Season 3 of Doom Patrol premiered last week on HBO Max, and there was a lot to unpack in the first three episodes alone.
The first episode, “Possibilities Patrol,” picks up where last season leaves off; Dorothy traps the Candlemaker inside her mind, forcing them to spend an infinite amount of time there until he learns to be her friend again. It makes the entirety of Season 2 feel unimportant, as, within the first five minutes of Season 3, the Candlemaker becomes Dorothy’s tool to wield. Had the episode been spent fixing the Candlemaker’s presence, it would’ve felt more worthwhile.
When Dorothy returns to the real world, the Doom Patrol is freed from their wax prison. Niles Calder (Timothy Dalton) is revealed to have died, most likely from his old age, while the rest of the team but Jane (Diane Guerrero) awakes. The team deals with their feelings of grief surrounding his death, each expressing their feelings through the standard stages. Dorothy wishes to wait until Jane awakens to allow her the option to grieve. Much like the metaphor of her period starting, even Dorothy’s feelings have matured. She leaves upon Jane’s awakening and goes to bury Niles’ body with her mother’s.
Jane’s form of coping has a lot to do with the previous season’s storyline with the emergence of the old “host” personality in Kay Challis’ “system.” However, it is revealed in this first episode that the “Miranda” personality was a manifestation of trauma that Jane has to combat to regain her consciousness in her body. This plotline for Jane sees her have to fight her trauma to return to the real world, making a point of how people handle grief and trauma, physically showing a fight to return to the real world.
Rita (April Bowlby) attempts to cope with her grief, performing in the play about the first season’s events, ‘Our Town.’ She delivers a monologue about her grief and confusion regarding Niles’ death and why she can be so sad that he is gone because she hates that she loves him. She ends up succumbing to her powers and runs out of the play, desperately needing a break.
Vic/Cyborg (Jovian Wade) seems to deal better with Niles’ death but sees himself obsessing over the movements of his former girlfriend, Roni (Karen Obilom), as she attempts to seek revenge against those who are responsible for her sickness.
Cliff (Brendan Fraser) and Larry (Matt Bomer) attempt to move on with their lives rather than deal with their feelings about Nile’s death. Cliff goes to stay with his daughter Clara (Bethany Ann Lind) and her wife to take care of his grandson but finds after being trapped in wax his robotic body is starting to fail him. Larry allows the Negative Spirit to take him back to his home planet and finally leave Earth behind.
The Doom Patrol, sans Larry, is having trouble coping with their feelings. Rita, eating her weight in ice cream, struggles to cope with a mysterious key left by Niles, with further pressure put on her to be some sort of hero. On the other hand, Victor has been defined by his hero status and is denied his powers by his father, after he helped Roni escape. The two demonstrate the immense pressure put upon the team by Niles even after his death, to be superhuman when they never asked to be a theme recurrent throughout the show.
Cliff struggles with his mortality after Niles’ death as his body begins to fritz out and when Jane and the rest of the team show up, he agrees to join them on their vacation to avoid his problems. This is typical of Cliff’s personality as he behaved similarly in his human life when dealing with the stress of his family life.
With most of the team down bad, they decide to take a much-needed vacation and attempt to step away from their ordinarily stressful lives. They soon discover, however, that the getaway they planned was to a supervillain resort from episode two, “Vacay Patrol.”
Jane’s role so far in the season has seen her attempt to guide her downtrodden friends, with the metaphor of her confused mind being caught in a walkthrough labyrinth as a game at the resort. Unsure if she is the protector of Kay or vice versa, Jane has an internal conflict about her role. Rather than attempt to walk through the labyrinth, Jane happily kicks her way through, demonstrating her frustration at the confusion of her life and showing the decision she made in episode one to fly forward and combat her pain.
Like Jane, Cliff tries to climb the backbreaker, but his body fails, making him freeze on the ladder. Trying to soak the pain away, Cliff goes in a Sauna, which is hilarious visual humor that the show is known for, and makes friends through his shared hatred of Nile Caulder, with Gargaux (Stephen Murray).
Garguax and his minion were sent on a mission by the Brotherhood of Evil to attack Rita Farr, but after failing to do so, Gargaux decides to live a simpler life.
In a beautifully ironic scene, The Doom Patrol gathers in the mess hall and dances to “Forever Young” by Alphaville, only to be attacked by Samuelson, who is shot dead upon realizing the group was Rita Farr and company. Rita almost escapes but is locked in by Madame Rouge (Michelle Gomez), killing them. Michelle Gomez gives a chilling performance as Madame Rouge, giving an evil chill to the character that proves she will be quite the villain.
Episode 3, “Dead Patrol,” sees Larry Trainor return home after being abandoned by the Negative Spirit. Having felt close with the Negative Spirit and on top of Niles’ death, Larry is betrayed. Larry’s journey will have to focus on finding acceptance of who he is, especially on top of his journey with his homosexuality.
Hoping to find the team on his arrival, he is excited when he hears the doorbell ring, only to discover the corpses of his friends on the porch packaged in boxes.
In the funniest scene, Larry attempts to help preserve his friend’s bodies by wrapping them up in his bandages. While a fair thought process would help keep the bodies, it also shows how comforting he’s come to find his state of being when he used to hate his body.
Upon Dorothy’s return, she attempts to fix the situation, asking Danny for help bringing their friends back from the dead. He recommends the Dead Boy Detective Agency, consisting of ghosts Edwin and Charles and living psychic Crystal, who suggests they use Larry’s connection to Rita to pull the others out of the afterlife.
While in the afterlife, The Doom Patrol is seen in their afterlives encountering those with which they have close personal connections. Cliff argues with his father about their past conflicts, Vic bonds with his mother, finally getting the forgiveness he always wanted and uncovering that his father chose to make him a cyborg.
Jane’s afterlife sees her with Kay and their Abuela, who has dolls looking a lot like the other alters. Much of this season is being hinted at in these small details and leaves a lot to be explored.
Unlike the rest of the group, Rita awakes immediately in the tunnel, which is quite peculiar and also calls into attention if this has anything to do with the other version of her, Madame Rouge, sentencing her to death.
Larry bonds with Edwin, encouraging him to pursue his feelings for Charles, a significant change in character for Larry to not only accept but encourage homosexuality. They can rescue the team from the afterlife and return to the land of the living.
Hoping to make contact with Niles in the afterlife, Dorothy decides to join the Detective Agency. A good choice as a child hanging around a bunch of adults would’ve been hard to work now that Niles is dead. Madame Rouge appears in the kitchen with apparently no memory of who she is at the end of the episode.
The season’s first three episodes shed some light on what the season might unpack for the discussion on not only self-discovery but self-love. Without Niles to direct their anger at, The Doom Patrol must confront how they feel about themselves.