There are two things I love in a story about metahumans/inhumans/otherwise-powered individuals: when the characters are allowed to be messy and make mistakes, and when they are queer as hell. Max’s Doom Patrol lets its characters be both, and I can’t believe it’s taken me until the second half of its final season to find it.
In my defense, too often in TV, if a show is gay, it’s either for the boys or the girls, which is both reductive and not how the world works. But still, it has been a pattern that if a show has a gay man in its main cast, the odds of a queer woman or nonbinary person in the main cast is low, and vice versa. So when I heard Matt Bomer was a gay mummy in Doom Patrol, I figured this wasn’t the show for me. I was wrong!
Not only is Doom Patrol a delightful shit show from the jump, but eventually we learn that Diane Guerrero‘s character Jane is also queer.
If you’ve been missing out on this show, let me give you a quick rundown of the plot. A group of unlikely heroes and absolute screw-ups band together to solve various mysteries, and attempt to be something almost like heroes. There is Jane, who has 64 personalities, all of whom have their own unique powers. Rita, aka Elasti-Woman, an ex-movie star who turns into a blob when she loses control of her emotions. Cliff, a former race car driver who is a brain in a robot suit. Larry Trainer, a military pilot who has a space creature made of energy; together they’re called Negative Man. And Vic Stone aka Cyborg who was a proper junior member of the Justice League before he fell in with this crowd.
The show reminds me a lot of the Harley Quinn animated series in that it’s funny and irreverent and wacky while also having a lot of heart — plus it features all kinds of deep cuts from the DC comic book universe.
And I cannot express to you that when I say wacky as hell, I mean it. I’m talking giant clowns, a clock-headed man, and zombie butts. Yes, you read that correctly. ZOMBIE BUTTS.
One of my favorite “this is very hard to explain out of context” recurring things on Doom Patrol is Danny, a sentient, teleporting, genderqueer street. They are literally a street, and talk to people visiting them via signs and banners, and they are a safe space for marginalized people. The residents of Danny the Street are called Danizens and one such resident is a drag queen named Maura Lee Karupt. Everyone uses they/them pronouns for Danny the Street, and Danny does their best to protect the Danizens, while Maura Lee Karupt welcomes newcomers with open arms and very high heels. This street is so wonderful that Larry, who loves to torture himself about being gay even though none of his peers care, and who I will remind you is Matt Bomer, imagines a song-and-dance sequence to “People Like Us” by Kelly Clarkson.
Eventually Danny the Street becomes an ambulance, but that is neither here nor there; no matter what sentient inanimate object Danny is, they remain one of my favorite characters whenever they show up.
Another bit of queerness that surprised me: Cliff’s daughter, Clara, who he thought was dead until she was grown, gets married to and has a baby with another woman, Mel. Cliff rekindles his relationship with Clara, and is very supportive of her and Mel. He tries to be there for them and the baby, having to fight against his natural instincts to fuck everything up along the way.
And then there’s Jane. Jane is not the original name of the body she is hosted in, but she is the main protector of “the child” (Kay) whose father’s sexual assault is what created her multiple personalities in the first place. A science experiment gone wrong gave all those personalities powers, except Jane, including Hammerhead who is extra angry and extra strong, Lucy Fugue who has powers of electricity, Flit who can teleport anywhere, Silver Tongue who can literally weaponize words, and Baby Doll, a childlike alter who has telekinetic abilities.
These personalities all live in the Underground, where they are all played by different actors, but in the “real world,” all of these personalities are portrayed by Diane Guerrero and it is unreal to watch. She is beyond talented, and even before they started using special effects to better differentiate between personalities, it was easy to tell who she was portraying at any given moment. In fact, even when Miranda, an alter very similar to Jane in demeanor, was fronting — and even Jane’s friends had a hard time being able to tell — the subtle differences were there in the way Diane Gurerro held herself. (What I mean by special effects is, in the first season, when Baby Doll would front she would, for example, put her hair in pigtails while she was out, but eventually they had it so when someone else took over for Jane, her body would change too, instant pigtails for Baby Doll, a tattoo for Hammerhead, etc. I told you this show was wacky!)
In Season Three, we meet a character called Shelley Byron, also known as The Fog. She is played by Wynn Everett, who I personally fell in love with during Agent Carter when she was Whitney Frost, but you might also know her from Teenage Bounty Hunters. Shelley and Jane are flirting the first time they meet, and this throws Jane off. She’s spent her entire existence making sure Kay was happy and safe and hadn’t considered living a life for herself. At one point Shelley, as The Fog, even envelops her and they have a very DC sexual experience. Jane says she liked it and that no one has ever been that gentle with her. She feels a little guilty, but Kay reassures her that it’s okay. (Also this Fog came through a puzzle piece from a puzzle Jane has been trying to figure out for many episodes now.)
Jane tries, she does, but even after another very flirty meetup in a candy shop within The Fog, Jane can’t quite bring herself to kiss Shelley. On one hand, she’s ready, on the other, she’s not sure she deserves to be loved. Cliff points out that part is not on her — if someone loves her, it doesn’t matter if she thinks she deserves it or not. It doesn’t make it any less true.
And that leads us to the final batch of episodes that started dropping last week, Season 4b. The Doom Patrol is on a quest to get their longevity back and stop an apocalyptic-level event in the process. New to this season is a character named Casey, who is a comic book character come to life. (Not in the way the rest of them are also comic book characters come to life… this is an in-universe comic book character come to life… very meta.) Casey, played by Madeline Zima, tries to make herself useful around Doom Manor, and tidies Jane’s room a bit. This includes sorting Jane’s puzzle pieces by color. Previously, this puzzle was a pile of colorless pieces that all looked the same to Jane; no edge pieces, no corner pieces, no way to figure out how to put it together. The only one she ever found that was different was the one Shelley seemed to be peering through. So the fact that Casey can see the colors of Jane’s puzzle feels… significant. Not to mention, at one point when Jane got stuck in the Underground, she turned around and saw Casey there too.
I have no idea if there’s a gay reason for this or a different reason entirely, but it is intriguing.
I really like the juxtaposition between everyone’s queerness on this show. Larry struggles with it because of the time period he was living in pre-space accident. He chose to stay in the closet and marry a woman instead of being with his military boyfriend and he holds a lot of regret about it. But he also regrets never going back to his family after his accident, assuming they wouldn’t accept him. Meanwhile, Danny is a genderqueer street where every month is Pride month. And then there’s Jane, who is struggling with her attraction to Shelley, not because Shelley is a woman (it’s also not because she’s a Fog) but because Jane, Kay, and their family of alters have been through a lot of trauma. They’re having a hard time moving past it in a way that will allow Jane to be open to a real, meaningful relationship with someone else. It’s a beautiful spectrum of queerness displayed across this strange, wonderful land; amidst time travel and sex ghosts and horsehead oracles and did I mention the zombie butts?
I regret being so late to Doom Patrol, but I’m glad I’m here now. I can’t wait to see what gay direction it goes in for this last batch of episodes.