The original mutants/misfits before Marvel copied them for X-Men, DC’s strangest hero team get a masterful character study with delightfully weird tone, majestic scoring, crass R-humor, psychotic/omniscient villain, & pure comic-accuracy. 8/10.
Doom Patrol is a team of traumatized and downtrodden superheroes, each of whom has suffered a horrible accident that gave them superhuman abilities but also left them scarred and disfigured. The members of the team have found their purpose through The Chief and have come together to investigate some of the world’s weirdest phenomena. After The Chief mysteriously disappears, though, the reluctant heroes find themselves called to action by Cyborg, who comes to them with a mission that they cannot refuse. Doom Patrol — part support group, part superhero team — is a band of superpowered freaks fighting for a world that wants nothing to do with them.
*Possible spoilers ahead*
Best Episodes: 1. Pilot, 2. Doom Patrol Patrol, 3. Puppet Patrol, 4. Therapy Patrol, 5. Donkey Patrol, 6. Flex Patrol, 7. Penultimate Patrol, 8. Frances Patrol, 9. Jane Patrol, 10. Cyborg Patrol
The Doom Patrol. Negative Man, Robotman, Crazy Jane, Flex Mentallo, Elasti-Girl, The Chief. This off-kilter group of societal misfits with the strangest of abilities first captured the imaginations of comic book subscribers almost 56 years ago back in June 1963’s My Greatest Adventure #80, and the superhero genre has never been the same since. Though you’ve probably heard more about Marvel’s X-Men, who copied DC’s team right down to its leader being in a wheelchair and running their superhero exploits out of a mansion, and came out months after as a clear-ripoff only to be thrown much more publicity towards and written more mass palatable than DC’s comparatively-indie/darker team, make no mistake: The Doom Patrol started the trend and deserves the praise and recognition history and Marvel have tried to cover up like a shamed secret. Finally getting a big-production series with massive creative freedom being on DC’s Netflix-like platform DC Universe (that, with the already-incredible sister-series Titans available as well as a library of over 30,000 comics, do you really need more reasoning to sign up?) on their near-60th anniversary fits that bill, and it is a magnificent homecoming at that. The original mutants/misfits before Marvel copied them for X-Men, DC’s strangest hero team gets a masterful character study with delightfully weird tone, majestic scoring, crass R-humor, a psychotic/omniscient narrator villain, & immense, unparalleled comic-accuracy in a TV series.
From the opening scene, you can tell there’s one thing at the forefront for the showrunners: characterization, characterization, characterization. Some of the most diligent character work, and artfully-orchestrated origin representation I’ve seen in many-a-modern series is put on display from Robotman’s Frankenstinean sci-fi/horror with absolute gut-wrenching tragedy at its center to Rita’s social-commentary-twinged disability-abhorred superficiality being parlayed into a comeuppance where she gets the ultimate appearance malady to Negative Man’s secretive-gayness as an American icon pilot turned sour at 30,000 feet to Crazy Jane’s 64 personalities masterfully juggled and switched-between with surgical precision. Each character is given incredible development and writing, making you heavily invested and intrigued by both their macabric lives, as well as what happens to them next. The tone is delightfully weird too, balancing its strangeness with that signature DC-edge even more adult with the artistic expression and freedom not having TV networks breathing down your neck allows, blending in crass R-humour and violence, seriously-dark themes, a majestic funk soundtrack as good as anything since the first GoTG, and brutal fight scenes like the one at Fuchv laboratory in Paraguay in this no-kids-allowed adaptation.
Next, the acting and team chemistry. Ever since I first saw them cameo on DC Universe’s sister-series Titans, I knew they were going to be special. PERFECTLY cast in everything from Brendan Fraser (thank you thank you thank you WB for letting him return! FTW) and his effortless whim, energy, and comedic presence going from trailer-park to robot to April Bowlby’s dainty socialite Rita you really believe is time-warped out of the Golden Age of Cinema to Negative Man’s comparatively-quiet but meticulously-expositioned duality to Timothy Dalton’s warm trustworthy presence as Chief, there is not a flawed casting to be found. The cast also works in an unparalleled diversity and representation, with everything from disability-consideration rarely ever shown in this big a title series to LGBTQ representation from all colors and races being featured – even Hispanic – across this colorful canvas of characters artfully infused with life. None of these compares though to Diane Guerrero’s Crazy Jane – the clear highlight and an absolutely sublime performance that warrants serious praise. Having to play 64 wildly-different personalities and, in essence, characters, sometimes switching from second-to-second and juggled harmoniously every episode, is a death-sentence-task for most actors/actresses, but she pulls it off even making it look easy at times. It is perhaps the most impressive performance I’ve seen in superhero TV, and one that instantly steals the spotlight and makes for endless entertainment value. The team chemistry is absolutely incredible, with dynamism and interplay straight out of the comic books and even makes that of the still-great Titans look comparatively-meek. It feels they’ve been together for years – especially shown through brilliant screen-and-situational-writing like High School-like road trips on the bus – and you sense that every scene, making for a smooth, sumptuous time binging this series.
The comic accuracy, Easter Eggs, location setting, and Cyborg. As alluded to above, the comic accuracy and lore-service is simply magisterial here. Every character feels straight out the pages of the comics, and ~no liberties are taken in this straight-shot adaptation by its showrunners, much to the pleasure of fans. The Easter Eggs worked in are enough to make the fandom faint, again showing the equal-geekdom of the writers and crew with everything from the Donkey to Willoughby Kipling to Justice League references to the oracular blue unicorn-head-demon Baphomet to Ezekial the Biblical preacher-cockroach to shade-thrown at the X-Men with that unbelievable Mento mind-fake-out episode Doom Patrol Patrol. Sensational. The location settings are also noteworthy too, in everything from its Texas-heat feeling base mansion to mad-scientist Paraguay laboratory to small-town-America backdrop for its impressive battle sequences. Cyborg – the only real liberty taken with series diverting from the comic and most-well-known team version – is a brilliant addition as well, bolstered by a phenomenal portrayal that might be the best live-action version of the legendary hero – even better than Ray Fisher’s in the Justice League film that might’ve soared with these writers. Why shouldn’t he be on this team of tragic-backstory misfits with the strangest of powers being half-man/half-machine with a heartbreaking family-rewrite that adds more emotional depth than the Motherbox/Darkseid angle? Though I hope he eventually moves to Titans for that classic Cartoon-Network Teen Titans feel, he was a magnicient choice adding to the team that works well off the others and adds an iconic hero introduction to the DC Universe getting the character right, right, right as they begin to square off with the foe.
Finally, Mr. Nobody. I cannot even put into WORDS how incredible and refreshing Mr. Nobody is as a villain. Brought to life by the sensational Alan Tudryk, this God-like omniscient villain that also narrates the entire story is so fourth-wall breaking and hilarious, he lifts the series into masterpiece territory. Poking fun at everything from critics to pretentious Netflix title sequences (although I do love Doom Patrol’s symbolism-rife one) to the oversaturation of superhero media to the fandom calling them ‘reddit trolls with DC subscriptions’ while narrating the story, his black comedy/self-aware jests and wisecracks make the show one of the most entertaining TV products I’ve seen in a longggg time, and are the best superhero-comedy I’ve seen even surpassing Shazam and Deadpool. But don’t let that fool, he’s also a great villain too with some of the most disturbing and messed-up psychological torment of heroes ever realized to screen. Feeling like he’s actually writing the series live as we’re watching, he throws our heroes into dark and ominous situations like having to relive their greatest fears and regrets continuously to break their minds, mold reality in misshapen ways spinning them around so many times they (and we) don’t know which way is up and down, and divide and conquer them like he already did to Mento and the others in the first team to try to cross him now living on life-support in Hell-like perpetual agony. His powers are simply unparalleled in ambition and strength, making for a pressing question of just how the Doom Patrol are going to, effectively, stop God from enacting his (dark-tripped/revengeful) will on them and The Chief.
The only miniscule flaws in Doom Patrol are a little wonky CGI in parts in things like Rita’s blobform and Negative Man’s entity I really wish had been better-animated with less of an elecricity-feel and more of a ghost-ish one, and the de/recreator arc getting a little too ridiculous even for this off-kilter a show and distracting from the main plot taking up a two-parter early on when it really wasn’t needed. Without the two-parter, the questionable 15-episode season length gets brought down to 13, which would have been perfect and flowed perfectly for an even more sublime experience.
Overall, Doom Patrol is a fantastic superhero TVseries that cements DC Universe as a new force to be reckoned with – that, with Titans, has as many great shows as any other competing superhero TV platform like Netflix’s Daredevil and The Punisher and The CW’s Arrow and The Flash (plus Black Lightning and a strong showing for Batwoman in the last of its Justice League-like Crossovers still wearing the superhero TV crown for now – though it looks like it won’t be for long). The original mutants/misfits before Marvel copied them for X-Men, DC’s strangest hero team gets a masterful character study with delightfully weird tone, majestic scoring, crass R-humor, a psychotic/omniscient villain with black comedy edge, and immense & unparalleled comic accuracy. Bring on S2 and Swamp Thing.
Official CLC Score: 8/10