Doom Patrol Season 1 Episode 1 Recap
DC Universe’s 2019 programming push hit the ground running with the debut episode of the platform’s second live-action original series, Doom Patrol. Audiences got a taste of things to come during the team’s introduction on Titans, but the beloved squad’s series ups the ante from the very beginning. The first episode set the dour yet uplifting story about living as the “other” well while building up the seemingly impossible task of combatting Mr. Nobody. Doom has arrived at Cloverton’s doorstep whether the residents of Doom Manor like it or not.
From Humble Beginnings
No series debut is complete without an origin story and Doom Patrol spared hardly anyone of having their turning point exposed. Famed test pilot Larry Trainor is exposed to a negative energy field while testing the experimental X-15 rocket jet, causing him to crash back to Earth. He survives but his body is horribly burned. Rita Farr is the queen of 1950s cinema until she is exposed to a toxin during an on-set accident. Her rejection of an amputee film worker comes back to bite her as no one initially tries to save her and the toxin causes her cellular structure to loosen and deform.
Our villain even gets the treatment as Dr. Mordem seeks out an ex-Nazi doctor in Paraguay known for his experimental procedures. His desire to be transformed into something more than his self-admitted status as an evil underling lands him in a chamber that fragments his physical form, transforming him into a superpowered walking Picasso painting.
No one’s background is explored more than Cliff Steele. The famed race car driver is stuck in a loveless marriage and banging the nanny on the side. There’s some serious disillusionment going on within him, but the lady that truly has his heart is his daughter, Clara. Tensions boil over on race day as Cliff’s wife reveals her affair with Cliff’s crew chief while Cliff is racing. The news distracts Cliff just enough to cause him to crash. The next person Cliff lays his eyes on is the Chief as he welds and patches Cliff back together. He catches short glimpses of the others as he recovers but begins to freak out when he learns the truth. He crashed in 1988. It is now 1995. His body was beyond repair leaving only his brain viable. Rita shows Cliff his new robotic form before Chief employs Larry to give Cliff the grand tour of his new home.
Cliff lives on with his fractured memory encased in metal, but he is still unable to utilize his new body. His first goal is to learn how to walk again, but the task proves trying. He approaches Chief about leaving despite still being immobile, but Chief expresses concern. Every one of his patients that left found trouble being accepted into the outside world. Cliff returns to his rehab, aided by Larry and Rita. He draws motivation from his memories of teaching Clara how to walk up the steps of his mansion and finally takes those first stilted steps. The victory emboldens Cliff to ask about his family. He believe they deserve to know he is alive. Chief responds with a recording of Cliff that he used to replicate his voice. The tape holds all the answers.
The recording is of a voicemail Cliff left to his wife after the his final race. It turns out that Cliff didn’t actually crash during the race. He actually won the race and knocked out his crew chief before returning to his affair with Clara’s nanny. Cliff begins to feel guilt over his actions that night and calls to reconcile with his wife. He picks his family up, ready to start over, when he crashes into semi-truck. Cliff was the only survivor. The recollection sends Cliff into a tailspin across two decades where his only therapeutic outlet is constructing a massive slot car race track in his room. He finally finds some solace after meeting Crazy Jane, another resident with 64 different personalities. After an rocky initial meeting with Jane’s confrontational Hammerhead persona, the two bond over their loss of normalcy with Cliff comforting Jane in the rain.
Downtown Day Trip
Chief’s departure for a business trip gives the crew an opportunity to let loose. Jane’s idea of rebellion is to paint Larry’s bus/greenhouse jet black and convince the others to take their first trip into town in a very long time. Larry initially resists but ultimately joins them at the request of Rita. They split up to explore downtown Cloverton with Rita going to a diner, Larry going to a bar and Cliff and Jane reliving Cliff’s tradition of buying Clara a birthday present. Jane presses Cliff to question what Chief told Cliff about Clara, but he crushes her phone when she pushes the subject too hard.
The bar patrons’ piercing stares remind Larry of his experience hiding his homosexuality in the 1960s, causing his negative energy to begin manifesting. A waitress’ memories of watching Rita’s films with her father embolden Rita, but she loses focus and form when the waitress brings up rumors of Rita doing pornographic films. This ultimately causes Rita to be reduced to blob form, shattering the diner’s windows before spilling into the streets.
Jane and Cliff watch the chaos unfold as Hammerhead gets them in hot water with the cops. Larry rushes to help but he collapses as his energy rushes from his body. Rita lurches down Main Street, leaving car wrecks and explosions in her wake. She moves closer toward a school bus full of children when Cliff rushes into action. He rips a chunk of the street out of the ground and uses it to stop Rita. The momentary pause allows her to regroup herself somewhat and the group make a hasty exit, leaving more than enough for the nightly news in their wake.
Chief returns to town to see the destruction, but is more concerned by the presence of a donkey on Cloverton’s streets. He returns to the manor, lashing out at the group for their carelessness. Their actions caused more damage than just a super-sized pothole. Chief stresses that they need to leave town as their fun run summoned a cataclysmic evil to Cloverton. Cliff has other matters on the mind, however, and confronts Chief about lying about Clara’s death. Chief defends his actions, expressing that he was simply protecting Cliff from his daughter’s rejection. He quickly reverts back to the need to flee but Cliff believes they should stay and defend the town. Everyone else leaves with Chief.
Cliff walks alone toward town as they drive away, but the team has a change of heart and turns around to join him on foot. Chief, still believing they should run, stays behind on the bus. He isn’t alone though as Mr. Nobody appears behind him, beckoning to their shared knowledge of Nobody’s origins in Paraguay. Nobody opens a vortex that begins sucking in all of downtown Cloverton as the Doom Patrol stand frozen in shock. They are truly doomed.
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