If you’re already an abundantly silly show like Doom Patrol, how do you continue to up the ante? You will always have a great asset in Brendan Fraser voicing a fully robotic man known as Robotman AKA Cliff Steele, something I can say with the utmost certainty that no other show out there can claim, though you still have to find something for him and the rest of the team to do. Where do you then go when previous seasons have involved a whole host of absurd elements such as fights with Jesus, all the characters dying then coming back to life before becoming undead, and battles with were-butts? Well, you have the titular squad do battle with an enemy sporting a dick cannon, throw in an end-the-world threat, have Cliff go on a bike ride, introduce a new group of singing zombie were-butts, and just keep on playing up the silliness. Even as there are many elements that are recycled and there is a persistent reliance on narrative cycles that have dominated the show up until now, the absurdist energy of it all remains with just enough cheekiness to smooth over some prevailing rough patches.


Most significantly, as compared to previous seasons, the show has largely emerged from out of the long shadow cast by Dr. Niles Caulder (Timothy Dalton) who had driven much of the initial story. Now, we see Cliff (Fraser), Jane (Diane Guerrero), Rita (April Bowlby), Larry (Matt Bomer), and Cyborg (Joivan Wade) all becoming closer than they’ve ever been before. Further, just as their relationships have changed, each has an individual. The most significant of this is that Cyborg no longer has his metal body or powers. Instead, he is living as Victor more than we’ve ever seen him. This has its upsides as he gets to reconnect with his past friends, but he also is unable to fight off enemies like he used to. Plus, Madame Rouge (Michelle Gomez) is stepping into a bit of a new leading role and doing everything she can to assist the team on a mission with the world at stake. While that looming threat is operating in the background for all six episodes of this first part of Season 4, it is the storylines that step away from this to just get up to other shenanigans that prove to be the most joyous.

Image via HBO Max


RELATED: ‘Doom Patrol’ Cast and Character Guide: Catch up Before Season 4

In particular, it is from the end of the second episode onwards that Doom Patrol Season 4 really hits its stride and gives new life to storylines that risked being a bit too safe. While the first two episodes aren’t bad, with a pithy yet fun opening to bring us back up to speed, they are only just setting everything in motion and playing around with story elements we’ve seen before. From there, the season riffs on genre and form by tapping into different styles that break up a visual aesthetic that the series still often falls back on. This first is felt in Season 4’s third episode where we see the characters make a leap into a world that is… let’s just say more of a cinematic trip down Memory Lane. It still is a show that is quite scrappy and low budget in some of its effects, though its charm more than makes up for it. The fourth episode then revisits some familiar faces and places, though in a manner that isn’t for a throwaway hit of recognition. Instead, all of these episodes feel more focused than the show has been in quite some time. It will still see characters go through their own independent storylines, but it does so without getting nearly as scattered as it has throughout some of the low points of past seasons.

Without robbing the gags of their fun by giving any of them away, Doom Patrol almost feels young again. It never takes itself too seriously and is all the better for it. There are moments that could function as referential humor to the litany of other superhero stories, but it isn’t defined by it either. It brings back the aforementioned familiar elements, though the way they are integrated into the story feels more expensive than prior. Fraser remains the series’ standout overall. While he isn’t actually in the robotic suit, and we continue to mostly just hear his voice, he still gives a great comedic performance. It isn’t just the swearing, which he savors every one of the many that he gets, but the little ways he instills Cliff with heartbreak and humor.

When Fraser goes back and forth with Guerrero is where the show is at its strongest. Even just him saying the word “howdy” is so ridiculous that it is impossible not to appreciate his commitment to the bit. Fraser remains a charismatic performer that is able to goof around alongside Guerrero, who provides a great comedic counterbalance. This reaches a high point in a sequence where they befriend some random teens outside a gas station who then are oddly brought into the fold. One moment also sees the “Underground” that Jane frequently visits getting integrated in a way that is both visually and emotionally dynamic amidst the laughs. In any other show, this may feel like a distraction. In Doom Patrol, this is where it thrives and sets itself apart from the seemingly ever-growing inundation of overly safe superhero series.

doom-patrol-season-4-diane-guerrero-matt-bomer-april-bowlby-brendan-fraser
Image via HBO Max


Rather humorously, there is a moment where another character tries to remind them of the more serious mission they are all on and is subsequently taunted for doing so. It almost feels like the show understands that it has to have some sort of driving narrative force to hold everything together even if it would still rather just get up to various nonsense that doesn’t really matter in the overarching story. When it comes to the current landscape of superhero fare, Doom Patrol isn’t quite as grim or politically-minded as a series like The Boys. What it does have in common is that it remains plenty vulgar and will frequently dip its toe into gore. However, what sets it apart is that it keeps things relatively light before bringing us away from its defining excesses to its more straightforward and conventional aspects. Perhaps there will be a day when the show can no longer sufficiently pull off this split, but the opening salvo of this fourth season shows it still is up for more. Anarchistic and absurd with plenty of butts to spare, Doom Patrol continues to be at its best when it embraces all of its many eccentricities.

Rating: B+

You can watch the first two episodes of Doom Patrol Season 4 on HBO Max starting December 8, with the remaining four episodes releasing weekly until the finale of Part 1 on January 5.

Leave a Reply