The dads of the Doom Patrol seem to have their work cut out for them in this week’s episode. Meanwhile, Jane goes hunting for a piece of Kay’s past and Cyborg investigates a murder that points back to someone he cares about.
This is one of those episodes that is packed to the gills with plot and character developments. However, for the most part, “Dad Patrol” manages to juggle the multiple plot lines pretty well. There’s also a nice mix of comedy and hardcore drama to balance each storyline out a bit more.
In fact, this whole season has been about each member of the Doom Patrol’s own journey towards reconnecting with family or finding a new family to call their own. Jane in particular has had a hell of a time trying to navigate her growing feeling of having outlived her usefulness to Kay and the Underground.
Throughout this episode, Diane Guerrero gives us a multilayered performance, even though it’s mostly Jane that we see this time. It’s obvious that Jane tries to hide behind sarcasm and venom most of the time. To see her open up to Larry and Miranda like she does in this episode is a great thing, letting us see a vulnerable side of Jane that is usually kept hidden.
Likewise, Abigail Shapiro is wonderful in “Dad Patrol.” She perfectly sells how mortified Dorothy is in the early part of this episode, but also plays the scenes with Timothy Dalton as so sweet and genuine, even though we know the character is still on guard. Dorothy’s moments of confusion become more prominent as the episode draws to a close, and Shapiro really sells the urgency of the situation even before things start melting.
The effects and production design in this episode are fantastic. In particular, the sequence in the funhouse is incredibly well done. Even before things start to shift into hallucinatory horror territory, there’s a very Sam Raimi-esque vibe to the whole set-up, including mirrors, a ball pit full of eyes, and a projector screen right out of Willy Wonka’s boat ride. In other words, it’s gentle nightmare fuel, yet it still makes sense that Dorothy herself would find it oddly charming.
Also: I mentioned before waayyy back in my review of the first episode of this series that I love how much I appreciate the world of Doom Patrol feeling lived in, rather than a series of empty soundstages. A big part of that is the fantastic and naturalistic work from the extras. There are interesting little touches, like one or two carnival patrons looking at Dorothy as she walks by, that remind us that these characters inhabit a wider world, rather than a bubble. Also, the danger feels palpable during the episode’s closing moments when everyone starts to run away.
However, this episode is at its best when it focuses on two characters having a conversation. The scene between Dorothy and the gas station attendant is a really lovely exchange, as is the early scene between Rita and Vic. This script plays to every character and actors’ strengths, giving everyone a moment to shine.
Of particular note is the flashback sequence between Larry and Paul. Matt Bomer has always given a fascinating performance in his scenes as the unburned Larry Trainor, but there’s a tenderness here that we’ve never really gotten to see from him. Now more than ever, we see what was taken from him when he lost his family.
Guest star Bethany Anne Linde also brings an interesting nervous energy to her scenes as Clara Steele. After having the character exist for so long as this unattainable ideal for Cliff, it’s great to see that she’s just like everyone else. She has her doubts and fears, as well as an understandable amount of anger still there towards her absentee father. The scenes between Clara and Cliff offer some much-needed levity to the rest of the episode. Well, that and the pitch perfect sendup of John Steed and Emma Peel that we get via this season’s second amazing title sequence daydream gag.
The only part of the episode that didn’t quite work for me is the latest development in Vic and Roni’s relationship. Joivan Wade and Karen Obilom both do a good job with their confrontation, both from an acting and action standpoint. The conversation is tense and fraught with danger even before the fists start flying. However, it just feels like this turn has been somewhat rushed. Perhaps some of this came from the season being shortened by one episode due to the Covid-19 outbreak. However, it does feel like the violent heel turn here is a little out of character, particularly with how things have been going up until now.
Still, it makes for compelling television. This season has been terrifically strong all around (like, Flex Mentallo levels of strong), so I can’t wait to see how season two comes to a close in next week’s “Wax Patrol.”