Doom Patrol's Abrupt Season 2 Finale Burns Bright Before Going Out Like a Light

The Doom Patrol arriving at a carnival to fight the Candlemaker.
The Doom Patrol arriving at a carnival to fight the Candlemaker.
Image: DC Universe/HBO Max

Besides the usual themes of self-discovery, Doom Patrol’s second season has been all about finding out what to do about Niles Caulder’s increasingly dangerous daughter Dorothy. We knew some kind of standoff was inevitable, but leave it to Doom Patrol to find a way to pull us even deeper into its weirdness, surprise us, and leave us confused just as things were starting to get good.

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Illustration for article titled iDoom Patrol/is Abrupt Season 2 Finale Burns Bright Before Going Out Like a Light
Illustration: Jim Cooke

Because Doom Patrol treats apocalypses like monsters of the week, the season two finale’s focus on the twisted emotional demons the heroes have been struggling to fend off is a welcome one that’s solid enough to almost make you forget that this was meant to be the season’s penultimate episode.

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Though “Wax Patrol” doesn’t fully wrap up all of this season’s loose ends, it does answer some of the significant looming questions involving Crazy Jane’s turmoils in the Underground and the danger that’s been springing forth from Dorothy Spinner’s imagination. Doom Patrol’s been carefully drawing parallels between Jane and Dorothy throughout the season to make you understand what it is about them that’s compelled others to become involved in their lives—not to mention what makes them both such powerful metahumans. But just when it seems as if “Wax Patrol” is on the verge of a big crescendo, the story’s snuffed out like a candle by way of an unintended cliffhanger caused by the coronavirus pandemic halting the season’s production prematurely.

Doom Patrol’s earliest episodes established that the splintering of Jane’s psyche and the creation of her dozens of alternate personalities were consequences of deep-seated childhood trauma. Long before she underwent the experiments that gave her a vast array of metahuman powers, she suffered years of sexual abuse at the hands of her father. It left her so profoundly traumatized that one of her destroyed personalities, the well-bound Daddy, was modeled after the man and seemingly functioned to continuously terrorize the other alters in her mind.

The episode opens at a point in Jane’s (who acts as the primary personality of the girl Kay Challis) past when she wasn’t yet acting as primary and the alter known as Miranda was still in the psychic driver’s seat. This season of Doom Patrol has most often framed Miranda as an existential threat to Jane’s primary role. The finale complicates their dynamic by unpacking the moment when Miranda lost control because of a decision that made Kay feel as if she didn’t have her best interests at heart. After meeting a man, falling in love with him, and moving in together with the intention of starting a new, stable life, Miranda finds that her new boyfriend’s ideas about their relationship aren’t exactly in sync with hers.

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On an evening when the couple invite a group of (mostly his) friends over, Miranda’s alarmed to realize that it’s something like a key party. Before long, the guests take to making out and a full-on orgy begins. Though Miranda has reservations about what’s happening because her boyfriend made no effort to let her know that she was hosting a sex party, he’s able to convince her to go with the flow against her better judgment because part of her believes that holding onto their relationship is crucial to her maintaining “normalcy.”

But as Miranda attempts to join in, she can’t stop the stuttering Penny Farthing from surfacing and expressing discomfort at the sexual contact. She cycles through a number of other personalities who alternately like or dislike what’s happening before Jane emerges, puts an end to things, and rightfully calls out her boyfriend for being an asshole. While this is happening, “Wax Patrol” also establishes that this is the moment when Miranda, after being rejected by Kay, chose to throw herself into the Daddy’s Well out of shame for having put them all in physical and emotional danger.

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The story jumps back and forth between the past and present, where Miranda’s primary once again and presenting herself as a more together improvement to Jane who, up until recently, was barely able to function in the larger world or in the Underground due to the sheer amount of pressure she was under. Where Jane would have likely thrown a fit and stormed off when asked whether she’d join the rest of the Doom Patrol to pop over to the local carnival to fight a living candle monster borne from a little girl’s mind, Miranda’s more than willing to tag along. If a rematch between Dorothy and Jane was in the cards for this season, it doesn’t come to fruition, but the episode is better for it because it instead uses Miranda’s choice to fight alongside the Doom Patrol as an opportunity to throw another interesting twist into her story.

Just as the team teleports to the carnival (by way of Jane/Miranda’s alter Flit) to find Dorothy and fight the Candlemaker, Miranda’s pulled into the Underground by the other alters who call her out for making the exact kind of decisions that she once criticized Jane (who’s gone “missing”) for. Miranda’s confrontation with her fellow personalities is mirrored back in the physical world where the rest of the Doom Patrol all end up being separated and met with different manifestations of the Candlemaker. The creature takes the form of their target’s old imaginary friends: Rita’s Mademoiselle Roxy, Vic’s Doctor Cowboy, and Cliff’s Bible Camp Jesus. Outlandish as they all are, they also embody painful parts of the Doom Patrol’s relationships with their own parents—Doctor Cowboy is even played by the same actor as his father, Phil Morris.

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Abigail Shapiro as Dorothy.
Abigail Shapiro as Dorothy.
Photo: DC Universe

Instead of out-and-out fighting the Candlemaker’s projections, the team actually ends up engaging in a kind of cathartic talk therapy with them that acknowledges at least part of the hurt they still carry within them. But the heroes’ personal healing doesn’t serve to harm the Candlemaker in any significant way, and the Doom Patrol are all helpless as the fiery being envelops their bodies in his disgusting wax, rendering them immobile. Though it’s literally the Candlemaker who brings the Doom Patrol to its knees, “Wax Patrol” is just as about how difficult it is to heal from the spiritual wounds caused by one’s family, which is what ends up being crystallized in the episode’s big reveal about Miranda.

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After spending so much of the series not really venturing outside her corner of the Underground, Miranda’s return there prompts Kay to witness for herself what a dangerous place it’s become. When Kay finds that Jane’s station is strangely shut down, it begins to dawn on her that the rumblings about Miranda being a threat might be true, and the story confirms this as Jane, who’s still quite alive in the Well, finds the rotting corpse of the true Miranda alter, making it seem as if a resurrected Daddy has assumed Miranda’s form and been tricking everyone in the Underground into letting him roam free.

Because we’ve seen that the Candlemaker’s capable of entering the Underground and murdering Jane’s alters, it’s easy to imagine a scenario in which Daddy-as-Miranda’s plan all along has been to use the Candlemaker as a means of offing the others in order to gain access to Kay. The entire thing works as a brilliant, but horrific, depiction of a person losing themselves to internalized trauma and it gels with “Wax Patrol”’s final moments. Caulder looks on in terror as Dorothy finally gives in to the Candlemaker’s wishes that she join him on some unknown plane.

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Again, because this wasn’t initially meant to be the season finale, it doesn’t at all feel like a narrative conclusion that the creative team wanted, but it’s a solid-enough cliffhanger to give the show an interesting space to pick back up if and when Doom Patrol’s renewed for a third season (something we might end up hearing about during DC’s upcoming FanDome event).

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io9 Culture Critic and Staff Writer. Cyclops was right.

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DISCUSSION

I certainly hope this show is renewed, but I’m worried because I don’t hear about it very much outside extremely nerdy circles. Moving to HBO Max doesn’t seem to have raised its profile very much.

I fuckin love this show. After the first season I binged every. Single. Doom Patrol comic and I can honestly say the show’s portrayal of some of the characters are my favorite.

Rita rules.