- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Here’s a look at a pair of excellent episodic shows from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment now available in the Blu-ray format.

Snowpiercer: The Complete First Season (Rated: TV-MA, 1.78:1 aspect ratio, 440 minutes, $29.98) — TNT’s popular post-apocalyptic, sci-fi series debuts on the Blu-ray format to offer bingers a chance to catch up on the first 10 episodes of the show before diving into the currently broadcast second season.

Reimagined from director Bong Joon-ho’s 2013 movie and the 1982 French graphic novel, the show offers an adventure in class warfare in the most claustrophobic way possible.

Specifically, well-meaning scientists accidentally unleash an ice age as they tried to curb the heating of the planet setting off an extinction event.

Luckily, mysterious billionaire Wilford builds a train with a perpetual-motion engine to circle the planet and keep only the most-deserving and wealthy of humans alive.

That translates into 3,000 survivors stuck on a 10-mile-long, 1,001-car train divided by classes — first (for high-priced, paid passengers); second and third classes (for those with specialized skill sets to keep the train running and passengers fed); and a final group who illegally hijacked some of the rear cars of the train.

Led by Andre Layton (Daveed Diggs) and disrespectfully called tailers, they are treated with disdain and nearly slave status by the other passengers. Of course, Layton and his rebel survivors want more and hatch a plot to take control of the Snowpiercer.

A wrinkle to the plan occurs when Head of Hospitality Melanie Cavill (Jennifer Connelly) asks Layton to come up the train and wear his former Detroit homicide detective hat to solve a series of murders.

They form a bond that will ultimately decide the fate of humanity as well as reveal who is really in charge of the Snowpiercer.

I defy any viewer to not often bite their fingernails to the nub after watching what starts out as a dystopian version of “Murder on the Orient Express” and eventually evolves into a graphically violent and bloody expose on a class revolution.

Suffice it to report, sci-fi junkies, it’s time to board the “Snowpiercer.”

Best extras: A collection of four promotional featurettes (roughly 12 minutes total) offer the barest of surface information about the series with talking head gushing from crew and cast including director James Hawes, showrunner Graeme Manson, Miss Connelly and Mr. Diggs. 

Only a six-minute look at some of the key train cars (first-class dining, night car, classroom and the drawers for example) explored by production designer Barry Robison delivers some meaty background for new fans.

The extras should have been so much more. An optional commentary track on any of the episodes would have been nice or, better yet, a look at the adaptation of the series based on the original source material.

Doom Patrol: The Complete Second Season (Not rated, 2.20:1 aspect ratio, 405 minutes, $39.99) — HBO Max continued the mature, live-action adventures of DC Comics’ strangest superhero team adapted from their 1960s comic book roots as well as writer Grant Morrison’s updated group from the late 1980s.

The latest nine episodes of the show arrives via a pair of Blu-ray discs returning viewers to the Victorian-styled Doom Manor where they are reacquainted with former actress Rita Farr aka Elasti-Girl (April Bowlby); former NASCAR driver Cliff Steele aka Robotman (Brendan Fraser); former experimental aircraft pilot Larry Trainor aka Negative Man (Matt Bomer); Kay Challis aka multiple personality-loaded “Crazy” Jane (Diane Guerrero); Vic Stone aka Teen Titans’ Cyborg (Joivan Wade); and wheelchair-bound leader Dr. Niles Caulder aka “Chief” (Timothy Dalton).

The show thrives on simmering side plots that reveal the origins of the tragic Doom Patrol members as well as pitting them against some incredible villains.

This season, we learned about Chief’s mysterious daughter, the primate-faced Dorothy Spinner (Abigail Shapiro) and her monstrous imaginary friends now living with her in the mansion, Larry Trainor’s remaining family after he attends his 60-year-old son’s funeral and the horrors of Miss Farr’s childhood living with a showbiz mother.

Visually impressive, guest star villains, authentic from the comics, appear en masse to vex the Doom Patrol including interdimensional sadist Red Jack; premier time manipulator Dr. Tyme; the sex demon Shadowy Mr. Evans; and the star enemy of the season, the super-powered ancient deity Candlemaker, unleashed by Chief’s daughter.

And developers make sure to throw in even more comic book characters to thrill fans ranging from the return of heroic body builder Flex Mentallo to an introduction to space-traveling Pioneers of the Uncharted team member Valentina Vostok and even the Sex Men, a group of paranormal sexual phenomenon investigators who arrive to stop Shadowy Mr. Evans.

Yeah, the Sex Men really did show up in DC’s sequential art, specifically Doom Patrol No. 48 way back in 1991.

The show also loves to embrace pop culture chaos demonstrated in the irreverent fantasy sequence where Cyborg and Robotman appear in a 1970s cop show “Steel and Stone,” or the group throwing a 1980s disco party to restore a sentient, teleporting entity Danny, currently in the form of a shattered brick.

However, most tragic to the “Doom Patrol” was the pandemic-shortened season, down from the 15 episodes of the first season.

It not only forced writers to lose one episode of the slated 10-episode story arc, but fans must wait for a third season to further appreciate one of the best, albeit odd superhero shows on any broadcast or streaming mediums.

Best extras: Tragedy abounds with the pathetic selection of bonus content with viewers only get nine minutes on the impressive make-up and visual effects design and two minutes on shooting locations.

Extras for the first season set were just as miserable, and it would be great if next season’s set offered a definitive retrospective on the Doom Patrol’s origins or the occasional optional commentary track to enlighten viewers to some of the more complex stories.

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