Doom Patrol 02×03 “Pain Patrol” (Review)

Jun 24, 2020

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Spoilers Ahead

Tragedy Continues to Haunt the Doom Patrol in a Simultaneously Crazy and Reflective Episode

After an amazing first season, Doom Patrol is back for a second season – This time on HBO Max as well. The new streaming platform has potentially saved the show and allowed it to reach an even wider audience. By the looks of the first few episodes, Doom Patrol is once again proving its worth as an incredible DC TV show. More than that, it is a fantastic show fully willing to embrace its inherent weirdness.

With a shortened season order of 9 episodes, this new season seems to be telling a more concise, fulfilling story. That is to say that the show will fully focus on the Chief’s daughter, Dorothy Spinner, her demons, and how the Chief’s past actions affect the crew going forward. Last season revealed that the Chief singlehandedly engineered each character’s accident in his search for immortality. The Chief for some reason wanted to outlive his daughter. Now Dorothy has arrived on the show and if the first two episodes are any indication, things do not look good for the crew and moreover the world. Whilst we have seen little so far, it is clear that Dorothy has a hidden evil inside her that could doom the world. The Chief can hold back that evil but not for long as he is slowly dying. This season seems to be revolving around Dorothy and her powers. That is a great move that could pay off big time resulting in a more focused, fantastic narrative.

Apart from Dorothy’s introduction, what is making this season stand out so far is reflection and drama. This is not your standard superhero fare – Season 2 seems less concerned with superheroes and villains and more concerned with each member’s flaws and how the crew function as a family. Episode 3 of this season is the best example of this. It truly excels by shining a spotlight on each character and providing them with the depth they deserve all the while delivering all kinds of crazy that we have come to expect from this show.

Doom Patrol Tries Its Hand at Horror With Red Jack

Last week’s episode saw part of the Doom Patrol take on Dr. Tyme. Just when you thought things could not get any weirder, they did in this episode which features Red Jack. Red Jack is a serial killer who has taken on the personas of many people, including Jack the Ripper, over the ages. It is incredible how they blend in the Victorian aesthetic in this episode with his lair. There is even a flashback scene to Victorian times showing a young Niles Caulder face to face with Red Jack. Everything visual wise is perfect and DC Universe shows continue to excel with their practical effects – in this case, Red Jack’s look. The visual effects are also used effectively to portray how crazy and violent this scenario is. Red Jack is essentially a demonic figure and his lair is completely fitted out for torture. Stabbings, radiation burns, butterfly wings growing out of backs are all disgustingly on display. The show is effectively jumping between genres in the best way possible. It has gone from the 80s disco genre last episode to the violent horror genre this episode.

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While the Red Jack storyline is mostly unnecessary and does not tie in to the larger storyline, the show makes good use of the villain to play him off against Niles Caulder. Ever since the last few episodes of last season, Niles has been portrayed as a kind of villainous character – someone who will do anything no matter how despicable to achieve his aims. The flashback wisely gives us a glimpse of a young Niles, bold and not afraid to witness violence. However, the Chief’s latest interactions with Red Jack show the progression of his character. Red Jack offers to give him immortality but at a dreadful cost. The Chief’s refusal shows how he has grown as a person and that no matter his past mistakes, he can learn from them and do the right thing here and now.

More Character Drama & Less Standard Superhero Fare

Instead of treating its characters as infallible superheroes, Doom Patrol treats its characters with depth and as just people. They may be messed up in all sorts of ways but they are still just people like everyone else. These characters, especially Cliff, are relatable as they have to make it through everyday life despite their issues. They have to deal with it. This season is exploring these characters in so much detail.

The last two episodes saw Larry deal with his failures as a father and Rita deal with her own insecurities about her powers. Now Cliff has to deal with his daughter rejecting him because of his own impetuousness and mistakes. Jane is forced to deal with her other personalities and her mistakes such as using drugs. Cyborg has had to reckon with being different in these past episodes and a tumultuous relationship. These characters are not archetypal heroes but instead flawed people that can really resonate with audiences.

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Some Mistakes Cannot be Undone

The main takeaway from this episode is that while we can try to be better people, some mistakes cannot be undone. The Chief’s actions will always haunt him and his relationship with the crew. They are what they are because of him and no one can change that. Cliff can never not be Robotman and the same goes for the others. Dorothy also has to reckon with her mistakes in this episode as she knocks over and thus breaks Danny in brick form (Danny The Brick). It is a great example of how even the smallest of actions without intent can cause the biggest problems. The team consists of flawed characters who make mistakes. There is no going back so what should they do? Perhaps the best thing for the characters is to move forward and try to be better people.

Conclusion

While this episode somewhat diverts from the main storyline involving Dorothy’s powers, it nevertheless excels as a meditative reflection on the characters. The episode functions less like your standard superhero fare and more as a character drama. The show is willing to truly delve deep into these characters giving each one time in the spotlight. Instead of doing action sequences, this episode goes all-out drama focusing on the characters’ flaws and their trauma. However, the show never forgets its crazy source material – this is a bunch of misfits after all. The episode features Red Jack for some Victorian-inspired, wildly violent sequences. For those wanting fantastic storytelling, character depth, and general insanity, “Pain Patrol” is for you.

Pros:

  • Red Jack practical design
  • Victorian era
  • Horror visuals
  • Character drama instead of standard superhero fare
  • Each character is given air time
  • Lesson about mistakes

Cons:

  • Red Jack’s presence is slightly unnecessary
  • Dorothy’s demons not explored enough
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