'Doom Patrol' Season 2 Episode 6 Review: The Chief shows his true colors while Larry meets the Negative Woman

'Doom Patrol' Season 2 Episode 6 Review: The Chief shows his true colors while Larry meets the Negative Woman
(DC Universe)

Spoilers for 'Doom Patrol' Season 2 — 'Space Patrol'

There's a loneliness in space. The world is stripped away, leaving you with nothing but the stars and everything inside yourself that you have no choice but to confront. It might seem like the ultimate escape, but there's no escaping who you are. Thematically speaking, it's surprising that the Doom Patrol has taken this long to go to the stars. In this episode, everyone is forced to face some harsh truths about themselves — and not everyone comes out of it favorably.

After unleashing the Candlemaker on Crazy Jane's (Diane Guerrero) Underground, killing Babydoll and Lucy Fugue and incapacitating Jane, Dorothy Spinner (Abigail Shapiro) wants to get away as far as possible. Fortunately for her, one of Niles Caulder's old experiments, the Pioneers of the Uncharted, have returned to Earth from their mission in space and have left their spaceship unattended.

While Cliff Steele (Riley Shanahan/Brendan Fraser) is trying to take care of Jane, the Chief drags him to a space mission to rescue Dorothy. Meanwhile, Larry Trainor (Matthew Zuk/Matt Bomer) is left with the Pioneers — and discovers, to his surprise, that one of them shares the same powers as he does. The stress of almost losing Dorothy sees the Chief break under the stress. He's been aiming towards a redemption path, but when push comes to shove, his true colors emerge.

It's somehow shocking and unsurprising at the same time to see the way he exploits Cliff's desire for an upgrade to get him to help rescue Dorothy. Underneath Niles' performative compassion lies a man who will stoop to any level to keep control over the people he thinks he loves. Cliff Steele, on the other hand, truly shines this episode as his compassion comes to the fore. The past couple of episodes have seen Cliff somewhat blind to the problems of those around him, but in an emergency, Cliff has his priorities set.

It is possibly Cliff, more than anyone else, who seeks family from those around him. Where the Chief seeks control over his family, Cliff genuinely wants to help. The scene of him with Dorothy on the moon is a beautifully gentle moment from a man who can crush cars with his bare hands and is more used to rage than a kind voice.

Valentina Vostok (Mariana Klaveno) is a surprising treat as the Negative Woman, showing Larry just how safe he could be if he harmonizes with his inner self. Larry's radiation as a metaphor for his toxicity has been a strong theme all season and Valentina's appearance only reinforces it. Larry's loneliness is his defining characteristic and seeing him be able to relate to and connect with another person so quickly is heartwarming, despite the tragic fate of the other Pioneers.

Jane is finally beginning to ask the questions that fans have been wondering since the show began — how does the Underground really work? Can personalities die and what is it all in service to? As power dynamics in the Underground change and a long-forgotten personality takes charge, the show is giving us a clearer look than ever before into what it means to really be Jane. Her story benefits largely from being able to see the Underground itself and the myriad personalities as separate people.

As versatile as Guerrero is, her talking to her various other selves tells Jane's story a lot more effectively than we've seen so far. The last episode was harsh, almost traumatic for fans of the characters as pain ripped through the team, while this one is a gentle counterpoint — apart from that one Cliffhanger — that makes space for grief, empathy and the promise of growth. It's only the promise of it, so far, but it's a quiet space for the Doom Patrol amidst the constant barrage of insanity their lives usually are. 

The next episode of 'Doom Patrol' airs at 9 am ET on Thursday, July 23, on DC Universe and HBO Max.

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