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Titans 1.5 Review – ‘Together’

November 9, 2018 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas
Titans - Together
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Titans 1.5 Review – ‘Together’  

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

For all its strengths, there’s one thing that Titans has been missing thus far: the Titans. Now obviously, we have Starfire, Robin, Raven and Beast Boy. But they haven’t exactly been a cohesive unit as of late. The first four episodes have covered what I like to call the pre-Coulson death period of the team, when the group is more focused in fighting and occasionally getting along than working as a group. And that’s fine. Tension makes a team dynamic interesting, when done well. But there must come a point where this team of young heroes actually starts acting like a team.

“Together” begins to explore what that team might look like. The Edward Hill and Gabrielle Stanton-scripted episode doesn’t get us there quite yet, to be fair. But it lays the foundations by turning the interpersonal tensions into something more positive…and in one case, more nakedly (pun intended).

Okay so I make jokes, but this is actually important. The good guys can only squabble for so long before it starts to get tiresome, after all. One of the biggest problems with broadcast network genre series is their need to fill out twenty-plus episodes. That means lots of filler, and the easiest (and worst) way to fill time is to keep the good guys at each other’s throats for a long period of time. Titans doesn’t have any real estate to spare, so it’s about time that the characters start getting along a bit more.

Titans Dick Rachel Gar

“Together” seems like the right time for this not only structurally, but narratively as well. Rachel, Dick and Kory had some lines of connection, but they were missing something to make it all come together. Gar is that something. Our metamorphic teenager brings several important elements to the team here. As mentioned last week, he provides someone for Rachel to relate to. But more significantly, he helps bring her out of her shell a bit. Dick and Kory fall more under the guise of authority figures for Rachel. Gar is a friend, and in just two episodes we’ve already seen him have a big effect on her.

Perhaps more importantly, Gar helps bring a lightness to the show that was missing in the first mini-arc. Kory and Rachel — and even Dick — lighten up a bit around him, and the show lightens as a result. Playing the “naked Gar is funny” and “holy crap, he’s a tiger” card can only work so often, but it’s more than just that. Gar’s optimism appears contagious, which is the permission this team needs to start having some hope.

Kory and Dick also have their moment, which is only slightly less effective. I’m not complaining about the idea of these two getting romantically involved, of course. Not only is it source-accurate, it helps form a cohesive bond here. I’m simply not sure the two have earned this dynamic on the page. Anna Diop and Brendan Thwaites make it work, because they play well off each other and there’s an absolute spark between them. Still, it does feel a little bit like they hook up here because they do in the comics, not because of any direction the story went on its own.

Titans Kory

That’s a vague complaint, I know. And ultimately, it’s not anything major. These two will surely be continuing their relationship, no matter how awkwardly it ends. Dick’s inability to let Kory in makes a lot of sense to the character we’ve seen so far. And of course, his stubbornness on that front is not likely to end soon. The point is, it’s a start toward seeing Dick become the leader he’ll turn hopefully into as Nightwing. And it’s played by Thwaites and the script with just enough nuance that it comes off as believable, not hackneyed.

It comes to a head when the Nuclear Family shows up with a new Dad to bring in Rachel at last. The Family has been the primary direct threats to the Titans up to now, and the four of them keep the new team in the ropes during their fight in the motel. There unfortunately isn’t a lot of time to get to know the new Dad, but we get his origin (and thus the origin of the other three) which is enough. They’ve been built up effectively enough as a threat that when the Titans do take them down, it feels like an accomplishment. It especially allows Dick to shine, as he shows the other three what he can do — kick ass without any powers. Director Meera Menon oversees an effectively action scene that makes great use of the environment. And the shot of the team coming together at the end of the fight feels as momentous as it should be.

It’s kind of sad to see the Nuclear Family go so soon. However, they stayed just up to where their welcome was starting to hit its limit. At their core, these aren’t deep characters, and they’re secondary villains here. We know that the main event is going to involve Rachel’s real father and his other minions. The Family was tough enough to get the team together, and now it’s time for an upgrade.

Titans Team Nuclear Family

That also means, assumedly, that we’re moving on from Dr. Adamson as well. We didn’t specifically see him dead; it’s unclear if Dick tossed him to the ground, or if the attack team shot him. I’m not too worried if it’s the latter. Reed Birney has done a fine job, but much like the Nuclear Family there isn’t a ton to his role. Literally any character could be introduced as a cult leader to fulfill a similar role in the plot going forward, so it’s probably best he gets swept away along with his family project.

That brings us to the other big moment, as the attack on Adamson’s condo brings a rescue party in Robin. Or Robin II, rather, aka Jason Todd. We don’t have enough to make a judgement call on Jason, or on Curran Walters in the role. He certainly seems brasher than Dick, although that could be the youth talking. It’s a dynamic entrance that definitely sells Robin’s formidable skills and gives the show a strong ending twist.

We now have six or seven episodes left to go, and Titans is on quite the roll. Most of the grittier superhero shows have drawn the criticism that they move along too slowly. That’s one problem I can confidently say that Titans doesn’t have. It’s not rushing anything, but it’s not slamming the breaks too liberally. There’s plenty of time left to raise the stakes, even if the show bogs down in the middle stretch like many do. Even with what looks to be a side episode coming up, the showrunners deserve credit for keeping things moving along briskly. I’m looking forward to seeing where things go from here.

Titans Doom Patrol Rachel

Some Final Thoughts:

• I’m not the only one who felt bad for the poor motel owner when Dick gave her the letdown, am I? I mean, I can’t say I blame her for trying. She went for it when she was competing with Anna Diop, and if that’s not aiming for the stars, I don’t know what is.

• “I can’t get your boots off.” “I want them on.” Seriously, this may not be a purely comics-accurate take on Starfire, but she definitely has the important steps right.

• In other Kory-related news, Diop’s “Oh, shit. Dick’s gonna think I did it” regarding the dead Nuclear Family was priceless.

• I’m going to miss the wonderfully deranged tones of the Nuclear Family, particularly Mom. Kudos to Melody Johnson for her work in the role.

• This week’s food lesson: careful about those eggs, folks. Sometimes you get one with a chicken fetus, and that could be foreshadowing for your death.

• Next week: The Robins team up! Just keep Jason away from crowbar-wielding clowns and he should be fine, Dick. Maybe red hoods too.

The final score: review Very Good
The 411
The Titans come together as a fighting unit for the first time in "Together," and the results are thoroughly enjoyable. The training montage, the fight against the Nuclear Family, the development of Dick and Kory's relationship and the arrival of Jason Todd are all highlights in another good episode here. Titans is a show that continues to prove its early critics wrong in the best possible way.

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Titans, Titans Review, Jeremy Thomas