This Titans review contains spoilers.
Titans Episode 3
Titans is a weird show, and nowhere is this more apparent than in “Origins.” It’s kind of remarkable that every major character on this show is a superhero. There are virtually no POV characters, whether comics-based or otherwise (think Foggy Nelson or Karen Page on Daredevil) popping in and out of these episodes on a regular basis to give viewers a window into this world. Instead, we have our heroes and we have the strange villains pursuing them, and Titans just assumes you’re cool with being thrown into the deep end.
And you know what? They’re right. “Origins” is by far the best episode of Titans, one that washes away any lingering bad feelings from that uneven first chapter. There’s virtually no action in this episode, an almost complete lack of costumed adventuring of any sort, and a lot more development for Dick, Rachel, and (the still mysterious and unnamed) Starfire. While it’s still early, this very much feels like the show Titans was always meant to be, even though the team itself is still nowhere near being formed yet.
“Origins” as much a step forward from “Hawk and Dove” (which I enjoyed) as that episode was from the pilot. There’s far more of the show’s unique sense of humor on display here (especially involving the creepy family pursuing Rachel), and it works. Despite a genuinely harrowing sequence with Rachel and her demonic double in the mirror, so much of this show’s tone almost feels like it hinges on how Teagan Croft’s performance at times. The more relaxed Rachel is, the more she’s allowed to be herself, whether it’s around Dick, Kory, or (for a few brief moments) Garth, the more we get a sense of how this team will ultimately come together. More importantly, it gives us a better sense of how tragic her potential downfall is.
Completely absent from episode 2, but back in the spotlight here, is Anna Diop’s “Kory Anders.” Even more than the time we spent with her in episode 1 (where she mostly spoke German), this is the best indicator yet of what kind of character we’re really dealing with here. Diop is terrific, with Anders’ amnesia substituting for the usual “stranger in a strange land” elements of the Starfire character. It’s a drastically new interpretation, but a welcome one. Her screen time continues to get paired with some brilliant disco-era needle drops. I almost have to wonder if this is more than a play on just her flamboyant appearance, and maybe a hint that “Kory” is far older than she appears to be. Why else would she have been recording the logs of her quest to find Rachel on a 1980s-era boom box tape deck?
The flashbacks to Robin’s origin story were good fun. I could seriously get on board with a proper Batman and Robin TV show with this look and feel. Considering that Brenton Thwaites’ Robin costume is perhaps my favorite design for that character ever, and one of the best costumes in live action superheroics on the big or small screen right now, I really, really want to see what the DC Universe version of Batman looks like. He had better have the yellow oval, that’s all I’m saying.
If Titans is looking to be the DC Universe equivalent of Marvel’s Netflix shows, then “Origins” makes the best case for that. I honestly feel like, for all this show’s flaws, these two most recent episodes handle the pacing of these transitional chapters better than many of the Marvel Netflix middle-act episodes do (the recent, and utterly masterful Daredevil season 3 is an exception). Titans is definitely not as geared towards general audiences as those shows, and perhaps doesn’t have the same level of “prestige TV” aspirations or pretensions. But if this trajectory from the first episode through now continues, I think we’re in for some fun as this series continues, and perhaps even more when we get to season two.
– The Dick-steals-Bruce’s-car moment feels like an homage to the Akiva Goldsman-penned (and insufferably terrible) Batman Forever. All is forgiven, and Mr. Goldsman had some interesting thing to say about how Robin and Titans have both evolved right here.
– Rachel is playing Twilight Zone pinball, appropriate for the tone of this series so far, but also one of the finest pinball machines ever made. Not sure where those sound fx were from, though.
– That language in Kory’s notes doesn’t appear to be Interlac, so it’s safe to say that it’s Tamaranean. I can’t remember if it was ever depicted this way in the comics, but it sure looks authentic enough!
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