NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Doom Patrol” are present in this review
Doom Patrol’s freshly-premiered sophomore season ended up being among DC’s television offerings that were adversely affected by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, having to shut down production before the season was properly completed. As a result, the showrunners and WarnerMedia appear to have simply decided to release Season Two’s completed episodes throughout this Summer, prematurely shortening the season with a nine-episode count. This is quite disappointing, considering how excellent Doom Patrol’s fifteen-episode first season was last year. Fortunately, since this decision was likely made to prevent a long delay for Doom Patrol’s debut on WarnerMedia’s fledgling streaming platform, HBO Max, where it’s now being co-hosted alongside its usual home on DC Universe, it should hopefully help the show’s Season Three renewal prospects, especially when Season Two also appears to be getting off to an excellent start this week!
“Fun Size Patrol” (the first of two season premiere episodes here in Canada this week, whereas it’s the first of three this week for the U.S.), picks up almost immediately after the conclusion of Doom Patrol’s first season, which saw most of the eponymous heroes (except for Larry) turned into miniature, cockroach-sized versions of themselves. Not only that, but the Doom Patrol have also welcomed a surprise new addition to their ranks in Dorothy Spinner, Chief’s half-breed daughter, who is also immortal, and has the unnatural ability to bring imaginary creatures to life. Fortunately, Dorothy balances this dangerous, terrifying ability with a cheery, perpetually optimistic demeanour. along with a child-like innocence, which naturally clashes heavily with the established Doom Patrol members, especially after they’ve just learned the horrible truth about their origins from Mr. Nobody– Chief manipulated their ‘accidents’ intentionally, and is knowingly responsible for their gruesome conditions.
Immediately, this season premiere does a sublime job of exploring the fallout from this shocking revelation with Chief. Every Doom Patrol member has handled the tragic news differently, as they take temporary shelter atop Doom Manor’s toy town. Cliff, for example, has become angry and dismissive of practically everyone except Jane, who in turn has turned to substance abuse, namely by suppressing her personalities with the serum she got from Josh Clay last season. Rita, however, is taking the news in stride, finally achieving a heightened level of personal clarity, which motivates her to begin mastering her powers, and trying for self-improvement. Rita even tries to get Vic to help with her desire to be a, “Superhero” in her own right, despite Vic also appearing to become more distant with his fellow team members.
Larry, meanwhile, being the one normal-sized Doom Patrol member at the start of this season, is taking care of supplying the other Doom Patrol members with miniature food, while also working tirelessly to try and find an antidote for his team’s small size. Nothing works however, and instead, Larry simply spends this season premiere being notified by his negative energy spirit that his son, Gary has committed suicide. This helps give Larry his own stake in the tragic fallout being suffered by his team in their miniaturized forms, but disappointingly, since Larry is never really part of the solution nor the core conflict with Dorothy in this episode, his subplot also feels a little too disposable at this point. Besides, I get that Larry was struggling with being a closet homosexual in the 1960’s, but was he really such a dick father that he would reject a prop plane from his own son, simply because the engine was in the wrong place? That seems a little excessive for Larry’s character, even considering his circumstances.
Regardless, it’s unsurprising that one of the biggest highlights of this season premiere is Dorothy, the all-new addition to this show’s eponymous team of anti-heroes. Like the rest of the shrunken Doom Patrol, this episode hits the ground running with Dorothy’s character, showing her being imprisoned in a 1920’s freak show within London during the intro, before she’s contacted by a mysterious spirit that urges her to make a wish upon a cursed candle. The result of this is everyone at the freak show, including the ringmaster, being massacred by an unseen entity, with a younger Chief being the only survivor, presumably since he came looking for his daughter. Avid DC fans who are well familiar with the Doom Patrol’s comic book source material would likely recognize this spirit tormenting Dorothy as the Candlemaker, a hellish specter that bonds to Dorothy because of the nature of her unique powers, trying to use them to piggyback into the mortal realm.
This would seem to indicate that magic will remain a significant part of Doom Patrol’s second season. Sure enough, when science predictably fails his team, Chief is forced to call on Willoughby Kipling, Earth-21’s ever-reliable John Constantine stand-in, and petition him for a form of magic that can return the Doom Patrol, alongside himself and Dorothy, to their normal size. Willoughby eventually obliges, but only after Chief surrenders his immortality-granting talisman, a cost seemingly unknown to the rest of the team. Initially, Chief refuses to do so, but after Dorothy becomes upset by a mother rat devouring its weak infant, the approaching Candlemaker becomes evident, leaving Chief with no choice but to give up his source of eternal life, in order to seemingly protect the world from the Candlemaker. Mr. Nobody (and the Beard Hunter, for what that’s worth) still seem to be stuck in the painting that serves as the ‘White Space’, but as much as Mr. Nobody seemed nearly omnipotent (on a small side note, Alan Tudyk’s snarky narration is certainly missed in this new season!), the Candlemaker is far more destructive, and the only way to keep him at bay appears to be preventing Dorothy from experiencing any kind of stress or sadness.
Dorothy presents yet another promising metaphor for trauma to be shared between the Doom Patrol this season, and Chief giving up his immortality is bound to create some dangerous new stakes for the team in turn, especially when Dorothy is clearly unable to keep the Candlemaker at bay indefinitely. “Fun Size Patrol” thus provides a superb start to Doom Patrol’s sophomore season, continuing to develop new dimensions to the heroes’ grief, especially after they’ve learned about Chief’s hand in their twisted metahuman origins. Larry didn’t quite keep pace in this episode, which is perhaps predictable, considering that he’s the only Doom Patrol member that avoided being shrunken down after the team finally defeated Mr. Nobody at the end of last season, but that’s ultimately a pretty minor quibble. Even so, The Candlemaker, alongside Dorothy’s volatile powers in general, should hopefully provide another deranged, highly dangerous obstacle for the Doom Patrol this season, now that they’re all back to their normal sizes. Hopefully, those obstacles are only the tip of the iceberg too, since Chief finally returning home is bound to invite more perverse threats that are as powerful as they are ridiculous.
- Excellent exploration of the team's grief
- Dorothy is a fantastic new addition to the ensemble
- Candlemaker presents a lot of potential as a new arch-villain
- Larry's subplot feels a little tacked-on