In some ways, it is unfair to judge Titans‘ new direction from its debut episode, “Trigon.” It is, after all, a Frankenstein creation.
The bulk of the episode was originally shot as the Season 1 finale before a major rethink of the series slotted the conclusion to the Trigon (Seamus Dever) story into an introductory role. Consequently, the bulk of the episode feels surprisingly lifeless — a perfunctory series of events to get us to something new and exciting. Trigon’s defeat is a CGI damp squib. But it may leave you wondering what this episode looked like in its original form. Was it more operatic? Did Rachel (Teagan Croft) have a harder time conquering the darkness? Did she actually fight her father in a more concrete way? Somehow, the thought of that never-seen Season 1 finale is more exciting that most of “Trigon” itself.
Of course, we won’t discount the possibility Trigon’s easy defeat may sow seeds for a rematch down the line.
So let’s get to the good stuff. Conor Leslie continues to be the perfect television Donna Troy. She’s witty and the most self-assured of the group. It’s a shame she’s sidelined once Trigon takes control of her, but the scenes prior to that event — particular her two-second appraisal of Jason Todd (Curran Walters) — are definitely highlights. Walters also continues to impress as Todd. Is he obnoxious? Oh my, yes. But that’s definitely the intent here. The show wants you to hate Jason, the least likable of Robins, and Walters does a fantastic job playing all of his short-fused and childish quirks. Will it lead to the Red Hood? Maybe. But even if he remains a Titan throughout the season, he will be the one we love to hate.
We should probably talk about the term “Titan” itself as it debuts in this episode in way suggesting it was always a part of the series. This is where we suspect a major rethink of the series occurred. Looking back on the first season, Dick’s (Brenton Thwaites) team with Donna, Hawk (Alan Ritchson) and Dove (Minka Kelly) was never referred to by name and the association seemed more informal than a junior Justice League. Now, it is text that they were the Titans.
You could be generous and assume this was always the intent, but the first season seemed to be leading up to a moment when someone (Trigon perhaps?) accidentally gives Dick, Rachel, Kori (Anna Diop) and Gar (Ryan Potter) the name, bonding them as a wholly new concept. We wouldn’t be surprised if that shows up someday in the material deleted from “Trigon.”
But with Jason nonchalantly referring to Hawk and Dove as Titans and Dick moving the younger heroes into a formerly abandoned Titans Tower, it is clear the series rethought how the Titans concepts works withing the context of Titans. This is, ultimately, a choice for the better. It may make a rewatch of the first season a little strange, but establishing the Titans as the old team — which will apparently appear in flashbacks to their first Deathstroke (Esai Morales) encounter — feels more consistent with the world the show wants to create. Also, by giving the original Titans a shared past they must work through, it makes the world feel more lived in.
In fact, we wonder why this wasn’t the status quo from the first moment of the series premiere.
No matter the reasons for this change, this feels more like the Titans we always wanted to see, even if we enjoyed the first season’s Hot Topic take on the material. Some of that is still here with the liberal use of the F-Bomb, of course, but we’re hoping that becomes a Jason Todd exclusive. The potty mouth seems most appropriate with him.
Meanwhile, we cannot wait to see Deathstroke in action. From his few moments here, Morales has visually transformed into Slade and we’re genuinely excited to see what his grand scheme will entail.
Which is really the main point of the episode. It may be clunky, but it sets up so many things we want to see: the original Titans in action, the New Teen Titans forming, and the entire Wilson family bringing their damage to the team. The last twenty minutes or so set up those hooks and we hope it makes for a great Season 2.
Titans streams Fridays on DC Universe.