“Are we back in business?”
Titans, the DCUniverse stream service’s flagship series, returned this week and as the team battles their darker sides, the episode parallels the up-and-down nature of the show’s freshman campaign.
Picking up where last season’s finale left off, “Trigon” doesn’t give viewers much time to breathe as Raven and Gar flee Dick Grayson’s darker half. It’s a frenetic chase as the two dodge their friend while, outside, Donna and Kori (eventually joined by Hawk, Dove, and the overly exuberant Jason Todd) work to get past Trigon’s barrier. To ensure his goal is completed, Trigon allows the Titans into the farmhouse, putting each one through a mental trial where they all give into their baser urges, becoming enslaved to Trigon’s dark will.
Eventually Raven and Gar run out of options and Trigon beckons his newest acolytes to murder Gar while Raven stands by, powerless to help. Gar’s apparent death at the hands of his friends is the catalyst the interdimensional demon needs. He remakes his daughter into his emissary; to rule by his side as his embraces his demonic form (a terrible display of CGI in motion). “Now, we begin,” he declares and steps out into the world, ready to take the first steps towards conquest.
As one can imagine, everything that happens in the first twenty minutes of “Trigon” would have worked much better had it been paired with the season one finale. It would have been a brilliant way to make viewers eager to see how the Titans would shake off the demon’s influence and, perhaps given a heftier weight to the antagonist himself. Instead, Trigon’s arc is a rushed affair, as if last season’s narrative has to be put to bed in order to tackle stories the writers believe to be more popular.
While that sentiment is not wrong, the disrespect towards the Trigon character—a creature known for his immense power—is disappointing. The haste to get through this arc also wastes the extremely creepy horror tones that, at times, put me in mind of The Shining. As good as this side of the coin was, it was never given the chance to really shine. Gar’s survival and ability to reach Raven (who, in turn, pulled Dick back from the darkness) hastily enacted over a hectic five minute time frame that included Raven banishing her father back to his dimension. What could have been so much more was relegated to a network television-type resolution and the second half of “Trigon” only emphasizes the premiere’s disjointed nature.
It’s pretty obvious that the second half plays as the reset button for the Titans series. The most exciting part of this is the appearance of Slade Wilson. Though it looks as if he’s living the retired life, when he catches the return of the Titans on a newscast, he shrugs off the quiet life, reconnects with Wintergreen and moves toward donning the Deathstroke mask once more. On the Titans side, Dick pays a visit to Bruce Wayne to make amends as he works through the resentment he’s harbored towards his foster dad since their split. While it’s a touching scene and Iain Glen is admirable, the Bruce Wayne vibe is just not there.
It’s a microcosm of “Trigon” as a whole: there are so many good moments…unfortunately, they’re just moments. The overall story lacks the cohesion that would have made “Trigon” an exceptional premiere and, instead, exhibits the same cracks the first season carried throughout its run. With that said, there’s promise here as every character possesses a unique trait that begs to be explored, not to mention their thoroughly entertaining interactions (of which, Jason Todd excels). So long as this remains true and the writers don’t short-change this fascinating lineup of Titans, this has the ingredients to become more than just a mature version of the CW shows, rather Titans could, as it matures, be one of those vehicles, like Amazon’s The Boys, where people look at and say “that is how I want my super hero shows to be”.
Teen Team Titans
- Since its first highly divisive and poorly made trailer, Titans has been fighting an uphill battle with its identity and public opinion. Season one, though suffering from the unevenness most series do in their opening campaign, allayed some of those concerns, giving us glimpses of what could be. “Trigon” is this same package in a nutshell; moments of solid storytelling too often divided by questionable decisions and resolutions that aren’t developed organically. The potential is there, those behind the camera just need to trust their cast and shore up the season narrative beats to give Titans room to truly shine.
- Of all the comic books shows on network television, Arrow Season 2 is still my favorite. The biggest part of that is Manu Bennett’s Slade Wilson/Deathstroke. I will give Esai Morales a chance, but it will be difficult for him to reach Bennett’s level of badassery. Likewise with Glen; whether or not he’ll be involved more as Bruce Wayne remains to be scene but I really hope they don’t fall into the trap that derailed Gotham for a lot of people; that incessant need to have Bruce Wayne/Batman involved, as if his presence alone makes for an interesting story. Keep Wayne on the peripheral and keep the spotlight on his protégés.
6 out of 10