DC’s mutants get the spotlight.
Let’s face it, comic books are weird. It’s part of why I like them so much. I love when comic creators fully embrace the freedom of visual medium, throwing in all sorts of crazy stuff and making it stick with just a semblance of a story. We’ve seen it in certain comic adaptations like Legion, but otherwise, no one really seems to embrace the weird as much as their comic counterparts.
Enter Doom Patrol.
The weirdest, strangest, utterly fantastic superhero show that’s on right now. This team of superheroes is somewhat similar to the Guardians of the Galaxy, in that they’re a group of misfits who don’t really belong together in the first place. All of them feel isolated from society due to their past traumas and issues. None of them wants to save the world. At the start of the show, they’d barely lift a finger to save each other.
Given how weird the show can be and how many people might’ve already written it off, I wanted to explain what it’s all about, and why I love it so much. Spoiler alert – It’s because it’s a really good TV show.
What is it even about?
This show is more of a spin-off of DC’s Titans, with characters first appearing in one of its episodes. Titans is not required viewing by any means, however. Viewers need only jump into this show’s pilot episode, and they’ll be all caught up already.
The series revolves around Niles ‘The Chief’ Caulder and his merry band of misfits, all living together in Doom Manor. The Chief goes missing shortly after the series begins, and the rest of the first season focuses on the Doom Patrol in their search for their surrogate father.
That’s pretty much the driving force behind the Doom Patrol for the entire season. They’re looking for the Chief, the man who took them in and cared for them during a time when anyone else would turn them away and be entirely justified for doing so. They’re not good people. All of them have done something that is, at the very least, morally questionable, and they couldn’t be more aware of it.
Society has told them repeatedly that they don’t belong. All they have is each other and Doom Manor.
If they’re superheroes, what are their powers?
Most superheroes’ powers are straightforward. Superman has his strength, Thor has his lightning and the Flash has his speed. The Doom Patrol, on the other hand don’t really amount to much. Their powers are somewhat vaguely defined, and certainly not very useful in battle. Robotman is a robot. Crazy Jane has multiple personalities, each with a wildly different power.
Rita Farr morphs into what is essentially Goosebumps’ Monster Blood. Negative Man is infected by an alien lifeform made of electricity, and dies every time it leaves his body. Cyborg is, well, Cyborg.
The main villain, on the other hand, can shape reality itself at will. Mr Nobody comes from the Chief’s mysterious past, his powers ill-defined, but with virtually endless destructive power. What hope could this crew have against that? None, none at all.
Fortunately for them, Mr Nobody doesn’t wish to kill them yet. He prefers to toy with them for his own amusement, even going so far as to break the fourth wall and narrate episodes as if he’s the one writing each of their adventures. He’s seemingly doing all this out of his hatred for the Chief, but what did the Chief ever do to him?
Okay… but is it like, good though?
The production value of this show actually really surprised me at first. I wasn’t used to seeing colours and beautiful cinematography in a Titans spin-off, of all things. Titans bored me with its music and dark, dull cinematography. The action was great, but the shots were nothing to scream about.
As you can probably tell, I never liked the show much, but it really seems like Doom Patrol had a better team working for them throughout. Everything from the costume design to the music, to the acting is pitch-perfect almost all the time.
Aside from the great production value however, what draws me to the show every week is the character work. Every episode feels like a character study disguised as your standard high-stakes superhero fare. You have episodes that deal with stopping the apocalypse every now and again, but the focus always seems to be on just a couple of characters, taking a microscope to them and seeing what makes them tick.
Each of them is struggling with something, and as the show goes on, you invest a lot more into their personal journeys than anything else. An excellent example of this is Negative Man, who steals every scene he’s in. He’s a tortured soul, convinced his life isn’t one worth living. He kept a secret from his family and friends way back in his past, and after a terrible accident, he never found the time to make things right. Now he’s horribly disfigured beyond repair and infected by an alien lifeform he doesn’t get along with.
All of these characters have twisted pasts and watching their backstories unfold throughout the season is utterly mesmerising. This is only bolstered by the enormously talented cast, with Brendan Fraser, Timothy Dalton and Matt Bomer just being a few of the big names on the show.
They give their all in every episode, particularly April Bowlby who is absolutely flawless as Rita Starr. Every episode feels like a competition between the cast over who can chew scenery the fastest, and that makes for amazing TV.
When you say weird…
The highest selling point beyond all of this is how willing this show is to get weird with it. Like I said, comics are weird, and Doom Patrol offers the weirdest comics in existence.
You have Danny the Street, an actual living sentient stretch of roadway who serves as a haven for misfits and the dispossessed. You have Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man, a misshapen man who can transform into any animal, vegetable, or mineral at will.
These are my favourite examples of how weird the Doom Patrol comics can get, and the show just tosses them in! It constantly embraces just how strange the comics are without a second thought, and becomes uniquely amazing for it. There’s no other superhero show like it (Besides Legends of Tomorrow, maybe).
We’re only 11 episodes in and it’s already been one of the best debut seasons of a TV show I can remember. I personally can’t wait to see what strange, weird thing it does next.