So I finally caved and got a subscription to DC Universe in order to watch Titans. (Okay, I got it because next week is the “Doom Patrol” episode and I goddamn love the Doom Patrol.) In any case, I watched the first three episodes of Titans and...well, they were surprisingly better than I thought. So let’s talk about them, shall we?
Episode 1: “Titans”
The first episode of the show is actually the weakest, since it has to set up so much. In fact, it only really sets up Robin, Raven, and Starfire — Beast Boy is pretty much left for the very last scene, but I didn’t mind that. It’s better to have a slow burn than to try and rush to get everyone together and you end up overstuffing the episode.
The actual brunt of the episode is mainly about Dick and Rachel’s lives, them meeting, and then Dick trying to help Rachel via road trip. And of the two characters, it’s the demonically-possessed one that comes across as much more interesting and sympathetic — especially since we see her home life and school life before we get to see her watch her mother die in front of her. She ends up being the heart of the show, while Dick generally acts like, well, a dick.
The last part of the episode is dedicated to Starfire — or “Kory Anders,” as the show tells us. She wakes up after a car crash with no memories of who she is, only that some people want to kill her and she was apparently looking for a girl: Rachel. I thought that this storyline was going to be silly and yes, it kind of was, but Anna Diop’s performance as “Kory” is just so fun that it makes it seem okay. Kory has amnesia, doesn’t know anything about herself, and even seems kind of surprised when she can speak German (and apparently terrible German, according to the internet), but none of it seems to phase her. She doesn’t seem particularly worried when she learns she has super strength or when she shoots fire from her hands and burns three mobsters to death. After that, she just kind of chuckles. I love her.
Oh, right, the whole “killing people” thing. Robin maims people and it’s implied that he left Batman because he realized that he liked maiming people and it’s all kind of silly, but it works as motivation. Rachel, on the other hand, ends up killing someone and becomes utterly traumatized because, hey, she’s a teenager and is demonically-possessed. Kory kills someone and doesn’t care because, well, they were trying to kill her and she really doesn’t care of bad people die. This fits each of their characters on the show...but probably not in the comics. So...forget the comics. Seriously, just forget the comics, because the show certainly has. It’s much more enjoyable without the comparison.
Episode 2: “Hawk and Dove”
And here’s where the show begins to get a lot better, even as I begin to see some of the issues it has, especially with female characters. But more on that later. First: Hawk and Dove are awesome. Remember what I said about forgetting about the comics? Yeah, forget about them, because this Hawk and Dove don’t really bare any resemblance to them except by having the same names. (Dove certainly doesn’t represent “pacifism,” what with leaving a trail of bodies in her wake.) No, what they are is a couple of veteran vigilantes whose life of crime-fighting has left them with the scars and concussions to back it up.
I was surprised by just how realistic they were treating them, after the first episode’s treatment of Robin, but I liked it: it was kind of a deconstruction of the normal ways that vigilantes work. Hawk has been injured so many times that he needs a new hip and he regularly takes steroids in order to stay strong enough to fight a dozen bad guys. But even Hawk and Dove can’t fight more than a dozen guys with machine guns. And that’s where Robin comes in, after having road tripped his way to Washington, DC, with Rachel.
Did I see the Hawk/Dove/Robin love triangle coming? Yes. Is it super cliche? Yes. Fortunately, the show doesn’t spend too much time dwelling on it and gets back to what’s actually interesting: showing us corners and characters of the DC universe we haven’t seen before. In this case, the Nuclear Family. Who are both hilarious and fucking terrifying. I loved watching them get activated during a game of Monopoly. I loved watching them play car games with Rachel tied up in the middle. I loved watching them be exceedingly polite, even as they beat the ship out of everybody.
However, remember when I stated the show’s flaws were appearing, especially in regard to women? Yeah, aside from Starfire and Rachel, the show really doesn’t know what to do with its female characters. Instead of making Dove a main character or giving her any sort of agency, she’s unceremoniously pushed off a building and into a coma. And it’s even worse with Dick’s partner on the Detroit Police — Amy Rohrbach is killed by the Nuclear Family and...that’s it. I was anticipating her becoming something like the Gordon to Dick’s Batman, but the show just killed her off for no reason. C’mon, show, I’m trying to like you here, but this shit isn’t helping.
Episode 3: “Origins”
Thankfully, the third episode brings back Kory and all is wonderful again. Does Kory finding Rachel so fast make any sense? No. Do I care? Also no. Her walking up to the Nuclear Dad and just burning him to death was, again, kind of hilarious, even if she was nonchalant about it. (Hey, he did deserve it, even if she didn’t know about the murder of Amy Rohrbach. And also he was probably a robot, too, maybe.) And then we get another road trip, this time with Kory and Rachel and awesome-times ensue.
The rest of the episode is basically Kory trying to learn about herself, Rachel commenting how awesome Kory is, and Dick trying to catch up with Kory and Rachel and having flashbacks to his own childhood after his parent’s deaths. The flashbacks don’t really provide much in terms of characterization aside from showing us how angry Dick was, but we already knew that. I guess it does kind of count as a subversion of Batman’s message — the fact that Bruce believes fighting crime is a good substitute for revenge is something that Dick negates, saying it didn’t get rid of his need for revenge nor his anger issues.
And then everyone meets up at a creepy convent where Rachel stayed as a baby. I guessed that the nuns were evil, but was, thankfully, wrong: they just wanted to lock Rachel up and stop her father from ending the world.
Oh, and the Nuclear Family go see their employer, who is even creepier than them. I loved this entire scene, especially with him making them an omelette for them and then getting them another dad.
The only strange part about the episode was the fact that Gar “Beast Boy” Logan just happens to be in the same bowling alley as Kory and Rachel. Dick, Kory, and Rachel came together pretty organically, but having Gar just kind of show up seems a bit too coincidental.
Perhaps we’ll get answers next episode, but for now, I’m just happy to say that the show is far better than I anticipated. Also: Kory is fucking awesome.