This Titans review contains spoilers.
Titans Season 2 Episode 4
This week Titans flashes back five years to a happier time when our heroes smiled a lot more — right before they were introduced to Deathstroke – in an episode that feels hollow, despite that brutal ending.
Something that works well for Titans is that it’s created the sense of a shared history between Dick, Hank, Dawn, and Donna. Despite their young age, they each have seen combat, and carry the scars. Last week’s “Ghosts” especially sold that backstory, and the actors have good chemistry with one another.
But when we actually visit the past, and witness this history, it feels … off. There is a lot of telling, but not showing, when it comes to the dynamic of Titans 1.0.
The dialogue sounds like it was written for characters who are teens, despite the fact they are presumably in their early 20s. This affects Donna, in particular. I appreciate the fact she is still relatively fresh from Themyscira, but she seems a little too immature, and awkward in the flash back. And there’s nary a mention of how weird it is for this happy-go-lucky Hank – whose demons are firmly established at this point in time – to be seeing Dawn with Dick (even though I can believe that the team life fed those demons). Dick fares better in the past as a grown-up Robin, and not yet the guy who would go on to say, “F— Batman.”
For a team of five super heroes – two of which have legitimate powers – it seems odd that they’d all be needed to thwart a gang of three low-level thugs, much less be so hyped about it that they celebrate. They go so hardcore on these lightweight crooks that it’s almost laughable. Even the suiting up scene later in the episode falls flat. Though intended to be cool, and epic, it’s more like a parody. These Titans aren’t believable as a group who could battle big-time super villains, or deserve their own HQ.
That said, a lot of what Drew Van Acker is doing as Garth/Aqualad works. The dude can’t take a hint, and lays it on so thick with Donna as to constitute workplace harassment — even if they have known each other since they were kids. He is charming, and looks killer in the costume. But everything about Garth feels like a setup. He is presented as too good to live (but not good enough to dodge a bullet — which just kind of strikes me as odd that an Atlantean, even a heartsick one, can be felled that easily). It is hard to be invested in him, or his death, when we can see it coming a mile away.
Speaking of Deathstroke, the opening scene of him taking out everyone connected to a murder trial – as jazzy, jaunty music plays – definitely highlights his skills as a sniper, but it doesn’t do enough to establish him as a bogeyman. Esai Morales, in the preceding Titans episodes, has already done much to do that without even engaging in combat. Here, though, he is primarily shown as a guy with good aim. Hopefully the next episode will have more of Slade in his full Deathstroke-y threat.
The Doctor Light stuff is fine, but I do not buy this version of the villain being a scientist. Also, why he needed a goon squad with him is beyond me, other than giving a couple extra people for Hawk and Dove to beat up (and for Aqualad to show up with a winning smile, and a quip).
As for the fight choreography, it’s just not clicking here. Though the sparring sequences in previous episodes this season have been thrilling, the actual super heroic team-up action is lacking, with some bad cutaways. There is definitely room for improvement.
All that said, I am quite excited to see more from Chella Man as Jericho. In two brief scenes, the character is already engaging, and likable. And the interaction between him and Dick in the record store is great. After such a warm moment, I love the grin fading from Dick’s face as he no doubt sets about manipulating the poor kid, and proceeds to “be Batman” as Dawn instructed.