Pilot Light: Umbrella Academy and Doom Patrol pilot episodes reviewed!
Welcome to a new segment called Pilot Light, where I review and rate the debut of a series' first episode and predict how it may fare overall.
To get things started, we have not one, but two brand new Superhero ensemble shows, that premiered during the weekend of February 15th Umbrella Academy and DC's Doom Patrol! Although both series are unrelated, there is that commonality that sorta binds one another especially when compared to the X-Men films. So, let's see whether or not these two shows are "super" or not.
Based on a comic series from publisher, Dark Horse, Umbrella Academy entails
seven children, who were miraculously birthed without any explanation, yet acquired superhuman powers and under the tutelage of their adopted "Father" Sir Reginald Hargreeves. the seven, use their powers for goodwill and to prevent a plan to send humanity back to the "Stone age"!
The first episode titled "We only meet at Weddings and Funerals"was a decent introductory piece and despite this episode being weighed down by dialogue, I enjoyed the flashback fight sequence that harkens back to 2003's X2 X-Men United. As a matter of fact, this show is very identical to Marvel's iconic Mutants, there's your mind control specialist as in Professor X, Luther who's probably as big and strong as Colossus and even a kid who can not only teleport like Nightcrawler but is capable of time travel despite the fact that he's 58 years old now.
I guess it's no coincidence why Ellen Page was cast in UA since she was mostly known for playing Kitty Pryde in that abomination called X3. Yeah, Juno sucked as well and Super was overrated especially compared to Kick Ass but that's neither here or there. The irony is that her character, Vanya, has no powers and in her father, Reggie's eyes, was the " 5th Beatle of the family".
The cinematography during the prologue i.e. has its merits and to some extent, reminded me of those Blackstar videos by the late David Bowie. But the overall tone makes a nice contrast to DC Universe's Titans but without the profane language or superficial violence.
The producers manage to throw in some licensed tunes during a few action scenes as this concept is still fresh after all these years starting with Blade, Kick Ass, Black Lighting and a few other Superhero projects.
Colm Fiore (Amazing Spiderman 2, The Chronicles of Riddick) plays the often-detached Hargreeves who sees his 7 "Children" as nothing more than living, breathing pitre dishes and he's somewhat the center of this episode due to his unexpected departure, being the catalyst for bringing the long separated family reunited.
While I was introduced to each member that regardless of their normal names, like Diego, Luther, Vanya, Ben, Allison. Klaus they are also referred by numbers like Number Five. (Who has doesn't have a real name.) and of course, distinct bearing personas from one another. there's that
silly dancing scene,“I Think We’re Alone Now,” (I'm looking at you, Klaus!) that lost my me for a second and in my opinion, it wasn't needed unless Netflix needed a few minutes to fill in the 60-minute pilot. With that said, Umbrella Academy has plenty of potential and now that Netflix has cancelled all the Marvel shows, this might be able to fill in some gaps.
After the success of Titans, DC shows no signs of slowing down thanks to another series follow up-Doom Patrol which made its leap from comics, an animated segment to their live action introduction courtesy of Titan's episode titled "Doom Patrol" chronicling the misadventures of five individuals who are Metahumans by fate or more like unhappy accidents!
As with Titans, the tone of this series, is full on R rated! There’re more F bombs dropped than the invasion of Kuwait and as if that wasn't enough, there's a somewhat graphic sex scene where someone’s buttocks are exposed, leading to a hilarious bait and switch tactic!
The story of Pilot, is sarcastically narrated by Eric Morden/Mr.Nobody,(Alan Turdyk) starting with Clifford Steele (Brandon Fraiser), a NASCAR Driver who is very arrogant as he is adulterous. Ol Cliffy is gravely injured in what seems to be an unfortunate accident during the speedway tracks and decades later is resurrected thanks to Dr. Niles Caulder AKA The Chief (Timothy Dalton of Flash Gordon and License to Kill), with most of his body consisting of machine parts, ergo the name Robotman. The supporting characters have a short albeit satisfactory origin story told via flashbacks other than that, the story itself is a self-contained narrative about this dysfunctional family.
Anyone who is familiar with either Marvel's Deathlok or 1987's Robocop, won't be surprised with Cliff feeling a sense of hopelessness after losing most of his human parts, however the overall template behind Robotman and the other members' arc, is the coping mechanisms and how to adapt in a world that may see them as mere freaks.
Rounding out the cast is April Bowlby as 1950's Actress Rita Farr now known as Elasta Girl, (self-explanatory) Matt Bomer as Negative Man, an ace pilot with a little secret and Crazy Jane (Diane Guerrero from Orange Is the New Black), who get this, has 64 multiple personalities with each persona having superhuman powers!
Judging from the first episode aptly named "Pilot", I think Doom Patrol will be another success for DC's streaming service since the premiere of Titans. The adult subject matter is up to standards without the need to come off "edgy", while the performances of, Dalton, Guerrero, Bomer and especially Fraiser were excellent and in certain ways, the pilot may be a hint of great things to come within the DC continuity. In short, Doom Patrol gives us the series we didn't ask for, but one we deserve!
Fans of X-Men and comic fans will find familiarity between both series due to recurring themes of alienation, outcasts and acceptance. It’s good to know that there are two high in quality Superhero ensemble entrees and although Doom Patrol is the superior series, I highly recommend both.
Either way, whichever series you may prefer, you can’t go wrong!
Umbrella Academy is available through Netflix
Doom Patrol can be found at DC Universe's streaming service for $9.99 a month or $75.00 annually.