Titans has, up until now, excelled at making its takes on the Teen Titans characters interesting. They may not be the ones you remember from New Teen Titans or Teen Titans Go!, but they feel alive and worth spending time with.
And then they got to Garth.
Admittedly, Garth is not the strongest presence to begin with. He’s not part of the classic Wolfman/Perez lineup and attempts to make him a more interesting character in comics always leave him out to dry. But the Titans version of Aqualad may be the first true misstep of the series since leaning into “F*ck Batman” way back when. As seen in episode 4 — a flashback to the moment things turned sour for the original Titans — Garth (played by Drew Van Acker), was something of a broey guy with a serious Donna Troy (Conor Leslie) fixation. And as she is the regular, the character development is all on her.
Which is not only fair, but also correct. It is interesting to see that Donna — a seemingly full-fledged Amazon in this reality — was conflicted about completing her training on Themyscira and her attraction to Garth. It retroactively sets up the Donna we met in Season 1 and why she’s the last person looking to put the band back together. But at the same time, it left Garth looking like a creep. That’s clearly not the intent as his ultimate fate inspires the Titans to do something presumably quite terrible, but it is nonetheless what we’re left with going forward. And considering he is such a motivator for the Season 2 story, it is sad to have him realized in such an awkward way.
Meanwhile, for those of us reading “The Judas Contract” alongside the series this season, isn’t it interesting to see Dick (Brenton Thwaites) initiate contact with Jericho (Chella Man) instead of the other way around? That story’s popularity makes it more or less unsuitable for use on the series — they have to invert almost all the plot points to give viewers any sort of surprise — but this feels like a precise use of an idea from the story. Especially as Jericho turned the tide in the Titans’ favor in “The Judas Contract.” But as that story looms so large in Titans history, we’re still left to wonder if there might be a traitor in their midst.
And Episode 5 only reinforces the feeling that Jason (Curran Walters) will not only become that traitor, but become the Red Hood in the process.
The two episodes are interesting counterpoints as both revolve around Dick’s inability to lead the team — a notion that is itself a reversal of the comic book character’s greatest strength — and while it further sets him apart from the Nightwing of comics fame, it is an interesting area to explore. While the show softened its stance on the Batman as an abusive parent, some of its legacy is still there in the way Dick treats his teammates and the new Titans. Like Bruce, he cannot stop lying. It is an interesting character flaw to apply to Dick as it is readily apparent in the Batman of the comics and duplicity is a job requirement for most superheroes. And one imagines, if Jason does become the Red Hood, it will form the core of his conflict with the team.
Then again, if Jason should perish next week, there’s plenty to mine there as well. There’s Dawn’s (Minka Kelly) threat to burn down the tower, Hank’s (Alan Ritchson) continued ambivalence toward any heroing — to say nothing of his sudden kinship with Jason — and whatever Kori’s (Anna Diop) reaction might be. Looking back at “The Judas Contract,” it is entirely possible Dick will abdicate leadership to Kori or Donna; putting him in almost the same spot he was in during that comic book storyline. Also, it would amplify Donna’s story if she is forced to keep the others safe from Deathstroke (Esai Morales).
Oh, and Morales turning in such an effortless performance of the original, villainous Slade Wilson. Hopefully, he’ll keep that up for the rest of the season.
Titans streams Fridays on DC Universe.