Even more amazing was the announcement from earlier in the year that THE Doom Patrol would be appearing on the Titans show streaming on DC Universe. All of us who normally found ourselves Waiting For Doom found another wait in our laps.
So, the day is here. The episode - Titans Episode 4 of Season 1 titled "The Doom Patrol" - hits DC Universe today.
Was it worth the wait?
While I haven't been super-keen on the Titans series to this point, if I keep reminding myself that this is an Elseworlds, I find that I accept it a bit better and enjoy it a lot more.
Whenever anyone talks about the Doom Patrol, people knee-jerk react and want to associate the Patrol with Grant Morrison, who wrote one of the most critically and commercially successful runs of the Doom Patrol since the team's introduction in My Greatest Adventure #80 in 1963.
The Doom Patrol presented in this episode has some Morrison-like tendencies, but there is a bit more taken from across the team's storied existence. One appearance of the Patrol in particular that shades closely to the feel of this episode is The Brave and the Bold (volume 3, 2008). The Keith Giffen-scribed Doom Patrol (volume 5, 2009) is present in spirit and intent, particularly in Rita's arc in "The Doom Patrol."
Episode writer Geoff Johns keeps the story Titan-centric, by opening the adventure with Beast Boy's origin. From there we return to present day where we find Rachel and Gar on the run.
Rachel gets emotional about a deer, but walks off with Gar to a creepy mansion filled with creepier piano music. From there viewers get to know a bit more about Gar, his habits, his interests, and his "roommates."
The episode is a strong introduction to the Doom Patrol, as we get all of their origins in quick dialog. The not-quite-movie-level budget and the relatively quick production time don't allow us to see each origin, but we see photos, hear tales, and, in Rita Farr's case, we do actually see her past, as she winds up connecting to Rachel through the plot, as Johns would have it.
Each of the characters is given a sliver of personality. Cliff misses things that he thinks he left behind as a human, which drives the table conversation as he asks Rachel to describe her food to him. Larry is portrayed in a light-hearted manner, serving as the culinary expert for the Patrol, preparing everything from fried chicken to T-bone steaks. Rita's story is presented as quite tragic, and in these personality bits, Rachel sees a bit of herself and a way to be helpful.
As is the way with Niles Caulder, when he shows up, the mood shifts. By the end of the show dynamics change enough to open a door for Gar to continue on the path with Rachel, as the Doom Patrol find a new confidence that can really only be hastily claimed in the span of a television pilot.
Yes, I know this isn't a pilot, per se, but it sure does move like one. We get action, tension, humor, and pathos. Origins and power displays, character quirks, and dialog go-tos all fill this episode. By the end of the show, Johns has given us a Doom Patrol with potential. Some rough-edged costumes, but character potential.
The characters are well portrayed. Dwain Murphy's Larry Trainor and Jake Michaels' Robotman don't have the luxury of facial expression, so the two actors are forced to lean into the physicality of their characters, which both do quite believably. Robotman has more screen time, as you may expect, but never so much as to steal the show.
Bruno Bichir plays The Chief in the pompous manner one might expect, and it fits. He condescends to Gar, and gets quite bossy all the way around. I won't spoil the outcome of this episode, but his arc takes a turn.
April Bowlby completely makes the role of Elasti-Girl/Rita Farr her own. Bowlby has classic beauty, which plays nicely as a timeless actress slightly out of step with current reality. Her character has some of the most dynamic screen time, and Bowlby does a remarkable job of selling the range of emotions Rita brings (literally) to the table.
As for those costumes, Negative Man's bandages could be more dynamic. He has a mouth hole, which transmits a bit more comically. Robotman's head is huge. Yes, I understand there is an actor underneath, but the rest of the costume could stand a bit more tinkering to present Cliff Steele in a more tapered manner. For each ding, however, there are positives. Robotman's LED eyes actually blink, giving the metallic marvel a dose of humanity, while Larry's sunglasses hold true to portrayals of Larry Trainor since Morrison's run.
Gar doesn't really seem like a great fit for this team, so it's good for him that the Titans show happened along. After pitching in a couple times in this episode, though, Rachel makes a strong case for Doom Patrol membership. She's a better fit character-wise and abilities, but when the credits roll, it's clear she doesn't belong here.
Overall, this is a wonderful introduction to the Doom Patrol. I'll definitely be back once their series launches. For now, I give this episode 4 (out of 5) stars.
Here's the image gallery DC provided to media outlets.