Doom Patrol’s fifth episode is a well-earned lesson in giving up. From day one, our main characters have all been teetering on a 4-foot-high ledge, often actually falling off. But as “heroes” they generally get right back up again. This time, they are much more relatable.
The team bus is broken out again so that our heroes can pursue Laura DeMille’s plan to murder—but never mind, let’s just infiltrate—the Sisterhood of Dada. The whole crew ends up enveloped in a very dense fog, where they individually meet different Sisterhood members that serve mostly to mentally terrorize our already-fragile characters’ mental states. If the attempted infiltration of the Sisterhood does anything, it gives everyone a kick in the face that knocks them off the ledge into a faceplant—and the Sisterhood laughs while they do it.
While we get a shallow survey of the different members of the Sisterhood, the most prominent and interesting one is the aptly-named, “The Fog”, or Shelley Byron (you might remember her from the hidden film last episode). The Fog is genuinely intimidating between her masterful use of her powers to casually disarm and humiliate our team in addition to her general presence. While Season 3 seems to be setting a few too many villain-related pieces up with so far no real threat—Madame Rouge, the Sisterhood of Dada, and the Brotherhood of Evil—she is one that stands out as having a formidable enough stance to be one worth looking forward to.
Jane is starting to struggle to find herself in this post-“Miranda” landscape where Kay herself is now more active and actually growing. There’s conflict with Jane and the rest of the personalities regarding whether or not Jane is doing what is best for Kay. It isn’t entirely clear what Jane is actually doing “wrong” but The Fog absolutely gets further into Jane’s head and spotlights her insecurity over a domain she used to run so smoothly.
Cliff is on his own self-journey of becoming more problematic while trying to improve. Instead of more appropriately addressing his (likely) Parkinson’s, he opts to messily self-medicate with black market drugs to try and be a better functioning grandfather. It also leads him to be absolutely useless in the fog and generally out of his mind. Larry is also a defeated mess without the Negative Spirit—his “give up” moment comes as early as being told to stay with the bus.
Vic stays on track with his usual inner turmoil. He’s lost in his feelings for Roni, which impacts his feelings about himself, and ultimately everything comes back to “Who is Vic?” That in and of itself is hard for Vic, because Cyborg was early-on branded as this awesome superhero, but we have never actually seen him do much of that since abandoning Detroit for Cloverton. While his heroic complex is already on the fritz, Frenzy—another member of the Sisterhood—throws him for a loop to ask, “Why are you?” Long story short, Cyborg does not come out of that conversation a winner.
Rita’s building existential crisis this season certainly makes the biggest move by the end of the episode. Having convinced herself that she is a world-renowned time traveler—based on images of someone who appears to be her in old footage and her being the target of the Brotherhood of Evil—she is gutted when Laura drunkenly insults her for thinking this. Rather than reevaluating herself or identifying the areas in which she is confident in herself, Rita goes all-in to drunk drive the time machine with no plan to, in effect, give in to the blackhole that is her identity crisis.
At the end of the day, the characters all return to the bus and pretty much just say, “Ok that was hard, we’re quitting.” In other words, after they faceplanted above, they stayed there. For a gaggle of people that are simultaneously so relatable and unrelatable, they really stuck the landing on relatable this time. The fact that their defeats came at the hands of, generally, mere conversations, is the icing on the cake of them simply giving up.
With the characters in this state of mind at the end of the episode, it feels similar to many places we’ve been before. Doom Patrol often seems like it wants to be a journey, but it can sometimes move at the pace of a snail and feature constant, non-stop diversions. The diversions are a blast, but sometimes it is not particularly clear if the series has actually moved much or if it is all one big circular fever dream that never ends. If it is, the desire to give up makes the most sense, but it also means giving up is impossible—good luck to our characters are they keep going through the wringer.