Since the conception of Arrow in 2011, DC Comics have excelled in their television properties. Expanding the initial series into its own universe (known as the Arrowverse) with the addition of The Flash, Supergirl, and Legends of Tomorrow. Out with these shows, DC also has Gotham, Black Lightning, and Krypton. Each show offering something for everyone’s fancy, whether it be street level type heroes, time travel, sci-fi or even prequels to DC’s greatest heroes ever, Batman and Superman.
Now, DC is bringing fans a grittier take on fan favourite superhero team, the Teen Titans.
The show follows young heroes from across the DC Universe as they come of age and find belonging in a more adult oriented take on the classic franchise. Dick Grayson, our shows greatest detective, and Rachel Roth, a special young girl possessed by a strange darkness, get embroiled in a conspiracy that could bring Hell on Earth. Joining them along the way are the hot-headed Starfire and lovable Beast Boy. Individually unique, they soon realize the importance of family, and together, discover just how powerful a team of heroes can truly be.
Titans is the first live-action series to be released on DC Comics and Warner Bros. new streaming service ‘DC Universe’. In advance of the first episodes being released on October 12th, I was given the amazing opportunity to experience those first three episodes of the series. I was quite impressed with how dark the show actually was, unlike the Arrowverse shows, where violence is far less glamorous and shy’s away from showing physical harm, Titans goes full tilt. I witnessed blood splatter, bones cracking, faces being smashed along the walls and into glass, and that was just the first fifteen minutes in. I’m not saying that as a negative, just that this was very unexpected. Tonally and aesthetically, the show is far darker than anything that DC TV has produced thus far and I would advise parental guidance when minors are watching at all times. This isn’t your Batman ‘66 TV Show and it’s definitely not for young kids!
Now, adult oriented themes that have darker elements interwoven within, actually appeals more to me, because, well, I’m an adult. I prefer watching traumatised heroes who sometimes manifest their trauma in often disturbing ways. They can find redemption and create character arcs that go beyond the a-typical troupes of modern-day superhero shows and film. That’s not to say I have a disdain for heroes being heroic, quite the contrary actually, but seeing Robin dismantle a group of drug dealers and a child beater, medieval style, is satisfying for a television show.
The first three episodes of Titans are essentially the story of how the band gets together. It shares its good with the bad in equal measures. By good, I mean we get to dive into the character arcs and experience their origins without the need to rush the story. By bad, I mean it takes three entire episodes before some of the main characters eventually team up. If the show was based on the individuals, that could work, but the show is Teen Titans.
A show about a surrogate family willing to put aside their own personal issues to better the team, is why they come together in the first place. It pleases me to say that the show itself, feels more like a serial drama with superhero and supernatural elements mixed together, and I’m perfectly fine with that. Titans is a show aimed at a more adult oriented audience, and DC Universe has accomplished that, for me at least.
I find it fascinating to witness the evolution of Dick Grayson turning in to this brutal fighting machine. To quote a DC Film “There’s a new kind of mean in him. He’s angry, and he’s hunting”. There’s a darkness inside him that seeks more than justice. After walking away from Batman to become less like him, I’m curious how brutal the Dark Knight is in this adaptation. Brenton Thwaites gives a great performance as Robin, but falls a little short in the greatest detective department.
Rachel Roth/Raven is an exciting character. Her arc is vital to how the show progresses as its constantly built on with the compounding narrative. I feel for Rachel. She’s the youngster who has a lot on her plate dealing with being alone, and the darkness of her powers that are starting to come to the forefront. Add who her father is and you can related to just how emotional this character can be. Teagan Croft is brilliant as Rachel and I anticipate she’ll be able to display Raven at her full potential.
My favourite of the group so far is, without a doubt, Kory Anders/Starfire. Talk about total bad-ass. With some brutal moves, Kory has a mysterious background that is briefly touch upon in the first three episodes. She is snarky, tenaciousness, and takes no shit from no one. I feel Anna Diop will no doubt be a fan favourite and I cannot wait to witness her character growth in the series.
Sadly, I only saw glimpses of Garfield “Gar” Logan/Beast Boy played by Ryan Potter. But during the those brief appearances, he has some cool moments, which I’m sure the series will undoubtedly build on.
Fans will love Alan Ritchson and Minka Kelly’s roles as Hawk (Hank Hall) and Dove (Dawn Granger), the two of them are great additions to the series. Their relationship complements one and other by balancing things out and their action scenes along with Robin are second to none.
Each of these characters is captivating from the very first moment and I’m ecstatic to see how the series will play out.
My main issues, however, are things I feel can be easily improved on. The writing is a major weakness and the initial villains they’ve introduced, so far, feel like they’re out of an episode of Supernatural. Hopefully they create more interesting villains, but until then, they just feel out of place for me. My last issue, is that I feel the show has some pacing issues. Now, that reason could be that I’m being too impatient. But that also could be why I’m not convinced with Dick as a detective. Again, that’s how I felt while watching this adaptation, three episodes in. Things can always change.
Overall, Titans may be dark, but it has its gentle moments as well. I think once the series gets into the full swing, fans will be pleasantly surprised with the interesting characters and a few shining performances. I will say that the cinematography is beautiful and the fight choreography is also stunning. There’s a scene in the second episode that is reminiscent of the dual take-downs from Batman: Arkham Knight. In conclusion, the first three episodes lay down a decent foundation. It’s entertaining and if the series can build from this, I believe DC has a winner on their hands.