The fourth season of Doom Patrol kicks off with a bang (and a rumble and a shake) as we catch up with our group of would-be superheroes. The season 3 finale left them traveling three minutes into the future to fight a giant, hairy scrotum in the Suez Canal. What does the season 4 opener have in store for the hapless band of “Doom Force” heroes? Read on to find out!
We begin in the future, according to a helpful caption. The future appears to be an abandoned, almost frontier-looking town. A hooded man stalks through the streets, and the camera shifts to show us a sign identifying the settlement as … Cloverton! The town has seen better days, as it’s definitely giving “post-apocalyptic video game” in this incarnation. The hooded man has a metal detector, and after sweeping it around, he starts digging. He finds a nice-looking watch but tosses it in exasperation. Clearly, such things have no value here, or at least aren’t what he was searching for. There’s a noise, and the man’s hood goes back as he readies for a fight — revealing him to be Vic! There’s a rumble and a shake, and he falls.
In the present day, we see Doctor Harrison, who took over from Jane as Primary at the end of season 3. She is recording voice notes on the team, observing them like lab rats, and sharing her diagnoses of their diabolical mental states. “Recording 297, observations of the Doom Patrol by Doctor Harrison, day 93,” she begins. She is (as are we all) “Astounded by the garden of psychological plights presented by this group.”
Her monologue makes it clear that she has been with the group for three months, meaning there has been a small time jump since the season 3 finale. They’ve been working as a superhero team named “The Doom Patrol.” (Finally! Thank God Cliff let “Doom Force” go.) We see them attempting to stop a robbery at a bank. Notably, Cliff is out of his knock-off Transformer body and back in his standard Robotman vessel, minus a few rusty pieces, such as his right arm. Rita has carved out a “starring role” for herself as the team leader, though Harrison notes that it’s only because no one else wanted the job. She has led the “Busted Justice League” on seven successful missions, despite a lack of cooperation, respect, or likely basic manners from any of her teammates. They’ve also attached The Brain to the time machine, giving them more control over their time tunneling adventures, which takes us back to the bank, where the newly-nicknamed Doom Patrol are doing an earnest hack job of trying to take down a gross ’70s style villain with a dick gun. Rita tries to lead, but it’s really not totally her fault that the rest of the team are such perfect s***heads when they want to be.
Doc Harrison declares that Rita tries to control the team’s every move because she cannot bear to lose another loved one. Her diagnosis for Rita? A textbook perfectionist-slash-narcissist with survivor’s guilt and PTSD. Yup, that’s our Rita, alright. Cliff, she suspects, has a low IQ due to poor breeding, a Florida school education, and race car fumes. His diagnosis: a grade A simpleton. Vic gets the grating description of “the hero formerly known as useful,” who is now the Patrol’s IT guy. Techless now, Rita keeps him out of harm’s way, but he’s unsatisfied with feeling so helpless. His feelings are only exacerbated by his lack of courage chasing up on the bliss he’d promised himself after giving up his tech. Diagnosis: personality dysmorphia and social cowardice. Larry and Keeg, at least, have been getting along well in what Harrison postulates may be the first case of a host developing Stockholm syndrome toward its parasite. Larry still wishes for more, but at least he let a glowing alien maggot baby do what humans and the Negative Spirit never could. His diagnosis: self-loathing with a healthy dash of co-dependency. Rouge’s memories keep returning no matter how hard she pushes them away and tries to make amends, reminding her of her betrayal of Malcolm and the Sisterhood. She tortures herself quietly but persistently. Her diagnosis: self-loathing doormat with sociopathic tendencies.
As for herself, Harrison has found her own place in the Doom Patrol, quite literally psyching out their opponents and making them agree to call their mothers. This doomed patrol she christened “The El Dorado of psychological dysfunctions” is … functioning, but that’s about all we can praise them with.
Finally, we get a look at Jane, making herself a coffee in Kay’s memories while Harrison drives, as per their deal at the end of season 3. She claims she’s searching for Kay, but Harrison suggests that Jane is really hiding in the memories as a vacation from the pressure of being Primary.
We see Vic and his dad working on a new arm for Cliff. Vic confides in his dad that it isn’t as easy as he thought, living as a regular human without his tech. It turns out that they upgraded Cliff’s arm, though — with nanites that give him a sense of touch. Overwhelmed, Cliff thanks Vic and Silas, even giving them a crushing robot hug. Cliff decides that the first thing he wants to touch is his grandson, so off the team go to apply jellyfish to their heads and time tunnel to Florida.
En route, things get a little funky. A woman smacks into the Transformer-bot-adapted time machine, screaming and floating around in the time stream. Not just any woman, either — it’s Isabel Feathers, the Cloverton resident who played Rita in Our Town. The team leaves her and continues on to five-minutes-ahead Florida.
They arrive, but it’s definitely not five minutes ahead. The team disembark into the same apocalypse-looking town we saw Vic digging around in during the intro. The Patrol carefully explore, but spring a trap that keeps them in a makeshift cage until Future Vic appears. He welcomes them to 2042. (So … neither five minutes ahead nor Florida. Gotta work on that time-tunneling accuracy, folks.)
Old Vic tells the team that about twenty years back, Cloverton became the epicenter of the Buttpocalypse. The Doom Patrol thought they killed all of the sentient a-holes, but it seems that the world was overtaken by Zombie Butts. The rest of the team are around but keep to their rooms — except Rouge. Future Vic tells her that she moved out shortly before the Butt brigade kicked off, but he goes into Cloverton every day and has never seen a single survivor.
The team scatter around the decrepit facility, trying to piece together what happened with their future selves, who all appear to be ghosts, by the way. Rita has to get through her own snark before her future self will even speak to her. Rouge manages to find a newspaper clipping that infers Laura de Mille was part of some attempted peace talks but no other mentions of herself. What she does find appears, bafflingly, to be blueprints of her time machine. Cliff finds out that he never got to touch his grandson. Doctor Harrison is told that her meddling and playing with the team like lab rats meant she didn’t protect Kay, and the girl is dead. Larry finds out that Keeg has separated from a traumatized-looking Future Larry. Finally, Vic stumbles into the area where Rouge is sorting through notes on the time machine, gagged and partly bound. His future self, he says, is going to steal the time machine.
Vic confronts himself. Future Vic doesn’t want to cooperate and let the Doom Patrol help avert this future, as he is convinced they will just mess it up. (I mean, their track record is pretty spotty, it’s true …) Their conversation is interrupted by a wave of Zombie Butts. Instead of running, Vic tries to stay and fight with his future self, but the team aren’t having it. They drag him back to the time machine. Through the window, we watch Future Vic be overwhelmed.
Back to the Present
Back at the manor, Larry tries to get Keeg to show him what Future Keeg shared with him. He offers Keeg the opportunity to write him a note like the Negative Spirit used to, but Keeg runs, hiding from him. Harrison and Jane have another chat, where Jane admits that she was right before — she was hiding in Kay’s memories because being Primary is hard, and she needed a break. But now she’s seen the future, and she is going to get back out there and fight, no matter what Harrison thinks. When Jane yells, Harrison turns to dust, revealing Kay in her wake. She yells at Jane not to follow her — and Jane wakes with a bag of blank puzzle pieces in hand.
After learning of her future failure, Rita is packing away her leader’s outfit when Rouge knocks on the door. She asks if it was random seeing Isabel Feathers in the time stream. Rita isn’t sure, and Rouge says she’s staying around now that they’ve seen the future. Despite Rita slamming the door and cursing, it’s one of their better conversations to date. Vic pushes himself to reach out to old friends after finding a message carved on the outside of the time machine by his future self, telling him that he can’t have it all. Cliff promises a picture of his grandson that he will get to him, but first, he has to stop the Buttpocalypse.
Bunbury Whispers of Cataclysmic Event (Again)
Finally, we see Willoughby Kipling and the Knights Templar. He’s standing with his ring of cloaked prophet friends at an altar, consulting with Bunbury, who is still mad that Kipling got him the wrong bedding one time. The bunny brings them a photo, which Kipling questions — but the Flora and Fauna are never wrong. They don’t make mistakes (unlike some people). Kipling says that the prophecy only mentioned the Butts — if this photo is right, then, in his words, they are “well and truly fucked.” The camera pans out to show a photograph of a field, with “Immortus Will Rise” carved into the landscape.
The first two episodes of Doom Patrol season 4 are streaming now on HBO Max. A new episode releases every Thursday. Be sure to stay up to date with all of our coverage, including news and recaps.