Having watched the second season of DC’s Titans, I can honestly say the second season is vastly better than the first. While the first season was mired in grimdark story arcs with no moments of levity, season two delved deeper into the characters, providing more nuance to them and humanizing them. There were still some critical missteps along the way but overall, the second season fared much better for me than the first.
Spoilers ahead, so don’t read if you haven’t watched the second season.
As an adaptation of “The Judas Contract”, the second season of Titans introduces one of the main recurring villains from the Teen Titans comics, Deathstroke the Terminator, aka Slade Wilson. I have to give credit to Esai Morales for his performance. He manages to capture the humanity beneath Slade Wilson while still making him a despicable murderer, which is no easy task. The easier route would have been to make Deathstroke a one-note psychopath but Morales manages to avoid that particular performance decision. Alongside Esai Morales, we are introduced to Rose Wilson, Deathstroke’s daughter, portrayed by Chelsea Zhang. For anyone who has experienced “The Judas Contract” it’s readily apparent that she’s working with her father to break the Titans apart, which they succeed at doing before the end of the season. Zhang’s performance was enjoyable, particularly once she was given sufficient screen time to show off her skills.
The other major characters introduced in the second season is Connor Kent, aka Superboy, portrayed by Joshua Orpin, as well as Krypto the Super Dog. In this interpretation, Connor’s background as a clone of both Lex Luthor and Superman is kept intact but Krypto is simply a normal Earth dog with Krytopnian DNA spliced into him (rather than being a Kryptonian dog that escaped with Clark). Orpin’s performance as Connor is innocent and earnest, with occasional bouts of uncontrollable destruction. I rather enjoyed the introduction of Connor, particularly once the Cadmus storyline came to a conclusion.
The replacement of Deathstroke as the season’s main villain with Cadmus was a major misstep. Much of the season was spent setting up the confrontation with Deathstroke only for him to be killed off (but not really according to the showrunners) in lieu of dealing with Cadmus, who managed to capture Gar and Connor to turn them into living weapons. I would have much rather seen a full-on fight between Deathstroke and the Titans but the writers apparently didn’t feel that would be an appropriate way to end the story.
While I did enjoy some of the better character work for people like Donna, Kory, Dick, Hank, and Gar, there were times that I couldn’t bring myself to like Rachel and Dawn that much in the second season. Dawn particularly came across as an even more toxic influence on the characters of Dick and Hank. In the flashbacks dealing with the Jericho Wilson storyline, Dawn encourages Dick Grayson to become like Batman when Deathstroke is responsible for the death of Aqualad, only to then turn on Grayson when this results in Jericho’s death. The same could be said for her relationship with Hawk, given that Hank is in recovery and avoiding the superhero gig until they get pulled back in and their relationship disintegrates as a result. Rachel is more of an interesting case because it has less to do with Teagan Croft’s acting and more with the fact the writers didn’t seem to know what they wanted to do with her or how to use her.
And how the writing staff decided to kill of Donna Troy is just beyond me. Having a tragic and heroic death is one thing but it felt like it was coming completely out of left field.
The other big part of the story, which I understand is the leadup to the events of Season Three, is the treatment of Jason Todd. Showing Jason being cocky and impulsive is one thing, which leads to some excellent drama when Todd is captured by Deathstroke and nearly killed. Curran Walters grew on me during the second season, particularly once Todd is rescued and begins to deal with some severe PTSD. Having lived with depression for the majority of my life, I can understand Jason’s attitude well, particularly the overwhelming feeling that you are a cancer to other people because you feel you can never do anything right. When the Titans and Rose turn on Jason, he is left all alone, which sets up his eventual turn into the Red Hood well but it also causes the rest of the Titans to look like uncaring douchebags, which is not the desired effect.
I would consider season two of Titans a vast improvement over season one. I’ll be reviewing season three of the show once I finish it. Hopefully, the goodwill earned from season two will continue as I venture into the story presented in the following season.