When it comes to DC Comics’ film and television properties the one adjective we don’t really associate with them is fun. This is one of the things that has plagued the DCEU since Man of Steel. Everyone is so miserable. Everything is so dark. Where is the fun? Why does everything I watch have to feel like a black cloud hanging over me? There’s not a lot of fun to be had in the DCEU when even Superman, the Boy Scout, has blood on his hands. I’m not trying to generalize all of DC’s properties but you have to admit that when you think of DC movies or television it gives this picture of Batman standing in Murder Alley while it’s raining. Bleak, cold, and where the name of your mother might make you a super friend for life. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that the DC Universe is anything other than a bunch of darkness with brooding characters who never smile. The good news is that DC seems to be moving away from all this doom and gloom. Aquaman was a bright film filled with ridiculous set pieces that were a great deal of fun. Shazam! looks to be the comic companies version of Big that even includes a dancing superhero. Fun seems like it could be on the horizon for the DC Universe.
To help further that point along comes Doom Patrol a lesser known DC property. There’s always a calculated risk when comic companies dive into characters that aren’t mainstream. These characters tend to lack the sexiness of one of the bigger heroes but bring with them a certain amount of freedom. If you make a Batman or Superman movie it comes with a great deal of pressure. These are timeless characters who have fan bases that will be hypercritical of everything within the movie. But with something a little less known… there’s an opportunity to do something a bit more unique, a bit more experimental, and a bit more unorthodox. Just look at what Marvel did with Guardians of the Galaxy. Taking a property that very few knew about and making it one of the biggest film franchises the company currently has. Was it a gamble? Sure, anything involving a talking tree and raccoon tends to be, but it paid off with great success. Doom Patrol is DC’s Guardians of the Galaxy.
I read a lot of comic books and I can honestly say that through my travels I’ve only read one or two issues of Doom Patrol, and that was after their soft introduction in Titans. The fact that the team isn’t a well-known commodity works to its benefit as Doom Patrol hits like a breath of fresh air to the DCEU. In a universe with incredibly intense and serious heroes, it’s refreshing to see a show not only poke fun at that model but do so with some super meta fourth wall breaking. Narrated by Alan Tudyk, who plays the show’s villain Mr. Nobody, we get a sense that Doom Patrol is going out of its way to mock all the superhero tropes we’ve grown accustomed to. Tudyk is perfect in this role as his commentary drips with villainous venom and sarcasm with a delivery that will leave you laughing despite yourself. Doom Patrol is not your typical superhero show and it makes no attempt to hide the fact that it knows it’s not your typical superhero show.
By all means, Doom Patrol has the recipe to be another one of DC’s doom and gloom properties, but there’s something charming to the band of misfits coming together for a common cause. Each member of this would be team has suffered something horrific in their past. Even with their abilities, these characters are rooted in what makes them human. Yes, the jury is still out if they’re good people or can be redeemed, but we care about them. We understand that what makes them special also makes them outcasts and can sympathize with the fact that the lives they knew, whether they were well spent or not, have been taken away from them. Their reactions to the seclusion of their new lives are understandable and just adds to the charm of the group. A group of weirdos that include a robot, a man who dresses as the invisible man, a woman who turns to goo, and another with split personalities that turn her into fire. They are volatile. They are fragile. And you just want to spend as much time with them as possible.
The family dynamic that was introduced in Titans is still the underlining current throughout this episode as the group of outcasts turn to each other for solace and acceptance even if they’re doing so reluctantly. Who better to understand a human brain inside a robot than a person who is filled with mysterious electrical energy? Their abilities may be different but their feelings are similar and are being shepherded by a father figure known as Chief (played by Timothy freakin’ Dalton). It is clear that Chief has all the residents of Doom Manor believing that the world couldn’t possibly accept them and as the episode progresses we learn that he may not be entirely honest with the group. Chief himself is trying to stay hidden from view and he imposes that fear on to his “children”, but eventually curiosity sets in. How long can you remain on the outside of civilization without feeling tempted to see what’s going on? Enter Crazy Jane (Diane Guerrero) and her split personalities to rock the boat. Jane brings a sense of youth with her and is also the only inhabitant of Doom Manor who has seen the outside world recently. This allows her to convince the others to step out when Chief is away looking for other unique individuals. Jane is instantly an electric character whose volatile switch from personality to personality keeps you on the edge of your seat waiting to see what else could possibly be buried in this young woman. And then she bursts into flames and flies. Diane Guerrero is clearly having a blast with the array of personalities she has to choose from.
Naturally, the excursion goes horribly wrong and the group retreats back to Doom Manor feeling even more like outcasts and shame for betraying their father figure. All of them except Crazy Jane who rallies the group to stay in town and protect it from whatever forces are coming their way. Forces that seem to be causing some kind of interdimensional sinkhole and a farting donkey… yes, seriously.
One of the joys of Doom Patrol is how fleshed out the absurd feels in this universe. A farting donkey feels right at home with a former actress who has trouble maintaining the stability of her skin or a former fighter pilot with skeletons in his closet who is now filled with electrical current or even a robot that houses the brain of a hotshot race car driver who possibly killed his family. Brendan Fraser excels in this role as both the hot shot racer and the angry/vulnerable voice of Robotman. It seems that he is our main character but any time there’s a team present that perspective can change, and I don’t think Doom Patrol is particularly concerned with main characters. The group is the focal point and really what the show is trying to center itself around. The building of a family.
The world of Doom Patrol is dark and seedy and tackles some real issues (relevance, family, sexual orientation, redemption, and the need to feel normal) but presents it in such refreshing manner that’s part tongue in cheek which allows the emotional beats to truly shine. The show is an absolute blast and feels like a great step forward for DC. Hell, I’ve been gushing about Doom Patrol since I watched the screener a week ago. DC has something special on their hands. Something weird, different, and most importantly fun. Should make for one hell of a ride!