the main complaint floating out there regarding the Candlemaker storyline's resolution is that it's incredibly rushed and perfunctory. Which, to be fair, is true. I suspect that the lost tenth episode of last season would have spent its run time building up to the exact same resolution we got here, but for reasons stated above, that just wasn't going to be an option anymore. And... I don't know... I just don't have the heart to be upset about how it's handled here. The solution itself is both clever and satisfying. Dorothy realizes that she has the power to choose not to fight him, that the Candlemaker used to protect her and be her friend, and that she is perfectly capable of putting him in permanent time-out on the surface of the moon until he agrees to calm down and be her friend again.

I actually really like that as a resolution to the storyline. It's a neat way to handle an enemy as insanely overpowered as the Candlemaker seems to be, and it's a nice undercutting of the 'We must fight to our destined end' trope. I'm going to sit here and wait until you're my friend again. So there. I like it. It's undeniable, though, that they're forced to rush through it way, way too quickly, and as a result it's not entirely clear what's going on with the whole cage/bow and arrow/whoops we're on the moon stuff. Still, it ends on a good note, so I can't bring myself to get too worked up about the rushed opening.

On the other hand, they allowed themselves what felt like just about the exact right amount of run time for the Jane/Miranda storyline to play out. I'm still not 100% clear on what exactly fake-Miranda is (is she an internalized phobia? A manifestation of the initial damage? Something else?) but I'm also not entirely sure that I'm supposed to know exactly what Miranda is or that it matters. She was an internalized something that wanted to either be in control of Kay or destroy her, which I suppose is actually a pretty good definition of trauma, since that's basically its two main goals as well.

I really liked the imagery of all the alters coming together to fight back against her, and the imagery of them all joyfully eating the pieces of not-Miranda after she's dealt with was a lovely visual metaphor for processing trauma. All good stuff, which they managed to tie into the beginnings of the season three plot via the decision to not deal with Niles' body until Jane woke up and was able to say goodbye to him. See, there's that 'In every ending there's a new beginning' thing we talked about.

Which leaves us with Rita's community theater production in which she gets to watch someone else present one of the worst days of her life as if she had been a crazed super villain planning revenge and not a terrified woman who'd totally lost control of her body and was scared out of her mind. While trying to process her 'complicated' feelings about Niles' death. Such a beautiful payoff to last season's running joke about her 'My bees!' line. April Bowlby is just so amazing in this role.

I was genuinely surprised that they killed off Niles. I really appreciate that they stuck to their guns regarding that point. We were told all last season that his time was running out, and they let his time run out. No magic undo button. Of course, we already knew that ghosts exist in this universe, so him popping up as one to give Cliff some posthumous advice was no problem. And as for that final mid-credit scene in which we see Willoughby Kipling cheerfully decapitating Niles' recently buried corpse... well, I don't want to get into spoiler territory, but I really, really hope they're doing what I think they're doing. You can see the Doom Patrol poster I shared way back in my review of the pilot episode if you want a clue.


Bits and Pieces:

-- Good on Rita for refusing to be the reason Larry didn't go off on his space adventure. And also for saying a separate goodbye to the negative spirit.

-- Having The Secret that the Chief left for Rita be hidden behind The Secret, the nauseating 2006 self help book by Rhonda Byrne was a good gag.

-- I assume the 'arrival imminent' warning referred to Madame Rouge. It does seem a little odd to have a warning alarm for your warning alarm however. Was that an old fashioned telephone behind the bookcase? If so, who was calling? Was it Mme Rouge herself?

-- Michelle Gomez is so amazing, she even makes peeing look cool.

-- Speaking of, I don't know much of anything about Madame Rouge, but good god that was an entrance. Of course she needs a wizz after a long trip. Everybody always does.

-- Not much to say about Vic this week. He's still keeping tabs on Roni, and preventing her from committing the occasional act of terrorism. And apparently the FBI has noticed that somebody's been helping Roni out. I just don't care all that much where that's going.

-- Did Vic put Cliff's body back together? That seems to be the implication. And speaking of, we now know that the faults in Cliff's robot body are the result of something in his brain, not in the robotics. Interesting. Can this please be leading to spider-robot body?

-- Did Larry's face literally just heal up? Are we going to just see Matt Bomer from now on?

-- I love how much less infantilized Dorothy was post Candlemaker incident.

-- How on Earth did Cliff get to Florida that quickly?

-- I was just wondering if Ghost Niles was ever going to run into the sex ghosts from last year. And I love that he was totally down for ghost three-way action.


Quotes:

Larry: "Well, I think it’s great for you to perform in a play that debases you and everyone you know. Should be a terrific distraction."

Rita: "I hate him for asking. And I hate myself for hating him, because I loved him too. And I never told him either of those things. And now it’s too late."

Vic: "I didn’t want to tell you over the phone."
Silas: "Walking in on his corpse was a much better way to break the news."


This is a tricky one to rate, because while there were obvious flaws with it, the causes for them were totally out of the production team's control, and so it feels churlish to criticize them for it. They had a lot of housekeeping they needed to get through, and they did it reasonably well while also getting the main thrust of the new storyline going. I liked it. What's more, I respect it. Now bring on more fun Michelle Gomez stuff!

Six out of ten slightly soiled playbills.

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.

No comments: