By Christian Holub
December 07, 2018 at 08:47 PM EST
Credit: Ben Mark Holzberg / Warner Bros. Entertainment

Well, this was a strange episode of Titans. Only one of our main cast members appeared, and she only showed up as a reflection in the mirror. Instead, we spend all our time this week exploring the backstory of Hawk and Dove. While Dawn lies in her hospital bed recovering from the Nuclear Family’s attack, Hank’s mind drifts backward across his whole life.

Let me just come out and say that the first flashback scene is extremely unpleasant. It takes place when Hank was a very young kid — though even at that age, he was an intimidating physical presence. A young football star in the making, Hank ran roughshod over his opponents, earning the admiration of the team’s coach. One day, this coach spotted Hank’s younger brother, Don, cheering him on from the stands. After the game, as Hank is trying to leave, the coach says he wants to take Don to the weight room. Hank says they need to make it back home to their mom, but the coach knows she’s already working multiple jobs and probably isn’t even home. When Don begs to be shown the weight room, Hank swears at him that they need to go; the coach then threatens to use this profanity to get them expelled from their prestigious charter school. So Hank turns to his last resort, sending Don home while he checks out the weight room with the coach. It should be clear by now that “weight room” is a euphemism for the worst thing imaginable. The door closes on Hank and the coach and we don’t see what happens, but do you really need it spelled out?

Years later, when the boys are in college, Hank is still excelling as a football star. Yet the sport is taking its toll; watching the game at home, Don sees his brother take a nasty hit. When he goes to the after-party to check on Hank, Don finds him in a celebratory drinking mood. Drinking after a concussion is never a good choice, and Hank soon collapses to the floor. A doctor finds that he’s been having migraines and recommends taking pain pills, but Hank refuses to rest until the season’s over — so Don goes above him, reaching out to the athletic director telling him to bench Hank. Hank finds Don in the library and screams at him about this, which just ends up leading to a huge library brawl. When the school president talks to them after, she notes Don is a good kid but Hank is a periodic troublemaker. Frustrated that Hank is already giving up his physical health for the sake of the school’s football team, Don tells her to just expel them — which she promptly does. But it’s not that much of a drag, as Don has an idea for something new they can do instead.

NEXT: Violent catharsis

Without football, Hank still needs an outlet to let out his anger and violent tendencies in a productive way. So he and Don dress themselves up in red and blue costumes (not too different from football pads) and decide to start beating up pedophiles in their neighborhood — Don having long since figured out what happened between Hank and the coach when they were kids. Their first outing is a resounding success. After beating up a pedophile who they think got let off easy for creeping on a little girl in a park, they find themselves on the front page of the newspaper. While they’re checking that out, they bump into ballerina Dawn Granger and her mother. It’s not exactly a meet-cute, though, because a truck promptly crashes into them, killing both Dawn’s mother and Don.

Dawn and Hank now find themselves going to the same grief counseling sessions. Although both are reluctant to talk about their recent tragedies, they eventually find common ground — especially after Dawn declares that if the world isn’t fair, they have to make it fair.

They start bonding. Dawn takes Hank to the afternoon tea place her English mother loved, while Hank takes her to Don’s favorite sandwich joint. But on their first sleepover night, Dawn uncovers the Hawk and Dove costumes in a closet. Hank admits to her the truth about what the coach did to him as a kid, and she can’t take it. Thinking he’s asleep in the early morning, she looks up the coach’s address and goes to teach him a lesson. Despite her ballerina training and athletic form, Dawn fails to overpower the coach. Luckily, Hank figures out where she’s gone and follows her, and finally gets the chance to confront his abuser. And on this show, confronting your problems really means punching them in the face over and over again. That’s exactly what Hank does, especially after Dawn tells him the guy’s been targeting other kids, and in a bookend to the first scene we once again see doors close on Hank and his coach, but this time the coach is on the losing side.

Throughout these flashbacks, Rachel’s face has been appearing in mirrors periodically, trying to get their attention. Eventually she manages to wake Dawn from her coma and give her a very specific message. Although she doesn’t quite understand what it means, Dawn conveys the message to Hank: “We need to find Jason Todd.”

I sure hope Hawk and Dove have a big part to play in this season’s endgame, because otherwise this episode will have felt like the show spinning its wheels at the worst possible time. We still need to see what happened after last week’s cliffhanger!

Related content:

Episode Recaps

Titans (2018 TV series)

  • TV Show
  • 2
  • DC Universe