REVIEW: Titans, S1E4 – Doom Patrol

If the first three episodes of Titans were on the whole a slow and steady progression towards a unified team, then “Doom Patrol” certainly follows that same vein by exploring Gar Logan’s (Ryan Potter, finally getting his chance to shine) backstory and letting him join forces with Rachel (Teagan Croft). But much like “Hawk and Dove” broke the narrative flow a bit to introduce characters who wouldn’t be immediately relevant to the plot, this week’s episode suffers from a similar problem in pacing.

Welcome to the family.

Not that Titans can be blamed too much for this issue, seeing as DC has been eager to introduce the world to the eponymous Doom Patrol team. And, to be honest, it isn’t a huge drawback for the episode because the new cast breathes life into the proceedings and the characters are all interesting in their own right. Rita the Elasti-Woman (April Bowlby), Cliff the Robotman (Brendan Fraser), Larry the Negative Man (Matt Bomer), and The Chief (Bruno Bichir) all make their entrances in the DC Universe this week, and they all manage to make an impression. The first three’s interactions with Gar and Rachel are full of humor and heart, and Bowlby’s Rita is particularly moving. This contrasts remarkably well with the unsettling nature of The Chief, seeing as the rest are equally grateful and afraid when it comes to him.

Furthermore, the show nicely dovetails their origin story with Beast Boy’s, cementing their importance to at least the backdrop of Titans while also providing a compelling tale of woe for Gar. We still don’t know how he became a shapeshifter, outside of a vague experiment gone wrong, but we see why he’s so indebted to The Chief and why he might be so desperate for new companionship. His connection to The Chief in particular is directly pitted against his budding friendship with Rachel when the former tries to make her one of his new experiments. The fight that breaks out over this reveals that the special effects may be the weakest part of the show at the moment, but it’s still a strong moment for the characters and their developing dynamic.

Gar was the most short-changed member of the quarter up to now, leaving many fans wondering what role he would be playing. Thankfully, “Doom Patrol” clears up those questions and gives Ryan Potter the chance to do more than be a minor source of comedic relief. The tradition of welcoming every Titans team member through their connection to Rachel remains intact, and the bond between these two kids in particular sets itself apart nicely. For once, Raven reckons with someone on her own level; a peer with the potential to be a friend rather than an adult vying for parent of the year. Not that this negates Dick (Brenton Thwaites) and Kory’s (Anna Diop) bond with her – in fact, there is another lovely scene between Dick and Rachel near the end – but it gives the foursome a layer that was previously missing.

Let’s hope Kory can help Dick chill out.

Speaking of Dick and Kory, they handle the ‘plot’ part of the episode – something which Titans is pretty light on this week. Basically, they are looking for Rachel because they’re afraid something terrible and demonic may happen now that she’s escaped the nuns’ confinement. But no matter what the end of the third episode may have made us this, Rachel is doing just fine after immediately running into an eager-to-help Gar. Admittedly, the tension is somewhat deflated by this revelation, but it allows Titans to explore the bickering dynamic between Dick and Kory with ease. They’re like parents who can’t decide how to best raise their kid, which sounds like a good summary of what’s to come given that they’ve adopted a second child into their makeshift family by the hour’s end.

It’s not all fun and games, though, especially when Dick’s darker side emerges once more. Gar and Rachel confronting a hunter on their way to Doom Patrol’s hideout early on, a moment which provides a glimpse of Rachel’s powers that she may not even know about, leads to an ugly showdown between said hunter and Dick later on. It is Kory who bears witness to Dick’s violent nature this time, and their conversation in the car afterwards suggest that this is a real issue Titans plans to deal with. Now it’s just a question of whether Rachel and Kory will have to tone their powers down to non-lethal levels as well, or if that’s just something Dick needs to do because he’s not superhuman. Once they actually find Rachel, “Doom Patrol” speeds up as if to make up for the slow pace, and it’s a little jarring due to how character-driven the rest of the episode is. Nevertheless, the final scene of all four Titans in one car is a blessing.

“Doom Patrol” is a great preview for the characters it introduces, peppered with memorable beats such as Clif tasting food vicariously through Rachel and Rita’s plastic melting, even if it feels a little extraneous. It further cements Rachel as the heart of the story but, perhaps most importantly, it also proves that Gar will be a valuable and lovable member of the team from here on out.

Titans drops every Friday on the DC Universe streaming service.