Doom Patrol review: Series premiere unifies the weirdest family


Doom Patrol finally debuted on DC Universe, and we’re still wondering what we did to deserve a live-action production of the weirdest superhero family.

If we needed any additional non-comic book evidence that not every superhero team needs to be perfectly assembled or even consistently assembled, the Doom Patrol premiere proves that heroes can be broken and still fight crime, or at least try their best to get to the bottom of weirdness (literally and figuratively). As DC Universe introduces the live-action counterparts of Doom Patrol, it creates a grandiose spectacle in the process, and we’re glad the streaming platform didn’t conserve any extravagance.

We’re glad Doom Patrol has embraced the DCU-wide family-centric theme. After all, the Doom Patrol team wouldn’t be the same if they weren’t a flawed found family — even if their family was constructed by a peculiar scientist, who strangely likes to construct and mold life itself.

Oh… the horror

The opening credits alone give us Modern Prometheus vibes that would make Mary Shelley herself proud, and it orchestrates the prominent horror subgenre throughout Doom Patrol. Beyond the classic fantasy and weirdness, the titular team is dependant on horror just as equally as they are on comedy.

As for the opening theme song and imagery, they foreshadow another mystic artistry: the first time the Negative Spirit and Larry Trainer (i.e. Negative Man, portrayed by Matt Bomer) meet. The first time Larry encountered the negative energy was also when he transmuted into Negative Man. The pilot episode of Doom Patrol helps us understand Larry’s origin story, and it also reinterprets each member of the Doom Patrol’s origin stories.

Whether the first episode reimagines some comic book details with visible flashbacks or ominous mentions, it also sparks a supervillain’s claims to villainy. The narrator, Mr. Nobody (formerly known as Eric Morden, played by Alan Tudyk) is using his evil powers to make the world insane like him — including the viewers.

Behind the self-aware narrator’s snark and disgust, his villainous power to draw out and sap sanity from his victim is subtly written into his audience-focused quips. We’re onto Mr. Nobody’s attempted mind games with the audience just so he can siphon their sanity away from us.

Nefarious narration

Giving the power of narration to the seemingly main villain allows Mr. Nobody to control the narrative and make characters question other characters’ motives, even in the first episode. However, certain characters already have the natural ability to make viewers distrust them — particularly Niles Caulder (The Chief, portrayed by Timothy Dalton).

You know: The man who implicitly showcased his God complex and manipulated Cliff into thinking his entire family is dead. The Chief might not actively parade around as a villain, but the subtext is already there (and no, we’re not over our comic-bound animosity toward him).

Allowing the antagonist to narrate most of the story does more than just foreshadow potential protagonists who have less-than-heroic intentions in mind, at least some of the time. Mr. Nobody’s monologues also give us insight into his origin story. Beneath his cryptic rise to his (in)sanity manipulating abilities, he’s also hidden a clue regarding a larger force of evil. You know: Beyond the brain in the Caulder mansion, which could be The Brain or just a metaphor in a larger on-screen allegory.

Though we’ve only witnessed a snippet of each character’s backstory, Mr. Nobody’s origin story could signify an entry point for the Brotherhood of Dada and all the otherworldly weirdness that comes with the conglomeration of villainy. After all, Dada does play a critical role in Nobody’s powerful origin in the comics.

The main protagonist (at least for now)

Focusing on Cliff Steele (i.e. Robotman, portrayed by Brendan Fraser) as the main protagonist of the series, the premiere leads Cliff away from his family before he finds his place in his found family.

Warming up to a new family, new time, and a new body is one heck of a transitional period for any person (Robo people included). Given Cliff’s comic history with frustration and resentment with is robo form, we hope the series handles his adaptation to his new life with care and nuance — because nobody wants to see Cliff perpetually angry. Though the main protagonist of the series, Doom Patrol has other focal points.

The brain of Doom Patrol rests with the Chief (and the mostly grey matter at the living room table), but the heart of the series lies in its homage to each character’s comic book origins. While few details have changed in their DC Universe debut, the series utters new life in the story of Jane (aka Crazy Jane, played by Diane Guerrero), Cliff, Larry, Rita (Elasti-Woman, portrayed by April Bowlby), and the Chief without creating a mundane recount of their super-something origins.

With a super strange team like the Doom Patrol, it’s different to retell any extent of a character’s rise to their superhero occupation, and the risk paid off within the first episode.

light. Read. Harley Quinn’s tattoo change reveals she’s SO over the Joker

Apart from the horror, drama, and villainy, the Doom Patrol family excursion to the downtown district resurfaced our wonderful memories of our own family day trips.

You know: where our mom turned into an inconsolable mess after having her ego checked and our brother tried to suppress his internal sentient energy. Okay, our mom’s meltdown doesn’t compare to Rita Farr’s theatrical performance, even if Rita wasn’t intentional putting on a show.

How DC Universe got the rights to our typical family outing is still a mystery, but we’re glad the streaming platform is telling a realistic chaotic family of freaks nonetheless.