The first season of Doom Patrol was a rare gem of a comic book oddity that landed on the DC Universe streaming service and with a mixture of unrepentant weirdness and a surprising amount of heart and soul quickly became a standout of the lineup. Fast-forward to 2020 and Season Two has now jumped ship to the would-be fledgling streaming behemoth HBO Max and the misfits have returned in a far more somber fashion.
Things pick back up with the patrol shrunk down to miniature all the while dealing with the fallout from the revelation that Niles (Timothy Dalton) is responsible for all the misfortunes that have befallen each team member to achieve immortality and outlast his daughter Dorothy (Abagail Shapiro), who has terrible powers that will manifest once she reaches maturity. This is the driving plot of the season and the main theme is family, both biological and otherwise as Cliff (Brendan Fraiser) attempts to reunite with his daughter and the two fathers grudgingly share a commonality.
Elsewhere, the team is largely splintered and following their own paths. Cyborg (Jovian Wade) is sorting out his own trauma and pursues a relationship with Roni (Karen Obilom), a wounded war veteran. Larry (Matt Bomer) is dealing with his own fractured family legacy, Jane (Dianne Guerrero) is trying to submerge her personalities via drugs, and Rita (April Bowlby) is the only one who wants to master their power and become a traditional superhero.
This season focuses on the existential torment of the characters in a way unlike the first season did, and with the loss of Alan Tudyk’s Mr. Nobody (away voicing The Joker on Harley Quinn), leaves the episodes bereft of much of the whimsy that made the first season so much fun to watch. It also leaves the patrol without a main villain to rally against and it makes the season feel largely rudderless outside of continually mining the traumas of each character.
The secret sauce of the first season was how it managed to weave together the insanity of what was going on onscreen with fleshed-out characters dealing with their flaws in a realistic way in which it would be a long, arduous journey to become the heroes the world needs them to be (spanning multiple seasons, naturally) and somehow pulling that balancing act off by making each episode feel connected to a bigger story arc.
Season Two in contrast focuses on the trauma aspect of each character a little too much and at the expense of some of the fun. Things feel gloomier, with a tinge of bitterness that lingers far too long and it becomes disheartening to watch everyone essentially be set up for failure. It veers too close to being misery porn, and while no one would expect things to work out perfectly, there should be a little bit of hope, which thankfully is exemplified by Cliff’s somewhat successful, incredibly awkward reconciliations with his expectant daughter.
Some of the weirdness is still present with episodes that showcase roller disco time lords, horny ghosts, and a pain-obsessed demon, but they feel disjointed and not connected with everything else going on. The truncated length of Season Two doesn’t help either with ending things on a rushed cliffhanger, and with nine episodes simply can’t accomplish what the first season did either through character arcs of plot-wise.
Doom Patrol‘s second season doesn’t gel on the levels that its first did. Where the first felt brimming with energy and uniqueness, the second is depressing when it’s not meandering. Mistaking never-ending wallowing in past trauma for plumbing its main character’s psychological depths is not the way to go. Hopefully, the next season can get things back on track with a stronger main storyline and a balance for the gonzo comic book sensibilities and the flawed heroes who are ultimately the beating heart of the series.