Doom Patrol’s fifth episode of Season 4 provided much-needed plot leverage as the series nears its mid-season break. After the disconnected previous episode, it was satisfying to be back with our main team exactly where Episode 3 had left off. In this week’s episode, we finally received more of a concrete explanation of what the season is truly about. The plot pacing paired with definingly creative character moments made this episode a very strong inclusion in Season 4 thus far.
Notably, Willoughby makes his genuine debut of the season to inform the group about what exactly “Immortus will rise” is all about. Rather than the General Immortus Doom Patrol comics fans may be more familiar with, Immortus in Doom Patrol is supposedly an interdimensional deity that can rip apart reality—and he wants to. What he needs, however, are certain shards of his that have been scattered around. Notable inclusions of these shards are Niles Caulder’s/Dorothy’s talisman and the miniature shards of it placed in Rita, Larry, Jane, and Cliff that gives them immortality. Immortus and his henchman are looking to extract immortality from them, and Dr. Janus succeeded in Episode 3 with Rita.
In her aging panic, Rita sets free a poorly-designed de-aging spell that initially turns the team into teenagers. The gag is generally used to put the characters in the comical space of the classic dumb teenager trope, which, in the midst of trying to stop yet another apocalypse that they are somewhat responsible for, the fact that their priority becomes a pool party with other random youth is very classic Doom Patrol. It also ultimately delivered some phenomenal character moments.
Jane’s teenagerhood is perhaps the most interesting, as she herself had never been one. Only created by Kay in young adulthood, Jane never experienced being a teenager. Prior in the episode, Jane gave in to her desire and began to masturbate, but seemingly knocked herself into the Underground subconsciously. The burden on Jane to protect Kay at all costs is extremely interesting when looking at it from the perspective of Jane as a full being. Jane, of course, was created in the aftermath of sexual abuse and trauma sustained by Kay. So naturally, it makes sense that Jane had a primary or major focus on avoiding that type of relationship. The fact that Jane struggles on her own to let herself feel any sexual pleasure is an interesting twist on the usual Jane-Kay narrative. In teenager form—perhaps the form that best symbolizes raw sexual desire and exploration—Jane has some form of hallucination where Kay tells her that Kay’s body is both hers and Jane’s body, leaving Jane with the suggestion that she may be more free to live as her own person. Considering Jane’s initial push this season was to find her purpose other than protecting Kay, this move toward autonomy certainly seems par for the course. However, the fact that Bunbury the magic rabbit appears to extract her immunity at the end feels a bit more pressing.
The absolute standout moment of the episode, however, came from Rita and Laura. The two have been absolute masters both last season and Season 4 so far, but their bus top scene is every example of why. First, the two argue over Laura’s team leadership, but it devolves into the real issue between the two—Madame Rouge betraying Rita and having her boyfriend killed—and from there ends up at an extremely touching place. First, Laura has this important conversation with Rita’s now-child form, which amounted to a fully grown woman pleading with, apologizing to, and admitting again the extent of her shame and regret she will never be forgiven for to a child. When Rita tells her she cannot move past it, but misses her best friend, the dynamic between the innocent child who is hurt at her core and the adult who embodies all of the complexities of the relationship is remarkable. Finally, when Rogue beaks down so completely that she loses control and becomes her child form, the true level of pain, friendship, hate, love, and grief is beautifully captured in a near-perfect sequence.
Elsewhere in the episode, Larry and Mr. 104 bond over each other’s shared traumatic pasts at the Bureau of Normalcy due to Kheeg’s role as wingman. Mr. 104’s connection to Lazarus is key to his motivation, but it is still a little unclear. However, there is no doubt this episode sets up a romantic connection that will quite possibly end up breaking many hearts. Larry’s loneliness is a constant theme for the character and the fact that there is not someone around who understands some of his hurt and can even safely be with him unwrapped is almost too good to be true. Add in the fact that Mr. 104 is a quite charming, handsome man for Larry (and the actors have that chemistry) it is just a recipe for love and warmth, but it does not feel safe in a series like Doom Patrol.
Overall, Episode 5 is on par with the strength of the first three episodes of Season 4. It worked with its strongest elements while also pushing the boundaries of how successful that can make their character development. It is stunning that much of the development feels familiar, almost repetitive. Yet, despite the series’ best attempts to hammer a point home too many times, on the whole, each character and each line of personal development continues to consistently improve as if there is no ceiling. Next week’s Episode 6 will be the final episode of Part One of Season 4, so expect it to be action-packed with plenty of cliffhangers.