First Impressions: Doom Patrol

This weekend saw the premiere of Doom Patrol on the DC Universe streaming service, based on the set of characters from the DC Comics series of the same name that have been around since the 1960’s. Having first appeared in an episode of Titans, the pilot tells the origin stories of the members of Doom Patrol, focusing on Cliff Steele, Rita Farr and Larry Trainor and how they became their alter egos Robotman, Elasti-Woman and Negative Man.

From the opening scene, it’s clear to tell that Doom Patrol knows exactly what it is and builds upon the pilot focusing on the characters, giving us their backstories and motivations as to why they are what they are now. I particularly like how the characters become scarred and disfigured due to their own personal issues, with Cliff being so emotionally cold with his wife and daughter that now he’s only left with emotions as he can no longer feel anything else on a physical level being Robotman. Rita, a famed Hollywood star, is disturbed by a disfigured cameraman that she uses her power to have him replaced and now is trying to keep herself together from becoming a blob monster. Larry on the other hand is a married man, hiding the fact that he’s gay and now after his accident is now literally hiding himself. The performances amongst the ensemble are very good as well. Brendan Fraser is the heart and soul with the morality tale of Cliff’s story in this pilot episode, while Riley Shanahan does really good body work as Robotman. April Bowlby is one of the few actors to survive the Doom Patrol episode in Titans and her performance is really good her as she balances the fine line of making Rita come across as sympathetic, despite her past actions before her accident. Matt Bomer does great voice-work also as Larry Trainor, whilst Matthew Zuk does good body work as Negative Man. Bomer and Fraser have the difficult part of portraying their characters emotion via voice-work and I thought they both done a tremendous job of that. Timothy Dalton replaces Bruno Bichir as Dr. Niles Caulder aka The Chief and whilst he’s less sinister than Bichir portrayed him in Titans, there’s a certain danger brewing underneath his commanding, fatherly presence figure. Diane Guerrero makes an instant impression here as Crazy Jane, a woman that has dissociative identity disorder and has sixty-four distinct personalities, each bagging their own superpower. Her chemistry with Fraser’s Robotman are the main highlights of this pilot episode. Another noticeable difference between Titans and Doom Patrol here is the budget. We’ve got a NASCAR race scene with a big crash, Larry flying a jet, Mr. Nobody’s origin and use of his power, it’s clear that DC have pushed alot of cash into this pilot in comparison to Titans and it makes use with its colour schemes to distinguish its use of present day timeline with the flashbacks.

In terms of negatives, I’m not too sure about having Alan Tudyk’s Eric Mordan aka Mr. Nobody, the main villain of the series, worked for me overall. He provides some meta-like humour (‘Critics, what do they know? They’ll probably hate this show’) and while amusing, I felt that they relied on that narrative just slightly too much…slightly. As much as I enjoy the introduction to each of the characters and how seamlessly they gel together, I’m worried now that Jovian Wade’s Victor Stone aka Cyborg might be a member too much (Cyborg isn’t introduced in the pilot).

Doom Patrol’s pilot is impressive in how quickly it makes its main characters engaging, sympathetic and easy to root for whilst also establishing this rather bizarre world that we’re thrown into. For me personally, it works much better than what the Titans pilot did for that show as it took its time for me to get used to the characters whereas here its almost instantaneous. I’m very interested in seeing where the rest of the Doom Patrol series goes from here.