Despite what some of the new trailers will have you believe, Titans is still very much a dark show. Although they do cut out the bit where Robin breaks someone’s neck in the alleyway, it still doesn’t shy away from any excessive violence or a tone that makes it clear this show isn’t at all light, campy, or in any way happy. A dark tone isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but in this case it’s a bit all-encompassing and it doesn’t let up in the first three episodes of the series.
Titans opens with Dick’s (Brenton Thwaites) backstory, one Raven (Teagan Croft) sees in her dream. The Flying Graysons are famous trapeze artists whose lives are cut short along with the rope holding them in the air with Dick being the only survivor. Meanwhile, Raven’s mom is scared of her and for her. But everything changes when a strange man kills her mother and goes after Raven, who runs away and ends up at the police station where Dick is now a detective. Meanwhile, over in Austria, Starfire (Anna Diop) wakes up in a car that has crashed with no memory of who she is. There are men after her, but when she heads back to the hotel, she discovers she goes by the name of Kory Anders and all clues to her identity somehow tie back into Raven, so she flies to the U.S. in order to track her down.
The primary story is tied to the main four: Dick, Starfire, Raven, and Beast Boy (Ryan Potter). Somehow, they’re all drawn to each other and Raven is the main reason. Beast Boy, however, is unfortunately underutilized and is barely even in the first three episodes (he’s also completely absent from the second). His introduction comes at the end of the first episode, but it’s tacked on and doesn’t get enough attention. He makes another appearance in the third episode where he interacts with Raven playing pinball, but we don’t get much besides the assumption that he’ll be following the other three in episode four.
Brenton Thwaites’ Dick Grayson is fine given the material he’s saddled with. One of the most important, and underappreciated, characters in the Bat Family, the Dick from the comics isn’t quite as grim, violent, and brooding as the one in Titans. He’s a detective by day and, for the past year, his late-night activities as Robin have come to a halt. He seems intent on ignoring the existence of his crime-fighting ways and coming out from behind the shadow of Batman. One of the mysteries is that we don’t know exactly what caused him to leave Gotham City and Bruce Wayne’s influence behind, but the implication is that Dick found himself becoming too much like Bruce and wanted to distance himself from his own growing darkness.
Dick’s characteristics in Titans are a bit more Batman-lite. Gone are the quick jokes, the easygoing nature of his personality, and the sense of fun he embodies in the comics. Dick can be considered serious, sure, but not in the way he is here. The weight he carries in the show is heavy and the burden affects his interactions with everyone. What does remain, however, is the protective nature he has when it comes to kids and ensuring they are safe from the horrors they might face. Dick is gentle with Raven and wants the best for her, even if he’s quick to make promises he might not be able to keep.
Of all of the characters, the mystery surrounding Starfire and her journey toward figuring out who she is and why she’s been looking for Raven is the most intriguing. Anna Diop is a powerhouse and immediately makes an impression. She has certain facial tics and reactions that show off her range and Diop can be formidable, fiercely badass, and also quietly curious when need be. There’s a tempered and untapped power boiling underneath and even though Kory doesn’t quite understand why she has these powers, she’s not afraid to use them when the situation calls for it.
This iteration of Starfire is a bit different than from the comics, but it works for the tone of the show. And while there’s darkness surrounding everyone else, Starfire adds a bit of much-needed levity. She walks with a purpose and drive. As a character, she’s definitely the most engaging and easily the best character in Titans so far. If there’s any reason to watch, it’s for her (and Raven because Teagan Croft is also one of the standouts). The only strange thing is that the show doesn’t seem to want to relieve Diop of the outfit she wears anytime soon, but regardless of what anyone thinks of it, it looks much better in live-action.
As for the episodes themselves, the pilot is just ok. It’s a bit slow-going and lacks any heartfelt moments. It introduces us to the characters and there’s certainly enough intrigue, but it doesn’t immediately hook you. The series thus far dabbles in a lot of different mysteries and it’s these mysteries which link each episode to the other. While the darkness hovers, Titans seems to at least care about connecting each of the main characters. However, while there is some character development throughout, the show doesn’t have a lot of heart as of yet and so it’s hard to get emotionally invested.
The second episode of Titans is honestly the dullest and slowest of the three. And it’s mostly due to way they introduce Hawk/Hank Hall (Alan Ritchson) and Dove/Dawn Granger (Minka Kelly), both of whom have no hold on the story thus far and seem to have primarily been introduced to create tension between the couple. You see, Dawn and Dick share a romantic history (something that’s unexpected and honestly unnecessary). Hank is unhappy about Dick’s presence, while Dawn is concerned that Dick is no longer the person she knew.
Their introduction doesn’t offer up much in the way of adding to the narrative. Hank is a stereotypical alpha male, tough guy who is quick to become jealous of Dick when he shows up at their door. Beyond that, he doesn’t have much of a personality. Minka Kelly does well with the story she gets and she’s clearly the more level-headed on in the relationship. If she still has any unresolved feelings for Dick, they are thankfully not touched upon. She seems happy with Hank and is gentle when it comes to caring for Raven, but she is also quick to speak up when need be. Starfire is completely absent in the second episode and it’s incredibly noticeable and a bit disappointing given her introduction and mysterious story laid out in the pilot. The second episode should’ve come later in the season and ruins a bit of the momentum coming after the pilot.
Titans really seems to get going by the third episode, titled “Origins.” There are still some questions that go unanswered, but at least it finally brings together Raven, Dick, and Starfire and builds upon the events that have already transpired. There’s certainly a lot to mine from the show, but it needs to ease up on trying to take itself too seriously. As it stands, Titans is a slightly above average entry into DC Comics’ live-action world and certainly needs to smooth out some of its edges and balance its oppressively dark tone before it can rise to its full potential.