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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