It’s telling that the HBO Max series Titans starts its third season with a shortened version of one of the most infamous Batman stories ever told. The premiere episode “Barbara Gordon” begins with a hilariously short version of A death in the family, Jim Starlin and Jim Aparo’s comic about the murder of Jason Todd, the second Robin, by the Joker. in the Titans Episode, Bruce Wayne is on a flight and can’t help Jason, who is after the Joker on his own despite Bruce’s warnings. And he’s beaten to death by the Joker, shown from so far it might as well be a random crook with a crowbar. Jason (Curran Walters) goes out like a jerk.
This may well be a point intended by Titans‘Authors – Heroes who turn away from the impulse to turn inward and walk alone has been a major series theme from the start – but it all goes down too quickly for viewers to feel strong about it, mainly because Titans
Titans has always been a little too in love with the Batman side of his Batman-free narrative. While technically an ensemble drama about the past and present of a coming together teenage superhero team, the show definitely has a main character, and it’s Dick Grayson, the first Robin (Brenton Thwaites). Now he functions as Nightwing, leading the Titans who now include Starfire (Anna Diop), Gar Logan (Ryan Potter) and Connor / Superboy (Joshua Orpin). Before the series can dive into today’s team, however, Jason’s death calls Dick from the Titans hometown, San Francisco, back to his old haunts in Gotham City, and the Titans eventually follow suit.
The spine of Titans Season 3 is an adaptation of Under the hood, the 2004-2006 Batman story of Judd Winick, Doug Mahnke, and others who resurrected Jason Todd as the villainous Red Hood out for revenge after his death in 1988. That Titans Take on it has few surprises in store for anyone who is only temporarily familiar with the source material or any of its other adaptations, such as the 2015 video game Batman: Arkham Knight
It could sound like that Titans ignores his non-bat-related cast more than he does. And, well – they are not absent. Kory eventually gets a subplot that picks up a thread from last season in which her perhaps evil sister arrives on earth and looks for her. While it takes them a while to show up, Hawk and Dove (Alan Ritchson and Minka Kelly) are returning, and the show’s longest-running non-dick character arc returns with them. Unfortunately, that’s something like that for the first half of the season. Continuing a trend from last season, the writers often forget about Connor and Gar (their powers are expensive to portray, after all), which is even more painful as they are often the only reliable source of the show’s ease.
It’s downright bizarre to look at Titans so thoroughly away from what did it so well in the previous seasons, that was the tricky tonal balance between dark and violent superhero drama and funny teen fear. Titans still comes with a tougher edge and better action than the average CW superhero soap, but it risks its heart and wit with a story that clearly favors a small section of its cast. There’s little room for entertaining or playful twists, like the season one story arc starring Rachel Roth (Teagan Croft) Titans down a horror-fueled street with her strange supernatural powers. (So far, it is completely missing in this season.) Or season 2 Big-Style stupidity of a full-grown superboy learning about the world for the first time because he only knows the inside of a laboratory.
Instead, the current iteration of Titans is steeped in the dark, agonizing world of the person it originally wanted to get away from: the bloody Batman.
The first three episodes of Titans Season 3 is now streamed on HBO Max. New episodes have their premiere on Fridays.