Movies & TV / Reviews

Titans 1.2 Review – ‘Hawk and Dove’

October 19, 2018 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas
Titans Dove
The 411 Rating
Community Grade
Your Grade
Titans 1.2 Review – ‘Hawk and Dove’  

[Warning: spoilers abound for those who have not seen Friday’s episode of Titans.]

If there’s one thing that just about everyone can agree on regarding Titans, it’s this: the show doesn’t make things easy on itself early on. I’m not talking about most of the things that seem to be drawing criticism. This has nothing to do with the dark tone, the violence and swearing, or the changes to the characters.

No, I’m talking specifically about the show’s narrative path. The first episode sets up two major parallel and related plots. There is Rachel finding Dick and enlisting his help, and Kory learning she was looking for Rachel while she tries to regain her memories. (There’s also Gar stealing a video game, so let’s say “two and a half plots.”)

These two arcs will clearly converge, of course. But in the meantime, the show is in danger of splitting its focus. “Hawk and Dove” makes the bolder — and smarter – choice by setting one of those plots aside. It sucks that we don’t see Kory this episode but allowing the story to focus on Dick and Rachel results in a less crowded episode.

Titans Dick Rachel

One of the most immediate and gratifying takeaways from “Hawk and Dove” is that Teagan Croft and Brandon Thwaites are settling into their roles as Rachel and Dick well. Neither actor was bad in the first episode, but they didn’t have a complete handle on their characters. “Hawk and Dove” allows the two to spend more time together, to their benefit. It’s hard to get a handle on these two people when they’re playing off mostly-inconsequential characters.

Working off each other, we begin to see their dynamic take shape and it is enjoyable to watch. Dick is a young adult who never had the chance to be a kid. Despite looking like he’s barely out of college, our erstwhile Boy Wonder acts like a gruff father toward Rachel. It’s obvious what’s going on here. Dick is trying to help Rachel, but his example for a parental figure is not the one he wants to go with (and for good reason). Instead, he goes in the other direction, which has the side effect of his treating her too much like a little kid.

The problem of course is that Raven isn’t a little kid. She’s not an adult, sure. But she’s a far cry from marshmallow-laden hot chocolate, something she has no problem informing him of. This is important to her character. In the pilot, Rachel limited to switching between freaked out and emotionally muted. Seeing her react to Dick – and later Dawn – lets us see a side of her that makes her a more nuanced person.

Titans Dick Dawn

Ah, yes. Dawn. Hawk and Dove do make their debuts in this episode. And I think it’s safe to say fans will be…let’s say divided about them. Not so much Hank, who Alan Ritchson properly plays as a machismo-ridden, overconfident aggressor. It’s Dawn who will inspire some hatred. From the very first scene, we quickly realize that Dove is no pacifist. She fights and uses the feathers of her outfit to draw blood. She does so with the talons on her gloves too.

But really, this isn’t all that far off from the original iteration of Dawn. Yes, she’s the level-headed member of the duo. Dawn is a calming influence on Hank, and she’s the more reasonable of the two. That is something that comes out in spades. But on the page, she was more aggressive than Don Hall (the original Dove) and was willing to fight. One can absolutely argue that this Dawn takes things a bit far compared to her comics counterpart, but I don’t think that necessarily ruins her.

That goes doubly so when you consider that Minka Kelly is bringing so much to the role. Kelly instantly becomes one of the most appealing characters on the show, emotionally connecting with every person she comes into contact with. Dawn has a romantic past with Dick, we learn, and she and Hank are an item. She very quickly becomes a sort of big sister to Rachel in the short time they have. And Kelly fits all these roles beautifully, finding easy chemistry with all three. She also has the right level of spark to put Hank in his place when he gets jealous. Whatever you may think of Dove drawing blood, it’s hard to deny she’s one of the best parts of the episode.

Titans Robin

Hank and Dawn’s presence also allows Akiva Goldsman to explore Dick’s current mindset. At a couple of points this episode, Dick alludes to his time with Bruce as something that he’s troubled over. When Raven says she sometimes likes the feeling when “the darkness” gets out, he seems to understand. And he tells Dawn something similar.

But it isn’t until he must come running to rescue the duo from an ambush that we really understand. Robin’s assault on the gun runners is brutal at a level that even gives Hank and Dawn pause. Dawn tells him, “I’ve never seen you like that before.” She doesn’t say it as a compliment…and this is the woman who is dating Hank Hall of all people. For some this may seem like DC’s obsession with “dark and gritty,” but it is a solid modern take on how lost Dick was after he left Batman. The reasons are tweaked and there’s more aggression in the angst, but it does feel authentic to the story.

Stabbing a guy in the crotch with shears isn’t the only questionable decision Dick makes. He also tries to leave Rachel with Hank and Dawn, which is the plot point that doesn’t make a lot of sense. I can understand the motivations – Dick doesn’t feel he’s a great father figure. But it doesn’t serve the story well. Obviously, Dick and Raven will reunite — they are part of the core team-to-be. This is just creating pointless conflict to get Raven on the roof, because the climax needs to take place on the roof. There were better ways to do that than make Dick looks like a flakey asshole sticking Rachel with his former friends, one of whom didn’t know it was coming.

Titans Nuclear Family

On the plus side, that conflict doesn’t last too long before the Nuclear Family stops by to bust things up. This moderately obscure group was creepy enough in the comics, where they are robots powered by nuclear energy. Here on the show, they’re much worse. The “Great American Household” motif stands out as fake to modern audiences for a reason: it is fake. And on a show with this one’s tone, that’s amplified.

Of course, the fact that they’re also stone-cold murderers doesn’t help. Poor Detective Amy doesn’t seem to make it past episode two, running afoul of the family in her apartment on their quest to find Dick and Raven. That’s unfortunate, because I liked the promise she showed in the pilot. But there wasn’t much to her character yet, so it’s not a huge loss to the show. It also sets up the Family as a real threat, something emphasized when they beat the snot out of Dick and Hank before throwing Dawn off the roof.

As the episode ends, we don’t know whether Dawn is alive or dead, but it doesn’t look good. And Raven in the family’s clutches can’t be great news either. That’s a good cliffhanger to end on, especially considering how easy it was to get invested in Dawn in this episode. Titans still has several growing pains to work through, but it is taking the right steps so far. With Kory about to enter the picture, that has every chance of continuing.

Titans Amy

Some Final Thoughts:

• I know that it’s blatant cross-promotion (DC is owned by Time/Warner, who also own HBO), but I couldn’t help laughing at Rachel’s off-screen exclamation of “DRAGONS? This show just got SO much better.”

• Dick’s contact list was…eclectic, to say the least. It included: Alfred and Bruce, as well as Donna Troy. It also had Michael Pearson (Dick’s roommate in Chicago in the New 52), and Titans crew members Camille Verschooris (Production Manager), Brendan Steacy (Cinematographer), Tony Solomons (Editor), and Brian Wessel (Editor).

• One thing that Dick and Rachel can agree on is no pineapple on pizza. It’s okay; they’re allowed to be wrong about that.

• I did kind of love Hawk and Dove’s banter in the opening scene. “My hero.” “You didn’t wait for me.” “Eh, you would’ve said ‘Not tonight.'”

• In Hank and Dawn’s apartment, there’s a picture of them along with Dick and a second woman. Unless my eyes deceive me, that’s Conor Leslie who is set to play Donna Troy later in the season.

• Next Week: Kory and Gar are back on-screen, as Rachel ends up at a convent. Because THAT will obviously go well…

The final score: review Good
The 411
Titans goes in a smart narrative direction with "Hawk and Dove," focusing entirely on Dick and Rachel so as not to lose focus on the main subplot. While some may take issue with the portrayal of Dove, and Dick's actions deserve a fair amount of scrutiny, this is a very decent episode that helps establish character strokes for our protagonists and establishes a major threat in the Nuclear Family. Two episodes in, Titans is still managing to keep its momentum strong.