Doom Patrol Has Had the Strangest DC Canon Journey

Going into its final episodes, Doom Patrol is the ultimate example of how chaotic DC storytelling onscreen has been.

Diane Guerrero, Brendan Fraser in Doom Patrol season 4.
Photo: Zac Popik | Max

All good things must end, and that axiom rings especially true for the quirky, fan-favorite Max original series Doom Patrol. The show releases the second half of its fourth and final season this October, with six brand-new episodes after a nine-month mid-season hiatus that began this past January. Adapting the DC Comics’ superhero team of the same name created by Arnold Drake, Bob Haney, and Bruno Premiani, Doom Patrol has leaned into the most absurd possibilities of the genre, combined with the heartbreak that comes with being transformed into a misfit hero through horrifically weird science.

However, more than just examining the peculiarities of being a superhero, Doom Patrol has the bizarre distinction of being a program caught between shuffling streaming platforms, confusing shared universe connections, all while trying to tell its own story across four seasons. And frankly, for a team as unorthodox and weird as the Doom Patrol is, these creative and logistical challenges feel right in the superheroes’ wheelhouse. Here’s how Doom Patrol burst onto the scene, how they rode the rollercoaster of changing corporate streaming strategies, and managed to stick the landing, against all odds.

Where Does Doom Patrol Even Fit in the DC Canon?

Doom Patrol began not as its own show but as a spinoff from the DC Universe original series Titans, receiving a backdoor pilot episode in the fourth episode of Titans season 1. Titans established that Beast Boy was part of the Doom Patrol, saved and brought in by that team’s benefactor Niles Caulder, when he was child. Development began on Doom Patrol to receive its own series, presumably set in the same continuity as Titans, but the spinoff eventually was set in its own standalone canon. There were plans for the Doom Patrol to reappear in the Titans season 1 finale to assist Beast Boy against Trigon, explaining the discrepancy by transporting themselves through an extra-dimensional portal to arrive in Titans’ universe, but plans for the season finale changed drastically and the Doom Patrol’s inclusion was scrapped completely.

The DCTV crossover event “Crisis on Infinite Earths,” unfolding across DC’s programming on The CW, clarified that Titans takes place on Earth-9 while Doom Patrol takes place in the alternate universe of Earth-21. The lingering question of how the two shows connect, given the Doom Patrol’s appearance in Titans season 1, is resolved in the fourth and final season of Titans. Through the season, Beast Boy experiences flashbacks as he taps into a life force connecting all animal life in the multiverse, known as the Red. Through these flashbacks, he learns Caulder was drawn to his power source as part of his longtime search for immortality and recovered Beast Boy.

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Through the Red, Beast Boy reunites with the Doom Patrol, meeting Cyborg, who hadn’t been with the team while he was with them years ago. The Doom Patrol helps send Beast Boy and his fellow displaced Titan Starfire back to their home universe of Earth-9 before continuing their own adventures on Earth-21, paving the way for Doom Patrol to enjoy its own series finale.

All the Changing Streaming Platforms

When Doom Patrol premiered in 2019, it was part of DC Studios’ premium streaming and digital comic reading platform DC Universe, which had launched the preceding year. As DC’s parent company WarnerMedia launched its own premium streaming service HBO Max in 2020, DC Universe series were co-produced and co-distributed through HBO Max, with Doom Patrol affected by this change starting with its second season. By early 2021, the streaming division of DC Universe was disbanded entirely, becoming a strictly digital comics platform, with the service’s original television series absorbed by HBO Max, including Doom Patrol.

As Doom Patrol’s third season and the first half of its fourth season ran on HBO Max, there would be one last change in platform before the show signed off for good. During the mid-season break for its final season, HBO Max rebranded in May 2023, shortening the name of the new platform simply to Max. When it’s all said and done, Doom Patrol will have aired on three different streaming services during its initial run, not counting foreign markets it was licensed to, like the British service StarzPlay and Australian service Binge.

Sticking the Landing

As DC Studios has prepared for its new direction under co-CEOs Peter Safran and James Gunn, many of the DCTV programs that ran concurrently with Doom Patrol have since come to an end. With the exception of Superman & Lois, which is also set in its own continuity, The CW’s extensive DC programming block has since been canceled. The DC shows that initially were on DC Universe with Doom PatrolTitans, Swamp Thing, Young Justice: Outsiders, Stargirl – have all already ended. Only the animated Harley Quinn remains to outlive Doom Patrol as it nears its series finale this November.

Simply put, the end of Doom Patrol truly feels like the end of an era for DC television adaptations that once flourished numerous channels and streaming platforms. But amidst all the behind-the-scenes restructuring and corporate politics, it’s a wonder that a show as quirky and wonderfully wacky as Doom Patrol survived as long as it did, much less that it survived long enough to end its story on its own terms. In an era where it feels like streamers drop shows on a moment’s notice, that’s certainly a victory in itself. The Doom Patrol is the biggest misfit superhero team on television but, for four glorious seasons, it got to hold its own against the most popular kids in school. Class dismissed.

The first two episodes of Doom Patrol season 4 part 2 are available to stream on Max now. New episodes premiere Thursdays culminating with the series finale on Nov. 9.

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