Another Dern Review: The End of The Doom Patrol (Live-Action Series on HBO Max, That Is)

By Daniel Dern: “Done Patrol,” Season 4 Episode 12, and the season/series finale episode of DCUniverse/HBO/Max’s The Doom Patrol, (finally!) (as announced in File770’s September 21, 2023 scroll, Item 12: Final Doom) aired, on Thursday, November 9, 2023, letting (us) fans (“Doomies” is the term I’ve seen) breathe a bittersweet sigh or three of relief.

One, we have gotten to see all the 44 episodes, albeit the final season’s second half-dozen more than half a year later than originally scheduled, so, avoiding the potential “shelve unshown” fate of other HBO Max properties (e.g., the Batgirl movie — two days ago, I would have added the live-action/animation Coyote vs Acme, but it looks like the movie, like Wiley C., may yet survive). 

(<grumbling memories of other shows with unshown or very-belatedly-elsewhere episodes, e.g. Awake and Wonderfalls, omitted>)

Two, satisfactory ending (In My Opinion, ditto a few friends). Major plot lines and character arcs have been wrapped up, and many characters were given (screen) time for closure and we had the chance to say our farewells.

Alan Brennert, a friend and fellow comics fan (and Nebula/Emmy award-winning tv, mainstream, sf and comics writer, the fan favorite Batman-marries-Catwoman story, “The Autobiography of Bruce Wayne” (included in Tales of the Batman: Alan Brennert), says “THE DOOM PATROL was, in my opinion, the best adult television adaptation — so, not including movies — of a superhero comic I’ve ever seen. It was amazingly faithful to the surrealism of Grant Morrison’s run on the series, while blending in favorite characters from the 1960s original series and giving them more sophisticated and satisfying backstories.”

In the process, the show’s also received a fair number of award nominations, including GLAAD Media Awards 2022 for Outstanding Drama Series.

It’s been a great multi-year ride, starting with an intro/cross-over in November 2019, in Season 1 Episode 4 of DC Universe’s Titans (see my scroll Scouting Ahead: The Doom Patrol – note, some links there no longer work), albeit with some characters played by different actors, and some other differences versus the DP series.

We’ve gotten to see heroes from across the various creators and plot arcs, including Crazy Jane, Flex Mentallo, Danny The Street, Steve “Mento” Dayton, and Casey “Space Case” Brinke, and often-surprising turns from the antagonist side, like the Brotherhood of Evil’s The Brain, Monsieur Mallah, and Madame Rouge, along with Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man, Mr. 104, Garguax, and Mister Nobody.

We even (minor non-plot spoiler) got, unexpectedly (to me and others I’ve talked with), got a musical episode, including at least one great production number, in the Season 4’rs preantepenultimate episode, “Immortimus Patrol,” (Previous episodes have included some song/song-and-dance numbers, it’s worth noting, including a novel rendition of “Shipoopi” from The Music Man.)

(Advisory note: Doom Patrol includes lots of cussing, some sex, violence, and some scenes that may be triggering.) How/where to watch:

  • Online, according to JustWatch include MAX, Apple+, and Amazon Prime.
  • Physical media: All four seasons are now available on DVD and BluRay — if you don’t want to buy/own them, try your public library. (I see that mine currently has the first three seasons.) (Or seek out used copies.)

(Here’s the series’ IMDB and Wikipedia entries.)

NO GOTTA-READ/WATCH PREREQUISITES, THANKFULLY: One of Doom Patrol’s notable virtues for new viewers is the near-zero knowledge barrier-to-entry (unlike far too many of the other Marvel and DC movies, shows and comics).

  • No previous familiarity with Doom Patrol comics, characters, or plotlines needed. Per-character origins and backstories get brought in over time, but you don’t have to know anything before you start watching. And while the show draws heavily on the Doom Patrol characters and plots — largely from Grant Morrison’s exquisite run, but also going back the very first issues, and post-Morrison as well, notably Gerard Way and artist Nick Derington’s Casey “Space Case” Brinke, we get their origin stories as the series progresses.
  • No larger-“universe” knowledge needed. The show takes place within the DC universe, but (IIRC), there’s no reference to other plots, plans, arc, or whatever, with the arguable exception of Cyborg, who was (and continues to be) linked with the (Teen) Titans and the Justice League). The closest it comes (IIRC) is the names “Superman” and “Justice League” (and possibly “Batman” and one or two other DC heroes do get mentioned a few times, but not as plot points.

Having read some or all of the Doom Patrol will help know who’s who/what a little sooner than if you come in cold…but it won’t help you know where it’s going most of the time.

THE COMICS BACKGROUND, SUMMARIZED AND SIMPLIFIED, IN CASE YOU’RE INTERESTED. For those not familiar with the Doom Patrol (from their decades of comics, and/or the TV), some briefish non-spoiler backstory.

Here’s what-started-as-brief recap/spoiler free info about the Doom Patrol, comic, Max series, etc.:

Doom Patrol began as a DC comic, first appearing in My Greatest Adventure #80 (June 1963), created by writers Arnold Drake and Bob Haney, along with artist Bruno Premiani. Perfect timing for a kid like me willing to gamble twelve cents (which was real money and a meaningful piece of my own money at that point in time). (I was a DC kid, just in time for their Silver Age, not encountering Marvel until college.)

The DP’s initial members were Professor Niles Caulder, a (in most episodes) wheelchair-confined doctor/scientist, Cliff Steele (“Robotman”), Larry Trainor (“Negative Man”) and Rita Farr (“Elasti-Woman”).

The DP debuted a few months before Marvel’s X-Men #1, dated September 1963 — another group of people with powers (here, teenagers), also led by a smart adult in a wheelchair.

Whether this was coincidence, information leakage, or deliberate, I dunno; Wikipedia speculates. Similarly, Wikipedia observes one might character-correlate the initial DP members with Marvel’s Fantastic Four’s powers of smart/strong/flying/size manipulation; this was new to me, and I again have no opinion.) (Feel free to discuss.)

In both the comics and this TV series, DP membership over time included Dorothy Spinner, Victor Stone (“Cyborg”), Casey Brinke (“Space Case”), and were often joined by great characters like Flex Mentallo and Danny The Street.

(Flex also went on to his own four-issue miniseries, written by Grant Morrison, art by Frank Quitely — I highly recommend this book! — available in book format, on Hoopla, etc.)

The Doom Patrol also appeared in a several DC animated shows, a decade or so ago, including in their own three-episode mini-series, of which I’ve recently skimmed a few.

The Doom Patrol comics have all been collected into “graphic novel” books, available at your local comic shop, and many public libraries. Library-digital-wise, Hoopla has at least a dozen volumes, and has several (harder to suss out there). DC’s Infinite Universe (until they rename it again) service has all or nearly of the Doom Patrols, in single-issue and “omnibus” form — I’ve just (And I’ve got a bunch of collections and issues in my shelves and boxes.)

(Also be sure to look for the DC/Young Animal Milk Wars six-issue miniseries, which may not show up in searching on Doom Patrol.” Ditto the Grant Morrison/Keith Giffen (and other artists) one-shot Doom Force.)

And, earlier this year, the Doom Patrol started up again, under the series title The Unstoppable Doom Patrol. (Up to #6 as I write this.)

Thanks, MAX, for (finally) running those last six episodes.

And thank you to the show’s producer(s?), writers, actors, and the myriads of people doing costumes, sets, props, music, and digital stuff — you exceeded my expectations, and it was a wild ride.

My only remaining question: Do the BluRays include any added features making it worth doing a library-borrow?

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