The menacing villain Red Jack

Doom Patrol never feels like a superhero show. Though its cast of characters features misfit heroes that constantly question themselves as to whether or not they’re actually heroes, Doom Patrol is a wonderfully psychedelic series that weaves action and adventure into a emotionally and surprisingly compelling tale about the complicated lives of its protagonists. With three seasons to boot, Doom Patrol remains rebelliously unapologetic for constantly subverting viewer expectations with avant-garde finesse.

Each member of Doom Patrol suffers a seemingly unexplained, horrible accident that leads them to acquire superhero abilities. The group consists of Robotman aka Cliff Steele (portrayed by Brenden Fraser), Negative Man aka Larry Trainor (Matt Bomer), Elasti-Woman aka Rita Farr (April Bowlby), Crazy Jane (Diane Guerrero), and Cyborg aka Vic Stone (Joivan Wade). Each hero was left scarred or partially disfigured, but were saved by modern-day mad scientist Dr. Miles Caulder (Timothy Dalton). As leader of the Doom Patrol, Caulder and the others live together in Doom Manor. The show begins with the Doom Patrol reluctantly leaving Doom Manor in search for Caulder, who disappeared.

In two words, the best way to describe Doom Patrol is controlled chaos. Heroes will often meet strange, eccentric characters as they travel through unique, ever-changing worlds, alternate realities and dimensions as part of an ongoing mission that lasts throughout the entire season. At one point in Doom Patrol, heroes will stumble upon Danny, a sentient genderqueer street that hosts people who aren’t accepted by society – a colorful, living embodiment of hope and acceptance that helps give the heroes a much-needed push to achieve their goals. And Crazy Jane, who has multiple personalities – each with their own set of superhero powers – must maintain the Underground where all her personalities reside. While the Underground may be the internal representation of Jane’s mind, it’s also a vast world of its own with a series of connected innerworlds that are accessed by Jane through disassociation.

Elasti-Woman tries to reach for a brush.

But Crazy Jane isn’t the only hero to endure such mental turmoil. Robotman was formerly a famous race car driver who got into a car accident. He was saved by Caulder, who salvaged his brain and placed it in a robotic body. Negative Man is a former Air Force pilot who crashed his test plane after being exposed to a Negative Spirit, a mysterious form of highly radioactive energy, in the upper reaches of Earth’s atmosphere. The Negative Spirit forces Negative Man to confront his past as a closeted gay man and trauma associated with a family who previously thought he died in the crash. Elasti-Woman was an actress who was exposed to a toxic gas, which caused her body’s cellular structure to stretch and deform. Elasti-Woman comes across as narcissistic and stuck dwelling on her past fame, but her behavior is revealed to be a coping mechanism for childhood trauma and sins she committed throughout her life. Cyborg is a vigilante crime-fighter whose body was augmented with advanced technology by his father after surviving an explosion in her mother’s lab. He struggles with the fact that his father transformed him into a “monster,” depriving him of having a normal life.

Every character struggles with their inner turmoil and pain. While that aspect of Doom Patrol may be dour for some, the emotional payoffs the show constantly leans towards are consistently gratifying before it gets too grating. Heroes are forced to reckon with ridiculously gonzo predicaments and forced to reconcile with their personal and existential dilemmas before they work together and accomplish their objective. Villains will come and go, but they serve as effective set pieces that help the characters propel forward in uniquely over-the-top and satisfying ways. Viewers are taken on a wild, colorful rollercoaster ride full of emotions, twists, and oddly relatable truths.

Doom Patrol is one of the best shows on streaming television due to its willingness to be bold in subverting the superhero genre and turning it into an immersive dramedy that aspires to get wonderfully wilder with every season.

Doom Patrol is available to stream exclusively on HBO MAX