While executive producer Geoff Johns referred to the first season of DC Universe’s Titans as a 12-hour movie, it shines its brightest in more episodic segments. “Doom Patrol” may be the show’s single best hour, but “Jason Todd,” the sixth episode, is a close second.
Dick (Brenton Thwaites) reluctantly teams up with new Robin Jason Todd (Curran Walters) to deal with Anderson (Reed Birney) and offer the rest of the Titans a little respite in one of Bruce Wayne’s safe houses. Unfortunately, Jason is also on orders from Batman to tell Dick about the deaths of some of the circus folk he grew up with. It leads the two Robin to Milwaukee, where they face an unexpected enemy.
It’s a damned fine setup for a big shift as Dick faces the reality that Bruce not only replaced him, but did so quickly and with a kid in much poorer head-space than even he was in the beginning. Walters brings just the right snot-nose puck vibe to Jason that one would almost want to see him on a proper Batman show interacting with the Dark Knight. He also foreshadowed some of the personality quirks which will lead to Jason’s downfall and return as the Red Hood. In fact, the comic book character has been on such a strange journey since his return that it was almost shocking to see him as a youthful Robin again. But Walters, and the story, paint him in the right colors for Titans‘ vision of the DC Universe. And it will come as no shock should he show up again in the second season wearing his own persona.
Also, it would be interesting to see the show tackle Tim Drake.
But back to the first Robin, “Jason Todd” also aids Dick on his journey to becoming something else. Besides Jason calling him out on his identity issues, the revelation that he allowed Tony Zucco to die two years further strengthens the feeling that his underlying trauma was never resolved. He succumbed to vengeance and it would not be a surprise if it accelerated the rift between Dick and Bruce. Also, strong man Clayton (Lester Speight) was such an instantly wonderful addition to Dick’s past, inspired by another circus strong man in the comics, that I hope we see him again.
Meanwhile, Episode 7, “Asylum,” feels like the episode the show had to commit to at this point in its first season storyline. Learning her birth mother is still alive, Rachel (Teagan Croft) and Gar (Ryan Potter) head off to an Asylum ran by the Organization to rescue her. Things go sideways, of course, but it leads to an overall positive gain as Rachel saves her mother and the other Titans. Dick, meanwhile, lets go of Robin completely.
But after the strong standalone story of “Jason Todd,” portions of “Asylum” felt like filler. To be fair, a lot of the episode had to happen at some point. Rachel had to meet Anderson. Dick had to say no to rushing in so Rachel and Gar could run off on their own. The group really isn’t a team, still, and so the bungled nature of the mission also had to happen. But within all the obligatory story beats were a few standout moments like everything between Rachel and Gar. Potter has a lot of charisma, and it finally became useful this week as he revealed a key aspect of living with Dr. Caulder and playfully teased Rachel on their Uber ride to the Asylum. This is the sort of character interaction Titans should focus on more often in its second year as the actors shine more in these moments than the bursts of ultraviolence. See also: the way Kory (Anna Diop) defuses Dick’s brooding with a playful quip. If the arc of the show brings the characters out of their respective darknesses and into a shared light, it may prove to be a more surprising and satisfying series.
Titans streams Fridays on DC Universe.