Titans ushered in its Season 3 premiere with some significant plot developments squeezed in the space of under an hour. And you know that’s not an understatement when the episode kills off Jason Todd before even the intro titles begin rolling. By the episode’s conclusion, Dick Grayson is stuck in Gotham and Bruce Wayne commits a shocking act crossing the limits of his sanity. There’s a lot to unpack in the premiere in terms of pure exposition as well.
The opening puts a nice spin on the reknowned comic A Death in the Family as Jason Todd is murdered at the hands of the Joker. One could argue that the build up to it seems forced and superficial, as if to dispense off with Todd quickly so he can be resurrected as the Red Hood even quicker. After all, there was no perceivable need for Todd to haste his way into picking on the Joker. Regardless, it’s always a pleasure to see the clown prince of crime in any form. Much like Batman in Titans Season 1, the Joker is only felt as a presence and a comic-accurate silhoutette – intentional no doubt as I’m confident the series has no plans to pursue the Joker in any depth. The show is simply not about him and he becomes a plot device to bump off Robin and kick off the third season although the stakes of his threat feel low simply because we haven’t experienced this Joker in any form whatsoever.
Nevertheless, it provides the much needed motivation for Dick Grayson to return home to Gotham, but not before a well choreographed team-fight shows the Titans in action working together as a team for a change. Now comprising of Nightwing, Starfire, Superboy and Beast Boy, the gang stops the theft of a virus. The fights seem impressive and fluidly edited and do a good job of giving everyone their due without making it seem imbalanced. We also get a setup of what looks like a potential superhero rivalry as Beast Boy is jealous of Superboy’s popularity in a scene that looks inspired from Avengers: Endgame when the child had no interest in seeking Ant-Man’s autograph.
The episode is mired in Batman ethos and you’d almost be mistaken for believing that this is a Batman-themed show (perhaps Gotham would have been a better title). We spend quite a lot of time with Iain Glen’s aged Bruce Wayne and Savannah Welch’s Barbara Gordon as they recall their crime-fighting past and dish out plenty of exposition along the way. That’s how we learn of Commissioner Jim Gordon’s and Alfred’s passing away, the times Barbara spent together as Batgirl that purportedly left her limbless, their skirmish with the Mad Hatter. Interesting parallels are drawn between Bruce and Joker as the writers make the case that Bruce is becoming addicted to the war in Gotham and liberating the city is nothing more than a way of serving his own twisted agenda, that he secretly wishes for Joker to escape so he can don the Batman costume.
Bruce himself is unmoved by Robin’s death and that visibly upsets Dick. In fact Bruce is already seeking out the next Robin (and we get some nice callbacks to comicbook Robins such as Carrey Kelley from The Dark Knight Returns). Comic fans would know that the potential shortlist for Robin meanwhile is Tim Drake. We’re introduced to an optimistic Drake going about his business in Gotham. He has that spark and it’ll be interesting to see how Bruce recruits Drake from the shadows, bringing him up to speed and whether that kills the young boy’s childlike enthusiasm and curiosity. There’s going to be a fair bit of conflict involved as Dick resists Drake succumbing to the same fate as him and Todd did.
Bruce displays extreme apathy towards Robin’s demise, maintaining a stoic, unmoved demeanor. It does alienate him in the eyes of the viewer with the writers making the case that Bruce is past his prime, as evident when he kills the Joker the same way the Joker killed Todd – using a crowbar. This also helps the showrunners send Glen off and I’m unsure if this was the last we saw of Glen or if this season will be sunsetting Bruce for good. It certainly is the only way audiences won’t revolt against a Batman that kills.
The premiere plants seeds for some other subplots that should blossom down the road if the writers stick their guns. Beast Boy begins growing a bit insecure of Superboy’s fame and in the process, reveals via some lame exposition that Rachel is out in Themiscyra to resurrect Donna Troy. That in itself is good enough material for a few episodes. Tim Drake’s transition to Robin has the opportunity to reveal what really goes into making a Batman sidekick in this universe. Gotham is always rife with a fascinating rogues gallery to draw from. And Koriand’r begins having some visions that should draw in Blackfire in the subsequent episodes.
Since its inception, Titans has been a show with terribly inconsistent writing. Storylines develop and grip your interest before being sidelined or forgotten entirely in favor of some subplots introduced out of the blue. No sooner than conflicts begin piquing your interest than they are dropped. And abrupt developments such as the Season 2 finale completely destroy what little momentum the series had managed to achieve. Fortunately, based on this premiere, it looks like some of those issues may be ironed out. While the writing still jumps around often, Titans at least does a good job of sticking to a few crucial subplots in its Season 3 debut without trying to stuff too much in. If it can sustain this in conjunction with the already stellar production values, this could be the best season of Titans yet.