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Welcome back to The Hollywood Reporter‘s weekly DC TV Watch, a rundown of all things DC Comics on the small screen. Every Saturday, we round up the major twists, epic fights, new mysteries and anything else that goes down on The CW’s Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, Supergirl and Black Lightning. But in this Friday special edition column, we’re focusing on the DC Universe streaming service Doom Patrol as it wraps up its first season. All 15 episodes are currently streaming now.
Doom Patrol season one finale
What does a swarm of cannibalistic butts, a sentient gender queer street, an entire block of people orgasming at the same time because a metahuman flexed the wrong muscle and Matt Bomer karaoking with drag queens have in common? They’re all just small, throwaway moments that happened over the course of one season of Doom Patrol, the second live-action drama on the DC Universe streaming service. Tonally opposite from Titans (the debut series on the service), Doom Patrol found its niche seemingly by asking, “What’s the most random, wild and weird thing that can happen next?” combined with comic book action. And the season one finale, streaming now, raised the stakes by having a giant rat make out with a giant cockroach, all so a robot could jump from the rat’s stomach down the throat of the cockroach to joyride with the rest of the antihero-superhero team as a radiated mummy tore a hole through another dimension, escaping the painting they were all trapped inside.
Yeah, it’s even weirder than it sounds. But it somehow also works within the scope of the Doom Patrol comic book source material from which showrunner Jeremy Carver pulled throughout the first season. A self-professed newcomer to comics, Carver made it his mission to make the Doom Patrol series as weird as its characters, knowing that it would work as long as he didn’t make those wacky elements the focus of the show — it would actually live and die on the deeper character arcs. The end result? The weirdest comic book series yet.
“Looking at the source material and looking at the freedom and support that the studio and the streaming service gave us, it was our intention to take these big risks, and the more big swings that we successfully took only motivated us to swing even harder,” Carver tells The Hollywood Reporter. “The biggest swing of all for me was finding a way to make a very big, absurd and crazy world also be grounded in character. How we never lost sight of that is what I’m most proud of. For all the craziness, it was always character first. But we did take very much a ‘smoke-em-if-you-got-em’ approach to the season, you know what I mean? We held nothing back and put trust in the writing and the crew and the actors to pull it off and we did.”
Below, THR spoke with Carver about ending season one with the Doom Patrol team meeting The Chief’s (Timothy Dalton) daughter Dorothy Spinner (a major character from the comics), where a potential second season could go, moments that almost didn’t work and more.
After everything that happened to the team throughout the first season, why end the finale with the introduction of Niles’ daughter Dorothy? I know she’s a major player on the Doom Patrol team in the comics, but this is a much younger version.
At the end of the day, she is the rationale of everything that happened to our team. However one feels about Niles Caulder, at the end of the season, [we find out] he did it out of love — although it may have been a twisted version of love and it was something that definitely got away from him as we saw in the finale. We decided to end with her because we knew we wanted to bring her in to the fray in a potential season two, having the team live in proximity with this girl who is the reason or the excuse for them being what they are yet she is only a little girl and she is not actually responsible for her father’s actions and she is potentially the most powerful of any of them and how they have to deal with that. And we’ll see if any of that is able to bridge the divide between The Chief and his lies and the team.
Mr. Nobody’s (Alan Tudyk) narration was such an integral part of the first season — but looking at where that Big Bad ended up by the end of the finale, is Mr. Nobody still going to be a major part of this show moving forward?
I can’t comment much beyond what you see now as we’re still working that all out. As we left it at the end, Mr. Nobody and the Beard Hunter [Tommy Snider] are presumably alive and very much still trapped inside that painting. What comes next, we’re still figuring out.
Every single episode throughout the first season took so many wild risks when it came to the plot, even in small throwaway moments like the swarm of butts attacking an underground government facility. But was there ever a moment where you worried that you were going too far or too over the top, or you weren’t going to be able to make something work?
The show demanded thinking big. The canvas of the show demands that. Inherently you’re talking about a band of weirdos who are doing things that they are solely suited to do, so you need to have the weirdness equal to their weirdness. There were plenty of times where we did something and we weren’t sure if the execution was being pulled off. The butts, for example — well, that actually came off pretty well (laughs). The orgasm scene, there were some calls for us to shorten that, literally cut that sequence in half. We thought the real fun of the moment was actually making it go on almost painfully long and playing off the response that Flex [Devan Long] had.
In the finale, Cliff [Brendan Fraser] going into the belly of a kaiju rat and having his journey in the belly of whale arc, we really didn’t know how we were going to pull that absurd, crazy moment off. At first we thought it was going to be a CG creation, a digital Cliff inside a digital belly. Relatively late in the process we decided, “You know, let’s go for it! Let’s actually build the belly of a giant rat where Cliff is sitting in stomach acid.” And the production designer went for it. Suffice to say he had never designed the innards of a rat before. He came up with this idea and it came off spectacularly well. We didn’t know if we’d be able to pull that one off, building the stomach lining of a rat, because it’s such an odd thing to request and have to build on a TV timeline. But we did! (laughs) It was what, 75 percent accurate? Who knows, really?! Every episode had some great challenge that our production team just jumped at and no one ever said can’t, it was always finding a way to do it. For that, I was eternally grateful.
What lessons did you learn throughout the making of season one that you’re going to apply to season two if Doom Patrol gets renewed?
The lesson is go for it. (laughs) Really! And trust the viewer. We tried to give them a little bit of a comic book experience in that we didn’t over explain, sometimes we even under-explained things. We didn’t get caught up in the procedural, the how the hell did that happen or things like that. We tried not to bog down on those beats and really play on how all these things played upon their characters and emotions. So just trust the audience and trust the decades of comics of Doom Patrol that are out there. And to keep on trusting that no matter how insane or absurd or heightened things are, character wins the day — at least in the Doom Patrol.
You weren’t well-versed in comics before this show and you definitely did your research, but what was the balance of DC telling you what you had to include in the show vs. what you wanted the story to be?
The only thing we were asked to do in the beginning was see if we could find a way to make a show that included these four members of the Doom Patrol and find a way to integrate Cyborg [Jovian Wade] into that group. Literally that’s what was handed to us and those were the only things that were asked of us. After that, it was all myself and the writers picking what we wanted from the comics, expanding on it, adding our own twists, coming up with new things and finding a way to make the last 67 years of comics work with our ideas of what would be good TV. For me personally, it was about letting these actors shine through character and backstory and pathos and trusting them.
Speaking of Cyborg, many fans expected to see him in Titans because he’s a member of the Teen Titans in the comics. Do you envision him being a part of the Doom Patrol team for as long as the show goes, or will he migrate to Titans or another DC Universe series at some point in the future?
That’s a very hard question for me to answer in terms of the future. I’m not the god of the DC Universe, I only have my one little corner, which is Doom Patrol. When I heard I had the opportunity to make Cyborg work with this Doom Patrol, it was a lot of fun and an exciting chance to tell a take on Cyborg’s backstory, as this pre-Justice League guy. Where does that intersection between true superhero and just damaged metahumans who aren’t heroes? I would love to use Cyborg for as long as we can use him to tell that story.
Doom Patrol has not yet been renewed for a second season. All 15 episodes are currently streaming on DC Universe.
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