And with the second episode, Titans‘ world expands a little. Or, at the very least, its history does.
Following last week’s rather shocking conclusion, Dick (Brenton Thwaites) and Rachel (Teagan Croft) make for Washington D.C., where Dick hopes to get help from his old friends Hank Hall (Alan Ritchson) and Dawn Granger (Minka Kelly). Well, at least Dawn is a friend. Hank is … well, chaotic.
As seen in an extended prologue introducing Hawk & Dove to live action, we see very familiar aspects of the characters. Hawk’s need to get into fights sees him captured by a villain interested in pulling down his pants while Dove finds a way to save her partner. It’s very old Hawk & Dove; DC Universe even has a few issues of the 1960s series when Hank’s brother Don was Dove and finding ways to save his impulsive brother. But as Titans has a pathological need to rebel against the strictures of its DC Comics sources and even the rules of its Greg Berlanti-produced cousins on The CW, Hawk & Dove face brutal odds and deadly foes. Consequently, Dove seems more than willing to use lethal force in response.
Thankfully, the prologue also reveals the physical and mental toll this vigilante business is taking on the couple. Oh yeah, Hank and Dawn are a couple, just as they were at various times in the pages of various DC Comics. But in another divergence from the comics, the pair do not appear to have powers. There are no Lords of Chaos or Lords of Order imbuing them with strength and abilities. Instead, they are street level heroes like Dick. In fact, they clearly palled around with Dick in the past with at least one other unidentified person we’re all going to assume is Donna Troy. The photo of better days prominently featured in the episode features a brunette next to Dick. Her phone number was also spotted while Dick was scrolling through his contacts. Clearly, a Teen Titans of some sort existed before with the four of them. But if Hawk and Dove are depowered vigilantes in this version of events, will Donna’s complicated past and powers also end up missing?
In a more adventurous series, she would be the reason why superpowers appear to be unknown until Dick meets Rachel.
And its Rachel’s abilities which allow us to seen quite clearly why the ersatz Teen Titans no longer exist: Dick and Dawn slept together, making Hank bitterly angry at him and, presumably, Donna uninterested in any sort of partnerships with the three. That’s the emotional powder keg Rachel enters by being part of this road trip. Then again, Dawn immediately shows her empathy and offers a bit of normality. The two go out as regular people while Dick makes his next move. It’s a dumb move, to be sure, but its clear we’re not meant to see Dick as the accomplished apprentice of the Batman or the skilled and capable Nightwing at this point.
Which is why he constantly runs from his relationships. Rachel discerns that Dawn still thinks fondly of their time together, but Dick is uncomfortable with that notion. If he was with Donna at the time, sleeping with Dawn may have just been the ejector seat he was looking for when things got too serious. He also ran from Batman — though there’s sufficient reason for that to be a justifiable break on his part. He’s terrified of deep connections and it explains why he attempts to drop off Rachel with Dawn & Hank while he investigates her powers.
This is a genuinely interesting path for the character. In most of his history, Dick has been capable, forthright and a natural leader. As his initial trauma has never really been explored — at least outside of comics — this fear of attachment (or more to the point, the fear of losing those attachments) feels fresh while also very relevant to Dick’s inability to commit to someone in the comics. Sure, he’s had long relationships with Barbara Gordon and Kory, but none of his romances have become intrinsically linked to the character like Green Arrow & Black Canary, Peter & MJ or even Hawk & Dove. Being something of a ladies’ man is a facet of the character, and it is taking on a sadder aspect within this series.
And the growing need to deal with his attachment issues makes this Dick Grayson’s attempt to flee from someone who genuinely needs him all the more tragic; particularly after he reconsiders his plan, but Rachel finds out it anyway.
Meanwhile, the “activated” family feels like something out of a Bob Haney Teen Titans comic while also still feeling like its trying too hard. They’re sort of fascinating for having that bright and cheery 1950s disposition while still being able to hand all three heroes their lunches. But it remains to be seen if they will develop beyond the “extreme” characterization here into something more worthy.
Which, for the moment, is true of Titans as a whole. While the action on screen is still loud and reactionary, the subtext is quite interesting.
Titans streams Fridays on DC Universe.