Doom Patrol : Season 3
Might contain spoilers.
Somewhat confusing, but still a marvel (oops). I don’t begrudge it its mistakes: its ambition and overall quality excuse most things. I wonder whether the opening episode is what the previous season’s finale was meant to be or whether they changed it for the new season. It certainly felt like a finale, given all the significant events (quick handling of the Candlemaker aside). Niles dying is somewhat expected, but painful nonetheless. The production values remain as satisfying as ever: the visuals have a finished quality that’s rare even amongst the highest-budget productions and the audio is a pleasure to hear. The music is even better this time around—the poignant version of the theme playing over the unicorns in ‘Dead Patrol’ is excellent.
In any other context, Michelle Gomez’s Laura (even better than her Miranda on The Flight
Attendant) would stand out. Here, though, she’s
surrounded by a cast of the highest quality. Even supporting characters like Willoughby, Garguax,
and Samuelson have such presence that they command your attention and refuse to let you look away.
Still, Laura is a gem. The character’s interrogation of herself in ‘Undead Patrol’
I’m not a bad person) is mesmerizing. Her strange dancing, like everything
else about her, is unique and could only be carried off by an actor of this calibre. Granted, her
transformation from loving friend to cold, jaded bureaucrat is difficult to comprehend.
Brendan Fraser is always amazing as Cliff. The poor guy really can’t catch a break, between the
Parkinson’s, the addictive personality, and all the bad choices he made or continues to make. It’s
heartbreaking to see the light literally go out in his eyes when he asks Rita in frustration,
Can’t something good happen to me too? only to realize it can’t and concede that it’s
unrealistic to believe his daughter would care enough to come to him and help him. On the other
hand, his reaction when he realizes he’s back in Florida after he
JUST LEFT FLORIDA had me
in splits. His human Cliff arguing with the robot Cliff in ‘Subconscious Patrol’ is a
sublime reminder that both are distinct performances. The way he yells with his entire face and his
delivery of the monologue about wanting to feel special are superb. Riley Shanahan nails every
moment of it as the robot body, too (including the Brain dancing in Cliff’s body).
Larry’s storyline is a mixed bag. Matt Bomer as the subconscious manifestation is a nuanced and considered performance that would have stolen the show if not for Cliff’s meltdown before it. His reaction to the finding the other four apparently dead and packed away is devastating. The path to finding a new (or renewed) Negative Spirit is interesting in concept, with some beautiful visuals, but the conflict is dragged out over several episodes just so he can overcome it in the finale. The storyline with his son also leaves something to be desired—the monologue about him having stayed away for his family’s benefit is trite.
Victor’s lack of an arc is tedious, replete with uninteresting introspection, repetitive arguments
with his father, and a constant failure to contribute anything (Laura’s
you’re a useless
person… got it in the finale made me chuckle). Joivan Wade valiantly rises to the occasion when
given the opportunity, though, such as Victor’s giant smirk when he tells the others that he
sorted it out with Garguax and Samuelson, and the way he throws himself into being a zombie.
He and Phil Morris both do their best to sell the continual, inexplicable, and abrupt changes of
heart their characters undergo, too. I don’t understand Victor raging about having been protected
from suffering like other Black people do. Richard Gant is eerily believable as a toy version of
Rita goes on a somewhat confusing journey. The chronology—such as it is—is clear by the end, but the rest is muddled, and she spends yet more time repeatedly learning how to be a superhero. She does get some good moments, like the brutal fashion in which she disposes of the Brain and how she tells Jane to pull herself together for Cliff’s sake. Malcolm is a generic love interest whose story dispenses with its climax at the start.
Jane’s story is imperfect but better, if slightly discordant with the rest. Her internal conflicts get the short shrift at times, and they suffer for it. At least there’s the darkly hilarious puppetry sequence (though it continues until it becomes somber). Kay telling her to die is a dagger to the heart. Diane Guerrero perfectly captures Kay’s mannerisms and pronunciations in ‘Evil Patrol’. Her expressions when Jane and the others must eat Niles’s brain to cure themselves of being zombies are incredible, too.
The Brain and (especially) Monsieur Mallah’s performances are like honey for the ears. The Brotherhood of Evil is nearly my favourite part of the season. The recording of ‘Aux Champs-Elysées’ delivers an unbelievable aural satisfaction. I feel a teensy bit sad for The Brain: imagine being stuck as a brain without a body for a hundred years and only being allowed to be a humanoid robot for a day or three before dying. Shipley is very pleasant to listen to as well. I wish we could hear more of all of them.
‘Dada Patrol’ and ‘1917 Patrol’ aren’t quite as good as the rest and the past isn’t as interesting as it ought to be. It’s unfortunate that the team splits up to face individually-defined antagonists not just once but thrice, and that’s after the finale of the previous season had already left them defeated by their demons. At least ‘Dada Patrol’ has the justification of Shelley Byron’s Fog, though the entire team is far too easily rattled by it (Cyborg, in particular, goes from calm to enraged with almost no provocation from the slightly miscast artist). Wynn Everett is very good as Shelley.
‘Subconscious Patrol’ also deals with the team’s demons very quickly. Of course, they can’t be allowed to entirely solve their problems, which is presumably why the subconscious manifestations disappear at arbitrary points. That said, the resolution is a bit facile: Cliff rejects the memory and exits as soon as he remembers it’s bad, leading to him liberating everyone with minimal effort. No one outside the team appears to have any reaction to the Eternal Flagellation, either. The entire Sisterhood simply vanishes from the story.
‘Dead Patrol’ is one of the two best episodes. Of course Cliff, Jane, and Cyborg would
casually eliminate the
Watchers and show up themselves where Rita is waiting to rescue them.
Cyborg’s mother breaking down as she tells him he has to go is very affecting. The Dead Boys’
Detective Agency is stellar; I’m sad they take Dorothy and depart.
My other favourite is the fantastic ‘Amends Patrol’. Jane teleporting in to try to save
Cliff and refusing to leave after she accidentally triggers the self-destruct is funny and moving.
It’s fortunate that everyone but Vic has gone through their arcs and restored their powers. Having
the team explicitly decide to be superheroes and christen themselves
Doom Force is just the
ending it needed (the entire concept of using the time travel machine with written notes to remind
themselves of who they are is the perfect brand of idiocy).
I enjoyed Timothy Dalton playing a ghost, probably in front of a green screen, talking to Riley Shanahan as the physical Robotman while Brendan Fraser supplied the voice in a separate recording session.