Titans “Dick Grayson” Review- Escaping the Darkness

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CR: DC Entertainment Warner Bros. Television

Heading into the series premiere of Titans, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. The marketing for the show had instantly grabbed my interest. The costume designs were sick, the casting seemed spot on, and the writing/producing/directing team were all experienced and awesome. On paper, Titans seemed like a success before the first trailer was released. Then the trailer arrived at SDCC and things sort of shifted. I felt less than whelmed and I was worried that the series, much like other DC properties, wasn’t going to live up to its potential. Which was a bag of disappointment considering how hyped I was getting with all the previous information. When it came to watching the premiere I left feeling kind of in the middle. It was in no way the train wreck I expected but there was also room for improvement. Looking back on that review I pegged the first episode of Titans with the majority of other DC properties (BvS, Man of Steel, Justice League) as a show that was dark for the sake of darkness and wasn’t giving the characters their proper due.

I’m happy to report that I was quite wrong.

Titans has been one of my favorite surprises of the year and a big win for DC and the DC Universe streaming service. This was a show that in a lot of ways only gave us a loose story, a thread to run through the series, but instead of making it the major arc of the first season decided to focus on character instead. By letting the story feed through rich character development, Titans gave us a unique viewing experience. A superhero show that wanted us to care about its characters first opposed to just giving us the massive, world in peril obstacle that other DC films had been doing. It was refreshing and unique and helped make this first season such a success.

DC Universe Titans

Keeping that thought in mind, the season finale of Titans does not play like a typical season finale. For starters, there is no resolution to the story thread that has been the undercurrent of the season. If you were worried about this season finale tying up all the loose ends then I’ve got some bad news for you… it doesn’t. Instead the season finale, simply titled “Dick Grayson”, continues the focus on character and opens the door to a more story focused season next year. While that may seem disappointing for those of you who wanted a resolution from Trigon’s arrival, I can assure you it’s not. Any resolution would have felt rushed for a character who literally only showed up for a couple of minutes last week. Instead, we get to see Trigon more as force, we now have a big bad for season two, and a show that is building not only on tension but the importance of the stories eventual resolution. That’s something to be excited about as a fan of the series as it shows that the showrunners are in it for the long haul and want you to care for the payoff opposed to just having the good guys win.

Plus, it seemed early on that this season was less about forming a team and more about taking four people who were broken and bringing them together as a family unit. From that bond, a team can be born but Titans wanted us to care for each character as an individual first which will only enhance the emotions we feel once they officially form the Titans group. Things aren’t perfect among the group currently anyway. There’s a great deal of tension from Starfire’s attempted murder of Raven. Raven is being manipulated by her parents. Gar wants to be there for everyone but where is everyone? And Dick seems to want to put this life behind him. His mission to protect Raven, he assumes, is over. Forming a team just for the season finale would have felt like a cheat.

What “Dick Grayson” does though is bring Dick’s story full circle… to a degree. All season long we’ve watched as Dick has been tested in finding himself. Forming an identity outside of the Batman and Robin. His pursuit for something greater hasn’t always been easy with old friends needing favors, dirtbags trafficking children, and needing to protect those he cares about but at this point in the game it seems that Dick Grayson is ready, and capable, of moving on from his time in Gotham. Seeing that Donna Troy can have a life of her own and still help gives Dick faith, and it’s that faith and hope for something better that Trigon uses against him.

When last week’s episode ended, Dick was the only character able to make it into the house that was now being run by Trigon and his estranged wife. Donna Troy and Starfire are left on the outside as Dick sets off, as he has most of this season, to protect Raven. While we still don’t know a great deal about Trigon we do know that he’s powerful, he did save Gar’s life, and this episode is just as much a Trigon muscle flex as it is a Dick Grayson pursuit of escaping the shadow.

As soon as Dick enters the house he’s thrust into an alternate reality where he’s found everything he’s been searching for. Not just happiness but something more. In this reality, he’s living in sunny California and is married to Dawn (something Donna said he screwed up) who is expecting their second child. Gar and Raven are off in college and setting up holiday plans to visit, and life is good. Dick Grayson is seemingly at peace having finally found his way… until Gotham comes calling back in the form of a wheelchair-bound Jason Todd. Things in Gotham have rapidly deteriorated. The Riddler uses Jason Todd’s arrogance against him as he shoots the young sidekick in the spine, the Joker tortured and killed Commissioner Gordon, and Batman has finally snapped vowing to kill the Joker. Todd, swallows his pride, admitting that Grayson is the only Robin and how there’s no one else who can save the soul of Batman.

DC Universe Titans

The heartbeat of this episode is the writing of Richard Hatem who is given forty minutes and effortlessly creates an alternate universe that instantly feels established to the point where the episode ends and you want more. Just another look. The strength of this episode is being thrust into a world where the Dark Knight has lost his compass and it coming across not only believable but terrifying. Hatem gives us a rich world that highlights the awfulness that is Gotham while showcasing not only the importance of Batman but of Dick Grayson. And that’s where the episode excels. This isn’t a Batman story. This is a Dick Grayson story and Hatem knows that and Brenton Thwaites takes the ball and delivers what could be his best performance thus far as Dick Grayson reluctantly returns to Gotham to save the soul of the Batman. The irony of which isn’t lost on Dick.

It’ll be easy to walk away from this episode and geek out about all the easter eggs, and there are plenty to make any comic fan jump out of their seats. The show is crafty in its use of the Joker making him feel lifelike opposed to just another easter egg while also not making him the focus of the episode. The Joker feels real and Titans uses our knowledge of the character to make his death resonate. It’s not that the Joker is killed by Batman but it’s because Batman does it as a middle finger to Dick Grayson after Dick pleads with him to not travel down this path. The roles are reversed as Bruce has become the child hell-bent on revenge and Dick Grayson is now responsible for reeling him in. It’s heartbreakingly poetic and a Batman without a code is not only Gotham’s greatest nightmare but Dick’s as well.

In the end, the darkness proves to be too much for Dick Grayson. Trigon continuously manipulates Dick’s surroundings ensuring that the outcome was predetermined. After a failed attempt to bring Bruce Wayne in results in the death of numerous Gotham officers and Starfire, Dick confronts his dying mentor/father as he is pinned underneath rubble from an explosion. Giving in to his darker impulses Dick kills the Batman and falls directly into the hands of Trigon who instantly takes away the mask of the alternate reality, revealing the house, and that Dick Grayson is now under his control. An agent who seems possessed by the dark entity that lives within Raven, as she pleads with her father to let him go.

And just when you thought you couldn’t take any more there’s a post-credit scene to make you lose your face! The season definitely ends on a dark note but the reveal of Superboy and Krypto (!!!) should send fans into a frenzy. What does the clone of Superman mean for the Titans? Is he the key to rescuing Dick or is this going to be a slow burn that runs through season two? Either way, it was enough for me to lose my shiz after a superb season finale.

There you have it Geeklings, the first season of Titans has wrapped and I already miss it so. What did you think of the season finale? Did this alternate reality melt your face or were you hoping for more resolution? What did you think of the post-credit tag? How do you feel about the show and season two going forward? Sound off in the comments or if you’d like to talk more Titans with yours truly you can find me on Twitter @iamgeek32. It has been an absolute blast covering this show with you guys, and one of my favorite reviewing experiences. The fan base for this show is legit and I’m happy to be a small part of it. I’ll see you all in season two!