Titans – Season 1 Episode 3
Sigh. I really wanted to like Titans. After the first trailer appeared quite a lot of people were quick to write it off, but I genuinely thought it looked like it might be a lot of fun. I still want to like it, and I still want to believe that it’s salvageable and can become something at least half-decent, but by god they are not making it easy.
This episode’s title of Origins was a brief encouragement, with the tacit suggestion that characters who have so far been a bit short changed might get some attention due them, revealing a bit more about individuals who viewers might not be as familiar with as the world’s most famous sidekick. No such luck. The most of what we get is some flashbacks of Dick’s past after he was taken in by Bruce Wayne, punctuating his scenes in the present where he does little more than silently brood. The purpose is to draw parallels between Dick’s relationship with Bruce after the death of his own parents, and his own struggles in having become a surrogate father of sorts for Rachel. His mental juxtaposition of the two situations will most likely lead to further realisation of just how much like Bruce he is, and what that means for the kind of person he decides to become.
Following on from last week’s climax, it seems that Dawn is in fact not dead, but for all the purpose she and Hank have in the story she might as well be, having now been left in a coma for Hank to impotently watch over until the people in charge of DC Universe decide whether or not they’re going to commission a Hawk and Dove spin off series. In one final bit of clearing up, a throwaway line of dialogue informs us that Dick’s partner Roarbach is dead. It’s unclear whether or not we’re supposed to care, since the primary purpose of her limited appearances was to highlight Dick’s lack of interest in bothering with his day job, and his wordless and indifferent response to the news both appropriately reflects this and mirrors the audience’s reaction.
Stumbling back to the main narrative, Rachel is briefly kidnapped by the Nuclear Family before the show remembers it’s supposed to have more than two central characters and brings Kory back in. The story jumps back a couple of days to establish that Kory found Rachel’s current location by trespassing on the crime scene of her former home and assaulting some police officers, and not then bothering to highlight how she divined the girl’s location from the scant details she’d have been able to glean from it. Also not addressed is why in the lengthy journey from Austria to Michigan she seemingly hasn’t changed her clothes. I’m all for not judging women for how they choose to dress, but there’s a time and place for glitzy party gear, and a 12-hour plane ride is neither.
Anyway, after ambushing and incinerating Nuclear Dad (presumably after somehow intuitively establishing him as a bad guy), she takes Rachel under her protection, and something resembling actual character development is allowed to take place. Although it’s made clear that Kory’s primary goal in locating Rachel was to establish what connection they had and if that would help recover her lost memories, the scenes between the two of them are the closest the show has so far had to genuine interaction between functional human beings. The relationship between Dick and Rachel quickly became a one-note exasperated parent/surly teenager pairing outwith the moments Rachel needed to feel protected, but in Kory she finds someone she can actually connect with. Kory quickly becomes a role model for Rachel after making short work of some sleazy guys harassing a diner waitress (soundtracked by Boney M’s famous cover of Sunny, no less), seeing in the glamorous woman’s confidence and self-reliance everything she wishes she could be in this turbulent time in her life.
Some vague reference to an actual plot comes from the doctor who created the Nuclear Family mumbling a generic diatribe about the iniquity of the human race, and when Rachel’s father comes he will cleanse the world. This almost certainly refers to Trigon, who in the comics is Rachel’s sire and a megalomaniacal and omnicidal demon lord. Apparently only Rachel has the ability to allow him access to this dimension, which is likely connected to her dark side constantly trying to break free.
More laborious piecemeal story progression comes after Kory and Rachel visit the nunnery where the latter lived as a baby with her mother. In a scene where the greeting nun glosses over recognising Kory and doles out some ham-fisted foreshadowing symbolism via late 19th century artwork, she informs Kory that the key she found in her purse in the first episode was to a locker in a nearby roller skating rink, and her reaction of “Seriously?” after finding another key inside comes perilously close to going meta with her realising how badly her own story is being told. The only practical purpose of scene setting was it feasibly being somewhere Gar (Beast Boy) would be hanging out so he can actually get introduced into the narrative by he and Rachel having a brief and adorkable interaction, and is then promptly forgotten about again. This is starting to get really annoying.
It’s becoming increasingly apparent that the series would have worked better had the whole thing been framed as a horror story. Rachel is the fulcrum around which events have and will continue to revolve, and given the fact that she’s the daughter of a nigh-omnipotent cosmic force of destruction, a tone reflecting this would best serve the story that will ultimately develop. After Dick tracks down Kory and they investigate the storage lockup some more than a little ominous details regarding Rachel’s identity are uncovered. The idea of deaths spiking every year on Rachel’s birthday is an interesting detail, along with allusions to some vague prophecy about her being a destroyer of worlds and likewise the repeated thematic connections to ravens, referencing the name she’ll eventually take on.
Rachel may have believed that sanctuary was to be had in the nunnery, but anyone who has seen or read anything involving the emergence of ambivalent supernatural abilities knows full well that the application of religion to the situation rarely improves it. It’s ambiguous whether the nun’s declaration that she “cannot say” why Rachel was in danger as a baby means that she doesn’t know or isn’t allowed to say anything, and the suggestion that Rachel was so safe and cared for in the place raises the question why she ran away, and it’s a little annoying that nobody bothers asking. Sure enough, barely five minutes later she’s drugged and locked in a forgotten room at the end of shadowed corridor, while the nuns sanctimoniously mumble about necessary sacrifices like the religious hypocrites such are people are generally revealed to be. Of course, the stress causes Dark Rachel to come out and play, nuking her stone prison and escaping to no doubt cause some havoc, which hopefully means something interesting will happen in the next episode.
Despite its misleading title, Origins is a slight improvement over last week’s disappointment. Kory and Rachel provide a welcome new dynamic, although Dick still continues to be mostly boring and Gar is yet to be given any meaningful presence. Titans can and should still do better.
- The horror aspects of Rachel’s story
- Kory beating up sex pests to a ‘70s disco theme
- Rachel’s more interesting dynamic with Kory
- The story continuing to drag
- The lack of explanation of how Kory found Rachel
- Plot details skipped over
- Dick doing little of any interest
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