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It took nearly three full seasons but I was finally able to find myself caring about the fate of the characters that populate DC’s Titans. In my review of the first season of the series, I mentioned that I found it difficult to empathize with the majority of the characters in the show (with the exceptions of Gar Logan, Rachel Roth, and Kory Anders). This changed more during the second season of the show and now, finally, in the third season, I was able to care a great deal more about who these characters are and how they struggle to overcome the trials of the story.
Spoilers ahead for Season Three of Titans, so don’t read if you haven’t watched the episode.
Season Three of Titans adapts a couple of different Batman storylines, specifically Death in the Family and Under the Red Hood. When Jason Todd was introduced as the new Robin in Season One, it was inevitable that the showrunners would take us to this point at some stage in the process. The fallout from the second season made it inevitable. Jumping right into things in the first episode, Jason Todd is beaten to death by the Joker, who is later killed by Bruce Wayne (portrayed here by Game of Thrones alumni Iain Glen). Unlike the comic storyline where Jason was killed (by fan request no less), Bruce murders his greatest enemy in retaliation for Todd’s death, leaving Gotham in the hands of the Titans to keep the city safe. The main plot of the season is revealed in the following episode when the Red Hood arrives and we discover that Jason has been resurrected.
The season also introduces us to two new cast members. Blackfire, Kory Anders younger sister, is portrayed by Damaris Lewis and she brings a fair amount of wit, sarcasm, and potentially villainous undertones to her portrayal. Blackfire was an excellent addition to the cast and Lewis made the most of her screentime. The scenes between Lewis and Ann Diop (who portrays Starfire) were well-handled and the sibling rivalry never felt trite or overdone during the season. Another main addition is the season’s ultimate villain, Dr. Jonathan Crane (aka Scarecrow), portrayed with gleefully unhinged menace by Vincent Kartheiser (probably most famous for his time on AMC’s Mad Men). Crane is the one responsible for using a Lazarus Pit to resurrect Jason Todd and use him as a weapon to eventually destroy Gotham City.
The change in locale from San Francisco to Gotham is a welcome one, since Gotham City is one of the preeminent locations in the DC Universe. The treatment of the city as always being one step from going over into the abyss is done well, with the Titans never truly having solid footing, particularly once the plans of Red Hood and Scarecrow begin to bear fruit. Scarecrow is one of the more cerebral villains in Batman’s rogues’ gallery, which meant that much the tension of the season was figuring out the next step in the villains’ plans rather than constantly getting into fights with the pair. That doesn’t mean the season is light on action, mind you. Some of the better fight choreography found in the series is in Season Three.
How the characters are handled that I found more endearing this time around. Dick Grayson has grown from being the angsty, moody leader (although he still has moments in the season of just plain moronic behavior) into a much more competent, compassionate leader. The introduction of Barbara Gordon (portrayed Savannah Welch) was a wonderful addition to the cast, particularly because she and Brenton Thwaites played so well off each other over the course of the season. The handling of Hank Hill (aka Hawk) and his death was also an exceptional part of the season. I didn’t like Hank Hill or Dawn Granger in the first season. By this point, though, Hank had grown on me and the writers handling of his death was poignant and thoughtful. The impact on Dawn Granger was also well-written, allowing me to finally care about a character that I had struggled to identify with through the first two seasons. I also enjoyed watching Jay Lycurgo portray Tim Drake (the next person to hold the mantle of Robin) as he immersed himself in the world of superheroes. Lycurgo brought an earnestness to his portrayal that I couldn’t help but find endearing.
The real star of this season, though, is Curran Walker as Jason Todd. Like many of the other characters, I really couldn’t stand his version of Jason Todd in the first season and part of the way through the second. Then the writers began setting the stage for Jason’s fall into becoming the Red Hood. The transformation in the third season was handled well (for the most part) and we get to see more of the wounded, broken child inside Jason Todd’s fierce exterior. Curran Walker nailed the performance, giving us more nuance to Todd than we had seen previously. If Curran does not return as Jason Todd in future seasons, that is perfectly okay in my book because he knocked it out the part when it comes to the definitive story arc for the Jason Todd character.
It may be a struggle for some viewers to get to this point in the series but having sat through all three seasons, Titans really does start hitting its stride in the third season. I find myself looking forward to the fourth season of the series when it drops on HBO Max. I’d definitely say give the series a try but keep in mind that the first two seasons can be really rough at times. It becomes worth it by the end, though.
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