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‘Doom Patrol’ S01E01: ‘Pilot’ (review)

S01E01 — In the series premiere, the reluctant heroes of the Doom Patrol – Robotman, Negative Man, Elasti-Woman and Crazy Jane face the threat of Mr. Nobody, who’s after The Chief.

To begin, a caveat.

I am a huge fan of Doom Patrol.

Wait, that’s not true. I am a huge fan of the concept of the Doom Patrol. I’ve always preferred the Cliff Steele Robotman to the Golden Age Robert Crane Robotman. I always thought the visual of Negative Man was stunning. I enjoyed the post-Crisis reboot by Kupperberg and Lightle. I read every issue of the Arcudi run. I even like what Gerard Way and Nick Derrington & company are doing currently.

But, I admit, I’ve never read the Morrison run.

I’m sorry; I could never get past the artwork. I’ve read that Arnold Drake, the co-creator of the Doom Patrol, praised Morrison’s run as being, “the only subsequent run to reflect the intent of the original series.” Which is great, don’t get me wrong. I just…the art was always too weird. Maybe that makes me a comic book snob; that’s warranted, I guess. Look, I never appreciated Bill Sienkiewicz NEW MUTANTS run until I was an adult. And while I wasn’t a fan of Chaz Truog, I still read ANIMAL MAN.

I say all of this to say that I’m not sure what I’m getting into, entirely. I’m going in with an open mind, and I’m probably going to miss references and Easter eggs and, generally, just critiquing story and acting and filming. This might be a huge backfire, but I’m going to try my best.

1 HOUR LATER

…You guys, I don’t know what I watched, but I want more of it and I think this is Emmy award material.

Ok, part of that is a lie. I know exactly what I watched and it was an achievement of the highest order in terms of both the DC Universe app/service, and in terms of pushing the boundaries of what a television show is and can be. Watching this show, with its nudity and foul language and adult content, it was clear to me what I was watching: an HBO show. I couldn’t tell you if what I’m reacting to was the content, per se, or how it was presented (let’s keep in mind that this is only the first episode), but this is clearly, CLEARLY, a Vertigo comic come to life.

However, this is less iZOMBIE and more PREACHER, with the difference being the source material (superheroes). When the Damon Lindelof WATCHMEN series hits, I feel like a lot of similarities will be drawn between it and DOOM PATROL.

Looking ahead, it will be interesting to see how SWAMP THING shakes out when it debuts later this year. From all accounts, it seems to be leaning on the Alan Moore run (based on casting), but it’ll be interesting to see how much is used and how much is created for the series.

The episode acts as an origin issue, which, in my case, was completely necessary for a couple of the characters, but even with the one or two that I was previously familiar with, there were tweeks and slight “ante upping.”

With each introduction, you felt something for the heroes…well, Cliff (Robotman) and Larry (Negative Man). Rita’s origin makes you feel like it was deserved. Jane’s is kind of unexplored, giving you only the surface scratching you need to get the idea and move on (which, honestly, I appreciate). Cliff (voiced by Brendan Fraser) is the emotional center of the show, clearly, and it makes me wonder if he always was. I just always liked him because he was cool, and he was very empathetic under his metallic exterior. I can’t recall if he was always portrayed as a Ben Grimm type (which, holy shit, I know that DP was DC’s answer to the X-Men, but dammit if they’re not DC’s Fantastic Four), but here, his choices (cold, selfish and thoughtless) seem to lead him to the suit of armor.

I mentioned in the Doom Patrol episode of TITANS that Cliff really comes across as sympathetic in the scene where he’s asking Raven to describe the food she’s eating. Same thing happens here when he’s relearning to walk up stairs, or when he relives his tragedy, or even when Crazy Jane blows (pot) smoke into his face and asks if he feels any different.

Larry Trainor (Matt “I Should Have Been Superman” Bomer) seems to have the Silver Age backstory of Hal Jordan (which tracks, as they were both test pilots) with a twist that I don’t want to spoil, but makes absolute sense when you hear our narrator (the villain, Mr. Nobody, portrayed perfectly by Alan Tudyk) tell us that he had always felt like a monster inside, and now his outside matches. Considering that Larry’s tragedy happens in 1961, and taking into consideration the “climate” of the times, it’s a heartbreak when you find out what he’s referring to.

I don’t want to say much more about Rita and Jane, as they kind of have a little more exploration needed (Rita seems shallow, but there’s got to be more to her), but I think I have to thank whoever the casting director is for recasting Niles Caulder. While I have no qualms about who they cast in the TITANS ep, I really didn’t care for how the Chief was portrayed as dark, angry, and malicious. Timothy Dalton is stern, but you can tell he cares for these freaks. It’s the right acting decision and it takes a vet like Dalton to bring it out of the character.

In the end, after all the origin stories are told, and the team has a disastrous outing in town, the Chief informs them that they now have targets on their backs (they’re doomed!) and that someone is coming for them.

The team, at first, decides to run (except Cliff, bless his heart) and then turn around to stand up to the challenge.

Mr. Nobody makes his appearance, as does an albino donkey, who farts the words, “The mind is the limit,” to the tune of “People Are Strange” by the Doors (although, I believe it’s the cover version by Echo and the Bunnymen from THE LOST BOYS).

Overall, it’s an extremely well made pilot. Let’s see where we go from here.

Will you watch next week’s episode?

Yeah! This episode was a great introduction to the team if you never heard of them, or if you’ve forgotten about them. The next few episodes should pick up and take us on a strange journey.

EXTRA POINTS & NITPICKS:

  • Soundtrack, as in TITANS, is on point.

 

Vito Delsante is a comic book writer, graphic novelist, editor, letterer, and the co-creator/writer of STRAY with Sean Izaakse, and THE PURPLE HEART with Dean Haspiel and artist, Ricardo Venâncio. He’s written for DC Comics, Marvel Comics, Image Comics, AdHouse Books, and Simon & Schuster, among others, and his stories have been reprinted in other countries. He lives in Pittsburgh, PA with his wife, Michelle, his daughter, Sadie, his son, James, and his pitbull, Kirby.  You can find him online at incogvito.com and you can follow him on Twitter @incogvito

 

 

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