This Titans review contains spoilers.
Titans Season 2 Episode 13
Rather than skimp on the fixins’, the Titans season 2 loads so much on the narrative plate that, like yesterday’s Thanksgiving dinner, it is difficult to fully appreciate any one dish we have to chew on.
By no means a bad episode, “Nightwing” is still slightly disappointing because it reflects the bloat of having too many ongoing plot threads, and what happens when a show attempts to resolve most of them all at once – but instead succumbs to its pacing challenges. The episode does cap an overall enjoyable season that is a marked improvement over its first, even if it’s a stretch to call the sophomore outing “strong.”
It takes seven minutes for the Slade Wilson story to be wrapped, ending with a dead Deathstroke, and Jericho now apparently inhabiting Rose’s body. There is much to pick apart with the scene. It is so weird that, right after an excellent scene of the Titans’ women taking control, they literally sit out the fight with Slade. Even if Kory is vulnerable, Donna, and a fully-powered Raven would be major assets.
OK, so we are led to believe this is Dick’s fight (even though Slade targeted the entire team) – and maybe the warrior Donna thought it best to let him have it – but isn’t Dick essentially trying to go it alone again? That said, the Nightwing suit looks great on camera, and much of the fight between Dick and Deathstroke is exciting (I didn’t realize how much I missed those charged escrima sticks).
And then we have Rose’s arrival. Nothing about the character feels earned. The show never developed her as part of the Titans family, there is a lot of gaps to her relationship with Deathstroke (we never quite got her dealing with Dad taking her eye), and she never had a connection with Jericho. The one character she connected with, Jason, was mostly absent. Frankly, the character has been a big miss this season. Even still, it’s creepy Rose is essentially just an avatar for Jericho now.
But back to Deathstroke. After a season of build up, and skirmishes, there needed to be more of pay-off. As much as Esai Morales has succeeded in fleshing out Slade this season (and bringing more nuance to the character than we’ve seen in live action), his death happens fast, and is reduced to him growling about Dick saying Jericho’s name.
With the Deathstroke box ticked, the show moves onto Mercy Graves, and CADMUS. Similar to Morales’ work, Natalie Gumede did interesting things with the character – and the quirky maternal scene in the car holds up. Yet Mercy has shifted into mad scientist mode, then money hungry power broker obsessed with the oft-repeated Phase Two. This is so unbecoming of Luthor’s most trusted ally. Luthor already has money, and power – and wouldn’t want another Kryptonian running around unless he controlled him. Auctioning the blue-ribbon science experiment Conner to the highest bidder makes zero plot sense. It’s like reverting to Gene Hackman’s Luthor’s real estate schemes.
Additionally, for all the evil Mercy caused these last few episodes, both Gar and Conner were owed the opportunity to confront her. Gar was turned into a killer and Conner was so radically betrayed that each would have been well served with an emotional moment. Gar’s quick chat with Dick back at Titans Tower hardly goes far enough to cover the emotional damage the kid has to be experiencing.
But the teamwork element that unfolds in the battle against Conner is actually pretty solid. Apparently Rachel and Donna had time to hit up Stu for new super suits, but hey, this was a satisfying super sequence. Furthermore, Rachel sending Dick into Conner’s subconscious was excellent, and their Batman/Superman cornfield moment packed a punch.
And then they had to go ruin things with the hackneyed handling of Donna’s death.
Titans fell into the trap of thinking the season had to end with a sacrifice, and the Themysciran demi-god was the lamb. Even if I were to accept that Donna couldn’t withstand that electrical charge, and even if I could explain why the super-boy didn’t rush to stop the falling tower, the death played out in cheap fashion, like yet another box that had to be ticked for the finale.
But it’s all good because Donna is … not quite dead, but in a coffin? Rachel seems to think she can bring her back, and of course the demi-goddess will live again. Even within the action of the series, she is grieved for, but the death lacks permanence. It is all quite bizarre – but perhaps less bizarre than outsider Rachel automatically think she can hop on an Amazonian jet and go hang out on Paradise Island (without an invitation).
As annoying as the Donna death is, the episode closes strong. Bruce arriving to give advice to Dick is touching, and it clicks even though the Bruce we’ve encountered this season has largely been an illusion. I quite love that we are having these healthy moments where members of the Bat-Family evolve beyond their anger. Though I wish Jason had been included in Bruce’s “don’t turn inward” (and don’t be like me) speech.
And the coming-together of the team — leaving the funeral meal to address a threat – felt earned. As a team, they are probably not much match for Blackfire, but I am nonetheless stoked for a cosmic-tinged Season Three.
Titans is a fun super hero show with really great character moments. It largely gets the look down of these heroes, and the action is typically solid. Even the odd bits, like Blackfire’s grocery store parking lot arrival, work. And the cinematography this episode was particularly strong.
This is why it is so frustrating when the series plods along, then rushes to the finish. For the next season, my main hope is that Titans irons out its pacing challenges, and sticks to a consistent narrative – and without overcommitting to subplots.
As for some lingering finale questions…So, Hawk is clean again? And Gar is cool with being a tiger again? Whatever happened to Eve Watson; was she just murdered off screen? What are we to make of the “It’s Mr. Luthor” phone call? Who gathered the Titans women at the Elko Diner, if not Bruce (and no, it wasn’t Rachel). How did Krypto return?