This week, Titans paused from its cliffhanger in the last episode to offer the origin of Hawk and Dove in “Hank and Dawn.”
Which, to be honest, is a little weird considering the amount of trouble Rachel (Teagan Croft) was in, but “Hank and Dawn” proves to be a special story as Geoff Johns reworks the characters’ origins into something which honors the Hawk and Dove comic books while adding a metric ton of tragedy to the characters lives.
But then, I suppose, Don Hall’s death had to be epic without referring back to the Crisis on Infinite Earths.
In this realigned reality, Hank (Alan Ritchson) and Don (Elliot Knight) are half brothers who turn to hunting down pedophiles after they are both expelled from Kesel University (a nice nod to Hawk and Dove writers Karl and Barbara Kesel). But as it happens, Don directs Hank toward becoming a costumed hero because he knows his brother was abused by their elementary school football coach. Yikes.
Back in the comics, the boys are sons of a judge with many political enemies. When they uncover a plot to kill him, renegade Lords of Chaos and Order offer them superpowers whenever they call upon the abilities of The Hawk and The Dove. The deletion of the superpowered origin over one more befitting an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit should break the characters. Instead, it gives Don a greater depth as he understands his brother better and even instigates the crimefighting as a way to channel his anger. Clearly, he had intentions for Hawk and Dove beyond pedophiles as he tells his brother “the whole system is broken.”
Sadly, he doesn’t live to see those plans through as a shipping van strikes him and Dawn Granger’s (Minka Kelly) mother (Marina Sirtis) down in a freak accident. Wiping them both out at the same time replicates part of the comic book origin as Dawn received her powers at the same moment Don died. Here, though, it is the tragedy which initially bonds Hank and Dawn. Thanks to the episode’s slower pace, the genuine rapport between the characters comes to light. There’s a natural ease once Dawn breaks through Hank’s reflexive asshole behavior. And though it ultimately becomes romantic, it is interesting to see them first grow close as souls brought together by grief.
Also interesting is the way the bond over violence. As Dawn finally admits to the support group, she wishes someone had caused the accident so she would have someone to hate. Hank gives her that person in the form of his abuser, the former football coach. It leads to a brutal fight and a key moment between the future superheroes. Hank, knowing he going to beat the coach within an inch of his life — or maybe even fatally wound him — offers Dawn a moment to leave the scene. She refuses. While the comic book Hank and Dawn were never the happiest of heroes, this reinvention of their origin leads to a stunning level of darkness.
Oh, and let’s just add some sex to it, even if Dawn regrets it later that morning.
Like a Legion of Superheroes spotlight issue, “Hank and Dawn” does a worthy job of fleshing out these characters. It also sort of serves as a Hawk and Dove pilot should executive producers Geoff Johns and Akvia Goldsman — who wrote and directed this episode, respectively — choose to spin them off. Ritchson and Kelly are strong enough performers to carry such a show, but considering the darkness surrounding them, it might work better as an 8-episode limited series than a 12-episode ongoing.
Meanwhile, Rachel was able to call to Dawn through her memories and wake her up. Presumably, she has a plan to unite them, Jason Todd (Curran Walters) and the rest of the Titans. But it remains to be seen if Kory (Anna Diop) is part of the team or the foe they are facing.
Titans streams Fridays on DC Universe.