NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Doom Patrol” are present in this review
It’s taken over a year since the previous season prematurely wrapped on account of COVID-19 issues, but finally, Doom Patrol is back! This beloved DC superhero dramedy series has now moved full-time to HBO Max as well, after splitting its previous sophomore season between WarnerMedia’s multi-purpose streaming platform, and the since-repurposed DC Universe streaming platform. With the now HBO Max-exclusive kick-off in its native U.S. as well (this doesn’t affect international markets such as here in Canada, mind you, where Doom Patrol remains a Crave series that’s simulcast via Bell’s CTV Sci-Fi channel on Thursday nights), Doom Patrol is kicking off its third season with a whole three episodes! Or, two, if you live here in Canada.
“Possibilities Patrol” carries the slightly awkward task of hastily wrapping up Dorothy’s fateful confrontation with the Candlemaker, which served as the exciting cliffhanger conclusion to Season 2, even if it wasn’t originally intended to be how the season ended. Regardless, Dorothy simply gives the Candlemaker a talking-to, and this quickly cures the world of its wax transformation, in turn also releasing the Doom Patrol from their wax prisons. This is a little disappointing, since it immediately removes the Candlemaker as a threat, while making the truncated ending of last season sting all the more, due to it ultimately being pointless. Even so, the show did pivot to a more emotionally impactful twist for Season 3 right off the bat, namely that Chief has died from old age during Dorothy’s disarming of the Candlemaker.
On the note of Chief’s death, this season premiere episode is definitely written with the knowledge that it’s part of a set, and that’s especially apparent when you see how it ends, which is to say, less definitively for Chief than you would initially think. Even so, “Possibilities Patrol” delivering a surprisingly emotional, introspective start to Doom Patrol’s third season is something that works surprisingly well. There are no major threats for the most part, at least outside of the Underground, and instead, the various members of the Doom Patrol, including Dorothy, are simply left to confront their complicated feelings about Chief and his legacy. This sense of team-wide grief takes a variety of forms, of course, with Cliff once again turning to anger, Larry debating walking away from Doom Manor, Rita throwing herself into her performance in Cloverton’s fictionalized play, Our Town, and Dorothy trying to preserve Chief as long as possible, due to Jane still being catatonic.
Fortunately, Jane did manage to survive being thrown into the well by not-Miranda. After crawling back out of the well with her childhood toy, only to find the various Underground personalities, including Kay, stuck doing jigsaw puzzles, Jane is eventually caught by the fake Miranda, who is revealed to be some kind of negative infestation plaguing Kay’s mind. Fortunately, Jane managed to get through to Kay with the toy beforehand, who eventually takes Jane to a secret biplane that can fly her to back to her body. The other personalities then stand beside Jane and try to help her fly away, while not-Miranda tries to lead Jane’s body to hang itself in the real world. Again though, this second murder attempt fortunately also doesn’t come to pass, and the rest of the Doom Patrol help to ensure Jane’s safety, once she finally returns to lucidity.
I get the sense that Jane’s Underground storyline is another formerly larger Season 2 arc that had to be cut short, due to the COVID-19 pandemic retroactively reducing Season 2’s narrative and episode count last year. Fortunately, at least one of Season 2’s major arcs is still being seen through in Season 3 however, that being Vic trying to hunt down Roni Evers. Roni is continuing her mission against the Quorum, who remain an intriguing background presence on this show. Vic doesn’t manage to talk Roni down from her vendetta yet, naturally, but he does help her evade police, hoping to get through to Roni on his own terms. There isn’t a ton accomplished with Vic yet, who is barely affected by Chief’s passing in the end, and is simply picking up where he left off last season. Still, it is assuring to see that Doom Patrol isn’t simply abandoning every forcibly-shortened storyline from Season 2, even if its Season 3 additions do seem to be especially intriguing so far.
The most promising of these additions so far is depicted at the end of this first premiere episode, after Jane regains control of her body, Larry eventually decides to fly away to parts unknown, Cliff gets to hold his grandson after he’s born, and Rita is eventually outed as the ‘blob lady’ on stage, leading to her being run out of Cloverton. Our Town is a huge success regardless of Rita’s small part being removed from the show, but Rita’s actress is nonetheless greeted on the way out by a mysterious woman, who provides the one major bit of levity in this episode, specifically by urinating in front of the frightened actress, right after emerging from a mysterious drill-fronted machine. The mystery woman, played by Gotham’s and Doctor Who’s Michelle Gomez, doesn’t have her identity revealed yet, but she is looking for Chief, and doesn’t seem to be aware that he’s dead. The fact that Rita discovers a mysterious phone in Doom Manor that appears to warn her about this mystery woman is all the more intriguing, particularly when Chief’s last wish is placing Rita in charge of the Doom Patrol. This is a pretty awesome story idea that I’m looking forward to seeing more of, considering Rita’s heightened drive to become a recognized superhero.
Like I said, it’s clear that this Season 3 premiere episode knows it’s meant to lead directly into the next two on the same week (at least in markets that properly offer HBO Max), but the rich, grief-driven character work in this premiere episode is nonetheless very strong. “Possibilities Patrol” can be a bit irritating when it so forcibly drops several of the leftover story arcs from last season, but the various Doom Patrol members grappling with their individual grief over Chief’s passing still serves as a strong backbone for this episode. Don’t cry too much for Chief though. Willoughby Kipling digs up his severed head right as Chief is about to enjoy some of those sex ghosts infesting Doom Manor, declaring that the world isn’t done with Niles Caulder yet. Yeah, I had a feeling that might be the case, considering that death is treated like a pretty mild inconvenience in the Doom Patrol universe.
Besides, Cliff was going to have Chief stew in his own misery as a permanent ghost at Doom Manor anyway. If anything, Willoughby did Chief a favour by giving him another chance to be corporeal!
- Interesting, grief-focused season kick-off
- Rita being given leadership of the Doom Patrol
- Memorable introduction for Michelle Gomez
- Candlemaker/Dorothy cliffhanger is ultimately pointless
- Fake Miranda is defeated fairly easily