By Christian Holub
September 28, 2019 at 06:27 PM EDT
Ken Woroner / 2019 Warner Bros.
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Before we get into this week’s revealing flashback episode of Titans, it’s worth rehashing what happened last week on the show. 

Last week’s episode was titled “Ghosts,” and it’s quickly made clear why. In the wake of various attacks, the whole cast reunites at Titans Tower. Donna, Hank, and Dawn – who were all members of the original Titans team, alongside Dick – are clearly not happy to be there. Dawn and Hank just want to track down and defeat Dr. Light (an old enemy of the Titans who re-emerged to blow up their farmhouse) and then they’re done. Donna thinks Dick should be honest with the new Titans about what happened with the old Titans. 

The one thing that unites all three of them, however, is horror at Dick letting Deathstroke’s daughter stay in the Tower. Some of them didn’t even know Slade Wilson was still alive, but if he is they figure Rose’s presence paints a giant target on Titans Tower. Dick says he was able to cover his tracks and stop Slade from finding out Rose was even in the Tower, but we’ll see how long that lasts. 

We spend a lot of time this episode with Kory and her Tamaranian kidnapper, Faddei. She’s basically undergone the alien equivalent of being served papers; Faddei has been sent on order of their government to bring her back home so she can claim her royal crown. After all, now that the threat of Trigon has been defeated, there’s no reason for Kory to stay on Earth anymore right? But Faddei’s not doing it out of duty so much as personal dedication to Kory; he volunteered for the retrieval mission! Apparently, he and Kory have a bit of a history together. But his spaceship didn’t survive its landing on Earth, which means that he’s totally reliant on Kory’s ship to get them out of there. He’s also reliant on Kory going along with him, which turns out to be a bad bet when she traps him in the spaceship. There’s plenty of food in there for Faddei, and Kory promises to be back at some point, but he warns that other Tamaranian agents will come. Let’s hope that means Blackfire! 

Meanwhile, the rest of the team figures out a way to track Dr. Light by surveilling power surges in the area. Eventually, Gar detects just such a surge. But Jason convinces him the two of them should go on reconnaissance without telling anyone else about it, because Jason is desperate to prove himself to Dick. Sure enough, they find Dr. Light, and it looks like Jason is about to do just that. He starts beating the crap out of Dr. Light, and it seems like he’s won the day – until Deathstroke shows up, that is. We immediately cut to Garth, who hears a scream and comes running. But the only thing he finds is a streak of blood on the ground where Jason and Dr. Light just were…

***

Before we resolve that cliffhanger, it’s time to find out a little more about what happened to the old Titans. 

This week’s episode is entirely a flashback to the original team five years ago. We know Dick, Donna, Hank, and Dawn, but this episode also introduces us to Garth, a.k.a. Aqualad (Drew Van Acker). Now, if you can tell that there’s one person on this team who we’ve never met in the present, and we still don’t know what Deathstroke did to traumatize the Titans, well, you can probably put two and two together. But let’s recount the exact sequence. 

We see this team of Titans take down a bunch of muggers attempting to assault a family. The only difference between similar scenes we’ve seen beforeBut  on this show is the presence of Garth, who uses his Atlantean powers to control water as a weapon and take some bad guys out. 

Later, at the Tower, it’s Garth’s birthday celebration. We learn that he and Donna have known each other since they were kids – probably due to the friendship of their superhero mentors, which is also how Donna originally met Dick. But while Wonder Girl and Robin are totally platonic friends, there’s a bit of romantic tension between her and Aqualad. Donna is dealing with that by trying to pretend it doesn’t exist, and hide in her room reading Frida Kahlo while everyone else parties. But then Dawn comes up and convinces her to join in the fun. 

Donna doesn’t want to get too attached to someone like that, because she knows that eventually, she’ll have to give it all up and return to Themyscira (which might explain her connection with Kory in the present day; perhaps they sense their similar deadlines and obligations). 

But her connection with Garth is undeniable. As they sit in front of computers monitoring for any signs of Dr. Light (who had just started out his supervillain career back then), Garth gifts Donna with a bottle of her favorite soda that she hasn’t tasted in years. That brings back memories of a New Year’s Eve they spent together when they were 12, when a Finding Nemo-obsessed Donna wanted to find a clownfish in the water. Garth warned her they didn’t frequent that type of water, but Donna found one anyway…and only now realizes that it was because Garth summoned it for her. But before anything else happens, they get pulled into a confrontation with Dr. Light. Aqualad faces him one-on-one, giving the others time to surround and flank the villain. 

Donna gets the news she didn’t want to hear from Jillian, an Amazon working undercover in an art museum to monitor Donna while she asserts some independence from Wonder Woman. Jillian tells Donna she has to return to Themyscira that night. But rather than tell Garth this, Donna simply lets out all her pent-up feelings and embraces him for some long-awaited sex. He wakes up alone, of course, and has to hear from Dick where Donna’s gone. He doesn’t give up easily though, and races to the air field where Donna’s plane is waiting. He confesses his love for her and tells her to stay. She embraces him, but just when it seems like there’s gonna be a happy ending filled with true love, a sniper’s bullet shoots through the air and kills Garth instantly. It’s Deathstroke! 

Mourning at Titans Tower, Donna blames Garth’s death on herself, since if she hadn’t attempted to leave Garth never would have been there to take Deathstroke’s bullet. Hank tells her not to blame herself because they don’t know what’s really going on, and he does make a good point: How did Deathstroke know they were going to be there? Was he explicitly aiming for Garth, or Donna, or even Jillian? Hopefully, we’ll spend more time in the flashback period to find out. Especially because we need to know what becomes of Jericho, the mute kid Dick befriends in the record store at the end. That would be Jericho as in Joshua Wilson, Slade’s son with the ability to take control of other people’s bodies through eye contact…

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