Wow, I legit did not expect that. In what could be a massive narrative development for Titans, the show pulled off a daringly unexpected move that could actually help serve its overarching storyline quite well. The episode title is also a fond permutational callback to Season 1’s Hawk and Dove (Episode 2) and Hank and Dawn (Episode 9). Unfortunately, the poorly written build-up to this event makes this a frustratingly difficult episode to review and rate. It goes without saying that there are going to be heavy spoilers so if you haven’t caught the episode yet, turn back. If you’re still here, it’s on you.
Most of the episode revolves around Red Hood’s efforts at scaring the Titans by putting the lives of one of them at risk. Jason Todd lures Hank into a desolate gym, then implants a Wayne tech bomb into him that counts down with Hank’s heartbeat. The team scrambles to pull all stops to save him – Conner Kent is tasked with working out 1.5 million permutations to device a detonator, Koriand’r aggressively pushes Barbara to see footage of the guy who smuggled Jason out of the morgue and Todd himself demands $50 million in gold bar which Dove, as a last resort, steals and goes to hand him over. What they don’t realize is that all these are simply red herrings to buy some time for Hank as Todd has already decided his fate.
Yes, Alan Ritchson’s Hank gets killed by the end of the episode. The bomb explodes, Conner is late and the Titans stare in horror as Hank’s remains smear Wayne manor. I genuinely did not expect the show to pull this off after Donna Troy’s demise but it looks like the showrunners are open to thinning their roster a bit. The confidence that this wouldn’t happened sort of spoiled my enjoyment of some of the tender moments that the Titans spend with Hank as I was fully expecting for the bomb to be diffused. The final few moments were handled beautifully by director Jamie Gorenberg who put all the pieces in place and then cut across them for their timely reactions to learning of Hank’s fate.
At the season premiere, I opined that the show didn’t do any work on establishing the Joker as a force to be reckoned with, which is why Todd’s death at his hands didn’t have the desired impact. It looks like the writers are working to establish the Red Hood as this season’s Joker replacement. I discussed last episode how Todd’s antics are already quite reminiscent of the Joker and this episode hands down establishes him as a formidable Joker replacement. He is not interested in money but takes pure pride in inflicting his twisted sense of morality on others. Having Dove pull the trigger for Hank was a classic Joker move that not only takes a life but leaves Dove haunted for the remainder of hers, now left to deal with the trauma of being responsible for rushing through to save Hank.
There’s a cruel bit of irony in Dove pulling the trigger with the intent of killing Todd, but ending up killing Hank instead. It implies more than ever, that the right thing to do is stand by your morals. It’s almost as though the Joker wanted to impart this lesson in his own twisted, psychotic way and devised this “test” for Dove. She failed and it cost her Hank. Had she waited just a while longer, Conner was at it with his concocted detonator. Being the righteous person could have saved her boyfriend.
The difficulty in rating this episode comes with the lead-up to the climax which is frustratingly poorly written. Every scenario conceived to get Dove and Nightwing in a room with Todd is mired with plot holes and chock full of inconsistencies in timing. The countdown simply doesn’t add up in how it gives Dick and Dove enough time to suit up and for the former to visit the house of the guy who broke Todd out from the morgue as Dove steals a GCPD armored truck full of gold bars. Not to mention how easily Koriand’r is able to convince “Commissioner” Gordon to handover classified CCTV footage from days ago. And that robbery has to be the silliest robberies ever seen on TV, unless the showrunners were actually making the case that the GCPD is incompetend enough to carry $50 million word of gold bars in an armored van protected by three lousy officers and one additional security guard. Eye roll.
The nudity and sex too were unnecessary but I guess teenage audiences would lap it up as mature content. Despite the frustrations, this episode serves as an important one simply because it drills down the threat that Todd’s Red Hood poses in your mind. The cat’s out of the bag and while I highly doubt the writers would kill someone else off just to further their point, the fact is that in the Titans universe, the Red Hood isn’t afraid to kill and anyone is up for grabs now. It poses an interesting question of just how redeemable Jason Todd is after this stunt and does that mean the only way down for him is dead? Or would the show chicken out and use the same device that brought Todd back to life to resurrect both Donna and Hank, with the former idea even being namedropped in this episode.
On the whole, despite a rushed, plot-hole infested build-up, Titans delivered an impactful ending that could have ripple effects for the team going forward in how they grapple with it. Red Hood is now an antagonist to be afraid of and as unhinged as the Joker would have felt to the Batman. And in any case, Alan Ritchson delivered a fine performance with the material that he was provided and got a much better death than the laughable one that Donna Troy did during the Season 2 finale. Let’s hope the showrunners use this development as a jumping off point to delve deeper into the already messed up team that Titans is.