Doom Patrol successfully stands out from the glut of superhero overload on our televisions right now to deliver a gleefully weird mash-up of strange ideas and strong emotional beats. Watch this show!
“Ah, more superheroes. Just what the world needs,” Mr. Nobody snarkily narrates in the opening line of DC Universe’s latest superhero offering Doom Patrol, and it’s hard not to agree with him. What once started as a niche genre of television has now exploded and spread faster than a magical donkey fart (watch the first episode of Doom Patrol, you’ll understand what I mean). It’s become so popular that DC launched their own streaming service with nothing but superhero shows to scratch that particular itch.
Yes, they stumbled out of the gate with the “gritty” live-action Titans, and as nice as it was to have Young Justice back on the airwaves, the show isn’t quite hitting the high bar set by fans who’ve waited years for it to come back.
Now, going into the service’s third streaming show, Doom Patrol, expectations are understandably low. To an outside perspective, the Doom Patrol just seems like an awkward bunch of weirdos and guess what? That’s exactly what they are. And embracing that weird spirit from the Doom Patrol comics helps this pilot episode stand out from almost all other superhero programming and promises great potential down the line.
Let’s get into it, shall we?
“Our story begins, as most stories do, with a visit to a Nazi”
Doom Patrol turns the usual superhero narrator trope on its head by having the show narrated by its villain, Mr. Nobody. When news broke that Alan Tudyk would be playing Mr. Nobody, it was assumed this would mainly be a voiceover role, but who could’ve guessed his golden pipes would be the glue that holds the show together!
We begin in Paraguay, 1948. A nervous looking Mordern (Tudyk) meets with a Nazi to undergo an experimental procedure to presumably make him “somebody.” He’s tired of being a third-rate bad guy, a nameless henchman, a real nobody. Looks like he’ll get his wish. The Nazi Doctor straps him in a machine, has him repeat the phrase “The mind is the limit” and proceeds to transform Mordern into something sinister.
Meet our hero! And his pale, white a**!
But this isn’t a show about villains, no it’s about heroes! So we flash forward to Florida, 1988 where the first look of a superhero on this show is Brendan Fraser’s butt. Fraser plays Cliff Steele, a famous race car driver with a crumbling marriage. The two seem to despise each other and Cliff spends more time having sex with maids then trying to repair his relationship with his wife and daughter. How bad is their relationship? Right before one of Cliff’s big races, his wife tells him to crash and die. Umph.
Well that’s exactly what Cliff does. While racing, his wife taunts him some more over a headset, distracting Cliff and seemingly causing a devastating crash.
Through a series of blurry montages, Cliff eventually “wakes up” and finds that his brain has been transported into the body of a robot by the eccentric Dr. Niles Caulder, aka The Chief. More bad news? It’s been 7 years since his accident and it’s now 1995. Cliff’s understandably a little upset.
He meets the other members of the Chief’s “family,” including Larry Trainer, aka Negative Man, and Rita Farr, aka Elasti-Girl. Both seem broken and sad in their own way which paves the way for more flashbacks!
Larry Trainor was a hotshot pilot in 1961. Mr. Nobody basically calls him an American God. He’s seemed to have it all: happy marriage, happy kids, dashingly good looks, and a skillset that allows him to test drive an experimental new rocket/airplane hybrid.
While testing this new aircraft, it’s hit with a beam of mysterious electrical energy that phases through Trainor and sends the plane crashing back down to earth in a fiery explosion. Amazingly, Trainor survives the wreck, crawling out of the wreckage horribly scarred and disfigured, which is presumably why he’s wearing Invisible-Man like bandages in the modern-day.
Rita is another sob story from a different era. She was one of the biggest stars in the 50’s, but her vanity and uppity-nature makes her unlike among cast and crew. While filming her last movie, Forbidden Congo, she accidentally falls into the river. When no one jumps in to save her, Rita is also exposed to a mystic type of energy that causes her to start melting in front of everyone. She runs away to hide from the public, eventually winding up on the Chief’s doorstep.
So Cliff makes the third broken individual inhabiting Chief’s home. He struggles to gain control of his robot body, but once he does, he tries to leave, saying this place isn’t right for him and he wants to go home to see his wife and daughter. It’s here we get big twist number 1! Chief reveals that Cliff didn’t actually die in that race car wreck. He actually narrowly missed crashing and afterwards continued to become distant with his wife.
After feeling he lost everything, he called his wife asking to start over, an idea his wife gladly wanted to try. While driving with his family, Cliff gets into an actual wreck that Chief says kills his wife and daughter. Distraught, Cliff locks himself away, deciding to stay at the manor with his fellow broken individuals.
Crazy Jane shakes things up
Flash-forward all the way to 2019 where a former housemate returns. It’s Crazy Jane! The woman with 64 personalities, each with their own special powers. She adds an interesting dynamic to the group and once the Chief heads out on a mysterious mission, Jane convinces them to go on a little adventure into town.
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Things start out nice: Jane takes Cliff to a toy store to buy a gift for his daughter’s birthday, Rita meets an old fan of her movies, and Larry saddles up to a bar for a drink. The fact that they all look like something out of a deranged comic book only adds to the humor and awkwardness of these scenes.
Naturally, things all go sideways. Jane drops big twist number 2! Cliff’s daughter actually didn’t die in the car crash, the Chief lied to him. This causes both of them to get angry at each other, attracting the attention of nearby cops. Meanwhile, Larry is at the bar trying to be normal and enjoy a drink. It’s here we find out in the 60’s, he didn’t really have the “perfect” life. He was in fact, a closeted gay man shunned by the people of that time and him thinking himself as nothing more than a monster causes him start freaking out.
But worst of all is Rita, who after hearing nasty rumors about why she disappeared, morphs into a gigantic blob creature that oozes around town causing a lot of destruction! Her blob form threatens a school bus full of children, forcing Cliff to step in and life a gigantic piece of the road to stop her path. Everyone eventually calms down and return home where it’s safe.
Evil forces and farting donkeys
The Chief returns to town to see the destruction his… pupils? Experiments? House-mates? (honestly, I’m having a hard time picking a name for the people who just live in Chief’s house and hang out…) caused. He sees what looks like a disappearing donkey and quickly returns home. He tells the future Doom Patrol that their actions revealed their existence to sinister forces and people who are after Chief. They have to run.
Most of them are on board, but Cliff takes a stand. If they leave, no one will protect the town and Cliff is tired of running away. He heads off on his one while the others drive out-of-town… only to turn around and help about a minute later.
Doom Patrol Unite!
The final scene is the team uniting and walking toward the town to face evil. Mr. Nobody puts it best: “And there they go, our four lovable losers banding together to become the superhero fighting force no one saw coming except everybody.”
And then it gets weird. The donkey appears again and lets out a fart gas that spells out The Mind is the Limit, and a vortex starts opening in town. Boom. End of first episode. Considered me hooked.
Ramblings, rants, and other tidbits:
- Shout out to all the acting in the show. Timothy Dalton is always a welcome presence, but it’s great to see Brendan Fraser back in our lives. He’s the de facto heart of the team and his delivery of lines makes us sad he was gone from our lives for so long.
- So what do you think? Chief created Mr. Nobody right?
- Although they make a great team, the Doom Patrol is still incomplete. Cyborg should be arriving next episode and it will be interesting seeing his dynamic with fellow robot Robotman.
- I’ll be totally honest. I was not expecting this level of profanity and sex on the show, but it also doesn’t feel shoehorned in for the sake of gratuity. The Doom Patrol’s world is a weird one so of course there would be cursing and sex!
- A lot of funny quips in this first episode, but for some reason Brendan Fraser’s delivery of “Cars” when Crazy Jane asks him what sort of man stuff he had in his room made me laugh… a lot.
- Episode MVP? I got to give it to Cliff, but Crazy Jane certainly gives him a run for his money.
DC Universe will release new episodes of Doom Patrol on Friday. We’ll be back next week with another recap!