I have some pretty surprising news to share with you good folks today, Titans, on the DC UNIVERSE streaming service, is pretty fucking great. Of course, like many of you, I was skeptical going into this show. It seemed like the negative buzz began when the first trailer dropped (I kind of dug it). I really don’t mind dark and gritty, I also know that you can’t judge a project by it’s trailer. So, a lot of people hated this show before it even premiered, based on what they saw in promotional material and trailers. Many felt it seemed reminiscent of the overly serious and violent DCEU, excuse me, The Worlds of DC (good luck getting that to stick). Personally, I don’t dislike the recent DC superhero films nearly as much as most fans do. Besides their only real critical and commercial success, Wonder Woman, I really like Man of Steel and though it’s hugely flawed, I kind of love Batman V Superman.
So why was I skeptical about the Titans series? Despite my excitement at the prospect of an adult oriented live action Titans series, the word behind the scenes was that the show wasn’t very good. Then there were the costumes. If you’re a comic book fan and you’ve ever read Teen Titans, you would know that they have very distinct styles, with colorful and bright costumes. Some of the set photos had leaked online and the pictures I saw of Starfire, Raven, and Beast Boy in costume looked absolutely horrendous. Especially Starfire, who is one of my favorite Titans. The pictures of her costume made her like a hooker from the 1970’s. With all of that in mind, things didn’t look good for Titans.
Now Robin, on the other hand, was a different story. I love the Robin costume on this series. It isn’t an easy superhero uniform to pull off in live action. Just look at Batman Forever and Batman & Robin. Besides the atrocious version of Robin played by Chris O’Donnell in those films, this is the first time we’ve really seen Robin on screen in the golden age of superhero storytelling. It looked like Titans nailed the Robin uniform in my opinion. It looked functional, not too bright, not too dark, and frankly it was just cool. Plus, I thought Brenton Thwaites was a perfect pick for Dick Grayson/Robin/Nightwing. At the very least I liked what I’d seen from Dick Grayson in the show’s trailers. Which was a big deal for me because Dick has always been one of my favorite superheroes. So I was still holding out some hope that Titans could be a great show.
It certainly didn’t help that when I signed up for a 15 month subscription to the DC UNIVERSE streaming service, the app was terrible. It felt like it wasn’t nearly ready to be launched. I couldn’t log into my account, there wasn’t nearly enough content, the whole thing was a shit show. Even now, months later, I can’t log into DC UNIVERSE on any other device except for my tablet. That’s a big problem. I had to contact the team that handles customer service multiple times. As much as I hated the app, I still really wanted to see Titans. More importantly, Young Justice Season 3 premieres early next year on DC UNIVERSE after Titans Season 1 wraps up.
In spite of all the problems, I enjoyed the first episode of Titans. It didn’t blow me away, but I liked it. It certainly is not your classic version of the Teen Titans by any means, but it had enough going on to keep me interested.
The over arcing story of the season is about the Titans coming together to protect Raven from a cult, that is trying to unleash her demon father, Trigon, upon the Earth. The Raven stuff, especially in the early episodes, had a real Rosemary’s Baby/The Exorcist kind of vibe that worked really well. Raven is the character that really brings the team together in the story.
In the series, Dick Grayson left Gotham City to become a cop in Detroit after a massive falling out with Batman. The show manages to explore Dick‘s complicated relationship with Bruce Wayne, without actually having Batman present as a character. Seeing why Dick went out on his own and his character arc in general is by far my favorite part of the show.
You see how Batman was an incredibly violent and negative influence on Dick. Early on some people were concerned that the show seemed needlessly graphic. While Titans is an extremely brutal show, arguably even more so than something like Daredevil, the violence isn’t gratuitously used for shock value or edginess. The brutality is important to Dick Grayson’s story arc because you see just how close he came to losing himself under Bruce’s influence. Being Batman’s Robin brought out all of his worst instincts. This is most apparent in episode 6, “Jason Todd”, fittingly where we’re introduced to the new Robin, Jason Todd.
At this point, Dick certainly doesn’t have a very high opinion of Bruce. He more or less feels like Bruce Wayne just used him as a weapon, or tool in his war on crime. Meeting Jason just seems to confirm those beliefs. Despite the amount of time that’s passed, it’s still very raw emotionally for Dick. You can tell he hasn’t gotten over his issues from his time working with Batman. Meeting his replacement certainly doesn’t help. It’s one of several great passive aggressive “fuck you”s Batman throws at Dick. Which is impressive considering, again, we don’t actually see Batman. Brenton Thwaites is damn near perfect casting. Thwaites is very believable both physically and in the more dramatic aspects of the performance. Though Raven is the big through line of the season, Dick is really the main character. As a long time fan, it’s a lot of fun seeing how well Dick Grayson is handled.
Episode 6, “Jason Todd”, is also a good example of how the season has been structured. One episode will serve to further the main story and continue to build up the Titans coming together as team, while the next episode shifts the focus to showcasing and introducing new DC Comics characters into the narrative. The episodes switch from one to the other each week. For example, so far we’ve had episodes featuring Hawk and Dove, Doom Patrol, Jason Todd, and Donna Troy AKA Wonder Girl. The DC character episodes tend to be the stronger ones because so far each new character introduced from the DC cannon have been really fun and interesting.
I spent the bulk of this article talking about Dick Grayson, mainly because I like the character so much and he’s the most well developed on the show. I like the other Titans well enough. Certainly more than I thought I would when the series began. Starfire or Kory as she’s referred to on the show, has really grown on me. Even with very little time being given to her backstory, she’s probably my second favorite Titan so far. She’s basically an exiled alien princess, but the show hasn’t taken the time to get into any of that yet and it remains to be seen how the series will tie her origin into the Raven storyline.
Unless you’re a hardcore comic book fan like me, there isn’t a lot of incentive for even a moderate comic book fan or superhero geek to subscribe to DC UNIVERSE. Which is a shame because Titans is turning out to be a fun and unique look at the DC Comics Universe. I’ve heard rumors that eventually the show will become available on Netflix, but it’s not clear when that would happen. Regardless, if and when you have the opportunity to watch Titans, I highly recommended giving this series a shot. The show has already been renewed for Season 2 and I’m really looking forward to seeing how the show wraps up it’s first season.
Titans is by no means a perfect show, but there’s some great stuff in here despite it’s flaws. The big thing the show has going for it is that even with all the superhero movies and TV shows out there, Titans is showcasing characters and stories that have never been seen in live action. Although I’m sure very few of you are running out to subscribe to DC UNIVERSE, Titans is definitely a show to keep on your radar. If you go into it with your expectations in check, you may be surprised how much you enjoy this fun, new series.
Thanks for reading!