NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Doom Patrol” are present in this review
The stress of losing The Chief, and subsequently trying to cope with that loss, has officially gotten to the Doom Patrol. In the second Season 3 premiere episode, “Vacay Patrol”, the team naturally continues to find themselves struggling with their grief and despair, or at least most of them. Larry, meanwhile, is going on his own journey into space, alongside his negative spirit, hoping to achieve his own sort of enlightenment. Regarding the rest of the Doom Patrol however, Rita eventually proposes that they go on a vacation to Codsville Mountain Resort. Here, the team ends up having a surprising encounter that once again leaves them failing to escape the shadow of the late Chief.
This twist ties into the great opening segment that kicks off this episode, one that will especially tickle avid DC fans! This episode’s story first begins in 1949, as an alien called Garguax the Decimator is granted an audience with the Brotherhood of Evil, run by The Brain, literally a brain in a roving machine, and his intelligent ape sidekick, Monsieur Mallah. The Brotherhood of Evil finally being introduced into the Doom Patrol universe is very exciting, considering that they’re among one of the most devious super-villain groups in DC Comics history, complete with plenty of appearances across other DC media. Even more intriguing however is the tease that Garguax has seemingly been sent by The Brain to kill none other than Rita Farr, years before she’s mutated by The Chief’s orchestrated accident!
Obviously, many decades pass without Rita showing up, and Garguax, who is a minor enemy of the Doom Patrol in DC Comics lore, eventually resigns himself to living a quiet life at Codsville, alongside his alien manservant, Samuelson. As fate would have it though, Rita’s vacation idea eventually takes the Doom Patrol to Codsville during the present day, thanks to a chance booking by Jane’s bookish personality, Secretary. That’s a hell of a lot of coincidences, but they nonetheless lead to a standout Doom Patrol episode that once again puts the team’s grief front and center, while continuing to find interesting ways to push their emotions to new heights, and new challenges.
The highlight among these emotional challenges at this point is Cliff’s story arc, as Cliff continues to deflect concerns from his daughter, and eventually his teammates, regarding his seizing body and hand tremors. Cliff even challenges himself to climb a high monument at the getaway, only for this to go about as well as you would expect. Cliff’s denial over his supposed malady feels all too human here, even considering that he’s a literal robot man. It also eventually leads to a heartfelt, funny first encounter with Garguax in a sauna, which eventually leads to Garguax not paying much attention to the Doom Patrol’s conspicuous appearance at Codsville, despite them all being metahumans.
On the opposite end of the grief spectrum, Vic finds himself forcibly deactivated, after S.T.A.R. Labs is informed of Vic helping Roni escape the Quorum, and the authorities. This leaves Vic utterly defenseless, just in time for him to express concern to the Doom Patrol about Garguax’s announced reputation as, “The Decimator.” Vic trying to play hero with Garguax intrusively distracts from the richer arcs of the other characters, but to this episode’s credit, it does point this out. Vic trying to fixate on Garguax even proves to be his own unique coping mechanism in a way, though Vic does nonetheless remain more disconnected from the loss of The Chief in contrast to his teammates, likely because he hasn’t been with the Doom Patrol for nearly as long as its other members.
Rita and Jane tackle their own frustrations at the resort as well, complete with Rita not being able to reconstitute her body following a physical breakdown, until she admits to her teammates that she ignored the warning device at Doom Manor. This is how Garguax fails to spot Rita initially, since she’s stuck in blob form within a sack, though even when Garguax does see Rita after seven decades of waiting for her, he simply decides to go home, and not bother terminating her. This eventually enrages Samuelson, who takes it upon himself to kill Garguax, and then the rest of the Doom Patrol?! Yes, as a superb final twist in an overall superb episode, the entire team is killed by Samuelson, with Larry being the only survivor (and Dorothy, I suppose), due to his being on a separate journey with his negative spirit, which keeps him safely away from Codsville.
Disappointingly, very little is done with Larry’s subplot in this episode, which is its one noticeable shortcoming. Larry simply sees some trippy imagery, seemingly loses contact with his negative spirit, and… That’s it. Most of this episode’s runtime instead revolves around Larry’s teammates, and as with the previous episode, it seems apparent that this episode knows it’s meant to be part of a set of three premiere episodes, or two for us Canadians. Regardless, “Vacay Patrol” returns Doom Patrol to an excellent high note, perfectly balancing comedy and drama in order to keep elevating most of the team’s grief over their leader’s death. The final twist of almost all of the Doom Patrol members being killed by Samuelson is even better, hopefully meaning that Larry’s temporary separation is granted a better payoff in the next episode.
- Fun, unexpected introduction to the Brotherhood of Evil and their minions
- The Doom Patrol continuing to struggle with their complex grief
- Samuelson shockingly killing the entire Doom Patrol
- Larry's subplot is barely developed at this point