Titans – Season 1 Episode 2
“Hawk and Dove”
Remember last week when I said it would have been better if Titans had premiered with two episodes rather than just one? I take that back. If it actually had, and this meandering sequence of plotless wheel-spinning had been where things left off, then it’s unlikely many viewers would have bothered coming back for more. The first episode was a slow but nonetheless intriguing start that established the tone, setting and most of the main characters, as pilot episodes are generally supposed to do. This time however, the story has ground to a halt by malingering for an entire episode on events barely worthy of a ten-minute subplot.
Hawk and Dove introduces the titular crimefighting couple of Hank Hall (Alan Ritchson) and Dawn Granger (Minka Kelly). In the comics they are a duo of heroes bestowed with superpowers by cosmic deities known as the Lords of Order and Chaos, which is just as batty as it sounds. These incarnations, sadly, are merely costumed vigilantes rather than superheroes, the flamboyance of their Silver Age outfits looking rather incongruous amidst the tone of gothic gloom the show previously spent fifty minutes painstakingly establishing.
They aren’t exactly well known characters, and the episode doesn’t take great pains to rectify this for viewers encountering them for the first time. The only introduction we get is an admittedly entertaining scene where they use the tried and tested It Was My Plan For You To Capture Me So My Partner Can Ambush You tactic of villain hunting. Hank is briefly tortured by some arms dealers, only for Dawn to appear and annihilate them, at the very least giving an inverse of how this situation is usually played in mixed-gender pairings.
After establishing them as previous associates of Dick in some completely superfluous flashback scenes, it’s eventually revealed that his plan is to offload Rachel on them since he doesn’t believe he’s capable of taking care of her, and they would apparently be a better option in this regard for some reason that isn’t adequately articulated. It’s a disappointing departure from the sense of responsibility Dick displayed in the first episode, and his swan dive into the selfish narcissism of some pubescent emo, making someone else’s emotional pain all about himself, severely limits how much you’re able to sympathise with his decision.
Even more irritating is when it’s unequivocally spelled that Dick and Dawn were previously in a relationship and Hank’s corresponding aggressive jealousy, the two men engaging in some pathetically macho posturing as if they’re a pair of 15-year-old schoolboys who both fancy the same girl and know of no other way to express their rivalry. It’s somewhat ironic that one of Titans’ objectives is to distance itself from the CW comic book shows by being more coarse and violent, but is also inadvertently making up for this by having even greater melodramatic intensity of any interpersonal relationships.
It’s entirely possible that there’s some other as-yet-unrevealed catalyst for Hank’s hostility, but quite frankly we’re not given much reason to actually care, and with Dawn’s apparent death at the episode’s climax it’s pretty much rendered moot. I suppose her dramatic, slow motion rooftop plummet was supposed to be shocking, but since we were given so little about her in which to emotionally invest, there’s little to do other than shrug and move on.
On the villainous side of things, a nameless messenger activates the Nuclear Family, a sleeper cell of agents consisting of a husband and wife with a teenage son and daughter who masquerade as a 1950s stereotype of middle-class banality. In the comics they are supervillain androids with thematic powers based around the various stages of a nuclear explosion, but here are each jacked up on some mystery stimulant before embarking upon their mission, presumably affording them generic physical enhancements that level the playing field when facing off with professional vigilantes. Their pastiche of middle-American wholesomeness is intended to juxtapose their casual sadism, but instead makes them come off as a group of sociopaths who would never be able to function in everyday society without their extra-curricular activities becoming discovered. It’s not made clear whether or not they are in the employ of the same band of religious fanatics of which the Acolyte was a member, or some other organisation that wants to harness Rachel’s power for no doubt nefarious means, and given the absence of relevant plot details we’ll have to wait for the next episode for some answers when we find out where they’ll be taking her.
Dick’s supposed partner Amy Rohrbach proves entirely useless in facing this fearsome foursome, who attack her for information of Dick’s location. First she fails to pick up on there being much out of the ordinary in finding a random teenager in her flat, and then displaying such an appalling reaction time in dealing with her merely brandishing a pair of scissors that the girl’s brother is able to ambush her. We are also supposed to quietly ignore that Dick’s lack of contact with Amy would mean there’s no way of her actually knowing where he is, meaning she couldn’t tell them no matter how much she’s tortured, and the show is so disinterested in her plight that it doesn’t even bother showing us whether or not she’s still alive.
The single saving grace of the episode is Rachel. She’s far and away the most interesting character, with her loneliness, isolation, vulnerability and fear of abandonment giving you someone to truly care about and fear for, and that’s even without taking into account her attempts to process that she’s the host of some demonic force she can barely comprehend, let alone control. It also says something about the quality of both the show’s acting talent and writing that its most compelling performance comes courtesy of a 14-year-old girl.
As for Starfire and Beast Boy, they are completely absent and their presence in the overall narrative isn’t even acknowledged, which is some seriously sloppy storytelling. If a show has a vast recurring cast (such as Game of Thrones, here referenced a few times) then it’s understandable if some of them aren’t seen prominently for an episode or two, but for a show with only four ostensibly central characters, the inability to balance plotlines featuring them is indicative of a lack of understanding of what makes a compelling story.
For a show named Titans, the characters that are to make up the future group are being given scant consideration. With this episode bringing in Hawk and Dove, along with the likes of Jason Todd, Donna Troy and the Doom Patrol all set to feature at some point in a season that’s not exactly going to be lengthy, it seems that the show won’t actually be allowed to be its own thing, but merely act as a springboard to test audience reactions towards various characters to decide whether or not they’re going to get their own series, with each being just as much of a hindrance towards telling an actual story as this episode has been.
Hawk and Dove is a seriously disappointing follow up to a tentatively encouraging start. The introduction of boring new characters and the lack of development of the ones already established, along with the stagnation of what little plot there actually is, all mean that Titans needs to get a lot better very quickly if it wants to have any hope of salvaging itself.
- Tegan Croft’s performance giving something to care about
- Hawk and Dove’s entertaining introductory scene
- Uninteresting new characters
- Dick’s selfishness
- Starfire and Beast Boy’s stories ignored
- The stagnation of the principal plot
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