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Monday, November 29, 2021

Doom Patrol first impression: This DC Universe series is entertainingly bonkers

DC Universe's Doom Patrol is a giant step-up from Titans in the humour department, in that all the major characters are absolute weirdos -- in the best way possible -- and grim moments are scarce. And all that weirdness does not affect the integrity of the storytelling.

Written by Kshitij Rawat | New Delhi |
Updated: June 16, 2019 1:18:40 pm
doom patrol review dc universe Doom Patrol is another win for DC Universe.

TV shows based on DC Comics have taken a turn to the crazy of late, while most Marvel shows that were jointly produced with Netflix were saturated with a gritty tone that we usually associate with DC movies. The recent DC shows have figured out that to make the perfect comic-book adaptations, one has to adapt the inherent weirdness as well.

All this started with, if I remember correctly, Fox’s Gotham, which was quite self-serious and solemn in its initial seasons before venturing into the territory of downright nuts (I haven’t seen Legends of Tomorrow, which, I’m told, is the craziest of the lot). How else can a Batman TV show without Batman would work, you wonder? Well, by being entertainingly unhinged, of course.

Doom Patrol, the company’s streaming service DC Universe’s second offering after Titans, continues this trend. No, it does not just continue it, it crosses every Rubicon in being self-referential.

Doom Patrol is narrated by the delightful Alan Tudyk who introduces the major characters and at the same time plays a villain – Mr Nobody — too. If you thought Deadpool had meta-humour, Mr Nobody breaks the fourth wall in every single way conceivable and yet somehow does not overdo it.

“Critics, what do they know?,” he grumbles at one point, “They’re gonna hate this show.” No, I think not.

This series has a beating heart at the centre of it, as well, with characters that, while funny and unsettling, are also often heartbreaking.

Doom Patrol, whose screen adaptation has been a long time coming, is basically DC’s X-Men, though it predates Marvel’s team of mutants when it comes to comics. The similarities between the two franchises are striking. Niles Caulder, the leader of the Doom Patrol, is confined to a wheelchair like Professor X and is similarly brainy. The members of Doom Patrol are also shunned, broken people, altered in one or other horrible way, and have special powers.

Brandon Fraser (The Mummy series’ leading man) is Robotman, who lost every part of his body in an accident except his brain, which Caulder fitted inside a metal body. Now, he cannot feel anything, whether it be an emotion or anything corporeal.

There is Rita Farr (April Bowlby), a 1950s’ Hollywood star who, thanks to a mysterious liquid, became one stressful moment away from becoming a hideous, giant blob, and lost her fame and career.

Matt Bomer plays Larry Trainor, a former pilot who came into contact with an extraterrestrial energy being while in space and crashes into earth. His body was almost completely burned, but he survived thanks to that entity of energy. Now he keeps his entire body wrapped with cloth so as not to offend other people’s sensibilities.

Diane Guerrero is Crazy Zane, a person with 64 personalities, some kind, some playful, some child-like some belligerent and others out-and-out destructive. As if Kevin Wendell Crumb wasn’t bad enough…

Due to these… er, complications, the Doom Patrol members have to stay indoors, and this is how Caulder, who has saved them all and taken them under wing, prefers it. The show traces their journey to become the superheroic saviours they are destined to be. It is also about these screwed-up characters coming together to again have a family that they pine for.

The cast is the biggest surprise in this show. None other than Timothy Dalton plays the role of Caulder, and is probably the only ‘serious’ character this zany show has. Dalton brings a gravity to the character that is not unlike Penny Dreadful’s Malcolm Murray, but unlike Murray, Caulder has no skeletons in his closet.

I loved Doom Patrol’s first couple of episodes. It is remarkably cast and tautly written. It also embraces humour unlike DC Universe’s other live-action offering, Titans, which I also enjoyed but it could sometimes be insufferably grim thanks to main character, Robin, who was always so angsty. Titans was at its best when it focused on supporting characters.

Doom Patrol is a giant step-up from Titans in that department, in that all the major characters are absolute weirdos — in the best way possible — and grim moments are scarce. And all that weirdness does not affect the integrity of the storytelling.

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