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Titans 2.1 Review – ‘Trigon’

September 6, 2019 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas
Titans -- Ep. 201 -- "Trigon"
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Titans 2.1 Review – ‘Trigon’  

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

By just about any measure you can consider, the first season of Titans was a success. Debuting in October of last year, the first original DC Universe series overcame some negative early fan reactions to the trailer and became a thoroughly enjoyable show about some of DC’s most popular characters. The series was dark and violent to be sure, but showrunner Greg Walker and his cast and crew soared by keeping to the essence of the characters without feeling the need to be tied down to previous portrayals.

But it’s a year later, and a lot has changed. Titans no longer exists in the same landscape it used to. Its underdog status was wiped out by the fruits of its first season’s labor, and it’s about to go up against its toughest opponent yet: Disney+, which launches in November. As the show returns for its second run, it isn’t unfair to wonder if lightning can strike twice for the series.

Titans Rachel

Fortunately, there was a lot of good storytelling and worldbuilding in the first season, which allows the second season plenty to build upon. But first we have to get some of the old storyline out of the way. “Trigon” picks up exactly where the season one finale “Dick Grayson” left off, which if you’ll recall was a cliffhanger. Following the return of Rachel’s demonic father Trigon to the world, Dick ended up in a nightmare vision where he killed Batman and, giving into his dark side, was corrupted into Trigon’s service. Rachel and Gar are trapped in the farmhouse of this horror show while Kory (Starfire) and Donna are stuck on the outside. Help is on the way in Hawk and Dove, who are looking for Jason Todd. But it’s not going to be so simple for them, or for Rachel herself.

There is one unavoidable elephant in the room when it comes to discussing “Trigon,” and that is that it seems like an odd episode to look at as a season premiere. The titular villain’s plot and how the team must come together in order to deal with it seems like a season finale, not a premiere. If you also feel that way, there’s a simple reason: that’s how it was supposed to be. Walker said last year that “Trigon” was intended to be the finale, but that the cliffhanger of episode 11 felt good enough that “we wanted to go for an even bigger, better season two opener.”

And that’s fair, to a degree. No lie: Dick being corrupted at the end of his self-titled episode was one hell (no pun intended) of a cliffhanger. But it also means that “Trigon” ends up feeling like an odd place to start. It certainly gets to a good season premiere point by the end, but in the meantime, this first episode feels more like the series tying up loose ends before it can get to the main plot of the new season.

That doesn’t make the events any less weighty. The scenes in which Kory, Donna, Hank, Dawn and Jason all have their own mini-nightmare sequences generally work in revealing character and pushing the plot forward. Jason’s in particular is fantastic. Curran Walter’s Jason has been an endearing level of annoying, but it’s still annoying. Seeing him put up against real adversity, seeing him agonized over a dead Bruce and essentially acknowledge he’s not better than Dick, are humanizing moments that Walters plays well. Donna Troy’s sequence is character-revealing as well, detailing her backstory, and Kory’s shows that in the right situation she could be pushed to do what she was supposed to (but shouldn’t have) done. Only Hawk and Dove’s seems too shallow, but three out of four is pretty good, to be honest.

Titans Raven

From there, the moments are all about sweeping away the threat of Trigon. Seamus Dever is appropriately weighty as the human form of the demon, and the scenes in which Dick chases down Rachel and Gar make for some nice horror-tinged tension. But we know that the Titans aren’t going to lose here. This is part of the problem of this serving as the season premiere; we know there are a whole host of episodes to go. As a season finale we can’t be certain, and you never know; maybe things don’t end well. Everything plays out in a way that narratively makes sense, sure. We get Raven’s comic-appropriate look, Gar gets a moment to shine, Dick and Rachel’s connection plays out well and Rachel gets to be a badass who ends her father’s threat (for now). There are some slightly sketchy CGI moments with Trigon, but it’s acceptable overall and I’m happy to see the budget instead go to more effects later in the season. As it stands – and this is somewhat unfortunate – I spent the episode just waiting for Rachel to put her father back in his demon dimension so we could see what’s next.

“And what’s next” is where the episode really starts to feel like the start of something new. The team splits up with Dick taking Rachel, Gar and Jason back to Gotham while everyone else goes their separate ways. This is where we see Iain Glen for the first time as Bruce Wayne. I imagine this is going to be polarizing for some. It’s certainly an older and perhaps wiser Bruce than we’re used to seeing in media. Affleck’s Batman was supposed to be older, but this older is on a different level. Glen doesn’t feel fully settled into the role yet but gets the essential part of Bruce down for the purpose of this scene: Bruce’s dynamic with Dick. There’s a distance there, but also that fatherly nature. This should be a tense relationship, but one of respect from both and pride from Bruce. That all comes through well, and it provides Dick the narrative kick he needs to really step up and take his charges to San Francisco.

This, ultimately, is the Titans that many of us have been waiting to see. The team in Titans Tower – sadly not a massive T shaped building, but that’s understandable – feels like the show has come home and is ready to stretch its legs. This is a decision that will have massive repercussions going forward, not just for the team but for their big threat this season. Deathstroke, we learn, has been living in a self-imposed exile. When he sees Jason shout out “Titans are back, bitches!” on TV, that gives him the motivation to reconnect with his guy – not yet confirmed, but pretty much a new take on Wintergreen – so he can start work again. Esai Morales very quickly grows into the role of the legendary DC mercenary in his few scenes, and while it’s very different than the comics or Manu Bennett from Arrow thus far I’m excited to see where he takes the character.

Titans Dick Gar

While it may sound like I’m being largely negative in the first half of this review, I want to be clear: this is still pretty decent television. Yes, the decision to move this episode from a season finale to a season premiere was not the wisest move, and it made the Trigon stuff feel a bit perfunctory. But that’s a structural problem, and it doesn’t kill this episode entirely. Episode writers Akiva Goldsman, Geoff Johns, and Walker do a nice job of putting the pieces together and then asking, “Where do they go from here,” with the back half of the episode setting that up.

To add to that, the cast all delivers in a big way, particularly Teagan Croft who has to do a lot of emotional heavy lifting with the rest of the team covered in evil-making goth makeup. Ryan Potter does a nice job of carrying his important scene as he gets through to Rachel; it’s a heroic moment for a great character who needs more to do in the show. All in all, this is an uneven but decent opening for a season with every bit of potential to top what the first season gave us.

Titans Rachel Team

Some Final Thoughts:

• Welcome back to Titans reviews for season two! As you know or can tell from the above, I really enjoyed the first season and am looking forward to seeing how this one unfolds.

• Don’t get me wrong, I know that Rachel’s mother was not acting in her daughter’s best interests by any measure. But man, no one even kind of seemed to be a little depressed that she was cold on the ground, in the background of the shot where the triumphant team reunion happens. Poor Angela.

• We don’t get our first look at Superboy or Aqualad for this season yet, but there was so much to cover this week that I think we can let that slide.

• Jason driving his motorcycle through the Wayne mansion just so he can do a leap-crash down the stairs is so ridiculously extra and a pretty perfect capsule moment of who he is right now.

• No word on what’s coming next week but judging by the trailer I’m assuming our first look at Rose Wilson and people being angry at Dick for trying to bring the Titans back into existence.

7.0
The final score: review Good
The 411
The only major problem that "Trigon" has is that it probably should have stayed as the season one finale, and not the season two premiere. That robs some of the tension from the episode, but it's not bad work or writing and the second half makes up the difference. The first appearances of Bruce Wayne and Deathstroke generally work and the core cast have plenty of chances to shine. It's not the strongest start the season could have, but it still leaves us with a lot of hope for what the season will be.
legend

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Titans, Titans Review, Jeremy Thomas