Binge Something: DOOM PATROL

8 Jul

Stewart here…

Welcome to the first of a semi-regular column here where I’ll be recommending and filling you in on geeky shows worth your time (and maybe not your time) to check out for yourself.

As any longtime reader of NerdLush knows, I really enjoy Doom Patrol.  It’s a series I wasn’t too sure about based on their sorta back door appearance in the first season of Titans (a show I will only hint in a future installment of this column I may not be so loving towards), but I found myself curious enough to see what this show starring this unusual band of super humans would be.  Would it be some edgy dark show or something more along the lines of the lunacy seen in the book’s deservedly lauded run written by Grant Morrison in the late 80’s/early 90’s?   The answer was way way WAY more the latter than the former.

With the third season of the show now on HBO Max (after spending two seasons on the DC Universe app before that became all comics), and a fourth season on the way, it seemed appropriate to offer a primer on what you need to know to start watching one of the more crazy, funny, and surprisingly emotional comic book shows out there.

They just have to work together to save the world.  No pressure.

What To Know:  Adventurer Niles Caulder (Timothy Dalton) takes in a bunch of unfortunate abnormal superhumans and tries to solve their problems.  Among them is ex-fighter pilot Larry Trainor (voiced and often appearing as Matt Bomer), starlet Rita Farr (April Bowlby), ex-race car driver Cliff Steele (voiced and often appearing as Brendan Fraser), and Crazy Jane (Diane Guerrero), who all have some sort of physical malady that has psychologically impaired them.  Crazy Jane has multiple superpowered personalities made from years of abuse, Cliff is only a brain in a robot body now, Rita has stretchy powers that aren’t in her control, and Larry is horribly scarred from a plane crash caused from bonding with an otherworldly energy creature.  Suffice to say, they have problems long before this series starts.

When Niles is kidnapped by an unknown adversary to our “heroes”, Mr. Nobody (Alan Tudyk), they end teaming up with a close friend of the Chief, Vic Stone aka Cyborg (Jovian Wade) to find their mentor.  Well, they eventually do find the Chief after a string of weird ass adventures, and go on to have surprisingly weirder ass adventures.  Oh, and they still have massive hangups.  And they have a hard time just being around each other.  A truly dysfunctional family.

The Gist of This:  Think Legends of Tomorrow, but with adult stuff, more cursing, and even weirder stories.  But what makes Doom Patrol a lot more fulfilling a weird ride is that you feel for our bizarre heroes.  Sure, there are episodes involving things like zombies, creatures that are literally walking butts with teeth, and the team facing a reality warping group, but that goes only so far if I can’t care for what the Doom Patrol get put through.  And those hangups that our core group have is what makes them relatable.

Larry is dealing with the stigma of being gay, Cliff with feelings of being a negligent dad, Rita with her crippling insecurity, Jane with child abuse, and even Cyborg with his feelings of guilt over what happened to his mother causing him to become a cybernetic person.  This can be heavy stuff, but the grace is that we see them gradually deal with their hangups and come to a marginally better place.  But its not all gloom and doom on this show.

Besides being emotionally resonant, its an amazingly funny and campy show.  Some of the best stuff of Doom Patrol is when the episodes take a weird turn you wouldn’t suspect they do.  One of the series’ best episodes involves our heroes discovering a sentient street (its called Danny and non-binary) that allows people to be okay with who they are.  And then there’s the Sex Police.  You have to see that one to understand.

Look, its best not to ask what the gorilla with the beret and the brain in a trashcan have to do with this show.  Best to save those concerns until you get to season three.

Keep In Mind:  While the first season runs a surprisingly long (for streaming, I mean) fifteen episodes, the second season has nine episodes, but the season finale for that didn’t get filmed because of the pandemic shutting down production.  That season finale became the third season opener, and you got ten episodes there (and we assume the next season will be about ten too).  So, its not a massive time suck if you decide to start.

Keep Your Eyes Out For:  We got some fun guest stars on this show, like Phil Morris as Victor’s dad, Mark Sheppard as an occultist with a serious horse crush (its complicated), and Michelle Gomez as the sort of ally/sort of villain Madame Rouge.

Standout Episodes:  “Danny Patrol” (all the episode titles end with “Patrol”), about the aforementioned sentient street; “Jane Patrol”, as we go into the psyche of Jane and all her personalities; “Dead Patrol”, where our heroes have to escape being dead; and “Subconscious Patrol”, as the team confronts their deepest fears to surprising results.

Before you ask, “But has this show gone into space?”, YES, this show has gone into space.

So, have you seen Doom Patrol?  Any favorite episodes you can recommend?  Do you have any suggestions for future installments of this column?  Comment below…

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