“…I, for one, am grateful a disembodied Chumbawamba has brought us all back together.”
While our Summer Reviews often dig quite far into the sands of time for cinematic treasure, the final weekend of June, 2019, brings us a recent, brilliant bit of media: The Doom Patrol, Season One.
Spider-man will swing in here at the start of next week. Tomorrow, we may even get a review of Yesterday. In the meantime, a crazed corner of the DC-verse awaits:
Title: The Doom Patrol
Cast and Crew
Directors: Glen Winter, Dermott Downs, Rachel Talalay, Stefan Pleszczynski, Larry Teng, Christopher Manley, Rob Hardy, Harry Jierjian, Salli Richardson-Whitfield, Wayne Yip, Carol Banker, TJ Scott, Rebecca Rodriguez
Writers: Jeremy Carver, Neil Reynolds, Shoshana Sachi, Tamara Becher-Wilkinson, Tom Farrell, Marcus Dalzine, Chris Dingess, Marcus Dalzine, Eric Dietel, April Fitzsimmons, Robert Berens.
April Bowlby as Rita Farr / Elasti-Woman
Matt Bomer Matthew Zuk as Larry Trainor / Negative Man
Diane Guerrero as Kay Challis/ Crazy Jane
Brendan Fraser and Riley Shanahan as Cliff Steele / Robotman
Timothy Dalton as Dr. Niles Caulder / The Chief
Joivan Wade as Victor Stone / Cyborg
Alan Tudyk as Eric Morden / Mr. Nobody
Phil Morris as Silas Stone
Julie McNiven as Sheryl Trainor
Kyle Clements as John Bowers
Jon Briddell as Darren Jones
Skye Roberts as Young Kay Challis
Sydney Kowalske as Clara Steele
Ethan McDowell as Forsythe
Devan Long as Flex Mentallo
Tommy Snider as Ernest Franklin / The Beard Hunter
Alec Mapa as Steve Larson / Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man
Charmin Lee as Elinore Stone
Alan Heckner as Bump Weathers
Curtis Armstrong as Ezekiel the Cockroach (voice)
Bethany Anne Lind as Clara Steele
David A MacDonald as Daddy
Julian Richings as Heinrich Von Fuchs
Mark Sheppard as Willoughby Kipling
Alimi Ballard as Joshua Clay
Anna Lore as Penny Farthing
Lilli Birdsell as Mother Archon
Stephanie Czajkowski as Hammerhead
Ted Sutherland as Elliot Patterson
Ashley Dougherty as Giselle
Jackie Goldston as The Secretary
Todd Allen Durkin as Charles
Michael Scialabba as Father Archon
Swift Rice as Ferdinand
Mac Wells as Agent Dirk Ellis
Tyler Buckingham as Frank
Chantelle Barry as Baphomet
Susan Williams as Dolores
Cynthia Barrett as Gwen
Jonathan Baron as Dr. Heart
Tom Fitzpatrick as Elder John Bowers
Gary Basaraba as Big D
Will Kemp as Mento
Pisay Pao as Oyewah
Tara Lee as Lucy Fugue
Haley Strode as Young Dolores Mentallo
Victoria Blade as Millie
Ritchie Crownfield as General Wampus
Chelsea Alana as Silver Tongue
Hannah Alline as Pretty Polly
Edward Asner as Hospital Patient
Ezra Buzzington as Dr. Bertrand
Keith Flippen as GS-9 Patterson
Katie Gunderson as Kate Steele
Lana Jean Turner as Young Rita
Dennis Cockrum as Sydney Bloom
Darla Delgado as Major Arbuckle
Edward Michael Scott as Government Agent
Emily Dunlop as Greta
Monica Louwerens as Three Sisters
“You’ve always been a man familiar with compromise Niles. After all, you fell in love with a Canadian“
Over several decades, a brilliant scientist gathers together misfit (and seemingly unaging) people with superpowers. When a super-villain captures him, they join forces with mainstream superhero Cyborg to find him, encountering several bizarre adventures along the way.
We’re watching superhero tropes through the fifth glass of absinthe, but at no point do we lose sight of the characters, whose personal journeys and emotional development feel painfully real. The first (and least crazy) episode gives us a conventional superhero origin story for Robotman, before revealing something quite different has happened, and we empathize with Cliff no matter how bizarre his circumstances.
Take that episode as a guideline for the entire season, whatever its demented twists and turns.
And speaking of demented, Alan Tudyk brings an crazed brilliance to his depiction as the show’s lead supervillain, on whom much of Season One hangs….
…However, a little of Mr. Nobody goes a very long way. We see a lot of him in Season One, and they’ve left the door open for his return in Season Two. The showmakers are practically standing at that metaphoric door, waving at him, and assuring the viewers we’ll see more of him next season.
Close that door. If he must come back, it should be in a couple more seasons. They’ve told that story and brought it to a frequently hilarious conclusion. It’s time for the Doom Patrol to face new challenges, ones unconnected to the villain and narrator who helped make the first season a success.
The Handmaid’s Tale, a very different show, is demonstrating in its third season how a well-made series can begin to unravel because it doesn’t want to write out characters whose stories no longer drive the narrative effectively. They’ve become trapped by the power of their initial season. Doom Patrol needs not to repeat that mistake. They inhabit a universe too broad and deranged to limit themselves.
Originality: 3/6 The show relies heavily on past comic-books, particularly the 1990s incarnation of the team. However, it goes places other superhero shows have not gone, and makes them work.
Never, in my wildest dreams, did I expect to see a high-production adaptation of a third-rate superhero team that would climax with a kaiju cockroach and a vengeful rat making out on a sentient, genderqueer street. And then realize that’s not the strangest thing that has happened.
This is the show Legends of Tomorrow wishes it could be.
Acting: 6/6 This cast understands their characters and makes them work, regardless of what the writers throw at them. Diane Guerrero gets the Orphan Black award for her depiction of multiple identities.
Story: 5/6 Most of the individual stories work very well, and the overall arc makes sense, at least within the show’s comic-book version of reality.
Emotional Response: 5/6
In total, Doom Patrol, Season One, receives 35/42