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Titans 1.4 Review – ‘Doom Patrol’

November 2, 2018 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas
Doom Patrol Titans - 'Doom Patrol'
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Titans 1.4 Review – ‘Doom Patrol’  

[Warning: spoilers abound for those who have not seen Friday’s episode of Titans.]

The first three episodes of Titans pulled off a surprising feat. The DC Universe series managed to set up a solid storyline out of several elements that should not have worked together. By the end of “Origins” we had a grounding in most of our characters, and an idea of where the arc was going. That’s more than I think many people expected after the first promos hit.

But it’s not enough to hit the ground running. Any series, especially one like Titans, needs to keep the momentum going through the second act. In a lot of ways, the real challenge begins after the introductory mini-arc is done. It’s too easy for shows to lose their way amidst side stories and other roadblocks thrown in the heroes’ way. It’s a hurdle even the best shows stumble over at times. And in introducing a whole new family of superpowered characters in its fourth episode, Titans was playing with fire.

Impressively though, “Doom Patrol” doesn’t trip the story up. Indeed, it’s quite the opposite. By bringing Rachel (and then Kory and Dick) into the Caulder house, this week’s episode finally gets our team together. And even more impressively, it introduces a cast of characters that I’m already excited to see in their own series when it bows next year.

Titans Rachel Gar

But before we get into the Doom Patrol, let’s look at the last piece of the Titans puzzle. We’ve only seen Garfield Logan in brief snippets thus far in the series. What we’ve seen has given us a nice impression of what to expect. Still though, those aren’t enough to form a complete picture. This is the first episode that really lets Ryan Potter show us what there is of Gar. The answer, as it turns out, is “quite a lot.” With a fairly accurate representation of his comic book origins, Gar is a character with a lot to drag him down.

However, that’s not the case. He instead makes an immediate splash one of the more engaging, enjoyable main characters. The Titans world isn’t grimdark, but it is dark. Garfield is a light in that darkness, and even with some spotty CGI tiger moments he stands out as a beacon amongst the more angsty characters.

To be fair, that is entirely is by design. Gar is tailor-made for people like me to be a fan of. He’s a young man with a cool power and serious geek cred, from his vintage Stretch Armstrong figure to his video games and love of old movies. But it isn’t just that. Potter invests Gar with serious charisma and establishes an immediate chemistry with Rachel. We believe that Rachel would trust this strange tiger-man because of his warmth and optimism. We instantly have a reason to like this guy, and for the characters to like him. Even if we didn’t know he’s a main character, there is a palpable sense that he adds a missing puzzle to this show’s main cast.

Titans Robotman Negative Man

Of course, he also provides the narrative link to bring the show into the Doom Patrol’s world. I’ll be honest and risk some of my comic book credibility to say that Doom Patrol is a property I didn’t have much grounding in going into the episode. The group exists in a niche space in the DC Comics continuity. It always looked kind of hokey in concept, with names like Robotman and Elastigirl. And it was a big risk to make them the first non-Titan superhumans for the show to run into. Titans has maintained its tightrope walk of tone, avoiding the weird collision of gritty and goofy that occasionally plagued Gotham’s early run. This group could have easily thrown that off and sent the whole thing sprawling.

Amazingly though, it works. I won’t lie; the first thing I did when I finished with the episode was dive into the comics section of DC Universe and read one of the Doom Patrol “essential stories.” (Issue #19 of the 1987 run, for the record.) Leave it to Geoff Johns to give this group of weirdos an introduction that really plays to their strengths and grounds them. Johns is, of course, one of the biggest influences on DC’s creative direction for years, and he knows exactly how to bring these characters in.

And man, is there a lot to love here. Cliff, Larry and Rita all make immediate impressions, thanks to Johns’ script, the actors’ performances, and director John Fawcett’s work. They embrace the ridiculousness of the characters. Robotman’s quippy sarcasm plays for wonderful humor, while Rita has that strange, almost fey-like silver screen quality that seems too perfect to be trustworthy. And Negative Man — well, that scene in the kitchen is just an absolute delight.

Titans Doom Patrol

In order to make these characters really live in the world, Johns counterbalance their larger-than-life qualities with something else authentic. Brendan Fraser brings the snark as Robotman’s voice, but also heartache in the little inflections of regret over what his robot body denies him: taste, dancing, normalcy, and the love of someone like Rita. Rita’s tragedy is rooted in her CGI’d powers, but April Bowlby brings dramatic weight to it. And Matt Bomer does the same for Larry, even as he doesn’t have any particularly overt references to what he’s lost.

More importantly, these peculiar characters give Rachel a sense of perspective. Their acceptance of her gives her the first real hope she’s had in the series. It’s nice to see Teagan Croft get to play that out. Rachel learns that she’s able to help people with her powers and can even (though she doesn’t realize it yet) save lives. Pulling back the curtain and letting us see a bit of daylight does Titans wonders, even if it isn’t drastically advancing the metaplot.

Even the Chief has his moments, though he is admittedly the weak spot of the Doom Patrol. Bruno Bichir is a bit stiff in the role, and the dialogue doesn’t roll off his tongue as it does the others. I know that fits the character a bit, but it threatens to take the viewer out of a couple of otherwise great scenes. What Bichir does do is portray the uneven mix of goodwill and threat that Niles Caulder can represent. The scene in which he admonishes Gar is awkward, but it works. And his refusal to stop his experiment with Rachel does highlight the dichotomy in the character between mad scientist and benevolent doctor.

Titans Kory Dick Robotman

While Kory and Dick aren’t quite as major of parts in this episode, there’s still some good stuff with them too. Gar and Rachel are the teens that will make up these Titans. That makes Starfire and Robin the parent figures, as is appropriate to the source. Their connection is intentionally slow to develop thus far. Dick doesn’t trust Kory for good reason: he doesn’t know her. And vice versa. But Brendon Thwaites and Anna Diop continue to build their rapport here. This episode allows Kory to prove herself a bit as she backs Dick up, but also steps in when she must. And she’s not above giving some valuable advice.

It’s through Kory, in fact, that Dick seems to start realizing he has a serious problem. Or at least, he starts to realize he needs to do something about it. Their conversation after Dick beats up the hunter lets Dick open up a bit to Kory. It’s an important step, and one that needed to happen soon. Otherwise, the drama would be dragged out too long. Sure, they’ll almost certainly continue to clash. But this is a solid bit of grounding to build upon.

What’s more, Kory’s conversation enables Dick when he needs to come to Rachel’s rescue in the lab. When Dick tells Rachel that she’s not alone and has him, that’s clearly a direct result of Kory’s pep talk. It sets the stage for this foursome (now that Gar’s coming with) to become something more. As the episode ends, things are sad for the Doom Patrol — a nice way to set up their spinoff. But while the four who are departing aren’t yet a team, all the pieces are in one place. Titans has me believing they’ll end up fitting together in the right way.

Titans Doom Patrol Rachel

Some Final Thoughts:

• I have to give this show a lot of credit for its use of profanity. It would be easy to assume based off the trailer that the show was trying to be foul-mouthed just to be edgy. But thus far it’s being used only when it enhances character or gets a desired effect. Cliff’s “Oh, fuck me” when Gar calls him Robotman was hilarious.

• I have to give double credit for the soundtrack in this episode, which was on point. Even the obvious music cues like “We’ll Meet Again” at the end worked when they probably shouldn’t have. Good job, Titans team.

• Remember kids, don’t go out of designated hunting areas. That’s how you end up shooting your friend after a green tiger roars at you.

• Thank you, Dick, for lampshading the fact that Kory’s outfit should not be just getting her in everywhere she’s been going. That has been a little…odd. I’m hoping for a costume change soon, for everyone.

• This week’s food lesson: pour gravy on your steak/spaghetti/onion ring/waffle platter for maximum caloric intake. Not so sure you should follow that one, though. Unless, of course, you’re an Elastiperson.

• Next week: The Nuclear Family returns, and the team officially forms. That should be fun. And from the looks of the preview, Dick and Kory get down to their own business.

The final score: review Very Good
The 411
Titans continues to improve episode by episode, with "Doom Patrol" being the most enjoyable yet. The introduction of the titular team lands perfectly, and the side plot doesn't derail the main storyline thanks to Gar's joining the team. As surprising as it may be, thus far Titans has been a delight and one of the better new shows of 2018.

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Titans, Titans Review, Jeremy Thomas