NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Doom Patrol” are present in this review
After soaring out of the gate with an awesome pilot episode, Doom Patrol stays very strong in its sophomore offering. “Donkey Patrol” picks up immediately after the conclusion of the pilot episode’s cliffhanger, with the entire town of Cloverton, Ohio being sucked into a vortex, while Mr. Nobody attempts to pull The Chief into it as well. Crazy Jane also ends up being sucked into the portal to boot, which soon after closes, leaving the entire town gone, and Cliff, Larry and Rita left to wonder what the hell just happened. Oh, there’s also a donkey there. I’ll get to that.
“Donkey Patrol” aired immediately after Doom Patrol’s pilot episode for the Canadian broadcast, which feels fitting, since this very much feels like the second half of the show’s pilot. Thankfully, the quality also remains superb here, as Doom Patrol’s unique blend of humour and horror continues to excel in this episode. The scales are tipped a little more in favour of humour in this case though, not least because one of the major plot devices of the episode is a magic donkey that serves as a gateway to another dimension, where The Chief is allegedly being held. Mr. Nobody continues to work excellently as an off-the-wall villain here too, functioning as both a series narrator and principal antagonist to outstanding effect, particularly as he continues to positively demolish the fourth wall all the while, even taking jabs at American DC Universe subscribers. It’s great fun!
Outside of the donkey shenanigans, the other major hook of this episode is the series finally introducing Victor Stone, a.k.a. Cyborg, who, despite the Titans headlining their own series within this same universe, and the Justice League also being established as existing off-screen, is not allied with either of his most frequent teams from DC Comics lore. Instead, in the case of the Titans/Doom Patrol universe, Cyborg is part of the Doom Patrol, or at least, he eventually is. At first, Cyborg is simply stopping muggings and messing with petty criminals in Detroit, fulfilling an apparent crime-stopping mission by his scientist father, Silas Stone. After a horrific lab accident left Victor scarred and near death, and killed his mother as well, Silas rebuilt Victor at S.T.A.R. Labs, adding cybernetic augmentation, and the ability to freely interface with machines, mirroring Cyborg’s backstory from DC Comics lore. Another flashback also reveals that Silas is a friend of The Chief’s in this universe, and The Chief also offered Cyborg a place in his manor beforehand, which Cyborg formerly turned down.
With news that The Chief has been sucked into a portal in Cloverton however, Cyborg makes his way to what remains of the town, running into Cliff, as he desperately tries to interact with the mysterious donkey that’s wandering around. Joivan Wade seems to be another great player in this show’s lead ensemble as well, despite Cyborg’s alliance deviating from DC Comics lore in this universe. Wade’s Cyborg has a good amount of personality, and adds some more welcome youth to the Doom Patrol’s ranks, playing particularly well off of the especially world-weary and cynical Cliff. Cyborg is however also given an opportunity in this episode to play off of Larry and Rita, once his sensors figure out that the donkey happens to be a gateway to another dimension. Well, in fairness, this is also apparent after the donkey vomits up Crazy Jane, even if this turn becomes more head-scratching as the episode goes on. Given the nature of the donkey and the other dimension, how the hell did the donkey barf up Jane anyway? I get that it’s supposed to be tongue-in-cheek and comic book-y, but even so, Jane just randomly being regurgitated does smack a little of plot convenience.
In reality, Jane’s re-appearance is meant to both inject some action into this episode, once Cyborg provokes some of her more testy personalities, while also providing a pretty solid new story dimension for Cliff. After Cyborg successfully gets Jane shut away, Cliff is left to look after her, while the other leads try to make their way inside the donkey. It’s here that we begin exploring the idea that Jane, specifically her child-like, “Babydoll” personality, could become something of a surrogate daughter figure to Cliff, something that was also teased in Cloverton during the pilot. Cliff is clearly still struggling with having his daughter live on without him, and his lamentations to Jane about his own narcissism and subsequent mistakes do keep this show’s air of tragedy at just the right boil for this episode, despite the delightfully silly core storyline that’s simultaneously unfolding with the other characters.
After Larry and Rita both try and fail to leave Cloverton and The Chief behind (this is especially funny with Larry, who keeps trying to escape on a bus to various remote towns, only to keep getting disabled by his live-in energy being, in a pretty hilarious montage!), Cyborg and Larry try to feed Rita into the donkey’s magical keyhole, only for all three of them to end up inside it! Here, we get some more welcome character dimensions for Larry and Rita, which occasionally felt wanting in the pilot. We start seeing a greater taste of Rita’s self-absorbed actress personality here, being attracted to danger as long as it aligns with her pride. We also see Larry get tortured with the knowledge that he flew increasingly dangerous missions in order to run away from his family, as well as his secret homosexual lover, since he was unwilling to truly choose either life. These new dimensions continue to effectively flesh out both Larry and Rita, even as Cyborg proves a lot less susceptible to Mr. Nobody’s psychological prodding, with Cyborg being the one to ultimately try and rally the rest of the Doom Patrol to start taking the fight to Mr. Nobody directly, after the donkey adventure is done.
The Chief is still missing, and the interdimensional donkey simply ends up exploding in a mess of gore after Cyborg, Larry and Rita escape it, but with Cyborg rejecting Silas’ demands to return to Detroit, and the leads deciding that they can’t truly live without The Chief, Doom Patrol is set to keep going on strong from here. “Donkey Patrol” proves that Doom Patrol’s outstanding pilot episode is no fluke, as it very exceptionally maintains the series’ wonderful balance of genre-blending insanity. The introduction of Cyborg to the team also goes over very well, with Cyborg nicely completing the show’s lead ensemble, thanks to his more upstart nature and younger disposition. I’d be especially interested to see the characters take on a different threat outside of Mr. Nobody at this point, as much as I’m enjoying Alan Tudyk’s creepy and hilarious arch-foe/narrator combo, but regardless of what they face next, the titular Doom Patrol is continuing to come together beautifully. It really is safe to say at this point that the DC Universe app may have found its best original series offering for the foreseeable future! Now if only we could get that app in Canada, and not have to keep finding the DC Universe shows on other assorted TV platforms here, weeks after their episodes have already been made available to our American neighbours!
- Hilarious, memorable dimension-warping donkey scenario
- Cyborg is a likable, well-realized addition to the lead ensemble
- Cliff continuing to develop a surrogate father/daughter bond with Crazy Jane
- Crazy Jane's donkey escape is never explained