Comic book shows are all the rage, and while arguably the Marvel movie franchise has outpaced what DC has done, it’s safe to say that DC has the upper hand when it comes to their television properties. Now the latest has recently premiered on the DC Universe streaming service, and it’s called Titans.
This first episode tells the tale of three very specific individuals. First there is a young girl named Rachel Roth, who has something very dark within her, almost as if there was a second personality filled with enormous power. Second, there is a new detective in Chicago, that being Dick Grayson. Later he does show up as Robin and just beats a large group of thugs nearly to death for child trafficking. Lastly there is the mysterious Kory Anders. Not much is known about her, even to herself. She is apparently suffering from amnesia, but appears to be associated with some very unsavory characters. When she meets one of them again she discovers that she has some fighting skills that are pretty impressive. However what she does later makes that pale in comparison.
The second episode shows Dick taking Rachel away in the hopes of finding a safe place. This takes him to the home of another vigilante hero, or in this case heroes, that being the team of Hawk and Dove. However they’re not well received, as Hank Hall (Hawk) clearly dislikes Dick. Dawn Granger (Dove) is more sympathetic and understanding, and she’s more than willing to provide a haven for Dick and Rachel.
It is here we meet a very unusual family. We see a husband and wife, along with their two teenaged children (one boy and one girl). They act like something out of a demented Stepford community, almost as if they are the stereotypical “nuclear family.” However, in this case that term is more literal as they’re given an assignment to track down Rachel. They each take an injection and go on their merry way. They find Rachel at the home of Hank and Dawn, and are now super powered. They literally power their way through everyone and even toss Dawn off the top of the tenement they’re living in, and they take Rachel.
Third episode sees that Dawn is not dead, but she’s in bad shape. Hank has chosen to remain at her bedside while Dick has chosen to go after Rachel. Meanwhile, Kory has discovered a picture of Rachel in her own possession and feels that she needs to find her in the hopes it might help her remember who she is. She finds the “nuclear family” at a gas station and when the father is separated from the rest of the family (he escorted Rachel to a bathroom) Kory then does to him what she did earlier to one of her associates. She then spirits Rachel away and while at a bowling alley Rachel meets an interesting, but very nice, young man with green hair named Gar. Kory then takes Rachel to of all places, a convent where the nuns there are delighted to see Rachel again. They claim that they will keep her safe, but unfortunately their idea of safe is not something that Rachel likes, despite their best intentions.
This was a series that I was very much looking forward to once the first trailer came down and we saw a very angry Robin saying what he thinks of Batman. This series is also playing very heavily with origins. Not so much is really needed for Robin/Dick Grayson as his story has crossed the boundaries of pop culture. Gar is not exactly new as he first appeared in the comic Doom Patrol, and a later episode of this series will cover that part of his origins. However, the real focus here is on Rachel, with a secondary focus on Kory. Nothing is known of her, except that her comic book counterpart, Raven, is the chief character for recruiting the individual heroes who would make up the Titans, and in an odd sense we see that play out here. Gar is there because he met Rachel and chose to be friends with her, Dick wants her because he’s protective of lost children, and Kory wants her because she may be connected to Kory’s past. However, what Rachel is has not been covered, but only hinted at. She does not demonstrate the same powers at this time as Raven, but what she can do is pretty impressive and somewhat terrifying. There is also her alter ego that talks to her whenever she sees her reflection, and all we learn is that someone is looking for her. The reason is only suggested, but never outright stated.
Another element of this series that’s powerful is the action. With people developing an even more critical eye over the past several years, it clearly became necessary for some of the fight sequences be absolutely amazing. While Dick Grayson himself is not a superhero, having been trained under Bruce Wayne, whose acquired fighting skills are legendary, one would expect Robin to be more than a capable fighter, and what actor wouldn’t pass up the opportunity to play an iconic part such as Grayson. Here he’s brooding, but not depressing. Then there is the mystery of both Rachel and Kory. Each one has their own dark secret, but the series (developed by the same team who do the CW shows) takes its time switching back and forth between characters allowing each of their narratives to develop. Essentially all of the best story telling techniques that are used on the CW are in play here, except that due to the fact that this is available on a streaming service it allows the show runners go darker with the series. It doesn’t dive heavily into anything that might be considered “angsty,” but it does take a very sophisticated and adult approach to these particular heroes, much like Marvel and Netflix have done with shows like Daredevil, and Luke Cage.
The cast here is pretty strong. Starting with Teagan Croft as Rachel, she shows the feelings of terror and strong insecurity of a teenaged girl who is in over her head with the powers that she is carrying. She desperately wants to be normal and we see the terrible weight that she is forced to carry
Ryan Potter has been a delight to watch as Gar. Having already done an amazing job voicing the role of Hiro Hamada in Big Hero 6, he brings that same sense of reckless, but very caring, levity to the role of Gar/Beast Boy. Because his character’s super power is changing into other animals (so far only a green tiger) we haven’t seen much in terms of Potter getting physically involved. Given that he has studied martial arts since the age of 8, plus having some strong skill with a bō staff, perhaps the series will show Gar actually fighting off people in his natural, human form.
Now there is Teagan Croft who plays the mysterious Kory Anders. For starters she is absolutely stunning to look at. Even in this series she gives of the aura of “don’t mess with me” to the degree that I would be afraid of confronting her, and yet when Kory needs to put on the charm Croft can do it with a wonderful warmth and tenderness. She also has a wicked sense of humor that comes off very well in the role of Kory, which works very well against the somberness of Dick Grayson.
Finally there is Brenton Thwaites as Dick Grayson. Thwaites already comes with quite the impressive resumé, including a chance to act opposite both Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep in The Giver. Now in this series he gives us a perfectly believable Dick Grayson just as he’s breaking away from his life as the Batman’s sidekick. Just as with the comic books, Dick is dealing with a lot of baggage and is trying to come to terms with who he needs to be. Thwaites delivers on all cylinders in terms of the emotional conflicts that he goes through whenever he becomes Robin. As simply Dick Grayson he’s rather competent in holding his own, but when he becomes Robin we see him become something else entirely, and even through the mask he wears we can see in his eyes how much he enjoys it, and yet when the mask is off and he’s just Dick Grayson, Thwaites appears conflicted at times. Competent, but conflicted. This is not a character role that will win major awards, but Thwaites is outstanding here in bringing the character to life in a new and fresh way. It gives hope that perhaps we’ll finally see a Nightwing character on the screen as it’s way overdue, and it would be a great way for Thwaites to give Dick Grayson this chapter of the hero’s journey.
All in all, Titans is a very exciting series so far. As for how well it will track with the comic book in terms of its characters, especially that of Rachel/Raven is yet to be discovered. What is clear is that this is a show that we here at TG2Studios will be following very closely after having watched just the first three episodes. Excellent story telling per episode, plus incredible action (especially when Robin is on the screen) along with intriguing characters makesTitans a show worth following.
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