DC Universe is set to debut its third original series since going live back in September 2018, and for a long time, fans could only guess what was in store with Doom Patrol. Unlike Titans and Young Justice, there weren’t trailers and first looks well ahead of time to analyze, and the backdoor pilot in Titans was only a taste. Now, DC Universe is finally premiering Doom Patrol, and viewers are in for a brand new superhero team that is dysfunctional in the best way.
Created by Jeremy Carver, Doom Patrol delivers a misfit band of remarkable people. There’s Cliff Steele (Brendan Fraser) as Robotman, a race car driver who lost everything and had his brain implanted into a robot body; former test pilot Larry Trainor (Matt Bomer), whose life was changed forever after a test flight gone wrong, as Negative Man; 1950s movie star-turned-blob creature Rita Farr (April Bowlby) as Elasti-Woman; and Crazy Jane (Diane Guerrero) with her more than 60 distinct personalities and corresponding superpowers.
They’re brought together by a mad scientist by the name of Niles Caulder (Timothy Dalton), who is better known as “The Chief” by the misfits he helped put back together and gave a home. Unfortunately, a villain known as Mr. Nobody (Alan Tudyk) wants nothing more than to ruin everything The Chief has worked for, and he has his own set of unique powers to help him do it.
Cyborg (Joivan Wade) is a potential ally to the good guys, but they’ll have to get over their own personal issues as well as their issues with potential heroism if they want to work as a team. The big question is whether they have what it takes to make that happen.
Based on the first couple of episodes, the answer to that question is a resounding… maybe. The characters are at times so unenthusiastic about their own powers that it’s entertaining, especially as all kinds of shenanigans go down around them. They’re all strikingly human, however, which is a remarkable feat for the show considering Robotman can’t form expressions, Negative Man’s face is obscured by bandages, Rita’s face regularly shifts despite her best efforts, Crazy Jane’s personalities change from moment to moment, and Cyborg only has half of a face.
Now, Doom Patrol is far from the first superhero show to team up a bunch of superpowered and/or super skilled characters for the greater good, but no other show has been as unexpectedly hilarious and self-aware of the ridiculousness of its own genre. Superhero fans suspend their disbelief to enjoy the impossible stories, and Doom Patrol acknowledges that.
Doom Patrol isn’t even the first DC Universe show to team up a bunch of superpowered and/or super skilled characters. Both Titans and Young Justice follow teams, with DC Universe’s more solo ventures Swamp Thing, Stargirl, and Harley Quinn not yet available.
This new show avoids some of the biggest problems of Titans, which was a pleasant surprise given that the Doom Patrol characters actually debuted in an early episode of Titans. That episode was arguably one of the very best of Titans’ first season, and what made the backdoor pilot so much fun on Titans carried through into Doom Patrol.
Titans was somewhat slow to really get into the superhero swing, and it took a while for the group to come together. While that did give viewers the chance to get to know the Titans -- although mostly Rachel Roth and Dick Grayson -- it wasn’t always the most thrilling to watch, especially since it couldn’t be binged the way Marvel’s streaming superhero shows were on Netflix.
The Doom Patrol team is almost completely together at the beginning of the series, and viewers learn about the characters via their interactions with each other (with the help of flashbacks). The result is a faster pace than Titans with more room for dialogue, characterization, and humor.
The humor is actually another aspect of Doom Patrol that makes the remarkable people feel human. When these characters drop their F-bombs, it’s not because of a huge dramatic moment with an iconic hero posing dramatically in front of a bunch of bad guys. When everything goes spectacularly wrong for Robotman after attempted heroics, he’s not just grim and dark and devastated. He’s annoyed, and it’s surprisingly relatable.
I mention the F-bombs because the swearing is as much of a part of Doom Patrol as it is of Titans, so if you’re looking for a family-friendly DC Universe original, then Young Justice is still your best bet, and even that got pretty dark for its latest season. Characters swear, and there is some nudity. Doom Patrol is not for the faint of heart, although the faint of heart may already know better than to watch a show with “Doom” in the title.
For me, one of the biggest joys of Doom Patrol is that the stars are not superheroes that are widely known and loved already. Admittedly, any who subscribe to DC Universe are probably more well-versed in superhero lore than others, but there’s definitely no Superman or Batman or even Robin. Cyborg is probably the Doom Patrol hero with the most name recognition.
My favorites after the first couple of episodes, however, were definitely the four core members of the team. Negative Man is oddly compelling despite the fact that none of his facial features are visible, and Diane Guerrero deserves a ton of credit for alternating between vulnerable, angry, childish, and even a little bit terrifying as she quickly switches personalities as Crazy Jane. April Bowlby is perfectly cast as the 50s movie star, and who doesn’t love Brendan Fraser?
Doom Patrol gets off to a strong start, and I would recommend sticking around through at least the first two even if you're not immediately hooked by the premiere. Viewers who didn’t tune in to Titans will be able to keep up without having seen the backdoor pilot just fine. That said, Doom Patrol will definitely be an acquired taste for some. The narration courtesy of Alan Tudyk -- another perfect casting -- borders on too self-aware at times.
All of this said, Doom Patrol is a worthy third entry into DC Universe’s library of originals, and it stands out as the most fun of the three so far. It benefits from a faster pace than Titans and a fresher start than Young Justice: Outsiders, which had to pick up where the show had left off when originally cancelled by Cartoon Network.
To put it into terms Arrow-verse fans may appreciate, Doom Patrol is to Titans what Legends of Tomorrow is to Arrow. Doom Patrol may be dysfunctional to start, but it’s certainly not doomed.