DISCLAIMER: This recap of Doom Patrol Season 4 Episode 1 has spoilers. Proceed at your peril.
Welcome back, zombie Were-Butt slayers! Everyone’s favorite kooky DC show is back; honestly, we’re better for it. The Season 4 premiere episode, aptly titled “Doom Patrol,” finally sees our gang stepping into their superhero roles. This outing is a bit tamer compared to previous episodes, but it lays the foundation for what’s sure to be a bonkers season and teases the arrival of Immortus. These characters aren’t strangers to the occasional apocalypse, but the stakes are ostensibly higher this go-round with the heralding of Immortus.
Only Doom Patrol can mix layers of nuance and poignant character analysis with a threat called the “Butt-pocalypse,” with formidable zombie Were-Butts overtaking humanity. I love my weirdness with a side of depth, thank you very much.
Ready to delve into “Doom Patrol”? Let’s get to it.
We open with a bleak shot of the future, with a cloaked figure wandering through a desolate, apocalyptic intersection. Said figure boasts a metal detector. We see the mystery person dig through a spot in the street, unearthing a watch. Frustrated, they toss the watch aside. Upon removal of the unidentified figure’s cloak, we see it’s a grizzled Vic Stone (Joivan Wade), wearing head tech. Suddenly, the ground beneath him shakes.
Now, we’re in the present day. Dr. Harrison (Diane Guerrero) records her thoughts regarding the Doom Patrol after having been topside for a few months. If you recall, Dr. Harrison took over as the primary from Jane. Harrison describes the new team’s heroic exploits, including taking on Codpiece, a villainous fiend with a giant metal cannon erected over his junk. We see Rita (April Bowlby) in her new superhero outfit. And looking mighty spiffy, I might add.
In addition to Rita, we spot present-day Vic, Dr. Harrison, Cliff (Brendan Fraser/Riley Shanahan), Larry (Matt Bomer/Matthew Zuk) and Laura (Michelle Gomez). They face down the nefarious Codpiece as he tries to rob a credit union. Meanwhile, we hear Harrison’s voiceover as she describes her teammates and diagnoses them.
Harrison diagnoses Rita as being a perfectionist and narcissist with PTSD. Rita gives everyone their superhero names, and we finally hear them out loud: Cliff is Robotman, Harrison is Crazy Jane, Larry is Negative Man and Rita is Elasti-Woman. Of course, we know Laura is Madame Rouge, but Rita refuses to call her such. She’s still fuming regarding Laura’s betrayal of Malcolm and the Sisterhood of Dada. Laura continues to take Rita’s ire and swallows her pride. Although, in one shot, we see Laura transform her hand into a sword blade in, ostensibly, anger.
That said, Harrison notes that Rita has a handle on being the team leader. The other heroes don’t always respect her, but Rita has an impeccable track record, leading the group to seven consecutive victories. Additionally, Rita helped construct Laura’s time machine on the giant robot head and remedied the memory loss issue from time travel by placing jellyfish on everyone’s heads. Yes, jellyfish. Inexplicably, it preserves their memories.
However, Laura refuses to wear one, hoping to temporarily forget the pain she caused Rita. Throughout Harrison’s voiceover, the scenes cut between the Doom Patrol battling Codpiece and their meetings at home. Next, we learn that Vic is now the tech guy without his Cyborg gear. He meets Codpiece’s tech dude, who drops trow and unleashes a butt cannon. An ass blaster, if you will. God, this show is so weird. At home, Vic wavers between messaging an old friend and leaving him be. Ultimately, he forgoes sending a message. Harrison diagnoses him as having personality dysmorphia and social cowardice.
Meanwhile, during the fight, Laura stares at a message on her hand that says, “Do whatever the shrill ginger says.” That part made me giggle. When the team isn’t off saving the world, Laura subjects herself to more torment by looking up the folks she screwed over in the past. Harrison diagnoses her as a “self-loathing doormat with sociopathic tendencies.”
Of course, I’d be remiss if I omitted Cliff, a.k.a. “Cliff-osaurus,” and Larry. Harrison dubs Cliff a “simpleton” and believes Larry has a heaping helping of “self-loathing with a dash of codependency.” Dr. Harrison delivers the final blow and thoroughly defeats Codpiece by therapizing him. Then, she visits Jane (also Guerrero) in the Underground. Dr. Harrison (Catherine Carlen) asks Jane why she’s hiding in Kay’s memories. Why isn’t she searching for Kay? Jane reveals that hunting for Kay is useless. She won’t be found if she doesn’t want to be found.
Next, Silas (Phil Morris) and Vic craft a new arm for Cliff. They constructed his body after the Brotherhood of Evil debacle last season. Silas can tell his son isn’t happy and hasn’t found his bliss yet. I love the noticeable shift in Vic’s relationship with Silas. There’s more of a warmth to it. The Stone men call everyone into the room to present Cliff with his new arm. And guess what? Now he can touch! Cliff is ecstatic — he can’t wait to hold his grandson Rory. Thus, the group persuades Rita to let them take the time machine to Florida so Cliff can do just that.
Before they depart, Laura pulls Rita aside and reveals she might leave the manor after they return from Florida if Rita can’t forgive her. Naturally, our headstrong Elasti-Woman refuses to let the water flow under the bridge. Rita also forces Laura to wear the jellyfish on her head so she won’t forget her promise to leave after their trip to “America’s armpit.” Side note: the moment when the gang belts out “Sweet Caroline” while donning jellyfish on their heads is such a wholesome, delightfully weird one. It reminds me why I love this show so much.
Suddenly, things get wonky in the timestream. The gang encounters one woman from town flying through said timestream. Laura recognizes her as the actress who witnessed her landing in Cloverton. Unfortunately, she fell into the gaping hole in the ground left in the time machine’s wake. So, why’s she trapped in the timestream? Later, our heroes land in the same apocalyptic future we saw in the episode’s opening minutes.
They recognize they’re in a future Cloverton, so they make their way to Doom Manor. While examining their old (and current) stomping grounds, Cliff finds a bowl of M&M’s and Vienna sausages. What a strange and vomit-inducing combination. Cliff falls for the bait, and a massive cage entraps our group. Future Vic wanders into the room. Vic encounters his future self, who removes the tech from his face. The Doom Patrol is over two decades into the future, and the world is over.
Then, Future Vic (FV) informs the group about what happened. The Butt-pocalypse took everyone by surprise. Cliff and the others insist they eradicated the Were-Butts, but one got away. Now, the zombie Were-Butts rule the roost. FV tells the others they can visit their future selves in their respective bedrooms. He pulls Laura aside and reveals that Future Laura fled before the Butt-pocalypse.
Meanwhile, Rita encounters a ghost version of herself in her room. Plot twist: they’re all dead! Ghost Rita declares they failed to prevent the zombie Were-Butts from taking over. Dr. Harrison chats with her ghost self, and we discover that (obviously) Kay dies, while Ghost Cliff reveals that our Cliff never gets to hold his grandson. Larry learns from Ghost Larry that Keeg left him. Laura looks through newspaper clippings and discovers she might be connected with the Were-Butts.
Next, Larry stumbles upon adult-sized Keeg, flying freely in the greenhouse. Larry’s baby Keeg mingles with adult Keeg, who inexplicably disappears. Baby Keeg zips back inside him. Laura finds a “missing” notebook, wherein FV records Silas’s disappearance. She also browses through a pile of sketches of the time machine. Suddenly, our Vic stumbles into the room, informing Laura that FV wants to steal their time machine.
Then, Vic confronts FV in the desolate intersection. FV conspired with his ghost buddies to swipe the time machine to prevent the Butt-pocalypse. The rest of the gang from the present appear to prevent FV from going through with his plan. However, a pack of zombie Were-Butts crawls out from the woodwork. It’s like that Season 3 scene all over again! Everyone braces themselves to battle it out with more biting butts. Rita urges her team to exercise caution. Rita and the others attempt to flee because they’re in a lose-lose situation. Vic refuses to leave without his future self.
After tricking Vic into departing in the time machine, Vic observes while Future Vic succumbs to the zombie Were-Butts. How strange it must be to watch yourself die. And, as always, Joivan Wade knocks all the dramatic stuff out of the park.
When the gang arrives home, Larry tries to talk to Keeg. What did he see from his adult self? Keeg flees, though, refusing to engage with his host. Meanwhile, Dr. Harrison chats with Jane in the Underground. Jane plans to seize control again, reasserting herself as primary. Sh*t’s hitting the fan, you know. Suddenly, Harrison falls away to reveal Kay (Skye Roberts). Jane asks what happened to Harrison, but Kay orders Jane to leave her alone. Jane wakes topside in her bed in Doom Manor. She finds her bag of blank puzzle pieces.
Meanwhile, Laura asks Rita about the woman they saw in the timestream. Does that mean something? Rita interprets this query as Laura’s way of saying she’s staying. Rita’s face starts to melt from the anxiety. Vic sends a message to his friend Deric Hayes to see if the latter wants to catch up sometime. Cliff draws a smiley face on the oven mitt on his hand — the one he refuses to sully with his new touch abilities until he can hold his grandson. He tells the Butt-pocalypse to suck it.
Finally, we see the return of Willoughby Kipling (Mark Sheppard) in a meeting with the Knights Templar. He receives a photo that speaks of the doom to come. It features a field with the words “Immortus Will Rise.” Uh-oh.
I love the new character dynamics we’re exploring this season. For starters, Rita’s position as a leader and her fractured relationship with Laura. Vic trying to navigate his new role as a normal human. Larry and Keeg. Cliff and his new touching ability. And now Jane has reinstated herself as primary. Plus, having these characters grapple with the news of their inevitable deaths two decades down the line (learning Cliff’s Parkinson’s overtakes him broke me) is an intriguing development/obstacle.
“Doom Patrol” boasts fantastic performances across the board, which should come as no surprise given the caliber of talent on this show. It heaps on the dark, sardonic wit we’ve come to expect, with a dash of pathos and a deep examination of humanity.
When do you think we’ll see Immortus? Will our heroes alter the course of their lives and avert the Butt-pocalypse? Will Rita and Laura mend fences? Only time (and more episodes) will tell.
Doom Patrol drops new episodes every Thursday on HBO Max.