Last week was our first look at all the Titans together, so at first it seems like a weird move to immediately sideline most of the team to focus singularly on Robin again. But the fact that it means we get our first ever on-screen look at the Jason Todd incarnation of Robin, find out more about why Dick Grayson left Batman behind, and see him move even closer to a destination that we very much want to see him reach (or I do, at least) makes up for it, in my opinion.
In the wake of Jason’s unexpected (but very much-needed) arrival at the end of last episode, we see him and Dick dragging Adamson’s unconscious body across a parking lot on their way to a nearby Bat-safehouse in Chicago. Dick no longer passes the retina scan security test, but Jason does, which only leads to the former’s sense of getting replaced by a newer model. Jason is young, brash, and full of energy; much like his comics counterpart, he became Robin after Batman caught him trying to steal the tires off the Batmobile. He thinks being Robin is the coolest thing ever, while Dick wants nothing to do with Batman anymore; once Jason tells him that the whole reason he was able to find him was because of the trackers Bruce implanted in their arms, Dick wastes no time in literally cutting it out of his skin. In Dick’s opinion, everything Bruce ever does is only ever meant to serve his own interests.
But keeping the former Robin safe is not the only reason that the new Robin has shown up. He also has a delivery for Dick, courtesy of Bruce: crime scene photos. In a very creepy and well-done sequence, we see Dick look through each photo of a horribly melted visage and match it to the performers at Hailey’s Circus he knew growing up. His good friend Clay (who Dick initially wanted to live with after his parents’ death, rather than Bruce) is not among the photos, so there’s still a chance of saving them. He’s been living in Milwaukee and working as a bouncer, so that’s where Dick intends to go in order to find and protect him (as anyone from Chicago knows, it’s a relatively short drive to Milwaukee. Before departing, he summons the other Titans to the safehouse, giving us our one glimpse of them this episode, and leaves Adamson drugged and handcuffed in the bathtub. He also takes Jason with him. It’s a two-Robin road trip!
On their way to Clay’s bar, we get a sense of what makes Jason different from the other Robin(s): He never had a family to lose. Growing up without parents, he was mostly cared for by his alcoholic uncle, until that guy overdosed and left Jason to fend for himself on the Gotham streets. While Dick thinks of Bruce’s adoption as a punishment, Jason sees it as a gateway into an awesome new life.
NEXT: The price of revenge
Dick is relieved to find Clay safe at the bar, and they have a very cute reunion. But then the underage Jason sneaks into the bar and gets into a fight (he seems to have inherited the alcoholic and fighting tendencies of his family), distracting Dick long enough for Clay to get kidnapped out of the bar. The kidnapper soon gives him a ring, and we get a closer look at why Dick left Bruce in the first place, and why he’s gotten so violent lately.
Under Bruce’s tutelage, Dick was eventually able to pinpoint the man who murdered his parents: Tony Zuko, an enforcer for the Maroni crime family. The Maronis’ signature weapon is hydrofluoric acid, the same acid that melted the circus ropes (and is also cited, in a great Batman Easter egg, as the acid that destroyed Harvey Dent’s face). Zuko was eventually imprisoned…where the feds intended to cut a deal with him to take down the Maroni’s once and for all. This was not satisfactory for Dick, and he attacked the prison transport truck meant to carry Zuko to federal protection. He then beat the crap out of Zuko and came close to killing him. He did not ultimately do so, but when Maroni crime enforcers showed up to shoot acid bullets at Zuko and stop him from ratting, Dick refused to save him. This is basically the same thing as killing the guy himself, as both Dick and this kidnapper — who turns out to be Zuko’s son. Apparently, after the Maroni’s finished off Zuko Sr., they also went after his wife, his son, and the son’s fiancee. Only Zuko Jr survived, with a Two-Face like visage to prove it. He holds Clay hostage and threatens to kill him, but he only planned on one Robin; once Jason shows up too, they make short work of him and save Clay.
Dick is taken aback, though, when Jason savagely beats a squad of police officers who arrive to investigate the gunshots. Jason responds that he can do anything he wants when he’s in the mask, especially when Batman’s not around to supervise — and he especially relishes the chance to beat cops, since they showed him no mercy when he was a poor orphan kid on the streets. Dick is increasingly disgusted at how being Robin has turned both him and now Jason into living weapons, but as Jason rightly points out, he still wears the uniform. Not for much longer, though; Dick tells Kory that there will be “no” Robins returning to the safehouse. Come on, folks, you know what that means. It’s coming closer: Nightwing! Nightwing!! NIGHTWING!!!
In his final conversation with Clay, Dick seems to finally be at peace with his upbringing. When Clay tells him “Bruce did right by you,” Dick responds, “He did the best he could.” Really, what else can any of us say about our parents?