REVIEW: Doom Patrol, S1E4 – Cult Patrol

“Cult Patrol” was Doom Patrol‘s first attempt at a monster-of-the-week episode, even if it then refused to wrap up said monster in a single week. The battle against the Cult of the Unwritten Book carries over into the following episode, but in the meantime it introduced fans to the comic book character Willoughby Kipling (guest star Mark Sheppard, playing to type). Unfortunately it didn’t do too much more in the way of plot or character development, but that doesn’t mean there was no enjoyment to be found.

A man after my own cult.

The central thread running through “Cult Patrol” was, predictably, a cult that sought to ‘read’ the body of a young man named Elliot and through him open the gates to a place called Ernheim – that’s not how it’s spelled, is it? – and summon the Decreator to… Well, destroy all creation. Seeing young Elliot’s life flash before our eyes as his parents raised him for slaughter and his mother killed his father in front of him for daring to care about their child was eerily reminiscent of Titans‘ entire first season, and it was both too early and too late in the season to do a retread. That being said, the boy himself was a sympathetic character who brought out the best and worst in everyone around him – including Chief (Timothy Dalton), who once again wasn’t there to speak for himself but whose multifaceted character continued being uncovered piecemeal by the recollections of those who knew him.

Victor’s (Joivan Wade) abilities as a leader were tested once more in the face of a concrete goal for Doom Patrol to achieve, and he continued to butt heads with Rita (April Bowlby) over her lack of commitment to heroism. For perhaps the first time, his treatment of her felt unfair given that no one else was particularly gung ho about saving the world either. But no one underestimated Rita more than she herself did, so it was gratifying to see her step up to the plate and use her powers to protect Elliot when push came to shove. The only problem was she had to protect him from Willoughby, who had not yet earned his top ten anime betrayal of the team or his reputation as the grumpier Constantine. I would have liked to see Victor reflect more on himself as well, especially after Rita pointed out that he was still using the group to prove himself, but he was relegated more to planning and showing off his technology – in opposition to magic, because of the Constantine connection, you see? – for most of “Cult Patrol.”

Do you believe in miracles of technology?

Larry (Matt Bomer) alao continued his tussle with the negative energy being living inside him, but it wasn’t as satisfying as the previous episode. Perhaps because the only new revelation was that Niles Caulder had been working on a way to communicate with the creature, although it was unclear if this was a project the being wanted Larry to continue or to condemn. Finally, Cliff (Brendan Fraser) and Hammerhead (Diane Guerrero) had to contend with the fallout of Jane witnessing his Nazi-hivemind-killing rampage, amidst some uncomfortable undertones about him seeing her as a daughter while Doom Patrol simultaneously overlays a romantic tension to their scenes. Considering that Jane and her personalities are often prone to killing as well, it seemed a little out of place for her to be so afraid of him for doing it as well. But hopefully soon we’ll get a deeper sense as to why, and Hammerhead’s uncalled for attack on the priest whose hands were the gates to Ernheim (don’t ask) suggested that her core personality has deeply rooted fears about men she’s supposed to trust turning on her.

Doom Patrol continues to excel in diving up the character work, although it does appear that Cliff and Larr consistently get the most time for and the most repetitive kind of introspection, but it may want to branch out when it comes to the kinds of cases it introduces for its team. I’m all for taking a break from the overarching plot, but I don’t want to see a second version of another DC Universe show. For now, though, I commend the writers on defining Elliot solidly enough to make his rescue feel like a worthwhile goal in and of itself and for knowing how to use him to draw out each character’s inner hero or coward respectively.

Doom Patrol drops new episodes every Friday on DC Universe.