Doom Patrol is not your average superhero show. One can go so far as to say that the titular team of characters aren’t very heroic at all, at least not in the way we’ve been conditioned to perceive heroism. The DC Universe-turned-HBO-Max series is far more personal and deeper than anything DCTV has done within the superhero genre thus far. Showrunner Jeremy Carver — whose outside-the-box episodes of Supernatural look tame compared to what he’s accomplished with Doom Patrol — pushes the envelope in exciting new ways. The result is wildly imaginative, joyfully weird, compelling, and surprisingly complex.
The Doom Patrol — Rita Farr (April Bowlby), Jane (Diane Guerrero), Larry (Matt Bomer), Cyborg (Joivan Wade), and Cliff (Brendan Fraser) — are societal outcasts, misfits plagued by their unwanted abilities and years of trauma. Season 1 saw them emerge to face the overzealous and fourth wall-breaking villain Mr. Nobody (Alan Tudyk) after he kidnapped their mentor Niles Caulder (Timothy Dalton). Unfortunately, Niles harbored a painful secret that came to light and destroyed the trust he had built with the group. Season 2 has introduced Niles’ daughter Dorothy (Abigail Shapiro), whose immense powers are dangerous enough to destroy everything if unleashed.
That’s the gist of Doom Patrol’s plot, but there’s SO much more to this show than you can even begin to imagine. The series embraces its weirdness, content with being its own thing and sticking to it, carving out a unique space in the world of superheroes that quietly subverts what it means to be one. In fact, the characters generally avoid labeling themselves as vigilantes altogether, uninterested in taking on the responsibilities of such a moniker. Rather, Doom Patrol is focused on bettering the characters themselves, diving deep into their psyches while intertwining their personal plights with that of the overarching (and often secondary) plot.
All of the characters are flawed, angry, and struggle with who they are and how to see past their own issues. They have been trapped in their own pain and trauma for years. They hide from it and behind it, punishing themselves for the pain they have both caused and received, unable to face it or move on. Now that they’re out of their shell in Season 2, so to speak, they’re figuring out ways in which to grapple with their issues. Rita is coming to terms with the fact that her career as an actress wasn’t solely based on her talent, something that she’s always been confident in. Jane is facing the ire of the Underground — where the 64 personalities protecting Kay, a sexually abused girl, exist as a collective — while trying to maintain control as the dominant personality. Cyborg, still working through his father’s lies, is realizing that who’s deemed good and bad isn’t always black and white, and Larry being a terrible father has come back to haunt him in more ways than one. Cliff has arguably developed the least, overshadowed by his expletive-spewing habits, but he’s been trying to overcome Niles’ betrayal in Season 2.
Of course, the series is chock full of fantastical and imaginative subplots and characters that exemplify the creativity of the show. There are the Sex-Men, a cross between the Ghostbusters and the X-Men, who are charged with finding and defeating a chaotic sex demon who is drawn to exceptionally high sexual energy; Metallo, a hero who can flex one muscle that causes everyone to orgasm simultaneously; and a disco-loving time-traveler with a clock for a head.
More than anything, Doom Patrol is about acceptance. Danny the Street, a sentient, genderfluid teleporting location where the marginalized and outcast find refuge, is fundamental to the exploration of affirmation, safety, and love. What’s more, Rita, Jane, et al struggle with their own self-hatred more often than not and accepting who they are as people is difficult; forgiveness even more so. What ultimately sets Doom Patrol apart isn’t just the series’ wild plots (of which there are many), but the deeply human and complex characters at its center. The Doom Patrol believes their powers are more of a curse than a gift and work to accept who they are with them, while attempting to reconcile with their past as opposed to avoiding it completely. What results is a beautiful, thoughtful, and poignant series that compellingly explores the characters as multifaceted people first and foremost, and where defeating the big bad is secondary to their journeys.
Header Image Source: DC Universe