Warning: This post contains spoilers from the season 1 finale of Titans, which went live on DC Universe today. Read at your own risk!
The season 1 finale of Titans defied expectations.
Given how the grim-dark DC Universe drama’s inaugural season has progressed, many people likely assumed that Titans year one would end with former Robin Dick Grayson (Brenton Thwaites), who spent the season struggling with his darkness, taking Donna Troy’s (Conor Leslie) advice and becoming something else — specifically Nightwing, the superhero alter-ego he creates after he leaving Batman’s side in the comics. If not that, there was definitely an expectation that we’d at least finally see Dick, Rachel (Teagan Croft), Gar/Beast Boy (Ryan Potter), and Kory/Starfire (Anna Diop) live up to the show’s name and become, well, the Titans. But, that wasn’t the case.
In the Dick-focused season finale, Rachel’s father Trigon (Castle‘s Seamus Dever) traps Dick in a dreamscape where’s living a happy life with a pregnant Dawn (Minka Kelly) and their son. Unfortunately, Dick’s domestic bliss is interrupted when a wheelchair-bound Jason Todd (Curran Walters) asks him to come back to Gotham and stop Batman, who is going on killing spree after the death of Commissioner Gordon. After watching his mentor slaughter police officers trying to catch him, Dick finally crosses the line and kills Batman, which has dire real world consequences. By murdering the Dark Knight, Dick, whose face is now black and veiny in the real world, has finally embraced his darkness and succumbed to Trigon’s will, much to Rachel’s horror. (Read EW’s full recap here)
Dick’s dark turn wasn’t the only surprise, though. There was also an end-credit scene that showed a super-powerful young man breaking free of a Cadmus Laboratory in Metropolis, but not before saving a dog with glowing red-eyes. Comic book fans will obviously quickly pick up that this scene is setting up the introduction of Conner Kent, a.k.a. Superboy, a Superman clone that eventually joins the Titans, and his equally-gifted dog, Krypto. Thank god, DC’s streaming-content platform has already renewed the show for a second season and we’ll get to see this tease paid off.
Below, EW chats with showrunner/executive producer Greg Walker about this unexpected season-ender, what we can expect from Titans‘ take on Superboy, and more.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: This was an interesting and unusual way to end the season. How did you decide to end with this Dick Grayson-focused episode set primarily in this dreamscape?
GREG WALKER: Look, I think one of the things that most intrigued me and brought me to Titans was this idea of depicting Dick Grayson and his journey as Robin in a very emotional and psychologically grounded way. I felt like returning to that [in this] episode, especially going off on what appears to be him finally succumbing to the darkness — which he attributes to nurture not nature, but struggles with both — felt right on theme, and it felt like cliffhanging going, “Well, are we going to be able to pull him out of this? When he’s had a choice to turn to darkness and he chooses, is there a path back?” I liked it both thematically and I liked it from a cliffhanger point of view, and I liked that it focused, in many ways, back to where we started with the Dick-Rachel story. It felt very focused and sharp and made you want to know how you’re going to pull him back from the brink of disaster, as it were.
We’ve started in on another episode that will finalize the Trigon story, and it felt like it needed to do two things: end one season and launch another. We got really excited about the way to launch a new season with that episode and pitched it to our partners at DC and Warner Brothers, and they signed on. We shot a piece that we’re going to use, and then we’re going to incorporate it into where we want to launch the new season.
Was it always the plan to end the season with that end-credit scene introducing Conner Kent, a.k.a. Superboy, and Krypto?
It wasn’t totally planned from day one — or maybe it was in [Geoff Johns and Akiva Goldsman’s] heads, but they didn’t tell me. It definitely wasn’t something that we thought of until the very end. I think we knew that would be a direction that would be exciting for the fans and a tease that would be interesting for us as well, and that was the best spot to put it in.
Titans has given us slightly altered takes on all of these characters so far. What can we expect from the show’s interpretation of Conner Kent in season 2?
It’s still brewing. What I can say is that we still want to take the same dimensionalized and psychologically grounded approach that we do with the other characters and apply that same pressure to Conner Kent and see what shakes out when you put a character like that through that test. You know, questions of identity, questions of powers, questions of your place in the universe. These are all questions that are interesting for any kind of Superman character, and are really interesting for Conner.
I feel like many people were probably expecting the season finale to feature a big group superhero moment where the Titans finally became the Titans, but that doesn’t happen here at all. Did you consciously make a decision to not do that in order to defy expectations?
Obviously. Look, you know they’re going to be a team and you know they’re going to fight together, that’s an expected part of the journey. To me, we just stumbled on this feeling very early on that got us excited, which was it was more interesting watching them trying to form a team and being pulled apart than watching them actually be a team and fight together. It’s like the metaphor of family: It’s the tests you face as a family that are more interesting than your Thanksgiving dinner where you’re all assembled. I think that we keep on looking at Titans as a model of family, of what you expect them to be together, they face crises that pull them apart, and I want to continue to play with that.
I think family, next to friendship and romantic relationships, are some of the hardest things to sustain in the world. When done right, they can be enduring and meaningful, but there’s always a test of who you are and who the family is.
You guys introduced a very human-looking version of Trigon in these final two episodes. Why present him that way, and will get we get to see his more demonic form in season 2?
As to the first part, I like the rendition of Trigon in the books, but I always thought it was more interesting to kind of play the human seductive side of evil that preys on your weaknesses rather than just preying on your fear. We thought of casting Seamus and also giving him a character who was seductive would be more effective in understanding the nature of evil. That was the first choice. Whether or not we’ll see him take on that form when tested remains to seen, but I know as a fan that I would like to see it.
There are a couple more dangling threads from the season, like Hawk (Alan Ritchson) and Dove deciding they need to find Jason Todd in episode 9. Can you preview what we can expect from that loose end?
We’re going to answer the question, why Jason Todd? That’s all I’ll say.
Does that have anything to do with Dick’s dark turn?
I think Rachel’s gone to them because she senses where she’s going. Rachel is an empath and has a feeling where things are going, and so has reached out in order to stop what she fears is happening and what she’s right about happening. It’s all linked to a larger sense of trying to stop this demonic force from overtaking, essentially, the universe — as we know is the reason Kory was sent to stop Rachel, that this threat goes beyond Earth.
We also left things dangling with Kory and Gar. What can we expect from them in season 2?
They’re going to be involved in the matter at hand. I mean, the universe is at stake here, and turning that around is forcing them to deal with their own darkness, as well. In order to get family, you have to fight hard.
Titans was the first original show on DC Universe. What was the biggest challenge of being responsible for essentially launching the service?
Well, there were a number, but I think the chief one was tone — trying to figure out a show that would differentiate itself from our CW brethren that people would pay for, so that it had the look of and feel of “it’s not TV, it’s not a movie, but somewhere in between.” And trying to be ambitious, both in storytelling and characters in look and feel while at the same time being energized and remembering why people love these characters in the first place. There’s no total reboot on these characters. We tried to stick with what we thought were the essential qualities of the characters and then put them on a canvas that, for these characters, hadn’t been done before. So, it was a lot of trial and error to get the tone right, because there are moments in Titans where it’s light and breezy, and there are moments in Titans where it’s dark as anything on TV. Trying to find a way to create a universe where both of those are possible takes some trial and error.
Is there an episode or moment that you’re most proud of?
Wow, there are so many. I love the Hawk and Dove standalone episode. I love the Robin dream episode. I like the “Asylum” episode. I like episodes where you drill down into the characters and find out who their identity is. The more we do that, the more I want to know more about them, and that’s the itch I always want to scratch on our show. The rule we have is that we have to find something new about the characters every season that you didn’t know before, or kind drill down deeper. I don’t know if the fans will think we’re successful at that, but I think we definitely tried to do that with these characters in a way to make Hawk and Dove feel alive in a way they maybe haven’t been before, and same with Dick, and kind of give Rachel a family story. Plus, the powers are b—-in and awesome. Those are fun, too. The fights were cool and made me cringe. And I love, “F— Batman.” I love that moment, too. I re-fell in love with the show in post while watching the excitement we were able to generate from these characters.
The entire first season of Titans is available to stream on DC Universe.