Titans – Season 1 Episode 5
Now that Titans has finally got all four of its main characters together (such a momentous achievement that the episode is even titled after it), you’d think that this is where things would actually start to happen. Well, you would unless you’d been paying attention. Meandering inaction has largely been the driving force of this series, so it seems only appropriate for our central quartet to begin the episode hiding out in an anonymous motel where the most exciting thing to occur is its lonely owner none to subtly hinting that she’d like a bit of Dick. I hereby promise this is the first and last time I will make that joke.
Dick declares that they need to learn to fight together before they can face the Nuclear Family, quickly leading to the kind of introductory training scene traditional for any show where powered people come together. It raises the point that they don’t actually know each other, and before they can begin operating with any kind of unity they each need to learn what the others are capable of. It becomes clear that none of them are in complete control of what they can do, and it’s only with time, practice and training that they will develop into any kind of fighting force worthy of the name they will take by the series end. It’s annoying that this lack of control hasn’t been shown prior to now – in particular Kory’s declaration that her powers are weaker at night – making it all the more obvious that it’ll become crucial in approximately twenty minutes’ time. Dick is a little coy about showing what he can do, partly because he doesn’t want them to know he’s Robin, but narratively to set up a dramatic moment later in the episode where exactly what he’s capable of will be seen in all its brutally violent glory.
Meanwhile, since Nuclear Dad has been reduced to a black and charred mess, the creepy Dr Adamson goes about getting another one at some shady biotech research lab, where bouts of behavioural conditioning can apparently turn someone into a dated parody of uptight white American citizenry. This results in a replacement character with exactly the same personality (for want of a better word) as the one Kory incinerated, which makes you wonder exactly what the point was other than adding a few minutes to the episode’s run time. This is an issue I’ll get back to later.
Gar and Rachel get a little closer together from the simple fact of them both being kids who have yet to have the opportunity to adjust to what’s happened to them. It’s a sweet exchange, and reminds you that as well as people with powerful and dangerous abilities, they’re still a pair of teenagers with the same kind of hopes and desires and confusion, but are trying to make the best of it and figure out their new place in the world.
The adults, however, set an appalling example for their young charges, quickly heading to Dick’s room for some watered-down getting down. It’s a disappointing development, least of all because of the apparent impossibility for the two attractive heterosexual leads of any TV show to not get together. Given the characters’ canonical romantic relationship in the comics it was inevitable they would eventually hook up, but they’ve barely been in the same vicinity long enough for each of them to remember what the other’s name is, never mind share any thoughts or feelings or experiences that would lead to any kind of healthy attraction beyond something purely physical based on nothing other than simple proximity. At the very least, they could have waited until a full day after they’d met.
All of this shaky character development is temporarily put on hold when the apple-pie assassins catch up to them, leading to some fast and nasty improvised fight scenes in the motel rooms and corridors. After Kory, Rachel and Gar are cornered, Kory’s attempt to immolate the attackers falls flat as per the earlier signposting, and it falls to Dick to save the day by unleashing his vigilante fury and military-grade weaponry to take them on solo. It’s somewhat inconsistent with their previous encounter, but since it was a pretty cool moment I’ll give it a pass, and such is the uplifting inspiration it motivates Rachel to wrangle control over her Soul Self (also where the episode’s CGI budget apparently ran out) and Gar to use the strength of his tiger form. The encounter shows that the characters can’t always rely on their powers to solve their problems, and that they’ll need to develop supplementary skills if they want to reliably take on further dangers. The fight choreography shown in these action scenes is far more engaging than has been seen so far, and offers some hope that there might still be some glimmer of excitement to be had before the series end.
It’ll be interesting to see how the dynamic will be altered now that everyone else knows that Dick is Robin, and it was an amusing reaction to have Gar geeking out at the connection to Batman. It also gives another slightly meta moment in asking if they’re going to see him, tacitly referencing the brief flashes the show has previously shown of Bruce Wayne portrayed by stand-ins, giving him a nebulous and mysterious presence and also to save on the bother of actually casting the role.
Even though it’s just been established that the Nuclear Family are disposable and interchangeable, now that their heads have been blown off they hopefully won’t get replaced and force us to listen to more irritating dated idioms that serve to amplify how little personality they have, and that the replacement villains soon to be introduced will be actual people rather than artificial caricatures.
The ongoing issue with Titans is that it seems like each subsequent episode has less and less story, and increasing amounts of material that doesn’t add anything. It’s as though it harks back to when web series were indie-produced efforts whose episodes were at most ten minutes long. Each one here has roughly that amount of actual plot, with the rest being filler to pad it out to network drama’s standard 40-minute running time, which people now seem to be expecting of online media.
Do better. Please.
“Together” finally unites the characters as a team and gives the viewers what they’ve been wanting since the series started. Rachel and Gar develop a fun and relatable connection; Dick and Kory not so much. The show’s severe pacing problem and slow character development are still not addressed, but now there’s nowhere to go but forwards, things might pick up.
- better fight choreography
- the deaths of the annoying Nuclear Family
- the group coming together as a team
- Dick and Kory’s unconvincing hookup
- too much filler material
- the inconsistency of characters’ control over their abilities
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