Doom Patrol review: A gory good time with a surprise


Doom Patrol’s “Puppet Patrol” adds onto Mr. Nobody’s experimental origins. However, the walking puzzle isn’t the only experiment in this episode.

After introducing the titular dysfunctional family and presenting their first overwhelming plight, Doom Patrol‘s episode 3 — “Puppet Patrol” — challenges us to accept heroes who haven’t accepted themselves yet.

Asking viewers to trust characters who don’t quite trust themselves yet is a sensible approach to realistic protagonists in general, but that doesn’t mean this episode takes a pitstop away from the show’s surrealism. In fact, the realism in the character building only exaggerates the weirdness in the DC Universe original.

Using the momentum from Morden’s origin story, “Puppet Patrol” allows the team of disastrous heroes to move forward in their personal journeys before they regress a bit in their progress, of course. Self-doubt and retrogressive arcs are expected of every new hero, but Doom Patrol makes their character development seem natural.

Ah, Fuchtopia, where men willingly become unraveled experiments and where a Nazi scientist duals as the biggest Niles Caulder hater. Fuchtopia’s puppet show isn’t Grant Morrison’s “Puppet Theater,” but Dr. Fuchs’ followers still prove to be worthy opponents for the Doom Patrol — even if it was physically easy for the team to slaughter the horde of creepy scientists.

Drawing inspiration from a gory slasher film, complete with complementary cursing and a Nazi scientist, the third episode of Doom Patrol strangely brings the Doom family closer together, and it makes them more attuned to their changing sense of self. After all, who wouldn’t bond over freshly mutilated bodies?

Doom Patrol — Ep. 103A — “Puppet Patrol” — Photo Credit: Bob Mahoney / 2018 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Beneath the monsters and mayhem, “Puppet Patrol” plays on each character’s fears and traumas. They still see themselves as monsters in their own divergent ways. Using Larry’s origin story in the foreground, Doom Patrol showcases how each character keeps distancing themselves from each other and their own found family status, but their experiences aren’t dissimilar.

They’re all still currently defined and stunted by their traumas. However, they ultimately need each other to help one another cope, which they’re starting to recognize, especially after Mr. Nobody reopened some scabbed wounds.

The start of the episode implies that Mr. Nobody’s interdimensional sinkhole tampered with the protagonists’ subconscious. Though his powers did amplify their lingering traumas, “Puppet Patrol” shows that the team’s implicit acceptance of the fact that Mr. Nobody’s role in their overwhelming imposter syndrome is just a scapegoat because they’ve always doubted their abilities, place in society, as well as their identities.

Scenes from last week’s episode, such as when Cliff and Cyborg both illustrate their relationships with Jane’s different alters, play on their interpersonal dynamic. They have a sort of sibling rivalry going on that we didn’t expect but we’re grateful it exists. In episode 3, their sibling rivalry becomes less polarizing, as it shows both characters engaging their leadership strengths while the group is separated.

Despite their different approaches to mentorship, the metal men and the infancy of their leadership roles aren’t dissimilar. They’re both learning to become better support systems for the group, just like every Doom Patrol member is learning to accept their found family and heroic mantles.

Doom Patrol — Ep. 103C — “Puppet Patrol” — Photo Credit: Bob Mahoney / 2018 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.

With Cyborg, we see his leadership flourish as he grows more sympathetic toward Rita. Though he might have initially overstepped his boundaries with his tough love approach, their conversation while they’re stranded at the hotel helped them become closer. Their friendship is new, but we’re more than ready to see their support for each other grow throughout the season.

Focusing on the rest of the team’s adventure at Fuchtopic, the series starts to step into Cliff’s latent resentment of his disability. Cliff is missing something in his life, and he’s still dwelling on the fact that Niles Caulder tried to deceive him out of his opportunity to reconnect with his daughter.

While we love the Robot Man, he’s still working toward accepting and loving this new version of himself, just like everyone else on the team. Ultimately, the first season of Doom Patrol is building to be an extended origin story for each character, which fits with their comic book origins.

Like most of the Doom Patrol characters, Mr. Nobody’s path to becoming a deconstructed jigsaw puzzle and his rise to his fullest villainous potential is almost an operatic arc. It can’t be summarized in one episode, and the live-action series embraces that. In fact, Doom Patrol thoroughly embraces its comic book origins and celebrates its part in comic book media.

In an episode about turning points, Larry attempts to connect with his Negative Spirit in Dr. Fuchs’ interdimensional chamber. Like the other characters who teleported to Fuchtopia, his quest for personal growth wasn’t exactly fruitful. However, it wasn’t pointless either because, like the rest of the team, his time at Fuchtopia is only the beginning of his character development.

Doom Patrol — Ep. 103C — “Puppet Patrol” — Photo Credit: Bob Mahoney / 2018 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.

For Jane, the episode establishes a critical moment in her character development. When Dr. Von Fuchs offers to help her with her “inner demons,” i.e. her underground of alters, she subtly declines. She doesn’t perceive her alternate personalities as a bane of her identity. Sure, Jane’s subtly is in the form of killing Dr. Fuchs’ followers and Dr. Fuchs himself (though we’re pretty sure, this isn’t his last Doom Patrol cameo). Regardless, there’s a better reason as to why she dismissed his offer, other than the obvious: that she’s had traumatic experiences with nefarious doctors.

Dr. Fuchs’ monologue with Jane reveals that Jane isn’t the main persona. In fact, the main persona (Kay) has likely been dormant for years. Instead, Jane has taken on the responsibilities of Kay’s main alter, and similarly taken over her main autonomy when the other 63 alters are at bay in the underground. However, this sparks a couple of questions about her on-screen counterpart. What is Jane’s meta-human ability? And, how did Dr. Fuchs know Jane is an alter?

Suspicious questions aside, we hope Jane realizes that everything in her life does belong to her. Whether she has zero alters, 13 alters, 64 alters, or she’s an alter herself, Jane has agency over her own life. Even if she might not currently feel in control of her subconscious underground, we hope she realizes how powerful she is apart from her meta-human abilities. Like the rest of the Doom Patrol characters, Jane deserves to hone every part of her identity.

Each protagonists’ journey of self-realization leads to some bittersweet clarity about our favorite character. Their time at the hotel or at Fuchtopia allowed them to cope with some of their latent grief, which will help them become the versions of themselves they want to be.

Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man in Doom Patrol (1964) #86. Photo Credit: DC Comics.

Then, there’s “Steve.” The final moments of the episode introduced a new character, who we all know eventually becomes a villain. Steve’s proximity to the Doom Patrol plot hints at a new team of villains. Foreshadowing aside, we’re ready to see how Doom Patrol will retrofit the man with an unnecessarily long supervillain moniker: Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man.

Oh, Steve. He went to Dr. Fuchs’ meta-human cosmetic surgery clinic for magnet feet and left with so much more. Name change aside, Steve’s suspenseful new look at the end of the episode is a critical plot point for the series, and it will likely lead to a temporary rift in the Doom Patrol team in the near future. Overall, Fuchtopia’s now-former existence warns the team of heroes that there are more interdimensional meta-humans. After all, Eric Morden and Steve likely weren’t Dr. Fuchs’ only clients.

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In the face of heavy foreshadowing and internal turmoil, Doom Patrol episode 3 has a shining concluding moment between Victor and his dad, as it hints that they might be able to rebuild their relationship. In the Chief’s absence, we hope to see more of Silas Stone in the upcoming episodes.