Titans- Premier “Titans” and Ep. 2 “Hawk & Dove”: A Review

Posted: 10/21/2018 in Uncategorized

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At one point in the 80s, The Teen Titans were DC’s answer to Marvel’s X-Men and for a goodly bit  of time, were outselling the X-ers. Over time, the characters fell into obscurity and despite numerous…and I mean numerous… re-launch attempts, interest in the core group hasn’t really dropped all that much. When TNT announced a live action series was in the works in 2014, I was happily intrigued and wanted to see what would be presented. This of course went sideways and never proceeded. Enter DC’s attempt to dig into the niche market currently controlled by Netflix. Starting with Titans as the flagship series was a risk but two eps in, I am confidently saying it was one worth taking.

Already renewed for a second season, this twelve episode series presents the individuals who will become a team in drastically different lights. Brentan Thwaites’ Dick Grayson/Robin is easily the most gritty, violent and ruthless version of this character ever depicted. His character’s motivations lie somewhere between Marvel’s Daredevil and Punisher characters. Robin might not kill but he has no compunction about wounding and causing maximum damage to an opponent. The opening moments, featuring him beating the living hell out of arms dealers, showed that some of the money put behind this show was spent on fight training. Robin is fast, methodical and uses his weaponry to optimal effect. Thus far, this show freely acknowledges its broader universe, referencing both Alfred Pennyworth and Batman/Bruce Wayne. The fracture between Robin and Batman is hinted at but a physical demonstration of Grayson’s current mind set kind of explains things seamlessly.

Grayson’s private life intersects with his personal with the introduction of Rachel Roth who will eventually become Raven. Grayson’s personal backstory pushes him to empathize with children at risk and Rachel Roth is exceedingly at risk. Teagan Croft is one of the breakout stars of this season, presenting a wounded vulnerability with an equal core of anger and abandonment issues. From her first moment on screen, she is interesting. Her introduction via her moments with her mother Angela (Sherilynn Fenn) are tense, with religious overtones and dark atmosphere. Make no mistake folks, this isn’t the shiny, bright TT of yesteryear’s comic books. This is its own animal…and it is a mighty dark one. Raven’s story has always been horror based and this show does not shy away from the source material though there is a stronger concentration on the more malevolent aspect of Rachel’s abilities.

We get only the most cursory introduction of Ryan Potter’s Garfield Logan/Beast Boy’s presence at this point though there is the fun sense of play from both the character’s actions and demeanor. Both are very much on point with the character’s source material.

With Starfire/Koriand’r however we have a severe departure from the beloved character. The choice of an African American actress has been met with great division and no small degree of racism. I am willing to see how her character arc will play out. The amnesiac/spy angle does not appeal to me particularly but Anna Diop brings both a confidence and sensuality that fits the character. I am certainly willing to go on faith, particularly with the exhibition of her abilities in a ‘searing’ scene involving Konstantin Kovar (Mark Anthony Krupa ) whose own origins run far and deep in DC lore. Her look is what seems to have fans lit up…again…it is early and I am again willing to have a little faith.

Ep two brings further expansion with Hawk/Hank Hall (Alan Ritchson)  and Dove/Dawn Grainger (Minka Kelly) . This ep was more of a mixed bag with the dynamic between Rachel and Grayson drawing more of the deserved attention. Robin/Grayson reaches back to his previous connections, outlined quite nicely with an earlier battle sequence involving Robin’s interaction with the earlier mentioned duo as the onset of his rebellion against his mentor. Fight scenes on this show are not quite Daredevil level but they are very good, with Thwaites’ demonstration of due physicality and acrobatic skill. The earlier fight sequences inform a later one in which he exhibits his changed mind set and incredible brutality, complete with two maimings.

The two new characters are where the mixed bag element comes in. Hall is presented as well…broken. We are introduced to him being tortured and later moments do not favor him. He is in need of retirement. He is angry, hurt and occasionally hostile. While some of his case is understandable, he isn’t overly relatable and comes off as weak and jealous. The actor’s performance is at best middling. Kelly’s Dawn fares a little better and her chemistry with Thwaites is undeniable. Her reaching Rachel who later calls her “Kalisi” teasingly, citing Games of Thrones Mother of Dragon’s blonde haired appearance, allows for a slightly lighter tone. I am of the mind that such light moments will need to increase over time as this show while off to a rousing start could run a little too dark.

The introduction of the “nuclear’ family again takes the show toward horror fare with a Stepford Wives-ian chaser. The “hold your #$%&ing horses” comment with swear jar moment was duly funny however. These folks appear to be a force with the son and daughter being especially creepy. Their actions against Amy Rohrbach (Lindsay Gort), Grayson’s new partner, allows for another harsher intersection of his professional and personal life.

The end sequence of ep two opens up the show to either a brutal beginning or potential push to Rachel’s rise as Raven. In any case, this is so far proving one to watch and a much needed victory for DC after the fairly rough year(s) they had cinematically. So far so good, Titans is simply outstanding and well worth your time.

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