After watching the second episode of Doom Patrol, I’m thoroughly convinced that DC Universe should’ve launched the series with a two-hour premiere, because “Donkey Patrol” is essentially the second part of the pilot. Airing these two hours back-to-back would’ve helped the premiere feel like it told a complete story. But what we got instead works. “Donkey Patrol” is strong enough follow-up that I’m excited to see where the rest of the series goes, despite a few problems.
Picking up exactly where last week’s episode left off, this installment finds the Doom Patrol trying to avoid getting sucked into the giant hole that opened up in the middle of Calverton, Ohio, as Nobody gleefully narrates the mayhem he caused. Of course, Nobody’s primary target is the Chief, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that he abducts him and drags him into the vortex. Jane, channeling one of her more daring personalities, dives in after him right before the hole closes, which causes her new surrogate dad Cliff tons of anguish.
With the apparent loss of the Chief and Jane, the rest of the Doom Patrol aren’t feeling too heroic. “This is what the world looks like when we try to live in it,” says a defeated Larry, who decides to run away instead of trying to fix what happened. Rita opts to return to Doom Manor because it’s trash day. So, Cliff is left on his own in the middle of what used to be Calverton. Thankfully, he won’t be alone for too long.
Detroit’s hoodie-wearing hero Cyborg, a.k.a. Victor Stone, hears about the chaos in Calverton and decides to check it out because (A) he knows the Chief and is concerned, and (B) he’s striving for independence from his father, Silas Stone, played by Phil Morris (Smallville’s Martian Manhunter). Silas has big dreams for his son. While Vic enjoys being a superhero and even has some fun when he takes down a mugger, his dad has a very specific goal in mind: He wants Vic to join the Justice League. It’s clear that Victor isn’t entirely sure if he’s on the same page, but he’s going along with it anyway.
I’ll be honest: When Doom Patrol was announced, I was confused as to why Cyborg was among the list of characters and not on Titans. Like, Doom Patrol already has one robot hero in Cliff, a.k.a. Robotman. Does it really another one? Funnily enough, that question is baked into how the show introduces Cyborg, because he clashes with Robotman the moment they meet. “Oh, Cyborg, the guy who nobody asked to be here,” Cliff says when Cyborg shows up in what used to be Calverton and successfully catches the donkey Cliff was chasing. In a surprising move, the donkey vomits Jane back up.
While Cliff and Victor deal with Jane, Larry and Rita try to avoid getting involved in any of this. In fact, Larry heads to the bus station intent on getting as far away from people as possible because he’s worried about the energy being inside his body. Unfortunately for him, the aforementioned energy doesn’t want to leave and knocks Larry out each time he tries to board a bus; it’s one of several funny sequences in the episode. Eventually, Larry gives up and returns to Doom Manor, and he and Rita agree to just avoid the chaos.
Cliff and Victor takes turns questioning Jane about what she saw when she went through the hole, but it’s all for naught because none of Jane’s personalities are being quite forthcoming. In fact, this week they meet a new one, Baby Doll, who is a big fan of Cyborg but afraid of Cliff. So, Cliff leaves Victor alone with her and goes to check out the Chief’s laboratory, where he watches recordings of the Chief’s meetings with Jane. In them, Jane explains the concept of the Underground, which is where all her personalities reside, and some of them are deeper than others. Oh, and some, like Katie, don’t like being questioned — which is something Cyborg learns upstairs when Jane becomes the Human Torch-like Katie and attacks him. Luckily, Cyborg is able to lock Jane in a room with Cliff’s help.
Eventually, Larry and Rita are forced to get involved with the current crisis when Cyborg discovers that the donkey’s mouth is actually a door to somewhere. Needing someone to go inside and take a look, the two dudes ask Rita to do it. At first she protests (“I’m a Golden Globe nominee!”), but then she gives in, goes into her blob form, and allows the men to feed her eye through a funnel and into the donkey. Of course, this leads to all three of them getting sucked into another dimension, where they find the rest of the town of Calverton and Nobody’s omniscient narration.
Nobody proceeds to trap Rita, Larry, and Victor in various memories as a way of torturing them. Most of this feels somewhat pointless, but there is one interesting development: Nobody forces Victor to revisit the night his mother died in a lab accident he caused. However, Victor says this doesn’t bother him because every person he saves is his way of fulfilling a pledge to his mother. “What an origin story! Too bad it’s a load of donkey sh—,” proclaims Nobody, adding that Victor has programming, not memories. At first, it’s easy to ignore this statement, but when the trio return to the real world (Larry’s energy being helps them escape and restores Calverton and its citizens to their place), Victor has a confrontation with his father, who insists that his son return to Detroit because “every person we save is fulfilling a pledge to your mom.” The implication is that Victor’s memories of his mother may have been planted by Silas, which would be quite dark and could change my mind about whether or not there’s a reason to keep Cyborg around.
As the episode ends, Cyborg ignores his father’s wishes and decides to stay at Doom Manor to help the team find Dr. Caulder. At the same time, Larry decides that he needs to work on his relationship with the energy being inside him, and lets him out so they can establish some rules.
All in all, this episode did a good job of building on the premiere. My hope, though, is that this is the last time we have to see the team go through the whole “Should we become a superhero team?” thing. At this point, we’ve all seen shows like this and know that’s where the story is heading. It would be in Doom Patrol’s best interest to accept them as a team now so we can get to the weird and good stuff.
- Watch the body-horror-filled opening credits of Doom Patrol
- Umbrella Academy and Doom Patrol, reviewed and pondered