9 out of 10
The live action adaptation of the Teen Titans comic-book for the DC Universe streaming service is not only my favorite of all television series based on DC comic book characters, but it’s also probably one of my favorite comic-book shows ever, coming in just below the Netflix ‘Daredevil’ series. Ironically enough, what I loved about ‘Daredevil’ is very well present in ‘Titans’: it’s a dark, gritty and violent take on the characters and mythology, but it doesn’t loose its comic-book roots in the process. There’s a pretty even balance in world setting and tone.
The show begins with teenager Rachel Roth/Raven (Teagan Croft) learning of a darkness within her as she finds herself being hunted by a group of people who want to reunite her with her long-lost father Trigon (Seamus Dever); on the run, Rachel’s journey takes her to Detroit where she crosses paths with Dick Grayson/Robin(Brenton Thwaites), a detective trying to fight the darkness within himself – he quit on Batman a year prior out of fear of getting a little too close to the dark side, and although he moved out of Gotham and is now an official Detective in Detroit, he still feels the urge to put on the costume and deliver hard justice to criminals. After learning of the severity of the threat against Rachel, the two are plunged into action and hit the road to find answers, and along the way they encounter Koriand’r/Starfire (Anna Diop), who is also on a quest to find Rachel, although amnesia from a car accident prevents her from remembering why, and Garfield Logan/Beast Boy (Ryan Potter), a shapeshifter whose affection for Rachel leads him to leave the dysfunctional group of freaks he resides with known as The Doom Patrol, to partner with the other three on their quest to protect Rachel from those who seek to unleash her father onto the world.
The one aspect of this show that I really loved was how they developed Dick Grayson/Robin: here he’s convincingly portrayed as someone who was trained by Batman; everything from his brutality, to his fighting skills, and most importantly, right down to his detective skills. Naturally, to parallel Rachel’s story, they went a little dark with his character, but I’m not complaining – this is the best version of the character we’ve ever got on screen, and his arc is clearly leading to the character becoming Nightwing, which I am looking forward to. Introducing Jason Todd/The Second Robin (Curran Walters), although for only two episodes, was a nice touch to enhance the eventual transition of Dick Grayson from Robin to Nightwing, while also establishing and foreshadowing the core elements of Batman related history, including Jason’s eventual transition from Second Robin to the anti-hero Red Hood (fun fact for those who may not know: in the issues leading up to the now classic “A Death in the Family” story-line, DC had ads for fans to call a 900 number and vote on weather or not The Joker would kill Jason Todd or if he would survive; the fans spoke, and Jason died. Many years later, during the ‘Batman: Hush’ story-line from 2002-2003, fans got excited about the return of Jason Todd, although the following issue revealed it was just Clay Face fucking with Batman. Fan response to that, however, lead to DC officially resurrecting Jason Todd as the Anti-Hero known as The Red Hood in 2005, and has been a fan favorite ever since. The fans killed him, and the fans brought him back). I love everything related to Batman and Robin’s histories in this show, and as a lifelong Batman fan knowing what awaits these characters, I can’t wait to see how their stories unfold.
Although the show is heavily focused on Dick Grayson/Robin, Rachel/Raven is equally important, as her story serves as the catalyst that brings these characters together and moves the series forward. Admittedly, I am not that familiar with the character’s comic book counterpart, so I can’t comment on the show’s accuracy regarding her story and origins. Her presence does bring a horror vibe, which I find refreshing to see in a show revolving around super-heroes.
Koriand’r/Starfire has an arc that ties directly into the series lead story-line, but it’s not quite as focused on as Robin and Raven’s stories. She does get a few bad-ass scenes, but she’s mostly utilized as a surrogate mother/protector of Rachel, and as Robin’s co-authority figure over the teenage characters as they attempt to solve the mystery surrounding the intense interest in Rachel. Starfire’s arc is a mystery, with the character suffering amnesia and trying to figure out who she really is and why she was also in pursuit of Rachel. I do like this version of the character, and I hope that we get to learn more about her in the upcoming second season.
Out of the four lead characters, the only one that’s not really given much to do is Garfield/Beast-Boy; he enters the fray as a boy with a crush and good intentions, and adds to the group dynamic by being Rachel’s peer who shares her youthful rebellion against the rules of the adults. He’s supportive of Rachel and will do anything for her, even if it does get the entire team in trouble. Despite not getting as much screen time or development as the other characters, he’s not an entire waste here: he does have a small arc that connects him thematically to the other characters, going from a changeling who hasn’t even bitten anyone, to viciously mauling a man who was a threat to him and his friends. This doesn’t happen until later in the season, but when it does, he too becomes fearful of the darkness that lurks within him. Hopefully next season he’ll play a larger role, and maybe learn to shift into something other than a tiger.
Donna Troy/Wonder Girl (Conor Leslie), one of the original Teen Titans, is brought into the show a little bit later in the season, and I was surprised by the fact that it wasn’t just a one-episode appearance. Bringing her in, and having an already established friendship with Dick Grayson/Robin, was a nice touch that acknowledges the comic book history of the Teen Titans as originally a group of side-kicks that formed their own group and fought together prior to the popular Marv Wolfman/George Perez ‘The New Teen Titans’ (which had a slightly older Dick Grayson transition from Robin to Nightwing and lead a new group consisting of former members Wonder Girl and Kid Flash, along with new members: Raven, Beast-Boy/The Changeling and Cyborg – this run popular run from the 80’s would be the basis for this show). I liked her supporting role in the last couple of episodes, and I hope she becomes a regular going forward.
Now, I’m a little conflicted on the characters of Hank Hall/Hawk (Alan Ritchson), and Dawn Granger/Dove (Minka Kelly); I really liked these characters and how they were done for the series, and I thought the one episode dedicated to their backstories and the circumstances leading to the two becoming costumed crime fighters was compelling , but considering that they were introduced pretty early on in the series, and were heavily featured in the marketing of the series, I guess I just expected a bit more from them. They really don’t have much to do with the overall story aside from adding other original Teen Titans alumni – you could literally remove these two characters from the show and it would leave no impact on the series or plot. As I said, I like these characters and their backstories, but I wanted more from them in the bigger picture.
Aside from that, my only real complaint about the series is that there is no resolution by the final episode, neither to the central plot nor sub-plots. I have no problem with cliffhanger endings, and usually I like and understand them; I enjoy that feeling of being left on a hook and wanting more, but I prefer if the cliffhanger acts as a consequence following one stories ending. To me it felt like each episode added more and more without being bothered to conclude what has already been established and with that the first season doesn’t really feel complete. The odd part of this is that they had already done the story’s conclusion, but decided to save it for the first episode of Season Two. I don’t quite get that, but it is what it is.
And speaking of endings, if you get to the final episode, make sure you stick around for the post credits tease, because it’s a good one.
Overall, I really enjoyed this season, and I am eager to watch the second season. I liked the tone, the themes, the acting, and this dark interpretation of these characters.