This Titans review contains spoilers.
Titans Episode 2
This is more like it. My spoiler free review of Titans was based on my impressions from the first three episodes. A significant portion of the awkwardness I pointed out in there came from the first episode, which does an awful lot of telling and what it shows, often reinforces some of the unfavorable impressions fans got from the trailer (I still maintain that the “fuck Batman” moment, when taken in context, is terrific). But Titans episode 2 is a much better indicator of what this show is supposed to be, and it’s apparent right from the opening moments.
Titans episode 2 is appropriately called “Hawk and Dove” and it introduces that relatively obscure superhero pair in its opening moments, played perfectly by Alan Ritchson (Blue Mountain State…but I still miss Blood Drive) and Minka Kelly (Friday Night Lights), sporting the coolest, most intricate live action superhero costumes on TV right now. Both are veteran superheroes, weathered by “the life” in a way we’ve never really seen on any of these shows, with Ritchson’s Hank Hall in particular showing the wear and tear of years of superheroics.
The relationship between Hank and Dawn, and their own history with Dick Grayson, more than anything else helps to make this version of the DC Universe feel established and lived in. Perhaps more importantly, it gives greater context for what some might feel is Robin’s out-of-character behavior and the levels of violence he has been employing on the show. This comes via a flashback to four years earlier, where Robin joins Hawk and Dove for a night out on the town busting up some creeps in an alley. There’s a striking contrast between Robin’s fighting style and demeanor here compared to not only that fight from the first episode, but another one here, lest anyone think that Robin has always been just this side of homicidal.
But even here, Titans slightly undermines itself. In the present, while coming to the rescue of Hawk and Dove, Robin actually (I shit you not) stabs a baddie in the balls with a pair of garden shears. Granted, said baddie was threatening to castrate Hawk with said shears at the time, but it’s a gratuitous moment, one that only strengthens the arguments that this show is leaning into violence and shock value for its own sake. The point about the change in Robin had already been made, and would have been made just fine with the rest of his brutal takeout of these gun runners without someone else getting a point square in the junk. Even another tension-breaking “Jesus” from Dove doesn’t quite make up for that.
This misstep aside, “Hawk and Dove” is a much stronger hour of TV than its predecessor. There’s a better sense of the kind of dynamic we’ll get between Dick Grayson and Rachel Roth here, and Rachel is a much more interesting character once she has someone other than Dick to interact with and can relax a little. Dick’s worry about turning into Bruce Wayne manifests in his unwillingness to commit to taking Rachel in, and while it seems that they’re telegraphing his journey from “reluctant guardian” to “big brother/team leader” it should be fun to watch Brenton Thwaites and Teagan Croft develop this rapport on screen.
While Titans is definitely trying to establish itself as DC’s answer to Marvel’s “mature” Netflix titles, it’s less ashamed to go all in with its embrace of superhero tropes (note the remarkably faithful and colorful Hawk and Dove costumes). And while it doesn’t look nearly as cinematic (when the already confirmed Titans season 2 rolls around they really need to do something about this murky blue filter that makes everything feel so headachey), its deliberate pacing so far hasn’t felt like the padding that so often plagues these shows. Titans only has 10 episodes to get us where we’re going, and they have a lot more characters to introduce before we get there, and I think this ride may get more fun as it continues.
– If you look carefully at the contacts in Dick Grayson’s phone you can spot a whole bunch of names that don’t mean anything, but also…
Michael Pearson, one of Dick Grayson’s roommates from relatively recent Nightwing comics.
Alfred Pennyworth, who, of course, needs no introduction.
Donna Troy! We already know that Wonder Girl is coming to a future episode, but it’s clear that Dick is already familiar with her.
Bruce Wayne (Never heard of him!)
– When Hawk and Dove go to take out those gunrunners, there’s a van marked “Ditko Movers.” Steve Ditko created the pair in 1965’s Showcase #78.
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