Today, the DC Universe streaming app will air the seventh of fifteen episodes of the surreal sci-fi superhero series Doom Patrol, a show about a team of super-powered misfits who barely understand their powers and how they interact in a very, very surreal world.
And God help me, I’m hooked on this show.
To understand the show … which can be complicated in and of itself … you have to understand the gist of the original characters. Doom Patrol began as a 1960’s comic book series, and later evolved into a groundbreaking run by legendary comic book artist Grant Morrison. But instead of having our superpowered team fighting crime and saving the day, in many cases the characters themselves are unsure of what they’re really fighting for – or even what their world involves. That’s mostly because they still don’t understand their own personal situations, how they became who they are, and what their inter-relationships mean.
And with that, let me try to explain who the characters are. Bear with me.
- You start with Robotman, a vainglorious race car driver who dies – only to have his brain rescued and placed in a clunky exoskeleton. He has super-strength and durability, but he still isn’t sure of his situation or why he was saved from the crash. Most of the time during the series, he seems absolutely incredulous to his surroundings – like he’s not sure if he should be a hero or get the hell out of the way.
- Next up is Negative Man, a test pilot who, after a tragic accident, became infused with an anti-energy spirit – a spirit who, whenever it wants to, leaves his body and renders its host unconscious. Oh, and did I mention that the original accident left him covered in radiation burns, to the point where he’s wrapped up in bandages and gauze throughout the series?
- Then we have Rita Farr, former stage and screen siren, who fell into a polluted jungle river and developed elastic powers – but so far, the elastic powers cause her face to melt and her legs to swell, and eventually cause her to expand into a blobby, gelatinous mass.
- Oh, and we can’t forget Crazy Jane – a woman who suffered an incredible traumatic experience, causing her emotional state to split into 64 different personalities, each with their own distinct superhuman power. And no, she can’t control which personality will appear at which time.
Add to this the DC Teen Titans character of Cyborg, and a team handler in the wheelchair-bound Dr. Niles Caulder (essentially Charles Xavier without the mental superpowers) and you have the Doom Patrol.
And so far in the past six episodes, the Doom Patrol has been involved in … well …
They’ve rescued an entire town that had been sucked into the rear end of a donkey. Yes, you heard me.
They’ve survived a battle against aging superheroes whose powers are unleashed from senility.
They’ve stopped the destruction of the world by rescuing a tattooed teenager and … um …
The best way I can describe this show is it is completely surreal. It’s like a superhero show if David Lynch created it. In fact, their big enemy – a mental reality control freak named Mr. Nobody – not only battles the Doom Patrol, he acts as the series narrator, and he breaks down the fourth wall of television with nearly every comment.
Oh and wait until the Doom Patrol meets these other characters, some of whom have been teased during the series and who may appear in later episodes –
- Ezekiel the Cockroach, a Bible-quoting insect with delusions of grandeur.
- Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man, a guy whose body was transformed to the point where he has tree trunks for arms and a dinosaur head on his shoulders.
- Danny the Street. He’s a sentient street. Yes, he’s an actual street.
And don’t even start me on all the barnyard language on this show. Since DC Universe is not a true broadcast network, their shows – like Doom Patrol and another series, Titans – are free to throw around the curse words as necessary. Heck, there are a few episodes where I wonder if the show will rival Game of Thrones and go full George Carlin.
With a show like this, you can’t just start watching an episode and pick up everything instantly. You need to sit from the first episode, sometimes rewind back and figure out what you missed, and then keep going. It’s immersive. It’s confusing. Sometimes it’s head-scratching. And boy is it ever profane. This kind of show would never ever get greenlit by any major network.
And maybe that’s the big charm of Doom Patrol. It’s almost a subversive superhero series, the kind of program that after you’ve had your glut of Arrow and The Flash and Supergirl and Gotham and all the other DC-related programs … you want something that actually goes outside the norms. A program that essentially spoofs all the tropes of a superhero team-up show.
Doom Patrol airs new episodes every Friday on the DC Universe streaming app.
And yeah, I’m still watching it.
Because I want to know how they’re going to integrate a character that’s a sentient, living street into this TV show.