June 25, 2020

“Doom Patrol” Season One Review: A Wildly Insane Superhero Comedy with Heart

Where else have you seen a robot man fighting a giant alligator for his daughter, mere episodes away from a horde of butts on legs escaping a government facility and a sentient street having a massive sexual climax?

The creative team behind Doom Patrol is very obviously firmly committed to the weirdness that the creatively quirky superheroes brings to the silver screen. Couple that with actors that are as dedicated to the strangeness, and you get a highly entertaining introductory season to the most unconventional superhero series out there.
I’m not sure exactly what genre I would use to describe Doom Patrol…comedy? Drama? It’s not tied down by anything in particular, and its tone constantly shifts. You’re never sure exactly which direction it will go next, but that’s part of its charm.

A group of misfits that live, isolated, in a house together have two big thing in common — they all have special abilities as a result of some sort of accident, and they were rescued and helped by Niles Caulder, also known as the Chief (played by a shady Timothy Dalton, absent for more episodes than you might think).

The ensemble cast of titular heroes are an interestingly diverse one: Diane Guerrero plays Jane, one of over fifty personalities developed by Kay Challis as a result of childhood trauma; April Bowlby plays Rita Farr, a former Hollywood actress who is able to change her body shape; Matt Bomer plays (perhaps my favorite character) Larry Trainor, a disfigured Air Force pilot whose body hosts a negative energy entity; and Brendan Fraser portrays Cliff Steele, a NASCAR driver who lost his body in a crash, though the Chief managed to save his brain. Joivan Wade also stars as Victor Stone (aka Cyborg), perhaps the most mainstream of the team.

An impressive cast, to be sure — however, there’s so many primary characters that sometimes the show struggles to balance all of their arcs while also continuing its primary story. This is solved later in the season when entire episodes are dedicated to a certain character, with the others acting in supporting roles. There isn’t always enough for everyone, but the second (and subsequent) season(s) will undoubtedly give the Doom Patrol more time to shine.

The show hilariously points out its own flaws and plot holes through the fourth wall-breaking villain, Mr. Nobody (played by versatile comedian Alan Tudyk). Of course, simply pointing them out doesn’t necessarily excuse them, but the show’s tongue-in-cheek nature is another addition to its ample supply of allure.

Doom Patrol is a violent, profane DC comics adaptation, and it’s one that harnesses its weirdness to create a strangely compelling piece of TV. From killer cults to doomsday-preaching cockroaches, FBI agents turned drag queens to Nazi scientists, Doom Patrol has everything you definitely never expected to see combined on screen — and it’s gloriously wack-o. [Grade: A]

Showrunner: Jeremy Carver
Starring: Diane Guererro, April Bowlby, Matt Bomer, Brendan Fraser, Joivan Wade
Rated: TV-MA (violence, sex, language)
Available: HBO Max
Fun Fact: Robotman wears a different T-shirt of a rock band in every adventure — these include The Clash, Dead Kennedys and Black Flag.

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