The DC Universe streaming service gave us a season of Titans where a lot of actors I didn’t recognize moped around and stuff like that. I liked it, but didn’t love it.
Critical consensus for the new Doom Patrol series, spinning off from Titans, is about as different from the parent show as you can get.
And why wouldn’t it be? Doom Patrol is based on one of DC’s weirder books. The original series had a group of misfits who joined forces to fight evil because strange accidents made them all freaks, so what else were they going to do? The man they called the Chief, Dr. NIles Caulder, gave them something of a normal life, so why not do something for other people? They were perhaps the only Silver Age DC heroes who didn’t do good simply because they were good. They did it because, well, what else were they going to do? They were decent people who supposedly couldn’t go out in public anymore, so why not work together? Besides, DC actually killed them all off originally.
By the by, why Rita “Elasti-Girl” Farr was considered a freak I will never know. Her powers allowed her to grow and shrink (mostly grow), but she looked perfectly normal otherwise. She has a different bit on the show, but I’ll get to that further down.
As for the Doom Patrol, they were also given a lot of really weird adventures, including some proto-Vertigo stuff from writer Grant Morrison, where even the team’s everyman Cliff “Robotman” Steel” never seemed to understand what was happening. Point is, the Doom Patrol has always been weird.
The series, judging by just one episode, opted to keep the weirdness.
The series also made some smarter casting choices by actually hiring actors people might know. Besides the voices of Brendan Fraser as Robotman and Matt Bomer as Larry “Negative Man” Trainor (with both actors portraying their characters in pre-accident flashbacks), there are cast members from Two and a Half Men and Orange is the New Black as Rita and Crazy Jane, the reliable Alan Tudyk as narrator/series villain Mr. Nobody, and Timothy Dalton as the Chief. It would appear that the powers that be behind Doom Patrol are really trying with this one.
And yes, the series villain is the narrator. And what sort of narrator is he? The kind who meta-commentates on the series, criticizing the fact there is yet another superhero TV series, and badmouthing the protagonists. He may have good reason to do so because of some past involving Caulder. He was ripped apart by some sort of dimensional accident as a result of paying a large sum of money to an escaped Nazi scientist.
It’s always the Nazis.
As it is, much of the pilot deals with integrating Cliff into the group that mostly hides out in Caulder’s giant mansion. We do get some flashbacks showing how Larry and Rita gained their respective powers. Larry’s are still a bit undefined at this point, though we do get to see the Negative Spirit, and Rita, well, Rita tends to turn into a shapeless blob when she gets upset. All that happens when the Chief is away and Jane commandeers the Chief’s bus to take everyone to the nearby town of Cloverton, Ohio.
By the by, we’ve gotten enough bits of the Chief to know he isn’t the benevolent benefactor he initially appears to be. He keeps secrets, most notably from Cliff, and one of the most interesting moments in the pilot is a fake-out involving how Cliff ended up the way he did.
As it is, the Chief believes the team would be in danger due to the group exposing themselves to the public (and I find it interesting no one in town bats an eyelash at Cliff or Larry’s bandage-covered body), and it’s best to get as far away from the town as possible. But Cliff won’t abandon the town to evildoers, Jane follows suit because she and Cliff bonded (there’s a nice callback to Morrison’s last issue in this episode), Larry is actually pretty well-adjusted all things being equal, and Rita, well, Rita will stay with the others. What is their first villain?
Um, looks like a donkey. It farts out some green vapor that spells out the message, “The Mind is the Limit,” that being the mantra Nobody recited when he was in the Nazi experimental tube, and a vortex opens up in the middle of town, sucking in everything around it. And that happens after Nobody appears in the bus behind the Chief. Yes, they know each other.
So, yeah, this one looks like a lot more fun. It certainly has a better mood, more familiar faces, and nobody seems to be miscast. I think I’ll enjoy this.