Doom Patrol review: Therapy, therapy, therapy!


Doom Patrol “Therapy Patrol” focuses on superhero therapy sessions, a dive into the mystery genre, disability discourse, and a villainous arc.

In the past, the Doom Patrol has rallied a villain and a cult to reverse the apocalypse, but they’ve moved onto a more therapeutic revolution this week. Everyone can benefit from therapy, especially heroes who have a highly stressful job with virtually no stipends or benefits. Thanks to a ripple effect of influential forces, Cliff Steele suggests a group therapy session, and it’s what the group needs to connect as a weird band of unlikely heroes.

In an episode where implicit disability and mental health intersect, Doom Patrol “Therapy Patrol”  supplements each character’s coded disability without necessarily conflating their respective grieving processes to their disabilities.

Their comic books counterparts have always held roundtable therapy sessions. Without Niles Caulder as their group liaison (or their mentor… or even technically their friend, for some members), Cliff takes on the initiative to start a talk therapy session. Like everything in the Doom Patrol timeline, things get weird. However, episode 7 didn’t leave us without introspective character growth and a lot of disability discourse.

Building on Niles’ deceptions, which Mr. Nobody unveiled last week, the drama lingers into this week’s episode and impacts the group dynamic. Plus, it rustles up some inner turmoil for each character, particularly for Jane. Mr. Nobody laced Jane’s subconscious with poison to make her distrust Niles and question their father-daughter relationship entirely. Doom Patrol uses Jane’s frequent transitions between alters and her explicit arguments with her alters to show that Morden’s mess also ensued chaos in the underground. With therapy at the center point, everyone faces their internal qualms in episode 7.

Even before her ominous references during the eccentrically-supervised group session, Rita had a powerful moment where she tries to self-cope in the furnace. As she evolves to care for others, including herself, she attempts to open up to the group about her sometimes disembodied attitude toward her own body. Like any person, her journey to grow involves a few pitfalls at the expense of her own self-respect. (But, seriously, can someone hug Rita already?)

For Larry, he uses his implied baton (we imagine the Doom Patrol would need a baton to share their talking time) in the sharing circle to open up about his past relationships with the people in his life and his loneliness and self-isolation. Larry’s done hurting himself, and judging by the rest of the team’s reactions, they’re done torturing themselves, too.

Doom Patrol — EP 107 — “Therapy Patrol” — Photo Credit: Bob Mahoney / 2018 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Beyond his emotional chat with the rest of the team, Victor’s personal arc with his online dating profile is a somber reminder of the issues disabled people face in the dating scene. Clocked as the multitudes of women who matched with  Vic just because they’re obsessed with his superhero status (and thus his disability), real-life disabled people have to deal with creepy matches and dates who only see them for their disability or blatantly fetishize it. Or worse, dates find out they have invisible or intermittently invisibilities disabilities, and that can make things get much weirder.

Victor’s short-lived dating narrative mirrors the dismal reality that dating while disabled often isn’t fun, and it’s of absolutely no fault to those who are disabled. When we weren’t resonating with his related story or unabashedly sobbing through his memories with his mom, “Therapy Patrol” gives Vic a new opportunity to nurture is leadership skills — and we’re excited to see how he hones them in the coming episodes.

In a series infused with supernatural oddities and meta-humans, “Therapy Patrol” pays homage to the realistic depiction of disability identities.

Like the Doom Patrol, those of us who are disabled are diverse and messy, but that’s okay. Disability isn’t a monolith, and the team’s therapy session shows that just because a disabled hero is grieving that doesn’t mean they’re grieving because of their disability.

Doom Patrol — EP 107 — “Therapy Patrol” — Photo Credit: Bob Mahoney / 2018 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Starting with the theme of family, the therapy session gradually tilts into the mystery genre. Cliff’s anger, coping mechanisms, and repressed familial issues from his childhood are all real issues. However, Mr. Nobody actually exploits Cliff’s mental health via an equally vulnerable Admiral Whiskers.

In an episode about healing, confrontation and growth, “Therapy Patrol” is actually about Mr. Nobody.

Even at the base of the plot, the episode better illustrates Morden’s power set. He uses the sheer extension of his sanity-sapping abilities lure animals, such as a harmless mouse, into literally and metaphorically getting inside Cliff’s minds. All the while, Morden conducts his villainous plan without physically doing anything. Morden wants to destroy the Doom Patrol, but his nefarious scheme had some unexpected recoil.

It’s Cliff who physically brings the team together and gets them to candidly divulge their feelings. Much to Morden’s dismay, Cliff likely fiddled with his plot to dismantle their bond just to hurt his archenemy, Niles. Additionally, Cliff’s characterization starts to take on a new form in this episode.

Cliff’s onscreen character starts to redirect his canon frustrations to his grief over his family. In the comics, he’s mostly depicted as an angry Robotman who’s angry that he’s a man inside a metal body. In other words, he’s angry that he’s disabled. Instead of playing on that trope, this episode starts to better solidify the source of his aggression in a more mindful way. Who would’ve thought a robo-human’s rage would be mindful?

However, there were a lot of other milestones in this week’s episode:

  • It’s the first episode that the team didn’t split up. (Apart from the concluding moments in the episode, when Jane walked out of the mansion, obviously.) All five of the main character physically being together for the entire episode signifies the start of the namesake team itself.
  • Mr. Nobody has the ability to charm woodland creatures. He’s like Snow White, but evil.
  • New characters with their unique origin stories. Hello, Admiral Whiskers, we’re happy to have you on the show (even if you did try to kill Cliff.)
  • Autonomy and redefinition. Each member of the team started to build themselves up from their past traumas and adjacent self-deprecation. Overall, it’s an empowering episode for each character.
  • “Booyah.” This one speaks for itself.
  • Cliff and Larry’s hug. We really need more superhero hugs on the DC Universe.

The therapy session allowed Larry, Jane, Cliff, Victor, and Rita a chance to at least hear each other’s perspectives, which is a key step to officially bringing the team closer together — even if it did cause a bit of conflict and reopened a lot of repressed lesions. Much to Hammerhead’s digression, the five dysfunctional heroes are a team… and we’re glad.

light. Also. Doom Patrol: What to know about this week’s ending scene

Even in an intense episode filled with series dialogue and real-world parallels, the characters’ canon quirks still shine through as humorous sidenotes. It shows that Doom Patrol can balance the divergent elements of the team without making them distract from one another.

In an episode that breaks down a broad scope of the human psyche beyond Cliff’s obvious hallucinations, Mr. Nobody’s powers of manipulation temporarily pulled the team apart. However, we know the Doom Patrol will piece their bonds back together to help each flourish as the strange found-family they were meant to be.