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Back in 2019, I decided to sign up for a service called DC Universe, mainly so I could have access to Batman The Animated series in HD and read older DC comics. Yet, on a whim I decided to check out one of their original titles that dropped around the same time when I signed up: Doom Patrol. I would consider myself a casual fan of DC comics, but I’m very familiar with their most popular superheroes like Batman, Superman, The Flash, etc. Their unfamiliar heroes and villains are a sort of blind spot for me, and that is especially true of Doom Patrol since they are barely represented in media outside of one story arc in the 2003 Teen Titans animated series. Basically, going into the live-action Doom Patrol series was learning about these characters for the first time and what I got was an amazing show. The series centers around a group of mutative misfits who, before their accidents (failed experiments at the hands of Dr. Niles Caulder) were normal people who also held dark secrets and were overall awful human beings. Even though they are Caulder’s failed projects, they sort of found a second life where they can call home. Yet, despite them being dysfunctional, they have to work together to protect the world from the strange evil that inhabits it. That’s pretty much the gist of the show and while on paper it seems like a typical comic book show plot line, it made for some of the most entertaining television for a superhero show in a long while.
The main reason is the diverse cast of weirdos that make up the characters of the show. There’s Cyborg (Victor Stone), Elasti-Girl (Rita Farr), Negative Man (Larry Trainor), Crazy Jane, Robotman (Cliff Steele), and The Chief (Niles Caulder). What the first season did well was having strong emotional character driven moments built alongside the more absurd aspects of this world, which continues to be a strong point in season two. For instance, in episode one, the show picks up where the first season ended with the defeat of Mr. Nobody, using a nuclear blast to destroy a gigantic revenge-fueled rat who wants to kill Cliff and an overly evangelical cockroach while the two were kissing and destroying a trans binary teleporting town named Danny. After the blast killed the rodent and cockroach, the Doom Patrol team ends up really tiny and the first episode of the second season leads on from here, with a focus on learning more about Niles’ daughter Dorothy, who has a host of imaginary friends that could end the world. It also provides more insight at how the Doom Patrol group are handling the truth that Niles was behind all their misfortune all so he could gain eternal life so that he doesn’t have to shut his daughter away forever. With how batshit insane the basic synopsis for even one episode is, it could be implied that this is a comedy series, but it really is not. It can be light-hearted and fun but as odd as it might seem, there are a lot of human moments as well. There is this sense that Niles does regret what he did in the past but understands that nothing he says will change the horrible things he did. Another brilliant character moment comes from the second episode of the new season where Larry finds out his son Gary, who he hasn’t seen before he got into his jet plane accident, has passed away. He ends up going to the funeral and reunites with his other son, returning to a barn at his home where it has mementos about Gary and how he was trying to find his dad because he thought he was still alive. Matt Bomer delivers an excellent performance here, with a lot of emotional intensity in that scene that it takes it to the next level. I felt that anguish and sorrow in his acting that it was easy for me to sympathize with his character.
Other than the characters, what stood out to me was how well this show could handle different tones and have it balanced. Episode three of season two features a plot where the Chief and Rita have to go and save Larry, who has been taken hostage by Red Jack. One half of the episode feels like a tense body horror with various imagery of men having their eyes gouged out or them violently being turned into butterflies, while the other focuses on Jane and Cliff with Cliff’s desire to reintroduce himself to his daughter as Jane has an intervention with her other personalities. This B plot is a little more goofy and a clear tonal shift from the main plot of the episode but it balances itself out because Doom Patrol never takes itself too seriously. This is a show that will have moments where the cast will be roller skating while trying to get some stone called continuum from an insane doctor only to turn around later in the episode and give itself time to breathe, putting more focus on building the emotional weight to these characters.
The only major complaint right now is that so far, there doesn’t seem to be an overwhelming threat for the Doom Patrol team compared to season one. Mr. Nobody certainly wasn’t the ultimate evil force that wanted to rule the world, but he simply wanted to take Niles down a peg. Yet, he was a constant presence in season one, insulting the cast and pointing out how lame they are, and going as far as to capture Niles. There was obviously a goal to work towards. So far with season two, there isn’t much of a major threat outside of Dorothy’s imaginary friends, but aside from some small glimpses of what they can do, there isn’t the same form of urgency that season one had. Fittingly, the set and costumes are pretty cheap and despite season two being promoted heavily on HBO Max as a Max Original, it’s clear this show was made on a very small budget. There are obvious moments when the cast are standing in front of a green screen, low quality CG that sticks out, or sometimes, it’s as simple as a particular set feeling very fake. However, this adds to the odd charm of this show with how weird it can get, so the low budget look makes it feel like a B-movie at times. Yes, it doesn’t have as high a budget as the DC Extended Universe movies and isn’t on par with something like Netflix’s Daredevil series, but there’s a level of effort and care poured into Doom Patrol and it shows with the final product. So far, Doom Patrol season two is looking to be a great follow up to season one. Hopefully, the stakes get raised in future episodes because that is the only major blind spot the second season needs to overcome. If you are a fan of superhero shows and want to watch one of the best shows of last decade then I highly recommend watching Doom Patrol, and newcomers should definitely catch the first season before diving into season two.
Doom Patrol Season Two will stream on HBO Max and DC Universe June 25th