Thursday, December 8, 2022

REVIEW: 'Doom Patrol' - The Future Provides a Dire Warning to the Team About Their Inability to Ever Change in 'Doom Patrol'

HBO Max's Doom Patrol - Episode 4.01 "Doom Patrol"

As they struggle to function as a cohesive group, the Doom Patrol are confronted by a horrifying realization... in the future.

"Doom Patrol" was written by Tamara Becher-Wilkinson and directed by Christopher Manley

The Doom Patrol has spent a lot of time wallowing in the past. They always see themselves as morons and misfits. They can never come together as a team to save the world. Of course, the overall stakes of the show require them to be heroic from time to time. That hasn't suddenly given them a ton of confidence. They are still selfish individuals trying to deflect from their personal issues. The third season showcased them overcoming their past trauma in the hopes of finally making their own decisions. Moving on doesn't necessary make their lives any better. It doesn't mean they are suddenly capable of making better choices. It just reveals a willingness to carry that responsibility themselves. They could no longer pass the blame onto someone else. They could no longer prop the Chief up as the person who ruined their lives. Going out on missions as the reconstituted Doom Patrol doesn't immediately make them better either. A routine has formed after several months of that work. It's enough time for Dr. Harrison to diagnose the fellow members of the team. She's fascinated by them. She wants to explore their psyches and dig deeper into their behavior. Of course, the show has already done that. It's not interesting to throw in a new character in this dynamic fascinated by these same concepts. Instead, it's thrilling to send the group into the future where they are forced to reckon with decisions that haven't even happened yet. Blame is put on them in new ways that they don't understand. They didn't have the awareness before to accept their past mistakes. They wanted to overlook them and move past the hardships. They wanted to immediately embrace acceptance and forgiveness. That's not how trauma works though. It takes so much hard work to reckon with what previously happened. Each member of the team knows they have the capacity to screw things up. They have a willingness to walk a different path. They want to do better. A glimpse at the future offers the apparent certainty that they will never achieve those goals. Vic survives for 20 years in the zombie butt apocalypse. The rest of the team became ghosts a long time ago. They still linger in this environment. They don't think their former selves will behave any differently if they are warned about what's to come. This is their destiny. It's better to deceive them in the hopes that the older and wiser Vic can make a difference with the time machine. That's not how the plan ultimately goes. That reveals how they are still messing up these plans. Not a whole lot has changed even though the world has fallen. They still relax in the comfort of home not caring about what happens beyond those walls. They can't avoid that fate. It's better to accept it. And yet, the stakes of this conflict are seemingly too extreme and require them to actually pull off the impossible. Otherwise, the entire world will suffer and no one else can stop it from happening.

It's still foolish to believe the Doom Patrol will rise above their own self-interests to prevent the apocalypse. The future has already changed though. Madame Rouge was warned that her future is unknown because she moved out of the manor. She wanted to leave because her presence only served as a constant reminder of Rita's pain and suffering. Nothing has eased between them. Rouge has no way to acknowledge the extent of her actions. Instead, countless lives were forever lost to history. She can't forget no matter how hard she wants to. She has to continue wallowing in this environment despite how hard it continues to be. Elsewhere, Dr. Harrison was the persona stuck in the afterlife. She has become a part of the team as the new primary tasked with keeping Kay safe. And yet, she too was hypocritical because she placed her needs above Kay's interests. No one knows what Kay wants anymore. Jane is hiding in memories because she wanted a break from the responsibility. She can't ultimately escape it though. She has to reckon with the harm she and the other personas have inflicted on Kay. They are no longer a useful coping mechanism. Instead, they have taken control over her body. Kay has no agency in anything. If she takes back power, that comes at the expense of the personas. Kay doesn't owe anyone an explanation. Dr. Harrison vanishing with a touch provides an easy path to Jane returning as primary. That's a significant change to the future. It still does nothing to address the internal agony. Jane isn't more prepared than any of the other personas to identify and address what Kay actually needs. Meanwhile, Larry has grown codependent with Keeg. He just made the decision to bound with the new negative spirit. And now, the alien energy wants to run away based on its own warning about the future. Larry isn't let in on that decision. There's nothing he could do or say to alleviate the concerns. He's simply left behind powerless once more. Likewise, Cliff is provided with the miracle of touch once more. He has been deprived of that sensation for decades. He would love nothing more than to feel his grandson in his arms. He isn't given that blessing. Instead, he's thrown right back into danger. The team has found a new way to operate. It works for awhile. It's not perfect. It's not long before it invites further disruption. The team was tempting fate by traveling through time so cavalierly. Cliff has a goal he's working towards. He may not receive that satisfaction because other concerns take priority instead. He deserves to be happy and content. However, none of these characters know what that's truly like. It leaves Vic huffing and puffing about trying to have it all even though his future self warns him it's impossible. That word doesn't mean anything to the team because they have overcome so much already. That doesn't particularly matter either because their lives always fling back to the same routine and nothing more. That could be boring. Yet these characters remain dynamic enough to make it all work for another season.