Season 1 Episode 1
It’s the 80’s and race car driver Cliff Steele is living the high life in more ways than one. When a tragic accident kills his body, he awakens in the lab of Dr. Niles Caulder aka The Chief. Time passes and Cliff is introduced to the other people in the house including former actress Rita Farr and former Test Pilot Larry Trainor. When Cliff realizes that his body is gone and his brain transplanted into the body of a robot, he has to learn to live with his new circumstances. Something everyone in the house is doing in their own way.
We witness snippets of Larry and Rita’s stories as well throughout the episode and when another member of this strange family shows up, things get more interesting. Crazy Jane barrels her way into the house and when she takes everyone out to the town, all hell breaks loose. The ensuing chaos not only brings the Chief back from his trip, but also attracts the attention of a bigger threat.
Not one of these characters are likeable and that’s probably the best thing going for this episode. The Doom Patrol are not heroes by any stretch of the imagination, but the prevailing theme of this episode is that there is potential in all of them. The episode does a great job of showing that in Cliff’s story. Showcasing the fact that he was a horrible husband who at least recognized that he needed to be better was a more engaging portrayal than making him a tragic figure to feel sorry for. It’s also resonant in Fraser’s portrayal that Cliff isn’t a victim. He’s sad, but not sorrowful and doesn’t illicit pity from the viewer.
The rest of the characters have that potential as well and it looks like those stories will be explored as the series continues. Matt Bomer’s Negative Man seems to have the most tragic back story. April Bowlby’s Rita Farr is interesting in her continued narcissism even in the face of her own circumstances. Timothy Dalton’s Chief is a little flat and doesn’t seem to have much personality. Diane Guerrero’s Crazy Jane is doing a lot of the heavy lifting performance wise transitioning between personalities and trying to give them weight and presence. She is effective in this first episode and the plot keeps things vague enough to be surprised by which personality emerges at any given time.
Alan Tudyk doing double duty as both the main bad guy and the episode narrator is a fun and engaging change of pace for shows like this and adds some fun fourth wall breaking meta moments.
The pilot episode is a slow burn of character development and that’s good. We want to know more about this team as they start to become one and their twisted family dynamic adds enough interesting moments to warrant seeing what happens in the next episode.