Well, I really enjoyed this episode. Once it became clear over the course of the previous three episodes that Titans was an actually entertaining and interesting show, I started getting really excited about the next DC Universe live-action series, Doom Patrol. While it’s fascinating to see how this version of Titans differs from the kids’ cartoons that have come before (while still maintaining elements of what makes the various characters tick), the Doom Patrol are way less famous…and also much weirder. Now that I’m confident that the DC Universe creatives know what they’re doing, my anticipation has only mounted to see how they’ll tackle these weirdos next. This episode, essentially a back-door pilot for Doom Patrol, gave us our first look at the World’s Strangest Superheroes, and they did not disappoint.
We open with a flashback to something that happened in the Congo two years ago. There’s a medical tent that looks like a Doctors Without Borders-type operation. A catatonic-looking Gar Logan is brought in, though he doesn’t have green hair or skin yet. Instead, he has some kind of strange animal bite on his arm that’s green and scaly. It’s enough to scare away everyone in the tent…well, almost everyone. After a minute a man in a face-covering hazmat suit comes over to Gar’s bed wielding an impressive silver suitcase. Declaring that he’s going to help, hazmat man injects Gar with a needle, which clears up the bite but also turns all his skin green, setting him on the path to becoming Beast Boy.
Then it’s back to the present, where Rachel is running through the woods after escaping her captivity in the convent. She doesn’t make it far before running into Gar, who is both the green tiger seen at the end of the first episode and the green-haired boy Rachel met in the arcade last episode. He tells her to accompany him, and Rachel agrees, not exactly having a surfeit of options at the moment. On their way to Gar’s home, they run into a pair of deer hunters and spook them away — though not in time to save the deer, unfortunately.
When they finally make it to Gar’s house, Rachel is welcomed into a teenage boy’s paradise, filled with video games and soda as far as the eye can see. The only problem is, it’s not just Gar’s house. Within minutes of their arrival, Gar shoves Rachel into a closet to hide her from Robotman (Brendan Fraser), who does not take kindly to visitors. This walking, talking robot was once a famous race-car driver named Cliff Steele, until a crash destroyed most of his body. Like Gar, he was saved by a mysterious doctor, who implanted his brain into this hulking robot body.
That mysterious doctor is named Niles Caulder, and he is the Chief. Everyone who lives in this house is his patient — not just Cliff and Gar, but also Larry Trainor, and poor, poor Rita Farr.
NEXT: The world’s strangest superheroes
Robotman is very angry that Gar has brought Rachel into the house against the Chief’s orders, but the others do not necessarily share his attitude. Larry Trainor (Matt Bomer) is introduced as an excellent cook, and we meet him dancing in the kitchen while cooking up a big dinner. Larry differs from most cooks, though, in that his entire body is covered in mummy-like bandages and dark sunglasses. His superhero name is Negative Man, because an accident brought him into contact with a dark spirit of “negative energy.”
Rita might have the toughest time of all of them. After getting Larry’s okay to have Rachel join them for dinner, Gar goes upstairs and knocks on Rita’s door, telling her she’s welcome at dinner too if she feels up for it. We get a slow pan of Rita’s room and see the walls covered in movie posters from her long-ago days as an actress. One of those old black-and-whites is even playing on a TV in the room. Then, we finally see who’s in the bed: A gigantic mound of seething flesh. This is the Doom Patrol body horror I signed up for!
Dinner begins, and it’s a delicious smorgasbord courtesy of Larry. Cliff asks Rachel to describe the taste and texture of everything she’s eating since, being a robot, he can’t eat food anymore. Then Rita comes in, thankfully not looking like she did in the room. She has now transformed into the spitting image of her movie star days, a beautiful actress in a red dress, pearl necklace, and white gloves. Unlike most actresses who look like that, though, Rita piles her plate high with fatty foods — as she explains, her “condition” requires a large caloric intake. Controlling that condition is clearly difficult: In the middle of eating, her face starts to melt, prompting Rachel to touch her hand and see visions of Rita locked up in a mental asylum for years.
That’s when the Chief comes in. Larry thought he wouldn’t be back until tomorrow, but he returned early because he has a new patient to work on: A woman who got caught in the blast of an exploding nitrogen canister. They put her on an operating table and get to work saving her life. Rachel even makes a meaningful contribution, using her powers to absorb the woman’s pain so the Chief can complete his procedure.
Afterward, the Chief does two things. He verbally disciplines Gar for disobeying him (no wonder he might be in the mood to find another team!) and offers his help with Rachel’s condition as well. That doesn’t go so well. After strapping her down to a table, Rachel, understandably, starts freaking out. And if there’s one thing we know about Rachel at this point, it’s that telling her to calm down has the exact opposite effect. Black energy starts swirling everywhere as she hurls the Chief into the wall, breaking his back. Thankfully, that’s right when Robin and Starfire show up, having followed Rachel’s trail. They have a stare-down with Robotman and Negative Man, but no Marvel-style scuffles actually break out. Instead, Dick tells Rachel that he’s there for her now, and promises not to leave her again. That does the trick, and the Titans leave — with Gar in tow this time, since the Doom Patrol can tell he deserves to live his own life out in the world rather than stay cooped up in the mansion with them.
The episode ends with a close-up shot of the Chief’s face as “We’ll Meet Again” plays. This is obviously a nod to the fact that we will see the Doom Patrol again sooner than later, but we won’t be seeing this version of the Chief again. In the show to come, the role will be played by Timothy Dalton rather than Bruno Bichir. The other main Doom Patrol cast member we didn’t get to see here is Diane Guerrero’s Crazy Jane, who I’m really looking forward to seeing in action.
Bring on Doom Patrol!