“Doom Patrol” was a fun diversionary episode that tee’d up another DC Universe show, but it didn’t offer Titans much overall.
The cool thing about Titans existing on a platform specifically designed to please long-time fans of DC Comics is that you can have an episode like “Doom Patrol”, which in many ways was basically a pilot for the upcoming spin-off due next year. But this, obviously, is also a problem, because if you put your enthusiasm to one side for a moment, it doesn’t take long to realise that “Doom Patrol” didn’t really do much of anything beyond that shameless franchise-building legwork.
You could charitably describe the hour as a showcase for Raven (Teagan Croft), who fled with Gar Logan (Ryan Potter) to a wooded mansion populated by the eccentric titular team. Raven works much better as a character when she’s allowed to be childlike and vulnerable; her shadowy doppelganger is cool and all, but her need for connection and normality is more compelling than the visual effects, and isn’t something she can get from Dick (Brenton Thwaites) or Starfire (Anna Diop), who are too busy swearing and viciously battering people. Her burgeoning relationship with Gar and that obvious desire for connection were the strongest aspects of “Doom Patrol”, if we’re going to judge it in terms of how it fits into the actual season.
We should do that. But then again it was pretty enjoyable to see the Doom Patrol in live-action: the practical achievement of Robotman (Brendan Fraser), the comics-accurate portrayal of Negative Man (Matthew Bomer), the eerie body-horror of Elasti-Girl (April Bowlby), and the nakedly sinister Chief (Bruno Bichir) all lent a lot of credence to DC’s idea for focused properties that’ll please established fans of the material. And I’d be lying if I said there weren’t some fun interactions, moments of levity, and smart visual beats.
But is the fourth episode really the place for a sneaky pilot – especially when the Titans haven’t actually been established as a team yet? Is now the time to be sidelining major cast members and leaving on-going subplots unaddressed for a full hour? Are Hawk and Dove still in this show? Why are Dick’s superiors perfectly willing to let him wonder off for days at a time without reporting in or doing any actual police work? While we’re at it: What’s the plot of this show?
These might seem like nitpicks, and I know a lot of folks are still pleasantly surprised by Titans not being anywhere near as bad as people anticipated it would be. But these are also important questions about what this show is; what it might look like and ultimately become a few episodes down the line. They’re the questions people should be asking rather than allowing (admittedly enjoyable) fan-service concessions to distract from the core issue of what story Titans is ultimately trying to tell. “Doom Patrol” doesn’t really provide any answers to that question, which seems a shame. Maybe next week.