Doom Patrol Season 1 Captures Insane Magic of Comics, Shows Potential For Cape Shows To Come
The second season of Doom Patrol will premiere on both HBO Max and DC Universe in June. Yet, despite being a critically successful prestige series, not many folks in the United States have seen it. Until HBO Max launches, the only place to (legally) watch Doom Patrol season 1 in the U.S. is DC Universe. Originally, the colorful cast of characters that make up the Doom Patrol appeared in an episode of Titans. However, due to recasting and decisions by the storytellers, this crazy little series takes place in its own continuity and timeline. It has all the trappings of a good DC universe: A.R.G.U.S., a Justice League, and S.T.A.R. Labs. However, we aren’t going to cross paths with those folks in this show.
What makes Doom Patrol season 1 so enjoyable and refreshing is the way the storytellers are able to blend the serious and surreal. The pilot episode ended with a donkey fart and a disaster. The next 14 episodes of the series are less about superheroics (though there is some good ass-kicking) and more about the characters. Each one is damaged and must face their inner demons. This makes for good drama, but it’s also plot-relevant as the villain’s superpower is “narration.” Alan Tudyk’s manic Mr. Nobody has the power to affect all of time and space, but only via the mechanics of story.
The other interesting part of this series is the larger thematic conflict about power and betrayal. We won’t spoil things in this review of Doom Patrol season 1 specifically, but we will dive into a lot of the subtext and specific surreal moments in the series.
Doom Patrol Season 1 Could Only Come From a Place Like DC Universe
Image via DC Comics
Doom Patrol was the second original series announced by DC Universe, a surprising choice. Titans was the first series to debut, and it was a straightforward (R-rated) superhero story. However, in hindsight it makes sense. Of course, the network who made Hawk and Dove central characters would make a show like this.
The Doom Patrol is a group of heroes that debuted in DC Comics a few months before Marvel introduced the X-Men. Both are a group of reluctant superheroes led by a manipulative man a wheelchair. However, unlike the mutants, the Doom Patrol team did not remain popular. Writer Grant Morrison took over the series, making it surreal, adult, and a pastiche of satire and homage to classic comics.
Doom Patrol season 1 developed on the themes from the comics brilliantly, including incorporating comic storylines and settings. We’ll talk about the themes at play in the story in a moment. However, Doom Patrol season 1 is very, very silly. There are talking rats, an evangelizing cockroach, a guy who eats beard hair, and a superhero who can do anything by flexing his muscles.
Like the comic series, the television series perfectly blends emotional, adult storytelling with the sort of absurdity only comics can get away with. This show highlights how versatile the comic book/superhero “genre” can be, even with all of the shows and films we’ve gotten over the past 20 years. They can be silly, satirical, moving, and hopeful all at the same time.
The Character Drama In Doom Patrol Is Worthy of Any “Normal” Prestige Series
Image via Warner Bros. TV
To describe how the central characters of Doom Patrol season 1 are broken would be to spoil much of the plot. This is a show about people so overwhelmed by regrets that they prefer to hide than live. Identity is a central theme in the series, along with how respective identities don’t fit into the “normal” world. In fact, the big, bad villainous institution in the series is known as The Department of Normalcy. Despite all the comic book-y plot, this a story about how a group of people become comfortable in their own skin. (Or, in the case of Riley Shanahan’s and Brandon Fraser’s Cliff Steele, his unfeeling robot body.)
Joivan Wade plays Victor Stone, already famous as Cyborg in this world. Normally, Cyborg is associated with the Teen Titans and not Doom Patrol. Yet, the addition of this character to the series is excellent. While he suffers from much of the same identity problems as the rest of the team, his view of the world is different. He wants to be a superhero, and it’s his influence that sets the rest of the Doom Patrol on the path to becoming heroes themselves. Unsurprisingly, he’s just as messed up as the rest of them.
Even some of the more esoteric characters from the comics, like the sentient genderqueer street named Danny, work just as well (if not better) in the series. Doom Patrol season 1 is a triumph of comic book storytelling in live action. They take themselves just seriously enough to deliver a quality tale that is emotional and fun at the same time.
What do you think of Doom Patrol? Did the series live up to your expectations? Were you a fan of the comics? Share your own reviews in the comments below.
Featured image via Warner Bros. Television
Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.