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Titans 1.6 Review – ‘Jason Todd’

November 16, 2018 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas
Titans - "Jason Todd"
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Titans 1.6 Review – ‘Jason Todd’  

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

Through the first half of its freshman voyage, Titans has done a remarkably good job of keeping the ship moving forward at a solid pace. We’re already well into the second act and have been given the right amount of plot progression. The characters and plot are engaging, and the action is firing on all cylinders. Thus far, DC Universe’s first original series has barely even had minor missteps.

Alas, Titans isn’t quite immune to midseason bloat. Every series must hit a point where it loses a touch of steam. For this show, that point is “Jason Todd.” The introduction of Dick’s replacement in the Batfamily isn’t a complete misfire, to be fair. But in side tracking to delve deeper into Dick’s psyche, this episode loses a bit of the momentum that has been built thus far.

Now, I’m not saying this diversion lacked value. There’s a lot that Richard Hatem and Jeffrey David Thomas’s script gets right. But with a show that has just eleven episodes to tell its story, this seems like wasted real estate. To be honest, I’m not sure that’s something Titans can afford to squander. But if it’s dead set on delving into Dick’s backstory, it could certainly be done in worse ways.

Titans Dick Jason

The reason for bringing Jason in here is obvious from a writer’s perspective. Jason represents a very real mirror to Dick’s life. For obvious reasons, we get to see what a younger version of our Detective Robin might have looked like. It’s not as clear-cut as that, of course. Jason has his own issues going on, only hinted at in the episode. And there’s a certain brashness that Jason displays which the flashbacks suggest Dick never had. It adds a level of tension to an already awkward dynamic, punctuated by the fact that Jason seems to have more leeway with Batman than Dick did.

Of course, we’re taking Jason’s word for that. And if this episode is any evidence, that’s probably not a good idea. Sure, Jason’s passive-aggressive show of proving he’s more capable than Dick (and more trusted) is fun. And Curran Walters does a fine job of selling Jason’s arrogant, violent teen nature without making him too irritating. His brief interaction with the other Titans is fun but pointed, as he does pretty effectively show Dick up in front of Rachel and Gar.

The problem here is that Jason’s eventual problems are telegraphed too strongly. Jason starts violently beating down the police who were called to the scene at the end of the episode. If it looks familiar, it’s is; Dick has used the same combat tactics. But was anyone even remotely stunned that this happened? There’s not a word that comes out of Jason’s mouth that makes this too surprising. Sure, not everything has shock. But this was played like a big reveal. And I for one was left thinking “…and?” when we see it is Jason assaulting the cops, not Dick.

Titans Nicholas Zucco

It doesn’t help that the Robins’ villain is somewhat lacking. The Zucco family has a long, storied history with the Graysons. Some of that history is nicely told in this episode via flashback. But those flashbacks focus on Tony Zucco, who gets killed when Dick busts him out of a transport car and then doesn’t help when the Maroni family exacts vengeance for snitching.

It’s an obvious problem: Tony Zucco is not Nicolas Zucco, the vengeful son. We see Nicolas once, briefly, in the prison where is father is. That’s enough to make the narrative logic work, certainly, but it feels a bit like a bait and switch. Building up Tony as the monster leaves Nicolas in his shadow. When he’s revealed as the man killing Dick’s old circusmates, he comes off as a garden variety monster. Ultimately, he’s just not an interesting villain.

The good news here is that Nicolas isn’t there to be a Big Bad for Dick. The Zucco revenge plot services Dick’s story by showing who he was, and how far he’s grown since then. And it does an effective job of fulfilling that mission. It’s just unfortunate that there isn’t a somewhat more compelling story along the way.

Titans Team

That said, it’s not all bad. Dick is the character who (excusing Kory’s amnesia) we know the least about, even as we’ve seen a lot of flashbacks about him. Both Jason and the Tony Zucco stuff reveal a lot about who Jason was, and make him a more relatable character in the present. There’s enough humor to keep things zipping along; Jason and Dick’s banter in particular is funny and feels real. Walters has a large gap to fill with the relative absence of the other Titans and he does it well.

And it’s not like there’s no movement on the main arc. As we find out, Dr. Adamson isn’t dead; Dick and Jason successfully saved him. That gives us plenty to hope for in terms of answers and doesn’t leave the Titans at square one. But he tells Kory that he’ll only talk to Rachel. That seems certain to bring us some new excitement next week. A single week diversion from the main plot doesn’t hurt anything. At worst our field trip with Jason Todd is a bit filler-y. And while that’s not great, it could have been a hell of a lot worse.

Titans Dick Jason Bar

Some Final Thoughts:

• Brendan Thwaites is remarkably good at playing a young version of an old guy. His awkward fist bumping of Jason was way funnier to me than it should have been.

• Similarly, I don’t know if the fact that much of the first ten minutes basically consisted of Dick dragging Dr. Adamson around by the feet was meant to be as funny as I thought it was. But I’m not ashamed to say I laughed.

• Dick may think he’s the leader of this group, but Kory’s got Rachel and Gar’s numbers. “Okay, quiet. Sit.”

• “Can I be Robin?” “Oh my god.” The kids are all right.

• For once I don’t have a food lesson for the week. Which is fine, because I didn’t think that was going to become a running joke throughout these reviews.

• Next week: The team tries to find Rachel’s birth mother and things go very, very poorly! Trigon looks to be getting closer to a return, which is happy news. Well, not for the Titans, but you know what I mean.

The final score: review Average
The 411
"Jason Todd" is the first relatively lackluster episode in what has been an otherwise-excellent first season of Titans so far. Nothing in the episode is particularly bad on its own, outside of Nicolas Zucco's second-rate status as a villain. But it does feel like an episode that could have been told at any time and is more filler than anything, slowing down a bit of the show's momentum as things were really starting to gear up.

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Titans, Titans Review, Jeremy Thomas