With the first season of the first DC Universe original series, Titans, at a close, it is time to talk about all that worked, all that didn’t, and all the stuff that fans across the world loved about this series. When the Titans‘ first trailer dropped, a lot of hate was aimed towards the series for “being too dark” and “not like the Teen Titans I grew up with.” I can understand that this series taking such a departure from previous iterations of the Titans team would indeed bother some people who were expected something more light-hearted and fun. This series definitively established itself as a really dark and dramatic take on the Titans characters and for better or worse that was what fans were going to get. The real question is how well did it pay off in the end?
Season One of Titans started with a very brutal introduction to Dick Grayson. Fresh from his departure from Gotham City, we meet Dick as a detective in Detroit who is trying to move on from the shadow of Batman but still struggling with his darker tendencies as Robin. We see throughout the season his hesitancy to don the mask and cape but when he does so you can’t help but feel that sense of satisfaction as a comic book fan when you see him take a warehouse of criminals down. While you see Dick really lose himself when he is Robin, you can’t help but feel sorry for him. This version of Robin is by far the darkest adaptation of him and for me personally it makes for a more interesting story than just being more of the same sort of character we’ve seen in the comics and on TV. Brenton Thwaites does an excellent job of bringing that sense of darkness but also the aspects of Dick Grayson we all know and love from the comics that makes him such a great fit for the role of Robin.
One of my biggest gripes with the series however comes in the character of Raven/Rachel. Going in, I was going to let the series show me their new and different take on the character of Raven and at first I will say I was intrigued. As the season went on I personally felt that the actress as well as the writing of the character didn’t do much to make her interesting beyond the premise of her having an evil side that comes every so often. I will say that she did have some nice character moments with Starfire and Beast Boy, and the actress had some well performed scenes. But as a whole I feel like the her storyline with Trigon and the cult obsessed with finding her didn’t work out all that well in the end. That doesn’t mean I am not hopeful for her character and her storyline in the future, I just hope that when the series returns that we’ll have a more interesting and gripping story for her considering her father, Trigon, is one of the biggest villains the Titans ever will face.
One set of characters that really surprised me were Hawk and Dove, portrayed by Minka Kelly and DC alum Alan Ritchson. When they were introduced in the second episode of the season, I was instantly drawn to the two of them. While they did have a bit of an edge to them compared to other DC heroes, they both felt like a real couple and their relationship really was one of the biggest highlights of the show for me. We come to know that they had previously worked with Dick in the hero game before his departure from Gotham and that some time after that something happened to them because Hank (Hawk) now has a slight grudge against Dick for a reason that is somehow connected to Dawn (Dove) and Dick.
The episodes focused on two of them, “Hawk and Dove” and “Hank and Dawn,” were some of the best episodes of superhero television I have seen in years. When you find out the tragic backstory of Hank and his brother Don, who was the original Dove, you can’t help but feel the connected to them for the loss and trauma that Hank and Dawn both endure. What makes them heroes is not their costumes, or even their tragedies, what makes them great heroes and great characters is the strength of their hearts. While both characters endured pain and loss in ways that I personally can relate to, it made them even more heroic in my eyes because they were able to come together despite their personal tragedies and bring to light issues that our world today has a hard time coming to terms with.
Another character I loved here was Starfire. While this is the most unique take on the character that we have seen, the mystery in her story and drive throughout the season made her so interesting to watch. Anna Diop was able to bring not only the badass aspects of the character to life, but a lot of the heart and warmness that makes the character so beloved among fans. I will admit that the show should have done a better job at giving us her backstory because by the end of season we only find out that she was sent to kill Raven and that is it. I can understand some fans feeling a little upset with how we ended the season without knowing much more about Starfire than when the series premiered. I think that the series will go on to explore much more of her character in the next season and I can’t wait to see more of her!
Beast Boy/Gar Logan was also a pleasant surprise for me. His interactions with the team as well as his episode with the Doom Patrol. Ryan Potter was a perfect fit for the character as he really embodied what made the character so likable and relatable. While I do wish that we saw more animals in his repertoire than just the one tiger we saw. I understand the show does not have the highest budget but still it is one of those things that as a fan is a little disappointing. Overall I feel that Beast Boy has a lot of potential and from what we’ve seen from him so far I do think that we are in for something special in season 2.
Spoilers for the finale ahead
In the seasons final episode, we are treated to a “what if?” scenario in which Dick is now a father, married to Dawn and has completely given up his superhero persona. It is shown that he is under the mental manipulation of Rachel’s father, Trigon, who is trying to prove that he will ultimately succumb to his dark side. In this fake reality, Jason Todd comes to Dick for help, saying that Batman has gone off the deep end and needs Dick to save him from losing himself. Throughout this episode we see a lot of growth in Dick as a character in his treatment of Bruce. He has finally allowed himself to view his time with Bruce in a better light and move on to be a better man. He tries to convince Bruce that the path he is on will only lead to his end.
While we don’t see the face of Bruce Wayne in this episode, we are shown that this Batman is indeed as brutal as the one we know from the DCEU. In this reality the Joker has killed Gordon and Batman has made it his mission to kill him. While it was fairly easy to predict that the events we were seeing were that of some sort of dream sequence, it is still worthwhile as a fan to see Dick finally confront Bruce about his frustrations and feelings. After Batman goes on a killing spree following his murder of the Joker, Dick has no choice but to out Bruce as Batman. The police and FBI, Kori among them, raid Wayne manor to find and take down Bruce. They fail and Batman has killed/injured them all. Dick decides that Bruce has to die. In doing so, Trigon ends the reality and reveals that Dick has accepted his darkness. We then transition to a lab in Metropolis where it appears Superboy is breaking out and releasing an imprisoned Krypto, teasing the characters for next season.
I honestly did enjoy the finale as an episode, but not as a finale. While it had some pretty awesome moments and it was fun to see the characters in a potential future, this was not the finale that the series had been building up to. The character pay offs, the villain, the whole story of the season did not build up to what this episode was. If this had been one of the final episodes that would have been perfectly fine, but as a finale this was not a good fit.
All in all, Titans was a really great and enjoyable series as a whole but could have ended on a stronger note. The character focused episodes were some of the best that comic book television had to offer in 2018. Despite fan backlash initially, I do think that the characters all reflected some of the best aspects of their comic book counterparts. While no series is perfect I did find enough enjoyment as a comic book fan to truly appreciate this series and I cannot wait to come back for season 2.