WARNING: I’m going to spoil a TITANic amount in this review so...do with that what you will.
I am excited, I am cautious, and I am ready to see where the rest of Titans Season 3 takes me. The first three episodes gave me hope for a series I thought well beyond salvation, ending with the expectation-shattering death of Hank Hall/Hawk. This death definitely brought the sad 3am tears typically reserved for bad break-ups and Wally West retcons, but I’m starting to feel something is missing. The death of a Titan has created a vulnerability to the team that is being explored by each character in their own unique way, but moving forward with this idea is proving difficult for Titans. There is a lot of potential for interesting storylines, but now it seems Titans has lost its direction. Episodes 4-6 are not bad by any means. There are great emotional moments that (I hope) hint at future storylines, but these are weighed down by a lack of focus. I’ve honestly got so much to talk about that I’m going to have to resort to my tried and true method for organization: SUB HEADINGS!!!!
Superboy & the “Next Generation” Problem
Superboy is so underdeveloped that it’s almost villainous. Following Hank’s death, Superboy has a genuine moment when he claims Superman could’ve saved Hank. This was a beautiful moment and hints at Superboy’s struggle with being half Superman and half Lex Luthor. This is a character point I need to see more of, but instead I feel I’m getting forced into more Bat family drama. Superboy is basically a new being with a new mind. He doesn’t even know why he knows the things he knows. This would be a brilliant pivot to the Superman canon, and lighten the tone of the show to allow these characters a moment to figure out why they wear these costumes and stop bad people. I feel this show often drifts from the do-gooders doing good.
Gotham has always been a dark haven of crime, but the Titans should be a breath of fresh air to this city. As children they wore bright spandex and lived inside a GIANT “T” SHAPED BUILDING (though definitely not in this iteration). I only say this because these heroes are the next generation, rounding out the harder edges of their mentors, and representing a “better future”. Well, the future in Titans looks like it’s gonna suck. One of the hopes I have in this area is that the writers realize they have an incredible opportunity to show the family aspects of these characters (Starfire, Gar, and Superboy do have some great mother/son comedic moments, granted).
P.S. I get tired of saying this so I will say it here until it changes: Beast Boy is given no character arc aside from looking confused when other people do things. It’s...upsetting.
Starfire, Blackfire, & Backfire
Last season had us believing Blackfire would be Season 3’s Big Bad, an idea that seemed to be a nice straightforward approach. Then we discover Starfire’s odd visions and episodes were Blackfire asking for help. See, she’s been captured and is being kept in a government facility underground. I feel that, rationally, this should be seen as a win after Starfire learns her sister murdered their parents, but this show had different plans. Gar helps Starfire prison break her sister (for some reason), and the only thing I enjoyed was Gar’s relentless quest to help Starfire, despite her constantly attacking him during her episodes.
It just seems odd to set Blackfire up for a top tier villain and then undersell her immediately. Add to that the randomness that is Starfire freeing her from a jail that was not actively harming her (as far as we know), just containing her. Then once Blackfire is free, Starfire has no idea what to do with her and just sort of leaves her around like a set of keys. There’s obviously something in this dynamic we don’t know yet, but that’s sort of the problem, right? We don’t know about it. I feel I’m beating a dead horse (gross) but there isn’t great pacing here. Characters are shoved through plot points. I thought this would get better this season since the first 3 episodes are amazing, but I worry that the show is shoving so much “heart” in, that there’s no time to actually process what these moments mean...though one moment does speak out to me.
Bruce Wayne & Robin: Breaking the Bat-Curse (but not really)
After we find out everything concerning the Red Hood situation...oh, you don’t know? Well, Titans had a really cool approach to the Red Hood story that recently revealed itself to be a plan concocted by Scarecrow, and now is a less cool approach. Then a Lazarus Pit was casually thrown into the equation, as if it would soothe my inner comic nerd rather than leave me in a foaming rage (seeing a Lazarus Pit was pretty cool though). Ahem...ok, so after all of this, and yes I’m leaving A LOT out, we get to go back and see the build up to the moment Jason Todd takes a crowbar to the face. Bruce had actually (and finally) noticed a difference in his ward, and took him off Robin duty until Jason visited Leslie Thompkins for therapy. This sees Jason digging into his anger, sadness, and past trauma, and almost come out the other side with some realizations.
Bruce has not been depicted as the most fatherly iteration of Batman. We literally just discovered he left Dick running through the woods where Dick then...decapitated a wolf with a knife? Rad. Anyway, Titans features a lot of what I call “Bad Bruce” moments. These are moments when Bruce is so absurdly cryptic he’s almost abusive (though he is on various other counts). These are moments when Bruce drinks too much scotch and starts talking about his “war” in Gotham (how very Frank Miller, again). These are moments when Bruce utterly neglects the fact he’s in charge of CHILDREN. I have many more and none of the necessary time. Regardless, Titans finally gave me a “Good Bruce” moment. Bruce takes Jason to Crime Alley and tells him he will no longer be Robin. Bruce can’t stand the idea of Jason being hurt or killed (Alanis Morissette’s “Ironic” plays). Bruce breaks down a bit and genuinely calls Jason a son, and tries to get Jason to understand the decision isn’t a punishment. You can all probably figure out where all this went. It’s staring you in the face like a crowbar. My biggest point here is Bruce was given an active role here and allowed to breathe. This variant of the character is definitely more The Dark Knight Returns than Batman: The Long Halloween, but some heart was added to make this version memorable. I hope the show takes more leaps like this with characters in the future.
I’m not done watching Titans. It is not an unsalvageable show. It is an investment. There is solid groundwork happening with hints of real emotion and heart hiding behind a curtain of “Zack Snyder did this and it was cool” tone. I want Titans to be confident in itself, especially when it pulls off story elements well, and I feel happy to see these characters on screen. I live for that moment. There’s a lot more I want to talk about, but I’m not contractually allowed to talk about my book deals, so I’ll end by saying Titans is worth it. I wish I didn’t have to sell it this way, but I have started looking forward to each new episode and I think you will too if you give it a shot.
Recommended Reading & Viewing
I’ve mentioned Frank Miller a lot, so if you’re unaware who this person is and what their connection is to Batman, check out The Dark Knight Returns on Comixology. I would also highly recommend Doom Patrol on HBO Max, as both shows originated at the same time from the same place. Always, go check out Young Justice and Teen Titans on HBO Max. Finally, I want to recommend the current ongoing Nightwing series from DC Comics. It hits on all my favorite aspects of the character, while dealing with the whole Batman legacy thing in a different way than shouting expletives. Find this series at YOUR LOCAL COMIC BOOK SHOP.
Austin Kemp read Batman #315 (Batman vs Kite Man) when he was 5 years old, and hasn't stopped reading comics since. Austin is a college writing teacher and has a masters degree in Comics Studies. Austin and his partner, Savanah, live in Massachusetts with their master, a cat named Chaplin.