Doom Patrol is one of those weird properties that not even comic book fans have really heard about. There have been a couple of seminal runs- by Grant Morrison in the 80s and by Gerard Way in 2016- but it never exploded in popularity.
The series takes huge parts of Morrison’s run, adds a new cast member (Cyborg) and sets a new kind of weirdness in motion. While the ending doesn’t stick, the rest of the season is a surprisingly thoughtful ride that takes broken characters and gives them hope for each other.
The main cast, which consists of five misfits, is reminiscent of Guardians of the Galaxy and the X-Men, complete with their own Xavier in Niles Caulder.
The story begins in earnest when an old foe, Dr. Nobody (Alan Tudyk) kidnaps Niles and the others living in Doom Manor decide to search for him. That begins a weird ride that takes them through many fantastical (and horrifying places), from a gender queer magic street and the Bureau of Normalcy to the ‘White Space’ between comic book panels.
It’s hard to choose a favorite among the cast, because each character is well-realized by the capable cast, with oodles of delicious backstory for each of them. There’s Cliff Steele (Brendan Fraser) a racecar driver who is now a brain in a robot’s body, dealing with his frustrations and the fact that he let his daughter down. There’s Larry Trainor (Matt Bomer), a gay pilot who’s horribly scarred from an accident, nursing a negative energy being inside him, and still not okay with the kind of person he is. Then there’s Jane (Diane Guerrero) who houses 64 different personalities, each possessing a different power, formed during a period of intense childhood trauma.
Only Rita Farr (April Bowlby) is a bit less active than her peers, spending most of her time in the manor, but the former actress is mostly supportive, often acting as the heart of the team. Cyborg (Joivan Wade) is the most ‘normal’ person in the team, but he’s also grappling with the possibility that his machine side might overwhelm the little humanity he has left.Credit: Warner Bros
As weird as the team is, they often find themselves face to face with much weirder foes. There’s the donkey, for instance, which devours a whole town, and then a rat which takes his revenge on Cliff for killing his mother. Mr. Nobody, in the meanwhile, acts as an omniscient narrator, very aware of the myriad of problems and doubts plaguing the main cast.
Often it’s Niles Caulder (Timothy Dalton) who is the most interesting character on screen. While he displays sincerity when dealing with the team, he is also endlessly mysterious, often working in Gray areas with less savory individuals.
The show’s mythology is quite well done, with the episodic structure being reminiscent of how comic books used to work in the good olde days. There is a delightfully random encounter with the Beard Hunter, for instance, where he uses his powers of knowing everything about a man by eating his beard to defeat Cyborg.
There’s also the old fashioned, but definitely weird lost hero, Flex Mentallo, who can do fantastic things by simply flexing his muscles. Another Morrison creation, Flex Mentallo fits well into the series. At one point, he drives everyone nearby to the point of orgasm by flexing the wrong muscle.Credit: Warner Bros
Even with this much craziness to cover, the show’s robust pacing allows the characters to breathe and dwell on their individual plights and the possible paths to redemption. There’s an entire episode, for instance, that culminates in a group therapy session for the team.
Doom Patrol, at this point, is probably DC’s best show, easily eclipsing the likes of the Flash with its strong focus. It’s still not the best superhero show on television- that honor goes to FX’s Legion. But if this solid first season is anything to go by, it may well overtake Legion by the time the show’s over. It’s one of the most original shows in years, and a strong testament to how well comic book adaptations can work on the silver screen.