REVIEW: Titans S2E7-9

It’s finally happening – we get to see why everyone is so wary of Deathstroke and what happens when they face off… in the past and the present! Everything builds to a good, pulpy climax then kind of dissipates in a dozen different directions. Revenge, angst, country-fried karaoke – these episodes have it all, plus more Krypto! As usual with these Titans reviews, a Spoiler Alert is in effect. Nothing is safe!

Episode 7 – “Bruce Wayne”

IMDb Premise: As Dick sets out alone to track down Deathstroke, a familiar voice begins to haunt him – taunting him and attempting to guide him back to being the leader the Titans need. 

Does it work? This is easily one of the best Titans episodes yet. Dick’s manhunt for Deathstroke, accompanied by visions of Bruce doubting, mocking, and second-guessing him, makes for a great A-plot. Jason’s lingering trauma, Rose’s social blooming, Krypto continuing to be a good dog, Kori’s double tech with Rachel to combine Solar Flare and Shadow Shield – there’s a lot to like here. 

Random asides:

  • Iain Glen doing the Batusi with a couple of burlesque dancers signals the Adam West influence I didn’t know I’d love. Even as an apparition, this coy, aloof Bruce makes me smile.
  • Ideally, the writers room for this show uses an ideas board that is covered with ideas to feature Krypto in each episode. Otherwise, why are those FinalCut jockeys getting paid? I don’t even care that the kryptonite collar didn’t prevent Krypto from using heat vision – plus, the Titans’ hospital bed is pet-friendly!
  • I like that when the Titans team up to fight Dr. Light they use a lot of brute force, but with the new Titans, superpowers can complement each other and actually heal someone. 
  • Speaking of superpowers… Kori is officially the strongest Titan at the moment, right? If she can actually generate heat/radiation comparable to the surface of the sun, nobody can hold her down. Johnny Storm’s barely hot enough to shine her boots, by comparison.
  • The moral resolution of this episode – Dick releasing his self-doubts by admitting his wrongs to his junior – is such a great character moment for him and Jason. 
  • Sucks to be Gar sleeping through the episode – maybe next time, buddy!
  • Everyone likes to share that page of Superman holding the would-be suicide jumper and reassuring us all that we’re stronger than we think we are. Dick sits on the ledge next to a jumper and says they can just be up on a ledge together. I think both approaches are valuable and necessary for some people to hear. 

Episode 8 – “Jericho”

IMDb Premise: After the murder of Aqualad, Dick, Donna, Dawn and Hank befriend Jericho Wilson, Deathstroke’s son. Realizing that Slade’s devotion to his son might be Deathstroke’s only weakness, Dick is eager to use the information against his nemesis. 

Does it work? Two strong episodes in a row? I’m feeling spoiled over here! All the cards are finally on the table, at least concerning the original Titans’ unspoken guilt over what happened to Jericho. Hats off to Chella Man for relaying the sweet, open-hearted soul that is (err, was) Jericho. It says a lot that the show already marked him for death yet his presence feels so natural, both within the Titans team and the show at large. Here’s a guy with a hitman for a dad who lost his vocal chords as collateral damage… and he’s still a sweetheart. Earlier episodes banked hard that Jericho’s death and absence would mean something after all the facts were out, and the gamble works.

A big part of Jericho and Dick’s combined arc working so effectively is Dick’s perspective on events. For someone who broods so hard over “killing Deathstroke’s son,” some viewers no doubt felt Dick was conflating things. Deathstroke stabs Jericho out of pure haste, with Dick only responsible at a distant degree for escalating the showdown with Deathstroke and keeping Jericho in the picture. While the facts of the murder make Dick less of a cold-blooded killer and more of a negligent brawler, his guilt is a compelling reaction. This guy was raised by Batman, the big daddy of brooding! Of course any life lost results in the weight of the world on Dick’s shoulders. 

Random asides

  • Wow, I thought Donna’s Amazonian teachers were going to lay down the law somewhere down the line… nope! Jillian deflected a bullet with a throwing star! That’s not badass enough to stop Deathstroke?!
  • Is Deathstroke peak boomer? He’s an older, established career professional obstructing a west-coast startup comprised of young people by playing on their personal demons and pointing fingers at everyone but himself when he could otherwise retire comfortably and get out of the way.
  • Last season I was excited for the moment Dick put on the Robin uniform to whup some ass in a motel parking lot; I felt a similar excitement over Deathstroke having a staff to counter Dick’s, including its hidden blade and gun. 
  • Even if Jillian, Donna, and Dick couldn’t take down Deathstroke, I want to believe that in-uniform Dawn has a fair shot at him, if only because a lady dressed as a bird would confuse him for long enough for her to cut him with some knife feathers. 
  • Good detective work of the Titans to kick in Wintergreen’s door and immediately declare him missing without tearing the place apart. I know that’s narratively picky of me, but Wintergreen’s a secret agent, right? 
  • Jericho is the hero we need, quietly turning awful customers apologetic and self-effacing.

Episode 9 – “Atonement”

IMDb Premise: Dick’s confession causes the Titans to go their separate ways. Hank and Dawn try to start a new life. Koriand’r encounters an unexpected threat. Gar tries to help Conner adjust. Does it work? Heavens, no. Individually, the “separate team members going their own way” vignettes seem fine, but combined as an episode, it feels more like the show itself is being torn apart. Character angles like Hank’s residual guilt over the costs of a superhero life or Kori’s simmering standoff with her sister Blackfire should be mainlines of the season, not a variety of breakups sprinkled across the episode.

This season started with the Titans arriving at the tower and living together, which I think represented a promise of sorts that the band was finally getting together. Maybe this episode is supposed to represent large-scale melodrama, but instead it throws away all of the most entertaining buildup to send characters back to square one. If I wanted that sort of story padding, I’d watch more Arrowverse! We’re most of the way through the second season of a show about a superhero team, and the team has yet to actually cohere. Dick declared that the team needed to train last season to prepare for enemies, and all they’ve faced are a grieving old man who’d rather live in a cabin in the woods and a reckless science bro whom any of the Titans could individually handle. There’s shaking up the board to motivate through drama, but this episode feels like it wipes the board clean. Let the Titans pieces play! 

Random asides:

  • Let’s start by going back to episode seven: timeline-wise, everyone was mad at Jason just a few minutes ago for seemingly winding them up with emotionally loaded signs. Even if everyone really wanted to part ways after Dick’s story… aren’t they concerned about who infiltrated the tower? Isn’t the culprit still at large? 
  • Following this logic train straight to the site of the crash: Hank and Dawn leave in a regular car. Isn’t their arch-nemesis a master sniper who takes advantage of windows and predictable routes? Wasn’t a car already blown up to threaten them? But okay, they need to sing karaoke (an admittedly honey-glazed scene).
  • Rachel holds Donna in place with a shadow construct to get out of a stationary car and walk away. Would Donna have stopped her otherwise? I thought Rachel was closer with Kori, not Donna? 
  • Back up again: by having the whole team break up and go separate ways, the latent reveal of the Titans mole loses a ton of momentum, especially if it wasn’t Deathstroke. I wouldn’t put it past this show to have Jericho haunting the tower or someone under a secret influence.
  • But wait, Gar’s staying behind to watch over Conner, that’s right, the recovering Kryptonian still learning how the world and humanity works. Okay. Sure. 
  • Conner then helps someone under arrest by beating up cops while Gar cuts and runs. Their earlier bonding over videogames and talking about their destructive sides gives way to resetting Conner’s situation back to his debut episode, charging through obstacles he doesn’t understand and in need of a friend (aside from cop-tackling Krypto).
  • Blackfire’s reveal was kind of cool – not sure why she and Deathstroke couldn’t be the terrifying two-fer of this season, attacking the Titans in an unintentional pincer strike.
  • Dick visits Jericho’s mom Adeline to offer a formal apology, and instead cues one of the most awkward edits of the entire series as Deathstroke is revealed to be sitting in an adjacent room. They agree to a cease-fire before Deathstroke moans at nothing in particular, slowly emerges from his chair, and reiterates his resolve to kill the Titans if they ever relaunch. The camera makes several pointless cuts during this moment, giving me the impression of an editor somewhere tossing up their hands and declaring, “That’s as good as it’s gonna get.”

VERDICT I really enjoyed episodes seven and eight, but nine… woof, and not in a cute Krypto way. I’ll average them together to say 3 out of 5.

See you next time for the last time, as my reactions will cover the final four episodes of this season.

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Thomas is a teen services librarian who reads way too many comics. He can be found gobbling pancakes at the nearest diner with Jessica Cruz, Forsythe Jones III, Jane Foster, and Hellboy. He reviews media for the public here and graphic novels for librarians at No Flying, No Tights.

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