While the first season of Doom Patrol introduced audiences to the idea of alternate dimensions, magical realms, violent monsters and the truly terrifying side-effects of being a superhero, the second season debuting on HBO Max shoots the insanity to dizzying new heights. And although it’s even more bizarre than the first season, the second outing features an equal amount of heart.
With the introduction of Niles Caulder’s daughter, Dorothy Spinner, the obviously not-so-subtle subtext of their dysfunctional family dynamic comes to the front of the show. How does an unpredictable group of metahumans cope with a seemingly immortal little girl living with them? Not well, that’s for sure. But the new addition to Doom Manor definitely makes sure things doesn’t get stale and her playful energy constantly keeping things moving. Oh, and because of her wildly volatile powers, there’s some unexpected new arrivals to the series who will definitely inspire a few nightmares. There’s an intimidating mass of muscles and extended limbs early on in the season that gives off such an unsettling atmosphere it’s almost tantalising.
Dorothy’s connection with Timothy Dalton’s Niles Caulder is a strange one considering he didn’t know she existed for quite some time, but The Chief’s guilt is something the show enthusiastically explores. As we learn more about his motives and how they led to the warped experiments behind the team, Doom Patrol really forces the audience to confront Niles’ selfishness over the years. Dalton is fascinating to watch as his role is rightfully upgraded with the screen-time he deserves, and it’ll be interesting to see how the team continue to cope with the seemingly endless list of skeletons hidden in his past.
Doom Patrol has always enjoyed its hyper-violent action, and the first three episodes in the second season continue to be delightfully horrific. Whether its an up-close-and-personal look at what happens to the runt of the litter or an excruciating sequence of moth transformations, this season has some extreme body horror moments that aren’t for the faint of heart. One villain in particular feels like something from Hellraiser thrown together with some renaissance flair. Don’t worry, it’s not all doom and gloom! The script feels much tighter than the first season, and allows itself to have fun as it oozes confidence with each sharply written quip from Diane Guerrero’s Crazy Jane or every profanity-filled rant from Brendan Fraser’s Robotman.
While the series nearly has all of the heroes neatly balanced, it often feels like it forgets Jovian Wade’s Cyborg now that Niles is back to leading the team. He’s not always part of the inter-dimensional adventures the team find themselves on, which sometimes feels like a waste. Luckily it develops Cyborg in ways audiences haven’t seen in live-action, as it looks at the hero as a veteran and acknowledges the trauma he’s endured. Victor Stone has much more potential than just being the team’s ‘big gun’ who says booyah, and it seems the show isn’t afraid to explore that a little further. In fact Doom Patrol chooses to explore PTSD in most of its characters, as we keep coming back to the horrors and the violence they’ve all had to live through.
Diane Guerrero continues to have the time of her life dishing out new personalities for Crazy Jane to keep a lid on. We saw plenty of them last season and it seems like her problems are only just beginning as the show pushes further into the ‘Underground’ where all of her 64 identities live. The first three episodes build her up like powder keg as she struggles to keep them all in check, but what’s going to happen if they blow? April Bowlby’s Rita Farr takes a bit of a back-seat for now, but she’s no less of a key member of the team – hopefully she gets more of the spotlight later in the season as she’s still embracing her abilities.
While most of the budget seems to be well-spent on the body horror elements of the series, every so often a portal to another universe or a miniature character just doesn’t feel on par with the rest of the episode and it shows. Luckily, the charm of this wonderfully bizarre group helps keeps the audience’s focus instead of lingering too long on a dodgy piece of animation. The second season (so far) also seems to have an obsession with jumping around through time, and while sometimes it’s welcomed – like a visit to a hellish version of Saturday Night Fever, it’s easy to lose track of when everything is taking place. Some of it feels justified to flesh out a backstory, but it does begin to feel excessive. Another misstep (from the opening three episodes at least) is the absence of Alan Tudyk’s Mr Nobody. The second season definitely misses his sharply comical narration that broke the fourth wall. Hopefully he makes a return at some point, because even though he was a villain he felt like a core element of the series.
Much like DC Universe’s previous offering, Swamp Thing, Doom Patrol doesn’t feel the need to play into typical superhero stereotypes that audiences have seen time after time and its so refreshing to see. While it might have started out as part of the Titans universe, Doom Patrol flourishes by embracing its own feverishly weird continuity. Hopefully the rest of the season continues to be as entertaining as the first three episodes, it’s definitely worth your time if you like your superheroes with a little more substance.