After weeks of teasing the appearance of Gar Logan (Ryan Potter), Titans finally introduced him properly this week within his proper context — as a facet of the Doom Patrol. But moreover than a simple explanation for the character, the episode, also titled “Doom Patrol,” offers a glimpse into what to expect from the Doom Patrol series next year. And if their own show is as delightful as their appearance here, Doom Patrol will be the most anticipated new superhero show of 2019.
Picking up from the last week’s explosive finale, Rachel (Teagan Croft) finds her way into the forest, where she runs into Gar. He reveals himself as a shape-changer and, after dealing with some drunk hunters, he invites her back to Caulder Manor, where he lives with an odd assortment of friends. There’s Cliff Steele (voiced by Brendan Fraser), a human man stuck inside a robot which gives him great strength and durability, but robs him of vital senses like smell and taste, and Larry Trainor (voiced by Matt Bomer), a former test pilot permanently wrapped in bandages to contain his negatively-charged form. While Rachel’s first encounter with Cliff is tinged with menace, Larry is more than happy to entertain an unexpected dinner guest. And at dinner Rachel meets the fourth member of the odd Caulder Manner family: Rita Farr (April Bowlby), a former Hollywood star whose exposure to unusual gasses left her body freakishly malleable and elastic. Unfortunately, it requires a great deal of effort — and caloric intake — for her to maintain a human appearance.
Oh, then there’s Dr. Niles Caulder, but more on him in a moment.
The four introduce something key for the purposes of their own series which also offers something important to Titans going forward: the notion of family. From the moment Gar and Cliff argue about Rachel’s presence, the dynamic is surprisingly warm and intimate. The group are already bonded and we see them caring for one another in both subtle and obvious ways. Larry seems quite happy to make dinner while Cliff’s worry about Rachel comes off, ultimately, as an older brother’s attempt to follow the rules. Even Rita’s initial reticence to engage with the group before dinner suggests a desire to spare the others a certain emotional labor as much as her own insecurities about her disfigurement. And while it sets up character beats Doom Patrol will follow-up on, it reminds Rachel of a time before her own struggles and something to work toward.
It also contrasts with the rest of the Titans. From Dick’s (Brenton Thwaites) trauma to Kory’s (Anna Diop) amnesia to Rachel’s fears about herself, the three are all very much alone. None of them seem ready for the sort of dinner scene the Doom Patrol presumably engages in nightly. But perhaps by seeing how this motley assortment formed a family unit, Rachel can see a way to unite her own odd troop. Having Gar around can only aid this endeavor should she choose to try.
And it seems like the show is going in that direction. Dick addressed his error and sought forgiveness from Rachel; an important step in building a team dynamic. While still not a leader in the traditional television sense, there is now room for Dick to grow into someone more capable. It is no accident the episode concludes with the four of them driving off in his car while the remaining Doom Patrol members look on. Even the Chief watches them leave in his isolation.
But if there is one off-note here, it is Bruno Bichir’s take on Caulder. While the character’s duplicitous nature has been a long-standing trait, Bichir telegraphs the doctor’s questionable methods from his first moment. Consequently, the warmth he should have toward Gar and the others is in short supply as he seems more interested in experimenting on Rachel than anything else. When Doom Patrol debuts next year, Bichir will be replaced with Timothy Dalton, who will hopefully bring a bit more shading to the character. Though a bastard, he is capable of caring about the team and inspiring devotion in them.
So with the four Titans properly united at last, it is time to dive headlong into Rachel’s issue and solve the problem. Unless, of course, something else gets in there way.
Titans streams Fridays on DC Universe.