It’s telling that the HBO Max sequence Titans kicks off its third season with a truncated model of one of the crucial infamous Batman tales ever instructed. The premiere episode, “Barbara Gordon,” begins with a hilariously transient model of A Demise within the Household, Jim Starlin and Jim Aparo’s comedian that includes the Joker’s homicide of Jason Todd, the second Robin. Within the Titans episode, Bruce Wayne is on a flight and unable to assist Jason, who goes after the Joker alone, despite Bruce’s warnings. And he will get bludgeoned to demise by the Joker, who’s proven from so distant that it would as effectively be any random criminal with a crowbar. Jason (Curran Walters) goes out like a chump.
This might be a degree supposed by Titans’ writers — heroes turning away from the impulse to show inward and go it alone has been a serious sequence theme from the leap — nevertheless it all goes down too shortly for viewers to really feel strongly about it, principally as a result of Titans virtually instantly launches into one other well-known Batman story. It’s price noting that whereas Bruce Wayne often exhibits up — very similar to in Titans season 2 — there isn’t any Batman on this story. That is the “fuck Batman” present, keep in mind?
Titans has all the time been somewhat too in love with the Batman facet of its Batman-free narrative. Whereas it’s technically an ensemble drama concerning the previous and current roster of a teen superhero staff coming collectively, the present positively has a predominant character, and it’s Dick Grayson, the primary Robin (Brenton Thwaites). Now working as Nightwing, he’s main the Titans, which now comprise Starfire (Anna Diop), Gar Logan (Ryan Potter), and Connor/Superboy (Joshua Orpin). Nonetheless, earlier than the sequence can dive into what the staff is like now, Jason’s demise calls Dick from the Titans’ house metropolis of San Francisco again to his previous Gotham Metropolis haunts, and the Titans ultimately comply with.
The backbone of Titans season 3 is an adaptation of Underneath the Hood, the 2004-2006 Batman story by Judd Winick, Doug Mahnke, and others who resurrected Jason Todd after his 1988 demise because the villainous Pink Hood, out for revenge. The Titans tackle it holds few surprises for anybody with a passing familiarity with the supply materials or certainly one of its different variations, just like the 2015 online game Batman: Arkham Knight. Titans doesn’t stray very removed from the story’s main beats, not less than not within the first six episodes made accessible to critics. That isn’t even that large of an issue; the present’s second season equally spun out a model of Marv Wolfman and George Perez’s basic The Judas Contract story from The New Teen Titans, which wasn’t terribly subversive, however was nonetheless thrilling to observe. The Judas Contract, nevertheless, wasn’t a narrative about Batman. It was concerning the Teen Titans.
This may make it sound like Titans ignores its non-Bat-related solid greater than it does. And, effectively — they aren’t absent. Kory ultimately will get a subplot selecting up a thread from the final season, the place her maybe-evil sister arrives on Earth on the lookout for her. Whereas it takes some time for them to indicate up, Hawk and Dove (Alan Ritchson and Minka Kelly) return, and the present’s longest-running non-Dick character arc returns with them. Sadly, that’s form of it for the season’s first half. Persevering with a pattern from the final season, the writers usually overlook Connor and Gar (their powers are costly to depict, in spite of everything), which hurts all of the extra, since they’re incessantly the present’s solely dependable supply of levity.
It’s downright weird to see Titans so completely transfer away from what made it work so effectively in its earlier seasons, which was the tough tonal stability between darkish and violent superhero drama, and enjoyable teen angst. Titans nonetheless comes with a more durable edge and higher motion than the common CW superhero cleaning soap, nevertheless it’s risking its coronary heart and wit with a narrative that clearly favors a small portion of its solid. There’s little room for pleasurable or playful twists, just like the season 1 arc the place Rachel Roth (Teagan Croft) took Titans down a horror-fueled street along with her unusual supernatural powers. (To date this season, she’s lacking completely.) Or season 2’s Large-style goofiness of a fully-grown Superboy studying concerning the world for the primary time, as a result of he’s solely identified the within of a lab.
As a substitute, the present iteration of Titans is steeped in the dead of night, agonized world of the individual it initially needed to get away from: fucking Batman.
The primary three episodes of Titans season 3 at the moment are streaming on HBO Max. New episodes premiere on Fridays.