DC’s most f*cked up group of superheroes is about to find a wider audience. That’s the goal for Warner Bros. Doom Patrol TV show (which is critically acclaimed but criminally under-watched on the DC Universe service) receiving a snazzy second home at HBO Max next week when its second season launches. For those of you who might have superhero fatigue, it’s worth noting that this show actually doesn’t feel very superhero-ey in the conventional sense. Yes, there are action scenes and world-saving stakes, but more prominently, this is a methodically paced show with character development at the forefront. It’s a buffet of complicated, traumatized souls, each bestowed with powers and unwittingly brought together for (some sort of) greater good.
You can also catch up on the show’s essential points with a recent trailer aimed at drawing in new eyeballs. There are rapid-fire introductions to Cliff Steele/Robotman (Brendan Fraser), Larry Trainor/Negative Man (Matt Bomer), Rita Farr/Elasti-Woman (April Bowlby), and Victor Stone/Cyborg (Joivan Wade). The most interesting player, however, would be Crazy Jane (Diane Guerrero from Orange Is The New Black), who’s front and center in the above image. Sadly, we saw no Karen in the trailer, but I’ve got my fingers crossed for her return, so she can receive more comeuppance.
Karen, for the uninitiated, is one of Jane’s 60+ mostly abrasive personalities. She also happens to be the worst iteration of Jane that we’ve seen so far. Of course, recent news stories have been full of “Karens” — the slang term for insufferable white women who ask “to speak to the manager” and have been known to call police in a racially charged fit of hysteria — so this Jane incarnation (who first surfaces in episode 8, “Danny Patrol”) suggests shades of relevance to the Karen memes you’ve seen online.
She’s perky, she’s blonde, and she’s full of harsh judgments. Karen (who’s described as a “dangerous” presence as well as a “basic b*tch Barbie”) is insidious in a way that Rita didn’t quite grasp at first. She guessed that Karen only wanted to be happy, but it’s a front. In reality, Karen’s powerful enough to cast “love spells” in order to overtake Jane’s body forever and vanquish the other (diverse) personalities. She initially seemed harmless while enthusiastically gushing over marrying “Dougie!” but don’t be fooled. Karen’s a bad egg, and she later grew furious when her big day was ruined by the well-meaning Doom Patrol co-members who worked to resuscitate the “real” Jane.
Well, the group managed to knock Karen out of Jane’s body, and the bland and useless Dougie barely escaped with his life, but things only grew more complicated. Karen got whisked away to the Underground, where she was confronted and imprisoned by Jane’s other personalities in the next episode, “Jane Patrol.” There, the various forms of her being (including Scarlet Harlot, Mama Pentecost, Hammerhead, and The Nun) were represented in physical form, and oh boy, I can’t wait to get to know some of them further in future episodes. They were not at all thrilled at how Karen attempted to put an end to them with her marriage and dreams of a perfect Stepford-Wife life. Those hopes weren’t realized, and the show was better for squashing Karen’s intentions.
Is she actually gone, though? Nope. Karen very briefly surfaced in Episode 12 with another love spell before Jane broke through her consciousness and took charge once more. That can’t be the end of her, and having a “Karen” on this show — a character who aims to forever sideline any culturally diverse presences, even if she hasn’t said anything outwardly racist — couldn’t be more timely, given that the show’s not exactly politically correct but still aims to land on the right side of history.
By the way, I do wish that I could credit Doom Patrol for being prescient in highlighting Karen’s existence as a “Karen,” but the show’s timing won’t allow that leap. The first season aired in 2019, and the Karen memes have been circulating for at least a few years. And Guerrero’s Karen doesn’t seem as immediately horrifying as the Karens who get spotlighted on Twitter, but you can’t possibly look at these demonic eyes and imagine this personality by another name, right? Definitely a Karen.
Where she goes from here, I can’t guess. Season 2 has been throwing up Wizard of Oz vibes with the trailer, and Season 1 ended with The Chief (Timothy Dalton) revealing his Dorothy-like daughter (Abigail Shapiro). Each member of the Doom Patrol is also still sifting through their baggage and trauma while processing feelings of betrayal toward The Chief. I can only hope that Karen, who tends to surface when Jane is most stressed, will get more face time. There are certainly enough real-life Karens running around these days that could have inspired the writers to give her another antagonistic run.
‘Doom Patrol’s second season comes to HBO Max (and the DC Universe streaming service) on June 25.