The Idiot Box: ‘Doom Patrol,’ from tragedy to triumph

Impressive cast and bold storytelling creates a standout series


The “Doom Patrol” title card reveals itself at the end of the title sequence with an eerie animation depicting the origins of each of the characters. The cast’s journeys from misfits to heroes are what give this DC series an edge against its competition. (Picture courtesy HBO Max. Graphic created by Ryan Ascalon.)

Ryan Ascalon

DC is undoubtedly discombobulated as its biggest franchise, the DC Extended Universe, is already set to reboot without taking flight in the first place. DC has only been able to compete in video media against its biggest rival, Marvel, in animated features and TV series.

DC’s “Doom Patrol” is one such example of this competition. The HBO Max original “Doom Patrol” follows the exploits of a D-List, DC superhero team by the same name. 

Recent Oscar winner Brendan Fraser plays the comic book character Cliff Steele, aka Robotman, an egocentric racing champion who unfortunately drove his family under a jackknifed trailer. Cliff only survived the accident by having his brain transplanted into a non-emotive robotic body. 

The enigmatic Niles Calder does the procedure, played by Timothy Dalton and known in the universe as “The Chief,” a doctor that utilizes science and magic to save his patients and allows them to recover in his home, Doom Manor. Other patients of the Chiefs include Matt Bomer as Larry Trainor, April Bowlby as Rita Farr and Diane Guerrero as Jane. 

Also — to give some in-universe recognition — A-list superhero Cyborg, played by Jovian Wade, also tags along on some of their adventures.

(L-R) Brendan Fraser, Matt Bomer, Diane Guerrero, Jovian Wade, April Bowlby and Timothy Dalton pose in full costume in a season one promotional still for the show. Each character’s costume gives an insight to their personalities and struggles. (Picture courtesy of HBO Max)

While the main cast is a wonderful line of misfits, a superhero team is only measured by how great their villains are and the Doom Patrol’s rogues gallery is not easily forgotten. 

Their foes throughout the show’s four seasons include the meta-dialogue spouting Mr. Nobody, played by Alan Tudyk, The Brain, played by Riley Shanahan and his talking gorilla confidant Monsieur Mallah played by Jonathan Lipow. 

Not to mention a horde of man-eating butt monsters.

No kidding, flying butts.

The hilarious concept of a collective villain aside, the series isn’t afraid to tackle complex and often dark themes, such as trauma, mental illness and the struggle for identity. Each group member has a complicated backstory and a journey of self-discovery that adds emotional depth to the narrative. 

Cliff’s struggle with losing his humanity and Larry’s battle with his repressed sexuality is powerful and poignant storylines that elevate the show beyond simple superhero escapism. However, it balances these heavy topics with plenty of humor and heart, making it a joy to watch. 

Each of these wonderfully messed up characters confront their inner demons to earn the title of superhero.

The “humor and heart” comes from the show’s fantastic cast. Each actor brings something unique to their role while maintaining excellent chemistry with each other.

Fraser especially deserves praise for his portrayal of Robotman. Despite the character’s inability to translate his feelings via facial expressions, his voicework makes Cliff a more sensible person than his friends. 

The show’s sounds are great, with production utilizing an eerie synth-wave and old-school rock and roll soundtrack. The opening title sequence instantly captivates the viewer through its haunting score and surreal imagery of each character’s disfigurements. 

“Doom Patrol” is a must-watch for anyone craving something different from the usual superhero fare. It’s weird, wild and wonderful. 

In a media culture that is feeling superhero burnout, “Doom Patrol” proves there’s still plenty of room for innovation in the genre. 

With the fourth season recently released, now is the perfect time to jump on board and discover the delights of “Doom Patrol” for yourself.