Why DC's Doom Patrol Deserves a Shiny Winged Statue

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Doom Patrol Season One BD

After having endured the dark debacle that was passed off as TITANS on the DC Universe streaming service, I was once bitten, twice shy about DC Universe's other original series, DOOM PATROL, a spin-off of the TITANS series (having made a guest appearance that season).

Trepidatiously, I began watching the opening season, hitting the play button like clicking the pull/spin switch on video slot games, hoping this one was going to roll up better results than TITANS did.


The contrast between the two shows is night and day. DOOM PATROL embraces the weirdness that permeated the Grant Morrison run of the comic, introducing us immediately to the character of Mr. Nobody (ALAN TYDYK) and his fourth-wall-breaking powers that allow him to narrate the events of the series while referring to it as a television show directly to the other characters. His powers are almost literally godlike in this respect, making him a very formidable foe. His motives are mysterious, but revolve around his relationship with Niles Caulder (TIMOTHY DALTON), aka "The Chief," who has brought together this group of super-powered misfits to offer them sanctuary in his home.

The series opens with the origin of Cliff Steele (BRENDAN FRASER), who "dies" in an automobile accident in the 1980s, only to awaken to the fact that his brain has been transplanted into an indestructible robot body, making him a "Robotman."

Helping him transition back into the land of the living are two other residents: Rita Farr (DROP DEAD DIVA's APRIL BOWLBY) and Larry Trainor (MATT BOMER, WILL & GRACE). Rita was an actress in the forties who fell into a swamp and became infected with an agent that causes her body to become an amorphous blob. Larry was a test pilot in the Cold War who flew through an radioactive energy field and became the host for a being of "negative energy."

Neither of them seems to have aged a day, which is befuddling at first but is, in fact, an integral part of the story that isn't revealed until closer to the end.

Also experiencing a longevity is Crazy Jane (DIANE GUERRERO, ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK), a young girl with multiple personality disorder. She has 64 personalities, each of them with their own superpower -- and the team never knows who is going to be the dominant personality at any time. Cliff sees Jane as a surrogate daughter, and the two of them form a volatile relationship throughout the season.

When The Chief goes missing, the group is visited by Victor Stone, the superhero known as Cyborg (JOIVAN WADE), a teen who was blasted to bits in an explosion and pieced back together by his father, Silas Stone (PHIL MORRIS) using cybernetic parts. Cyborg's primary goal is to join the Justice League, and his motivation to be the best he can is driven by the guilt that the explosion that damaged him was his own fault -- and also killed his mother.

It would be futile to try to explain the rest of the season, and honestly it would rob you of the fun of seeing it all for yourself. So I won't go into detail about messages in donkey farts, or the sentient gender-queer street, or the cockroach preaching the apocalypse and the revenge-seeking rat. I won't talk about the guy who eats a man's beard hair to enter his brain, or the muscle mystery powers of Flex Mentallo.

What I will extoll, however, are the performances of these actors, and the growth of the characters as the show progresses. Larry still carries the guilt of his closeted homosexual relationship. Rita bears the cross of a girl's suicide she feels responsible for. Cliff seeks to reunite with his daughter and apologize for being an awful father. And Jane deals with dark secrets all her own, as we learn the trauma that splintered her psyche. All of this is addicting and engrossing, in no small part due to the fantastic performances of Guerrero and Bowlby. Guerrero has so many roles to play and make each one recognizable by voice and attitude, and succeeds with flying colors. Bowlby, for her part, delivers the model self-absorbed diva with delicious flair, and loses none of that charismatic allure when her character begins to come to terms with her past. Rita Farr is the one person who wants to do the least when it comes to going into action, so when she steps up to become the one who wrests control away from Mr. Nobody, it's a moment of triumph both for the character and the audiences. The Television Academy better sit up and take notice of these women, because they're both deserving of nominations for that coveted Emmy Award.

DOOM PATROL is for adults. It has adult situations, it has adult language. Where that did not work for TITANS, it works wonderfully for DOOM PATROL, perhaps because the group really came into its own while under the Vertigo imprint at DC Comics, where adult situations were expected. Robotman's perpetual use of the F-bomb in almost every situation where he is confused or overwhelmed -- which is almost all the time -- becomes additional comic relief of a show that revels in the absurd.

Very highly recommended.

5.0 / 5.0