This article contains major spoilers for Titans Season 3
Titans Season 2 culminated with the team defeating Deathstroke [Esai Morales], Conner/Superboy [Joshua Orpin] breaking Cadmus’ hold over him, Jason Todd/Robin [Curran Walters] leaving the fold, and Donna/Wonder Girl [Conor Leslie] dead. But, by the end of the finale, the Titans seemed more committed than ever to standing strong and continuing their war against evil.
However, when Titans returned for its third season, a tortured Hank/Hawk [Alan Ritchson] had moved on. Donna’s death hit him hard. As a result, he retired the spandex and gave up on the do-gooder game.
“Hank has always been a bit of a hothead,” Ritchson tells Den of Geek. “He is a quintessential vigilante. He wants to take justice into his hands. People like that are susceptible to the fickle winds of life. As trauma enters into the world of somebody like that, it can trigger the darker parts of who they are. Especially in season three, we get a reality check about what kind of demons and skeletons Hank is dealing with. There’s a good part of him that wants to be a team player. But there’s another part of him that is fed up with the world running things the way it wants to run things. He wants to take things into his own hands.”
That mindset ultimately gets Hank into trouble. The heroes wind up in the seedy streets of Gotham, where Hank rejoins them for a dire case. Jason Todd has abandoned his Robin identity and assumed the moniker, Red Hood. The vengeful baddie’s prime agenda: take down the Titans. Jason’s former teammates approach the situation with kid gloves – he was once their comrade and pal – but as far as Hank is concerned, all bets are off. He suggests they kill Jason before he gets the drop on them.
“Hank wants to treat the Red Hood problem like he would treat any other villain,” Ritchson notes. “That causes a bit of a fracture within the Titans. You can see the seed of truth in that. He wants to stop a problem and it doesn’t matter if it’s a former friend.”
In Titans episode 3, titled “Hank & Dove,” a scared and confused Jason, or so it seems, reaches out to Hank for help. “You’ve got to believe me, man,” Jason says over the phone. “All of this shit I’ve done, it’s not my fault.”
Because he’s afraid of Dick [Brenton Thwaites], Jason makes Hank meet him alone. But when the strapping Titan arrives at the designated rendez-vous, the Gotham Observatory. There, Jason directs Hank to the Gotham City Gym and demands that he go Full Monty to prove he’s not wearing a wire.
“Hopefully they did some creative editing because there is legitimate nudity,” Ritchson says. “They go, ‘We are not going to see your front, but you have to turn 360 in front of the camera every time we set it up. We have to be able to edit you turning in circles.’ I was like, ‘Alright. I guess we gotta do what we gotta do. It’s part of the fun.’ So, yeah, there was some heavy-duty nudity in that episode.”
Hank swims across the pool, where he is knocked unconscious by Red Hood. It was all a ruse. When Hank awakens and returns to the Titans, they discover a deadly bomb imbedded in his chest. The device is linked to his heartbeats… and it’s counting down. Over four hours, the Titans attempt to track down Jason to force him to deactivate the bomb. Meanwhile, Conner works on constructing a gizmo that will disable the explosive. With only seconds to go, Conner super-speeds to Hank – but it’s too late. BOOM. Hank officially dies. This bird is done.
It’s a heartbreaking end to the original Titan, but as Ritchson explains, leaving the show wasn’t his decision.
“Titans has always been a tricky thing to make, to be honest,” Ritchson says. “The world is massive. You are going from Gotham to the backgrounds and worlds that the older Titans are coming from. You’ve got the new. You’ve got the old. You’ve got all the big villain storylines there. You’ve got teen angst and more dramatic relationships and the problems that come along with those. It’s a massive world. This is not a normal show for anybody to produce.”
“Creatively, when you are trying to service eight regular series-leads, with legitimate storylines, it’s hard to find your focal point,” he continues. “It feels like you can never give each story enough time. There have been really difficult decisions to make about how to focus this show with a stronger, core group. There have been very legitimate needs of conveying the show from one platform to another, going from DC Universe to HBO. They have certain needs that need to be met. Things are simply going to evolve and change.”
Some actors might wish their heroic alter-egos would go out in a blaze of glory, thwarting the bad guy and saving the day. On the other hand, Ritchson, who calls his exit “pretty blazy,” looked at Hank’s method of demise in another light.
“The worst way to die would be some sudden and unexpected car crash, whether metaphorical or not, some collision that unexpectedly steals him away from the world,” Ritchson offers. “What was so great about it was the pain of everybody, knowing what’s imminent and having the moment to say goodbye, in his own way, to everybody. Also, still holding onto that tiny, tiny thread of hope that maybe they will figure this out before the clock stops ticking. The tension is ratcheted the entire time. We are all waiting to see, ‘Are they really going to do this to him?’ It really pays off. They get their money’s worth with the way that it plays out. It was a great episode.”
Death doesn’t always equal the end. Donna perished and is being resurrected. Deathstroke murdered Aqualad, but the Atlantean popped up in flashbacks. So, if the Titans’ writers could figure out the logistics, would Ritchson be open to returning in some capacity? Maybe some flashback to Hank’s yesteryears? You bet.
“It would be an honor,” Ritchson says. “Titans, from the producers to the creators to the cast and the crew… I was teary-eyed leaving. When I said goodbye, I didn’t expect to be so emotional. Sometimes when you say goodbye, you realise what you had with somebody. It’s a real family we have there.
“It’s a tough show to make, but it’s a really special group of hardworking creative individuals over there,” he concludes. “I let them know already. I’d be honored if I ever got the chance to come back. It would be a gift.”
Titans releases new episodes every Thursday on HBO Max.