'Doom Patrol': The significance of Dorothy's coming-of-age scene and the red boots, explained
Spoilers for 'Doom Patrol' Season 2 Episode 8 'Dad Patrol'
Dorothy Spinner (Abigail Shapiro) has struggled against growing up for almost a century, but in this episode, her body takes its first step towards maturity as Dorothy gets her first period. As part of her growing up, we also see her accepting a pair of red boots from a vision of her mother, Slava (Pisay Pao). To understand why the red boots are a symbol of Dorothy's growth and the dangers her powers hold, it's worth taking a look at 'Doom Patrol' #25.
While the Dorothy Spinner of the comics was not an immortal being, this moment was still a significant one, both for Dorothy herself and as an examination of her powers. In the comics, Dorothy wasn't entirely cut off from the rest of the world, meaning as she grew up, she was relentlessly mocked for her appearance. She began to grow fixated with the red ruby slippers that her namesake, Dorothy Gale, wore on 'The Wizard of Oz.' She saw Dorothy as someone to look up to, someone who was grown up and "not scared all the time."
In 'Doom Patrol' # 25, written by Grant Morrisson, drawn by Doug Braithwaithe, inked by Scott Hanna, colored by Daniel Vozzo and lettered by Workman, Dorothy's powers get a significant upgrade due to the presence of Doctor Destiny's Materioptikon, which was stored in the Justice League's Hall of Justice that the Doom Patrol were using as their headquarters. Her imaginary friends, representing a family unit, came to life and began to torment her about growing up.
For Dorothy, growing up, her fixation with the red shoes began getting tangled up in nightmares. Her imaginary friend Darling-Come-Home would tell Dorothy that red shoes were only for bad girls, like the girl in the Hans Christian Anderson tale who received red shoes that would not stop dancing until she cut her feet off, turning them red with blood. This was further tired up with the moment Dorothy had her first period, with her own blood dripping onto her shoes, darkening them red.
The shame and trauma of that first moment for Dorothy, her desire to grow up mixed with the shame of having impure thoughts about boys and her own body image issues were all tied up together in the red shoes, which her teammate, Josuah Clay, realized turn the red shoes into what is known in psychology as an engram or an involute. He explains that the red shoes had become a cluster of emotions, a charged up symbol of Dorothy's guilt and fears over growing up. He also realized that the Materioptikon is what is causing Dorothy's imaginary friends to become real.
Joshua smashes the Materioptikon, but not before Dorothy confronts her imaginary friends herself. No longer running from them, she accepts the red shoes and puts them on, only to discover that they're not blood-soaked shoes, but the ruby slippers she always wanted and that growing up was nothing to fear.
On the show, the red boots appear to have none of the same significance, however, they are tied to Dorothy's maturity. What's more, Dorothy doesn't appeart to fully reach her maturity until she accepts the boots, letting the Candlemaker (Lex Lang) free. She still attaches a measure of guilt and fear to her growing up, especially because her father, Niles Caulder (Timoth Dalton) has told her that she needs to stay a child forever. Dorothy can't remain a child forever, especially now that she's been exposed to the world and with her acceptance of the boots, she accepts her own maturity with the unfortunate side effect of unleasing the Candlemaker on the world.
The next episode of 'Doom Patrol' airs August 6, on DC Universe and HBO Max.