NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Doom Patrol” are present in this review
The Eternal Flagellation has already come and gone, apparently. Doom Patrol thus kicks off Season 3’s penultimate episode with the apparent confirmation that the immediate threat posed by the Sisterhood of Dada is no more, and that the titular team has been able to embrace a new normal as a result. Well, most of them anyway. “Evil Patrol” sees Vic, Larry and Jane all preparing for different futures that don’t involve them being superheroes, while Cliff is finally backed into a corner by his daughter, and Rita is the only one left to recognize the still-at-large threat posed by Laura de Mille/Madame Rouge.
The fact that the Eternal Flagellation turned out to be anything but eternal has left Doom Patrol in a bit of a weird spot for Season 3’s remaining two episodes. The result is the series having to awkwardly pivot toward a new arch-villain with dubious results, and that unfortunately makes for a more awkward tee-up for the subsequent season finale than we probably should have gotten. On the bright side, this episode’s narrative still contains lots of rich, fulfilling character moments, especially for Vic and Jane/Kay. Hell, these two even bond with each other within a highlight scene that involves Kay asking Vic if she’ll interview him like The Chief used to do for the various Crazy Jane personalities, something Vic obliges. This is a sweet way to signal a significant bit of character growth for Kay, even as Jane continues to languish as the apparent sole surviving persona within the Underground.
As for Vic, now that he’s given up his Cyborg technology, he finds himself confronted by surprising disappointment, and not just from his teammates. Silas also confides in Vic that he had an ulterior motive for granting Vic his cybernetic abilities following his accident, namely to create a powerful Black superhero that could serve as a symbol for his race, as well as something that couldn’t be torn down by the Caucasian establishment. Doom Patrol touching on a more timely issue as opposed to the psychological abstract is definitely a gamble, but for once, the latest spat between Vic and Silas came from a more real and relatable place than usual, while adding a surprising new degree of emotion to Vic giving up his powers.
The Doom Patrol no longer having the ability to rely on most of their powers at this point also becomes a point of concern for Rita, who is struggling to concoct a master plan through which to neutralize Laura once and for all. This of course begs the question of whether Rita has a selfish motive throughout the rest of the team, including Larry, who has settled full-time into being a ‘father’ to his ‘space parasite’. Yeah, even towards its conclusion, I’m still getting the sense that this season really doesn’t know what to do with Larry’s character. He’s being completely steamrolled by the other Doom Patrol members’ arcs, and the whole space parasite thing seems like it’s simply weird for weirdness’ own sake. I imagine there’s supposed to be some link to Larry’s failures with Paul and Larry’s subsequent projection onto the space parasite, but if this is the idea, it’s not being communicated very well.
Speaking of not being communicated very well, the establishment of Laura as a major villain for this season is also something that works to disappointingly mixed effect. This is because Doom Patrol now has to pay off its previous teases surrounding the Brotherhood of Evil, and somehow tie Laura back to them in the present day. With the Sisterhood of Dada seemingly neutralized, or vanished, or, something (seriously, what happened to them?), Laura has no choice but to go to Florida, where the Brain and Monsieur Mallah have apparently retired together. This is admittedly pretty amusing in concept, but even when Laura finally convinces the Brain to help her defeat the Doom Patrol once and for all, the resulting series of events feels positively head-scratching, and not in a good way.
So, now that Laura has seemingly recalled that she’s an agent for the Brotherhood of Evil, she talks the Brain into somehow sneaking her back into Doom Manor, disguised as Clara’s infant son, Rory. This is both funny and a surprisingly effective tactic, one that results in a fairly humourous fight scene wherein a baby Laura attacks the Doom Patrol in their kitchen. This attack also turns out to be a ploy to kidnap Cliff, fresh off of Clara finally convincing Cliff to see a real doctor about his tremors. Sadly, this tease currently amounts to nothing though, as the Doom Patrol must pile into their school bus to save Cliff from the Brain, via a road trip to Florida. This road trip is eventually interrupted however by Kay suddenly letting out a superhuman scream after Jane encounters a strange threat in the Underground, resulting in the team’s bus violently crashing, right as the Brain enters Cliff’s robot body, which was apparently his plan all along.
But wait– If Laura coming back to the Brain and Monsieur Mallah was a matter of chance, and Laura is supposed to be the true mastermind behind the Doom Patrol’s demise, then why does the Brain have a separate plan to enter Cliff’s body? Hell, the Brain is even revealed to be the mystery internet bidder for Cliff’s blueprints, which is a pretty decent twist in concept. The problem however is that the show can’t currently find a way to justify how the Brain connects to the present-day Doom Patrol, because the Brain didn’t seem to be aware that Laura was after them. The Brain’s subsequent betrayal of Laura, whereupon he’s seemingly set to dispose of her body alongside Cliff’s brain, also doesn’t make a ton of sense. What difference does it make to the Brain if Laura has an agenda against the rest of the Doom Patrol? I get the cheeky idea that the Brain simply wants Cliff’s robot body so that he can physically interact with other retirees in Florida, but the series can’t seem to decide whether the Brain is the true mastermind of events, or Laura is. The result is that neither of them come off as credible villains, and that leaves Doom Patrol unfortunately stalling right before its season finale.
There’s still time to fill in more blanks during said season finale, and maybe better justify just who the real threat to the Doom Patrol is supposed to be at this point, but the show being unable to pick a lane with its antagonists is definitely a problem here. I get the sense that, “Evil Patrol” might have suffered an intrusive rewrite, possibly because the series couldn’t contrive a way to bring its version of the Brain properly into conflict with the Doom Patrol, despite the Brain being perhaps one of the greatest and most prolific antagonists to the Doom Patrol in DC Comics lore. Either way, the standout story material surrounding Vic and Kay still manages to deliver some strong scenes to what’s otherwise a shakier Doom Patrol episode, and the mystery of the Underground definitely has potential, even if it’s coming a little too late in the season to make an impact.
At least this episode delivers an exciting conclusion, in any case, namely with the entire Doom Patrol and Laura in peril, most of the Doom Patrol not having their powers, and the Brain executing his frivolous, but fairly believable agenda with Cliff. There’s plenty to work with in terms of giving Season 3 a strong finish in the following episode, though perhaps the series needs to add a few more ingredients to its villain recipe for ideal results.
- Kay trying to find her place among the team
- Vic confronting Silas' selfishness with his Cyborg tech
- The Brain's agenda with Cliff is pretty amusing
- The narrative can't seem to nail down who the real enemy is
- Larry's arc continues to suffer