Entertainment

'Doom Patrol' Gets a Refreshing and Dark New Start for Season 2 in Moving to HBO Max

The former DC exclusive picks up where Season 1 left off, yet it feels like a completely new show.

doom patrol season 2
HBO Max

Last year, DC Universe’s attempt at adapting one of DC Comics’s lesser-known properties into a series exclusive to its streaming service proved to be a success, earning the offbeat Doom Patrol several accolades for its breakout season. Across 15 episodes, its endearing group of wannabe superheroes -- featuring Jane (Diane Guerrero), a woman with dozens of superpowered split personalities; Cliff Steele (Brendan Fraser), an ex-NASCAR racer and full-on cyborg; Larry Trainor (Larry Trainor), an injured US Air Force pilot who harbors a powerful negative entity inside of him; and Rita Farr (April Bowlby), a famous Hollywood actress whose body can morph into a massive gelatinous state -- teams up with well-known teen titan Cyborg (Joivan Wade) to rescue their beloved benefactor Niles Caulder (Timothy Dalton) from the omnipresent villain Mr. Nobody (Alan Tudyk).

The result was a strange adventure that excelled for its labored character development but often stumbled from its struggle to nail the right tone. From its plot to the title structure of each episode, most of Doom Patrol is ridiculous, and although it had its fair share of shortcomings in the first season, it ultimately created something quite special and was granted a well-deserved second season. This time around, it returns to DC Universe as well as its new home at HBO Max with the first three installments of Season 2. It picks up almost immediately where last season’s finale, “Ezekial Patrol,” left off, but in a matter of only three episodes, Doom Patrol already feels like a completely different show -- in an unexpectedly great way. Here’s why.

The brutal consequences of Season 1 have shifted the entire feel of the show

In the moments leading to their final face-off against Mr. Nobody in Season 1, the gang discovered that the Chief -- who they had been relentlessly searching for the whole season -- is a ruthless scientist who’s also responsible for the accidents that gave them all their powers. Still, they put their anguish aside in order to save Danny the Street and Chief’s hidden daughter Dorothy from Mr. Nobody’s rogue henchmen -- who just so happen to be a giant cockroach named Ezekial (Curtis Armstrong) a giant rat named Admiral Whiskers. The group prevailed, but everyone except for Larry left the battle the size of a roach.

When the second season starts, it’s clear that a decent amount of time has passed by, and the misfit group of metahumans is stuck with the Chief as they long to find a way to return to their normal size. It’s a tense dilemma that immediately shrugs off the optimistic wonkiness of the first season and allows Doom Patrol to assume a darker and more horror-esque aesthetic.

Maybe it's the pain and nihilism from being trapped with their abuser that oozes into their quips, but scenes like Jane and Cliff’s smoke session in “Fun Size Patrol” yield nuanced moments that Season 1 would’ve had trouble pulling off. Even the performances have improved, and cringy characters like Cyborg and Cliff -- who joins a trauma recovery group in Detroit and reveals his truth to his estranged daughter, respectively -- feel more grounded. For a show that used to relish in shits and giggles, this new, slightly more mature approach is a welcomed change for its sophomore outing.

No one wants to help the Chief

But really, who can blame them? After all the pain that he has caused them, they would likely be better off without the guy. However, his daughter Dorothy is now in the picture, and she wields abilities that, if unchecked, could cause carnage and mayhem on a mass scale. Because of the Chief’s sacrifice to revert everyone back to normal in “Fun Size Patrol,” his time is now ticking, which means that no one will be around to protect the world from Dorothy and vice versa. Like last season, the team decides to try and save him, but this time around, they’re not doing it out of love and respect for him. They’re doing it for Dorothy.

doom patrol season 2, dorothy
Dorothy might look sweet, but she's a ticking time bomb for disaster. | HBO Max

Jane may not be Jane much longer

Apparently, the Underground is just as fed up with Jane as Cliff is with the Chief, and Jane’s other personalities are making their concerns known. A propaganda-like message that’s floating around the Underground urges for change as many of the personalities, from Hammerhead to Karen, criticize Jane’s drug use. Soon, Dr. Harrison gives Jane an ultimatum: abandon the Chief and the Doom Patrol or relinquish power as the dominant personality. Judging by the closing moments of “Pain Patrol,” she may have already done the latter.   

Unlike Season 1, we have no clue what’s coming next

Last time around, Doom Patrol as well as its audience was steered by the omniscient narration of Mr. Nobody. His cheeky quips and inability to take the protagonists seriously were reminiscent of Deadpool’s irreverent narration style, and there was something refreshing about following a story through the eyes of its antagonist. From the very first beat, Mr. Nobody made it clear that Doom Patrol was his show, but following his defeat and encapsulation in a magic painting in the finale of Season 1, there’s radio silence in the role that he once shined in. The effect is twofold: There isn’t yet a clear-cut villain for Season 2, and no one -- not even Mr. Nobody -- can predict what’s coming next. This new element combined with the other early developments of the first few episodes shows that Doom Patrol is on track for an intriguing and even better second season.

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Joshua Robinson is a contributor for Thrillist who’ll be screaming, “Fuck Chief!” to the bitter end.