Well…this is a weird one. For the second time in four episodes, Titans hit us with a crazy cliffhanger and then went off on a dark dream tangent rather than follow through on said cliffhanger. Just as Kory trying to kill Rachel was followed by a disturbing journey through the tortured pasts of Hawk and Dove, so was the arrival of Trigon followed by an in-depth look at the dark psyche of Dick Grayson.
I actually like how Titans spent its first season slowly introducing new elements of the DC Universe episode by episode, though I think they should also be comfortable letting their plot play out a bit. Then again, it’s easy to understand the show’s obsession with Dick and Batman. The DC Universe is big and strange, full of all kinds of weird characters and inexplicable elements, but Batman is without a doubt the star of the show. As soon as he’s in play, it’s hard to focus on anything else. So after weeks of teasing, we finally got a look at what Batman is like in the world of Titans. Guess what? It’s not pretty!
This is an alternate-reality episode. It actually felt like FX’s Legion, which is not really a vibe Titans has gone for so far. The opening shot of Dick relaxing by a California pool strongly resembles shots of Jemaine Clement and Aubrey Plaza stuck in the Shadow King’s mind prison from the most recent season of Legion (and these situations aren’t actually that different, as we’ll learn by the end). In this fantasy world, Dick is happily married to Dawn; they have one kid, and another’s on the way.
Dick and Dawn’s idyll is interrupted by the arrival of Jason Todd, now in a wheelchair after a nasty run-in with the Riddler. As he explains to Dick, Jason actually got off lucky with that (doubly so if you’re aware of the character’s fate in the comics). While he was paralyzed, Commissioner Gordon was brutally tortured to death by the Joker, and Alfred, too, is no more. Jason tells Dick that Batman is now all on his own in his war on crime — and is not taking it well. Dick is adamant about leaving that life behind, but after some nudging from Dawn, he agrees to return to Gotham.
Gotham City is, indeed, a nightmare. Dick’s cab drives through riotous streets in order to get to a hotel where he has to pay extra for clean sheets and ends up with a front-row ticket to domestic violence in the room next door. After calling the police on his neighbors, Dick overhears the cop’s radio talking about a “mask” incident. When he follows the directions, he finds the Joker lying beaten and bloody on top of a cop car, with the obvious implication that Batman threw him down from above. Dick thinks his old mentor has finally broken his number one rule, but the Joker’s still alive! He always did have a talent for cheating death.
NEXT: Embrace the darkness
Incidentally, I like how Titans was able to invoke the Joker and what he means to Batman and Robin without having to pressure some poor actor into portraying him. Anyway, Joker doesn’t stay alive for long. After Dick ventures to Wayne Manor to tell Bruce (via security camera, since he’s not allowed in the Batcave) that there’s still a chance to save himself, Bruce responds by showing up at the Joker’s hospital room the next night to finish the job. Dick takes this as a personal rebuke, but it’s nothing compared to what comes next.
Kory, who in this world is a police detective like Dick, calls to tell him that Batman has committed a massacre at Arkham Asylum. When he arrives, he finds Two-Face’s bloody hand holding a coin, the Ventriloquist laid out next to his destroyed puppet Scarface, and the Riddler’s question mark-tattooed arms sticking out from a body bag. Beyond that, Batman also killed every guard, nurse, and warden in the place. This is too much for Dick; he reveals Batman’s secret identity to the Gotham police and helps them construct a battle plan for storming Wayne Manor.
That plan goes about as well as you’d think. As soon as the cops swarm through the manor and down into the Batcave, Batman drops down on top of them and proceeds to murder them all in quite brutal fashion. Kory attempts to use her powers on him as a trump card, but he blasts her to death with a cold gun (presumably stolen from Mr. Freeze’s corpse). This inspires Dick to pull out the real trump card, activating explosives that the cops laid throughout the manor, and bringing it down on top of Batman’s head. Dick goes down into the Batcave and finds Kory’s frozen body. When Batman reaches out for a hand, Dick instead crushes him underneath the rubble, finally embracing his inner darkness.
We cut back to the real world, where Dick’s eyes have now gone black and vein-y the way Rachel’s do when she’s possessed by her demon self. Trigon explains to his daughter that he tried to give Dick a chance to escape his misery (after he ran into the demon’s force field at the end of last week) but instead Dick chose to embrace the darkness.
In other words, the journey to Nightwing is gonna take a lot longer than I thought. But I was really impressed by this season overall, and I’m excited for season 2! Especially given that post-credits scene, which gives us our first glimpse at Metropolis and hints that a particular Superboy and his super dog might soon be on their way to the Titans…
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