The DC Universe’s strangest and most reluctant group of heroes is back with Season 2 of Doom Patrol, and the only way that they can overcome their challenges and save the world is by growing beyond their own past traumatic experiences and working together. Even though Cliff Steele aka Robotman (Brendan Fraser), Larry Trainor aka Negative Man (Matt Bomer), Rita Farr aka Elasti-Woman (April Bowlby), Jane aka Crazy Jane (Diane Guerrero) and Victor Stone aka Cyborg (Joivan Wade) are still angry about the betrayal they each experienced at the hands of Niles Caulder aka The Chief (Timothy Dalton), a man they previously looked up to and turned to for support, they still must protect the newest member of the family, Dorothy Spinner (Abigail Shapiro), while they try to understand her powers and the threat that they represent.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, showrunner/writer/executive producer Jeremy Carver (Supernatural, Being Human) talked about how Season 1 influenced Season 2, their approach to the storytelling, the moment he worried might have crossed the line, the challenges of working with characters who have shrunken in size, how the revelation of Chief’s manipulation will affect the Doom Patrol this season, the writers’ process for deciding which characters they’ll include from the comics, what Dorothy brings to the season, whether we might see Mr. Nobody (Alan Tudyk) again, and if there’s a plan in place for a potential third season.
Collider: This is one of those shows that I love, but I never know how to describe it to anyone because it’s just so weird and fun.
JEREMY CARVER: That makes two of us. I never know quite how to describe it, myself.
How close is Season 2 to the idea that you had for a second season, when you originally thought about it? Is what we see basically what you thought it would be, or did the first season change any of what you wanted to do?
CARVER: That’s a good question. It is largely how we wanted to do it. I can’t say that, in Season 1, we even connected all of the dots that were going to happen in Season 2, but in terms of the overarching arc of the discovery of what Chief had done to this team, and then the introduction of the reason for why he did what he did, being his daughter Dorothy, and using that as a springboard to explore what would come from that in Season 2 was full of happy accidents. But we’re swimming in the right waters.
Were there things that you did in the first season that you didn’t know would work until you tried them, but because they did work, it affected what you could do or add or get away with in Season 2?
CARVER: Yeah, a couple of things. Number one, we realized that not everyone’s mouth has to move for them to be an affecting character. You can have a lot of different characters that aren’t necessarily what people might be expecting to see. Number two, we were happy, in that we think we were successful, as a writing team, being able to basically go back into history with our main characters and do a lot of period work. That continues into Season 2. That lets us tell more about our characters and sometimes it even has the added effect of letting us tell a little bit more about the times that they were living in, which we enjoy.
There are many things in this show that I just don’t know how you pulled off, from characters that have no mouths, to having a cockroach and a donkey and a street as characters. Those are all things that seem like they never should have worked, but they really gave this show the charm that it has.
CARVER: Yeah, that’s very nice. The show came together very quickly, in Season 1, so we had to move at a pretty fast speed. We basically took a smoke ‘em if you’ve got ‘em approach, from the jump. There was a nervous energy and an electrical current in the writers’ room, and folks just went for it. It was absolutely delightful to be in that room, last year, as it was this year, as well.
You’ve talked about how this is a show that can go anywhere that you want to go with it, in terms of the craziness, as long as you stay true to the characters themselves. Was there ever a point where you something went too far or was too crazy? Have you found that line yet?
CARVER: There were moments when I really considered whether or not to do a four-to-seven-minute sequence of a giant cockroach [making out with] a giant rat. I thought we might have stepped into the great no-no zone, but I was terrifically happy with that episode. It was a big risk, all around, and we had a lot of fun making it.
You decided to return with everyone still teeny tiny. What are the biggest challenges in pulling off something like that, visually, to keep the audience aware that your cast is so little?
CARVER: Episode 1 was a big technological challenge for the director of the episode, Chris Manley, as well as the production design and VFX, and they did a really wonderful job. The ideal place to set that episode became this giant racetrack that is in Cliff’s room. With the amount of consideration that went into that set design to make all of that come to life, and then marrying that with the VFX, it was a really extraordinary achievement that those guys pulled off. It was hard. It was our very first episode, out of the gate, but being the second season, we wanted to push ourselves, creatively. It was, as they say, a labor of love to accomplish it.
It seems like a pretty hard revelation to overcome, with the team learning that why they ended up in the situation that they’re in is because it was all manipulated by Chief. Is that something that’s going to continue to come up? Are they going to have to continue to dig deep, in order to be okay with what he did to them all?
CARVER: The revelation that Chief caused all of the accidents that caused them to become who they are now was a bombshell from Season 1, and part of the real enthusiasm for diving into Season 2 was exploring how exactly these characters are going to deal with it. I think you see, right from the jump in the first episode, that they’re all dealing with it slightly differently. When you really break it down, they have very different rationale for why they may or may not behave a certain way. Cliff is embittered, and the question is, will he ever be able to get passed the rage he feels towards Chief, and if you feel such a rage, what are you still doing there? Why are you still in this house? It’s a question that’s constantly being asked of these folks, and it feeds into the theme of the season, which is, “Here you are, you’re miniature and you’re living on a racetrack. Are you gonna grow up or not?” The twin revelations or occurrences of hearing that Chief caused their pain and that the reason for that was Dorothy, his daughter, it forces the team to look even more into themselves and their pasts, and to explore all of the generational trauma that they were a part of, when it came to their own families, when they were children and when they were adults. Finding a way past that occupies them for much of the season.
This season will have Doctor Tyme, The Candlemaker, Red Jack and the SeX-Men. What are you most excited about, with those characters?
CARVER: I love that the writers are reaching deep into the Doom Patrol comic book lore to pull out characters from all different eras. That’s what’s made Doom Patrol, the comics, so much fun over the years. The fact that we can do some deep pulls and bring to life these lesser-known villains in the DC Universe, much like Doom Patrol was a lesser-known part of the DC Universe, it’s a lot of fun. Even the least amongst us has feelings and emotions and villainous plans, and it’s a lot of fun to be able to spotlight that. For all of the characters that you mentioned, I love what was done with them this year. Bringing these characters to life is so much more than words on a page because it really takes this incredibly labor-intensive artistic effort from the entire crew to pull some of these things off. It’s so nice to see and feel the pride that it takes to create these characters. Really giving them the love that they deserve has been a pleasure.
Do you have a process for figuring out which characters you want to bring in? Do you write a story and then try to figure out which character fits that story, or do you pick a character and try to figure out what the best story is to tell for them?
CARVER: It’s a bit of a third option. Everything we do, we’re trying to come from a character perspective, predominantly the arcs that we’ve set out for our main characters, during the season. So more often than not, once we know where we want our main characters of the Doom Patrol to be, emotionally, that’s when we reach into the Doom Patrol comics and pull out some of the good guys and bad guys who can be used in a way that essentially allows us to tell or illustrate emotional journeys that our main characters are currently on. As much as we love the crazy characters that we pull out, and trust me, there have been plenty of times that we’ve pulled out a character and made it work ‘cause we just wanted to see a specific character in there, for the most part the type of good guys and bad guys that we pull from the comics are meant to underscore the emotional journeys of our existing cast.
Dorothy is such an interesting character because she’s someone who can’t really grow up. What does that add to the storytelling this season?
CARVER: One of the big things that Dorothy bring is that, despite her brightness and her optimism, she has suffered no less trauma than anyone else in that house, but despite that, she’s one of the few members of this family that can wake up with a smile on her face. That only calls into question for the adults, “If this kid can keep it together, how come I can’t?”, and it really forces them to face some of the things that are preventing them to move on in their lives. But when you say that Dorothy can’t grow up, I would put a pin in that assumption, and wait to see what comes.
I love that we get more of Mark Sheppard in Season 2. What made this a character that you wanted him for, and what made you decide to bring him back?
CARVER: I’m just a fan of his, and I think he does an absolutely extraordinary job of making a fundamentally bad person so compelling that you don’t even mind how bad they are because they’re so much fun to watch. There are layers there and he’s deliciously in the world of gray. The moment we decided that we were going to use the character of Willoughby Kipling, there was very little question of who it would be.
What has most impressed you about the work that the cast has done and what they’ve brought to these characters?
CARVER: When you’re on a superhero show, sometimes certain elements of the show aren’t as important as others, and what this cast has done, done from the very first frame of film ever shot, was to understand and illustrate that this is a show, first and foremost, about human beings and the human condition. They treat every circumstance, from the most traumatic to the most absurd, with the same amount of honesty, and they just blow my mind, in terms of their dedication to their characters and to the stories that we’re all telling. And then, you have some characters, such as Robotman and Larry Trainor, or Negative Man, that are played by two different people. It’s a beautiful nexus of humanity, with these four different people that are playing two characters. To me, it’s nothing less than astounding that they’re able to breathe so much life into these folks, without every actually being in the same space together… This show is everything in a bottle, and it’s all about balance and editing and getting it right. We don’t shy away from anything. We cross our fingers sometimes and hope that it’s all gonna work, but we’ve been very lucky to have such brilliant folks pulling it off.
You took care of Mr. Nobody in Season 1, but he’s trapped in a painting and not gone. Should we be worried about him ever finding a way out? Do you consider story still somewhat unresolved?
CARVER: I do consider that somewhat unresolved, but I’m not making promises that we’re going to resolve that story this season.
Does that mean that you’ve thought of a plan for Season 3? Is there a plan in place?
CARVER: We have ideas, but nothing concrete yet.
Doom Patrol Season 2 is available to stream at HBO Max and DC Universe, with new episodes available on Thursdays.