Titans season 3 review: Too much Batman for a show with no Batman
It is telling that the HBO Max series Titans kicks off its third season with a truncated version of one of the most notorious Batman stories ever told. The first episode, “Barbara Gordon”, begins with a hilarious and brief version of A death in the family, the Jim Starlin and Jim Aparo comic book featuring the Joker murder of Jason Todd, the second Robin. In the Titans episode, Bruce Wayne is in flight and unable to help Jason, who pursues the Joker alone, despite Bruce’s warnings. And he’s pummeled to death by the Joker, who is shown from so far away that it might as well be any random crook with a crowbar. Jason (Curran Walters) comes out like a jerk.
This is perhaps a point wanted by Titans‘writers – heroes deflecting the impulse to turn in on themselves and go it alone have been a major theme of the show since the jump – but it all happens too quickly for viewers to feel it strongly, mostly because Titans almost immediately launches into another famous Batman story. It should be noted that although Bruce Wayne does show up occasionally – much like in Titans season 2 – there is no Batman in this story. It’s the fucking Batman show, remember?
Titans has always been a little too much in love with the Batman side of his tale without Batman. While this is technically an ensemble drama on the past and present roster of a team of teenage superheroes reuniting, the show definitely has a main character, and that’s Dick Grayson, the first Robin (Brenton Thwaites). Now operating as Nightwing, he leads the Titans, which now include Starfire (Anna Diop), Gar Logan (Ryan Potter), and Connor / Superboy (Joshua Orpin). However, before the series can delve into what the team is now, Jason’s death brings Dick back from the Titans’ hometown of San Francisco to his former Gotham City lairs, and the Titans eventually follow suit.
The spine of Titans season 3 is an adaptation of Under the hood, The 2004-2006 Batman Story by Judd Winick, Doug Mahnke and others who resurrected Jason Todd after his death in 1988 as the villainous Red Hood, for revenge. the Titans assuming it holds few surprises for anyone with a passing knowledge of the source material or any of its other adaptations, like the 2015 video game. Batman: Knight of Arkham. Titans does not stray very far from the great rhythms of history, at least not in the first six episodes made available to criticism. It’s not even a big deal; the show’s second season also created a version of the Marv Wolfman and George Perez classic Judas’ contract history of The New Teen Titans, which wasn’t terribly subversive, but was still exciting to watch. Judas’ contract, however, was not a Batman story. It was about the Teen Titans.
It might give the impression that Titans ignores more than he does his unrelated casting to the bat. Well they are not absent. Kory eventually gets a subplot picking up a thread from last season, where her possibly evil sister arrives on Earth looking for her. As it takes a while for them to introduce themselves, Hawk and Dove (Alan Ritchson and Minka Kelly) return, and the series’ oldest non-Dick character arc returns with them. Unfortunately, that’s a bit of it for the first half of the season. Continuing a trend from last season, the writers often overlook Connor and Gar (their powers are expensive to portray, after all), which hurts all the more because they’re often the only reliable source of the show’s lightness.
It’s downright weird to see Titans So move away completely from what made it work so well in previous seasons, which is the delicate tonal balance between dark and violent superhero dramas and funny teenage angst. Titans Still comes with a harder edge and better action than the average CW superhero soap, but it risks its heart and mind with a story that clearly favors a small portion of its cast. There’s little room for pleasurable or playful twists and turns, like the Season 1 arc where Rachel Roth (Teagan Croft) took Titans on a road full of horror with his strange supernatural powers. (So far this season, she’s completely absent.) Or season 2 Big-wacky style of an adult Superboy who discovers the world for the first time, because he only knows the inside of a laboratory.
Instead, the current iteration of Titans is immersed in the dark and anguished world of the person he initially wanted to get away from: fucking Batman.
The first three episodes of Titans Season 3 is now streaming on HBO Max. New episodes air on Fridays.