Ever since Titans first premiered on the DC Universe Streaming Service, I always felt it was a pretty underrated superhero show. It seemed to get a lot of criticism, that I think, it didn’t deserve. Even Season 2 was a big improvement on Season 1, in my opinion. My theory, is that the series is a fairly dark interpretation of the Teen Titans mythology. Titans premiered right around the time many fans were souring on what they believed was overly dark and grim tone of the DCEU movies like Man of Steel and BvS. Regardless, it’s not a perfect show by any means, but for me at least, Titans has always been an absolute blast. Season 3 looks to be the best yet, adding Scarecrow, Red Hood, Blackfire, and Barbara Gordon to an already fun ensemble of DC characters. The first two seasons are available now on HBO Max. I definitely recommend giving it a shot, especially if you’re a DC fan. Titans Season 3 premieres August 12 on HBO Max. Take a look at these cool promo images, and watch the new trailer right here:
This season also sees the debut of Tim Drake, the 3rd hero to take up the mantle of Robin (pictured below). Tim eventually comes into his own as The World’s Second Greatest Detective, Red Robin.
More character posters…
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Titans is a weird show. In a television landscape filled with superhero shows, Titans doesn’t quite feel like anything else on TV or streaming at the moment. It may share some superficial similarities to other comic book shows, but the series has an “X factor” that’s hard to define. Titans is about a group of young heroes (some only in their mid-teens) trying to find their place in the world. Though it isn’t made explicitly clear how old the most senior members of the Titans are, they seem to be in their 20s at the oldest. The series is also extremely dark, violent, and graphic. I have no doubt that the violence and language on this show would earn Titans a hard R-rating if it were a film instead of a streaming series. The combination of a young generation of heroes, the ultraviolent nature of the series, along with it’s willingness to dive headfirst into the rich character and story history of DC Comics, makes for a very unique tone.
The series borrows from some fantastic DC Comics stories and characters, both big and small. Some of which like Bruce Wayne (Iain Glen from Game of Thrones) who is recurring character throughout Season 2, were off-limits to television until just a few years ago. Warner Bros. used to have this pretty stupid rule where they did not want their A-list characters like Batman or Superman to ever appear on any of their live action TV shows when a big screen counterpart was currently being depicted in a movie series with a different actor in the same role. For example, while Christian Bale was still officially Batman, a show like Arrow could never introduce their own version of Bruce Wayne. I think people can tell the difference, it’s almost like they think the audience will be too confused by 2 versions of the same character in completely different mediums. Fortunately, this policy seems to slowly be going away bit by bit.
Titans always has a lot of balls in the air. I’m always surprised at the sheer amount of story and concepts that they introduce in any given season. I’d find myself thinking, how are they going to tell a cohesive, season long story with all of these disparate elements at play? For me at least, it works (in it’s own unconventional way). The strength of this series lies with it’s characters. The Titans themselves are the beating heart of the show. This might seem obvious or a necessity for any successful TV series (or streaming series, in this case), but some shows rely on the intricacies of a complex plot more than others. Shows like Lost, Battlestar Galactica, The Wire, and HBO’s recent Watchmen are all great examples of shows that work like a finely tuned watch (not to say that these shows don’t have fantastic characters, it’s just that these examples are much more dependent on plot driven storylines). All the pieces of the story come together to form something extraordinary. For Titans, the magic happens when the show is at it’s most character driven. DC hasn’t been quite as successful as Marvel at bringing some of it’s less well known characters to life, but when it comes to Titans, they have some deep enough cuts that there’s excitement in just seeing these characters brought to life and brought to life well. Whether it’s Dick Grayson violently confronting the man who murdered his parents, or Raven banishing her demonic father, Trigon, back to Hell to save the world and her newfound Titans family. Truly great shows can have their cake and eat it too: a thrilling, well plotted story and rich, fascinating characters. I enjoy the hell out of Titans, but keep your expectations in check if you decide to give it a watch. So for this review of the Season 2 finale of Titans, I’m going to be focusing on the characters first and foremost.
Season 1 was very much Rachel and Dick‘s season. Things are spread out much more evenly through Season 2, I think to the shows benefit. With new characters being introduced and some side characters from season one now having larger rules, the show has become more of an ensemble. Which is exactly what it should be because Titans is team show. Characters like Donna Troy, Connor Kent, and even Hawk and Dove had some great material this season. Gar felt like the odd man out. Very interesting character and I wish they gave him more to do. The same goes for Jason Todd, while he did have a good amount of screen time, he took a backseat in the latter half of the season and we didn’t get much closure regarding where he’s heading going into Season 3.
If I had to say there was a central character this season, I’d probably have to go with Dick. The last two years of the show have been about his emotional journey, culminating in his transformation into Nightwing. Season 1 was all about Dick’s search for identity. So much of who he is was defined by his relationship with Bruce Wayne, a man that he has a great deal of anger and resentment towards. A really nice recurring aspect to this season was that we slowly got to see Dick and Bruce rebuilding their relationship with one another.
Unfortunately, when you’re a superhero there’s always more torment and angst right around the corner. Dick may have worked through his issues with Bruce in Season 1, but Season 2 is all about him dealing with the guilt he for his role in how the Titans originally broke up and the lives that were destroyed during that time.
In case it’s not clear, years before Dick met Rachel and began this new version of The Titans or Titans 2.0, there was an original teen that formed years before the group we meet in Season 1. The original Titans included Dick as Robin, Donna Troy, Hawk and Dove, and the tragically fated Aqualad. Garth AKA Aqualad was in love with Donna Troy and had been for years. She loved him too, but her sense of duty clouded her judgement and she repressed her feelings for Garth. I think a lot of us can relate to that situation, especially when you’re young pining after someone for years. You want to be with them so bought bad your chest aches.
Speaking of Season 3, like the Superboy and Krypto teaser at the end of Season 1, we get a brief teaser at the end of the episode showing Kory’s sister Blackfire arriving on Earth, presumably to wreak havoc on her sisters life. Lex Luthor is also directly referenced at one point in the episode. When the shit hits the fan with Cadmus as the Titans fuck up that whole operation, Lex puts in an angry call to Mercy Graves. Mercy is Lex’s right hand woman and the person responsible for brainwashing and weaponizing Connor and Gar. With Superboy now a big part of the team and such a public disaster for Cadmus in the season finale, I wonder if we will get to see this show’s version of Lex Luthor, much in the same way we got to see the show’s version of Bruce Wayne this year? At the very least it seems like Blackfire (Kory’s evil sister) will be a major villain in Season 3 since it was just announced that she would be joining the show as a series regular in the next season.
By the end of the Season 2 Finale, the team finally looks and functions like a classic version of the Teen Titans from the comics. A big part of this is the fact that finally, at long last, Dick Grayson has become Nightwing. A debut that fans have been waiting for since pretty much the first episode of the series. This a good example of how the series can struggle with pacing and the problems with how they choose to unfold their stories. Most fans of the show would probably say Dick finally becoming Nightwing is about a season and a half overdue. However, despite the wait, the long overdue debut of Nightwing was pretty fucking awesome. The costume look great and seeing Nightwing swoop in to save his friends from Deathstroke was sick. Dick’s final face off with Slade, swords clashing against Nightwing’s classic electrified batons and all, was very fun and satisfying.
As much fun as the fight was, it was another example of how the series struggles to handle plot and pacing. Deathstroke has been the main Season 2 antagonist, but about half way through the season, a subplot was introduced involving Superboy (Connor Kent), Beast Boy (Gar Logan), and the sinister Cadmus Labs. Cadmus is a front for Lex Luthor, run by his right hand woman Mercy Graves, to sell meta-human weapons on the black market, with the captured Conner and Gar as the star products. Cadmus was certainly a cool and interesting element throughout the season, but it was a little jarring to see Deathstroke finished off so early in the episode with the focus of the finale entirely shifting to rescuing Connor and Gar and taking down Cadmus.
The sequence itself was a lot of fun and had some great moments, but then a major character is killed off almost out of nowhere with relatively little fanfare. Again, while it didn’t kill the episode, it was certainly an odd choice. This episode is a great showcase of what’s great and what doesn’t work with Titans.
I’d also be remiss if I didn’t comment on Iain Glen‘s great performance as Bruce Wayne throughout Season 2. I didn’t think he would be as much of a presence on the show as he was. I thought he would maybe have one or two cameos in a few episodes, but he ended up being in quite a few. I really liked his take on Bruce Wayne, it’s definitely not a side of the character we’ve seen much of and certainly not at all in live-action. He’s an older, more paternal version of the character and despite his darkness and cynicism, you can see the genuine happiness it brings him to reconcile with Dick. There are a few scenes where you see that Bruce is just as emotionally vulnerable about their relationship as Dick is. It’s in moments like those that show us glimpses of the man whose trauma stunted him somewhat developmentally. He never quite grew up completely. It’s a really insightful take on Bruce Wayne and I applaud the writers and Iain Glen for going there. My only complaint would be that a significant portion of Bruce Wayne‘s presence in the season was a hallucination in Dick’s mind. Since this wasn’t really Bruce, just Dick’s perception of Bruce within his subconscious, Glen is basically playing another character. There’s hallucination Bruce and there is real Bruce. Even though we got quite a bit of the real Bruce present throughout the season, the hallucination Bruce probably represented a third of his appearances throughout. I wanted to see much more of the real Bruce. I really like the actor and his take on one of the most complex and multifaceted individuals in all of fiction, was always fun to watch.
To wrap things up, Titans is by no means a perfect show but it is a lot of fun. Season 2 was a large improvement over Season 1, but they still have some work to be done when it comes to plotting and execution of their storylines. If you’re a DC fan in particular, there’s a lot to love here. The characters are great and by the end of the season the show is starting to look a lot like the Teen Titans we’ve read in the comic books for years. If you don’t have DC Universe, Titans Season 2 will probably be available on iTunes and Blu-ray soon. This show gets my recommendation as long as you go into it keeping your expectations in check.
TITANS Season 2 Finale = 8/10
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I have some pretty surprising news to share with you good folks today, Titans, on the DCUNIVERSE 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 DCUNIVERSE 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 DCUNIVERSE 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, YoungJustice Season 3 premieres early next year on DCUNIVERSE 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 DCUNIVERSE. 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 DCUNIVERSE, 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.