DC Universe pulled off what seemed impossible with Doom Patrol's first season, taking what may be comics' most bizarre and improbably team of heroes and bringing them to life in a way that told a heartfelt, multi-faceted story while still somehow preserving the absolute insanity of the comics. Now, with the series returning to DC Universe as well as airing on HBO Max for a second season beginning next week the question is whether that kind of impossible can be pulled off twice and the answer is not only can it, but somehow it can be done better. The first three episodes of Season Two sets the series up to be just as impressive and impressively weird as the first season, while telling a story that may just hit a more deeply emotionally resonant tone.
The first season of Doom Patrol concluded with the team ultimately rescuing Niles "Chief" Caulder (Timothy Dalton) from Mr. Nobody (Alan Tudyk) but it was a rescue not without issue. Not only did the team now realize that Niles had created their horrific and traumatic experiences leading them to be the Doom Patrol in the first place, but they were also now miniature size and had brought some sort of mysterious child (Niles' daughter) along with them. It's this strange place where the second season picks up. Not only has the world literally changed for the Doom Patrol because of the whole miniature size thing, but they're now dealing with a man they don't really trust as well as his mysterious and potentially very dangerous daughter, Dorothy (Abigail Shapiro). Because of Dorothy's perilous potential, it's become a primary focus of things to find a way to protect Dorothy as well as the world from Dorothy.
Straight out of the gate, the season generally maintains its dark but quirky tone in a way that feels consistent and seamless with the first season which is a huge help considering that the pacing is a bit slower. The first three episodes -- which is what were provided for review -- does take a bit more time than one might expect to focus on Dorothy. We get Dorothy's origin pretty quickly and seemingly completely as well as a very early look at some of the things that make her so dangerous. That said, the focus on Dorothy does feel like it causes the rest of the action to drag and it's the plight of the team that really is what viewers got invested in during Season One. While the series does, within those first three episodes, dip back into Larry's (Matt Bomer) trying to come to peace with his previous life and Jane (Diane Guerrero) attempting to deal with the multitudes that reside within her, the primary story feels firmly shifted to Dorothy. While that's likely a move to build a framework for the rest of the season -- and there are some major clues early on about just how insane things are going to get -- it does feel a bit like exposition.
For that, though, it's obvious that the series has lost none of its soul heading into its sophomore season. If anything, the series' exploration of trauma is even richer and more meaningful this season. Larry's story continues to have new layers and new heartbreak, but you can see the healing process in a way that is raw, real, and beautiful. Bomer's performance as Larry -- both as the voice to his bandaged self and the "real" Larry seen in flashback -- is one of the shining strengths of the season thus far, especially when paired with April Bowlby's Rita Farr. The friendship between those two characters is honestly one of the most beautiful elements of the show.
There's also the matter of the absolutely insane "villains" that the team deals with. Lifted straight from the comics, they are in equal measures terrifying and hilarious, expertly crafted and subtly subverted in ways that offer endless entertainment, which is especially helpful given how dark and grim they actually are. And honestly, that's something that Doom Patrol excels at, even in just these early episodes. There's a lot of darkness and awfulness in what the show takes on, but it's made to be intriguing and entertaining. In real life some things are so bad that all you can do is laugh -- and Doom Patrol nails that reality brilliantly.
Ultimately, Doom Patrol Season Two is a worthy successor to the beautiful madness that was its freshman season. It delivers on the same sorts of entertaining balance of dark and light that fans have come to love and expect and somehow improves on it. While the first few episodes do move more slowly, there's no shortage of potential and promise that if you just get on the bus and go along for the ride, the destination will be worth it. With realistic and eloquent explorations of trauma, comics-accurate and insane villains, as well as just the right amount of mystery, the show embraces its mess and continues to be one of the best things in the television format.
Rating: 4 out of 5