Last season, “Doom Patrol” had to recover from a Covid-19-induced shortened second season, then get the show into a decent spot for HBO Max to cancel them. Thankfully, HBO Max did not cancel them, and now the show gets to do, presumably, at least this fourth season.
You never know with HBO Max, however.
This season premiere picks up about six months after the finale, which saw the Doom Patrol becoming superheroes under April Bowlby’s enthusiastic, if questionable, leadership. Bowlby’s still team leader, Robotman (Riley Shanahan walking, Brendan Frasier talking), is almost rebuilt, no longer Cyborg Jovian Wade and dad Phil Morris are doing that rebuilding as they try to bond, Diane Guerrero’s having a multiple personality crisis, Matt Bomer and Matthew Zuk (Bomer talking, Zuk wearing the hot costume) are bonding with their new electrical alien parasite, and Michelle Gomez is still trying to atone for her many sins as the latest team member.
Now, Gomez is in the opening credits as “special appearance by,” which isn’t a great sign for her longevity. I kept waiting for her to do a runner this episode, but the show seems sure she’ll be around for a while. Hope so; she and Bowlby are even more fun together hating each other. Or, Bowlby hates Gomez, while Gomez is trying to play nice but noticing the team leadership problems.
It’s a fine place to start the season, with Guerrero narrating. Her primary persona now is the psychiatrist, played in the Underground (where Guerrero interacts with the personalities) by Catherine Carlen. The narration is Guerrero’s psychological observations about the team, which is an excellent device.
However, things go wrong once they go on mission, finding themselves thrown into the future—which the audience has already seen in the episode prologue—and discovering most of their future selves dead, all because of some imminent mistake they’ll be making in the past. There’s a nice mix of action, deception, and character drama, with loads of good acting from the cast. The episode even gets in a great music montage (Clint Mansell and Kevin Kiner) where everyone’s moping around the mansion, realizing the new season’s started and shit’s getting real again.
There are a couple significant reveals in the third act, along with a cameo in an epilogue, lots of future angst, and contemporary drama—the season hook is solid. The episode might feature Guerrero’s best acting on the show, albeit doing a Carlen impression.
So glad “Doom Patrol”’s back. So glad.