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DOOM PATROL (S1) gets 8/10 Band of misfits


Season 1, episodes 1-4

Created by Jeremy Carver
Starring Diane Guerrero, April Bowlby, Brendan Fraser, Matt Bomer, Alan Tudyk

8/10

Mr Nobody: Alas, our merry band of misfits were not equipped for grand acts of heroism just yet. That was a finesse that dear old daddy hadn’t bothered to teach them.

Niles Caulder : Who are you talking to?

Mr Nobody: Grant Morrison fans, Reddit trolls with DC subscriptions, and the three new fans who stuck around after the donkey fart. (s1 ep1)

After a backdoor pilot in Titans (s1 ep4), the Doom Patrol finally get their moment in the spotlight in this DC Comics series. The titular team that has gone through a number of differing iterations throughout their comic book history, but they found a degree of fame and critical admiration when Grant Morrison took the reins in the late 80s and launched them into the realms of the strange and unusual. This take on the classic team manages to bring that quirkiness to the forefront.

For decades Dr Niles Caulder (Timothy Dalton) has provided a haven for a number of extraordinarily powered individuals that have struggled to reconnect with the world after suffering tragic accidents. When Niles is threatened by an enemy from his past, Mr Nobody (Alan Tudyk), those individuals attempt to band together to save him. However Elasti-Girl (April Bowlby), Crazy Jane (Diane Guerrero), Robotman (voiced by Brendan Fraser), Negative Man (voiced by Matt Bomer), and the upcoming hero Cyborg (Jovian Wade), have a lot of their own baggage to overcome before they can save their mentor.

Doom Patrol cleaves closely to its roots, specifically Grant Morrison’s inspired period of re-invigorating the title. Although it doesn’t bind itself slavishly to the word for word retelling of that period (both Elasti-Girl and Cyborg are not members during that era), it does manage to capture the feel of the characters. It does this by showing the characters as misfits, and conveying their eccentric style of problem solving. This is not the standard power fantasy associated with superheroes, but rather a look at the outcast. To paraphrase, with great power comes great strangeness.

As such they are often their own worst enemies, struggling with their own debilitating self doubt as much as any cosmic powered world ending villain. Hence the show is as much focused on the minutiae of relationships as it is with superpowered fights.

Then there is the general weirdness of the world they inhabit. Be it a fourth wall breaking super-villains, a pocket universes inside a donkey, or a Nazi puppet show, there’s a lot that’s off kilter here. It’s inventive, and certainly not afraid of the oddness of its subject matter.

Which is something that the actors also manage to grapple with. Fraser is all in as the foul mouthed and often dumbfounded Cliff Steele, giving both a comedic tinge to proceedings and an outlet for expressing the audience’s disbelief. Guerrero (Orange is the New Black) has a show-piece role as Crazy Jane, allowing her to dip into numerous characters as different superhero personalities emerge from the DID suffering Jane. Tudyk’s (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) tongue in cheek narrations are a highlight, giving an acerbic commentary on the superhero genre, as the villainous Mr Nobody torments the hapless Doom Patrol.

A different exploration of the genre, forging another path to the increasingly innovative approach we are seeing on our screens. Whereas The Boys was iconoclastic, The Rook realistic, The Tick comedic – Doom Patrol is eccentric, and joyfully revels in this.

DAVID O’CONNELL

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