Spoilers. Also, spoilers. Perhaps only half-spoiled.
DC has some strange properties, most of which have been retconned the moment they are considered for live adaptation. Not so much with Doom Patrol which is literally a D-list version of the Justice League, except most of what you’ll witness is their own turmoil. I’m going to be very upfront here, it’s really hard to get into it. I try to find an audience for every series that appears in Viewer’s Cut, but it’s going to be on you if this is worth your time. The show can be interesting and weird but also depressing and silly downright to annoying. Sometimes you are rewarded with a good performance. Sometimes it’s just all a bit of a downer. That can be ok when done right.
Yes, far from me to give away the review in the opening paragraph but I sincerely want to warn you that Doom Patrol is a very particularly flavoured cup of tea. The show has the now common assortment of people with superhuman abilities reunited by some eccentric pseudo-scientist in a wheelchair. They’re all in need of some psychological help. The show is supposed to be funny, and to be fair, it often is – as long as it’s not trying too hard.
Cliff Steele (Brandon Fraser / Riley Shanahan) is Robotman, a superstrong machine. Crazy Jane (Diane Guerrero) has 64 personalities, some of them with superpowers. Rita Farr (April Bowlby) can stretch and when stressed can hardly keep her human form. Larry Trainor (Matt Borner/Matthew Zuk) carries a spirit formed of negative energy. They are initially led by Niles Caulder (Timothy Dalton) aka The Chief until he disappears. Called in as reinforcements is Victor Stone (Joyvan Wade) who is also known as Cyborg.
The show tries to be many things but kinda fails due to its underlying superhero premise. There’s a cautionary family tale for Cliff, a forbidden love for Larry, a life lesson for Rita and Jane… is just crazy. Well, actually I did find Jane’s 64 personalities of which we only get to see a few, a complete topic unto itself. So did the show, come to think of it. Sometimes it was mostly about Jane, specially when the show had nothing else to do. The overarching plot seems to connect to the search for The Chief who has been abducted by Mr. Nobody, played by Alan Tudyk, who also happens to be the narrator. Actually, it’s a little less of a kidnap and more of a partnership. It’s complicated.
Comparing this show to say, the Umbrella Academy, you see some common ground. It’s a flawed team, a dysfunctional family, a revered and hated patriarch that didn’t learn to be a father, and a more introspective look where the heroes must band together to… Well, there’s the problem. Academy had a purpose with obstacles along the way. Patrol is kind of looking for purpose but right now it feels like pure obstacle. Yes, they have lost their leader, the Chief. Cyborg is the poor man’s replacement, except that he doesn’t really lead them anywhere. As a matter of fact, the team is so fractured that it feels like they would rather stay locked up in their rooms. It gets a little too depressing sometimes.
Brendan Fraser’s performance which is basically a voiceover, is really strong. Diane Guerrero’s Jane is well executed but so grating that it just comes out as conceited. This multiple-personality character really needs professional health care. April Bowlby’s Rita Farr is easier to sympathize with because vanity is something we can all relate to. She also does seem to eventually start doing something heroic. We only get to meet Matt Borner’s Larry Trainor in flashbacks. He’s a tortured character in more ways than one, and the show tries to put a parallel spin between his closeted homosexuality and the negative spirit he’s always at war with. The character seems to work better in flashbacks. We like him, but he doesn’t like himself very much.
The fact that very character in the show seems to be stuck in an internal conflict seems intended to give the show depth, but instead it feels like it brings it down. Niles Caulder is really out there doing whatever he wants. He also makes some poor decisions that are close to idiotic and doesn’t seem to care. He’s definitely not Charles Xavier. Cyborg just keeps calling for team meetings and gets so bored that at some point he starts looking for dates in Tinder? I just wanted them to lose both Cyborg and The Chief altogether.
I can only recommend it as an acquired taste. If you can deal with the tone, it’s not an altogether bad show, but it does get weird. The weirdness feels contrived and complicated instead of light-weight and fun. Some characters feel unnecessary annoying while others shine a little brighter. The mood of the show is a complete downer, which makes it difficult to watch when humour is added to the mix. You can call them dysfunctional. They’re not quite lovable, and the jury is still out whether they can be considered a family or not. As a show, I feel invested enough to watch it myself to the end. Your mileage may vary.
That will do for now.