First Impressions: Doom Patrol

The new DC UNIVERSE series released its second episode this week, and it may already be the most fun comic book series I’ve watched in a while.

I never really got the appeal of the DOOM PATROL. I’ve tried reading various comic book series, most recently the new YOUNG ANIMAL series written by Gerard Way, the My Chemical Romance singer who created his own pop-up comic book imprint. I’m sure I’ll make more attempts – I should give the Grant Morrison run another shot, for instance. But I am in no way an expert on the DOOM PATROL.

Perhaps because of my lack of connection to the source material, I thought the first two episodes of the new series on the streaming service were fantastic. In fact, it may be the most fun I’ve had with a comic book TV series since the second season of LEGENDS OF TOMORROW.

Considering how needlessly dark and somewhat tone deaf the first season of TITANS – the streaming service’s first live action series – was, I was a little hesitant about the direction DOOM PATROL would take. But those concerns were needless. Everything about this new series felt like it was done to mimic the feel of the comics, at least it felt familiar to what little of the Doom Patrol I had already read.

The introduction of the characters in the series in the first season of TITANS was easily that show’s best episode. The Doom Patrol broke up the gloom and darkness that filled every other minute of the first season with much-needed humor and a lot of weirdness.

The weirdness carries over into the opening two episodes of DOOM PATROL’s first season. The first episode serves as an origin story for the team, showing how Cliff Steele (Robotman), Rita Farr (Elasti-girl), Larry Trainor (Negative Man) and Crazy Jane came to be under the care of Dr. Niles Caulder.

Caulder has typically been portrayed as someone who toes the line between good and evil, not because he wants to take over the world or act as a supervillain, though. Mostly, he’s just a controlling ass who lies to his charges to maintain a level of control over them. He may be brilliant, but he uses way too much of his intellect to manipulate them. That portrayal carries over to the new TV series, and Caulder is played brilliantly by former James Bond, Timothy Dalton.

Dalton isn’t the only big name in this series. Brendan Fraser lends his voice to Robotman, and even makes an appearance as the more human version of Cliff Steele to open the premiere episode. In fact, we see way too much of Fraser in the first episode, which begins with a shot of his bare ass, in the middle of banging his nanny.

Fraser and Robotman are the viewers’ eyes into the crazy world of Niles Caulder and his band of misfits. Fraser believes he died in an accident during a car race, leaving behind his wife and daughter, and Dr. Caulder saved his brain and put him in a robot body, though that’s not exactly the truth. Caulder uses psychological attacks on Rita and Larry as well, preying on their insecurities about their powers and how the powers make them different from the rest of the world.

Rita was a vain actress in the 1950s, hung up on outward appearances, who became a blob after being sprayed in the face with a mysterious gas. Larry, on the other hand, was a closeted-gay astronaut whose body merged with an odd and powerful entity while on a mission in space. Caulder saved them both and taught them to live with their new realities, despite not being a part of the outside world.

With Caulder on a trip away from the mansion, Crazy Jane, Rita, Larry and Cliff decide to go on a trip into town, which leads to Caulder’s enemy, Mr. Nobody, attacking and sucking the entire town, Caulder and Crazy Jane into another dimension located inside a donkey. I told you, DOOM PATROL has always been a little weird.

Mr. Nobody is portrayed by the phenomenal Alan Tudyk, who narrates the first episode and a significant amount of the second. He wants the Doom Patrol to leave Caulder to him so he can exact revenge. When Crazy Jane gets sent out of the dimension through the donkey’s rear end, Larry and Rita go in alongside Victor Stone – Cyborg – and the trio immediately fall prey to a trap, where Mr. Nobody goes after their worst fears to scare them away.

Using Cyborg here is an interesting choice, as he’s been a key part of the JUSTICE LEAGUE in the comics since 2011, and was even included in the movie lineup. With his cybernetic body and a string of his own daddy issues, Cyborg seems like a good fit to work with the team, maybe more so than Beast Boy, who has traditional been a member of the Doom Patrol before joining the Titans.

Waiting to watch the first two episodes of the series back-to-back was a good move on my part, I think, as it gave me a real sense of how the show will flow from week to week. I would love to be able to binge all the episodes at once – there are 13 planned for the first season – but they left enough of an impression of things happening that I’ll want to come back next Friday to see what crazy things they manage to do next.

New episodes of DOOM PATROL are available on the DC UNIVERSE streaming app – at least in the United States – on Fridays.