“What we are isn’t as important as what we’re not.”
The original Titans come together in their old San Francisco stomping grounds, ready to take on a pair of old enemies while Kory is forced to confront her own past and responsibilities as a Tamaran royal.
Though it seemed as if things were okay between the former Titans in the premiere, when Donna, Dawn, and Hank arrive at Titan Tower, the remaining tension from their original split is unmistakable. Like the episode title, the ghosts of past mistakes are heavy crosses to bear for our protagonists. And though they face one of their adversaries in Dr. Light—wholly unprepared, I might add—“Ghosts” never fully opens the door on the events whose wounds are still evident. It would have been easy enough to make this episode more about these past demons but that would have been a mistake in an episode already over-encumbered with heavy character moments. Instead, knowing that they’ll need to work together to rescue Jason from Deathstroke, the complete revelation of this mysterious past will be a nice teaser just waiting to be explored.
Back in Chicago, Kory own past is exposed when Faddei, royal guard of the Tamaran monarchy lets the princess know that it’s her turn to take the throne. Kory’s hesitation and disdain to follow her cultural duties is apparent though whether that’s from seeing the freedom to choose that many people in the States have, her connections with Rachel, Dick, and other others, or a combination of both, is never fully explained. Despite her reticence to return home, she agrees to do so as she knows the punishment Faddei—her one-time lover—faces should he return to Tamaran empty-handed.
What should be an emotionally impactful decision, however, misses the mark. Despite their purported past, the chemistry between these two is severely lacking and their entire night lacks the organic ease we’ve seen in her interactions with Dick, Rachel, and the others. This missing connection really hurts Kory’s story line and every cut back to her and Faddei feels more obligatory than an interest in exploring these two on more than a surface level. It even affects Kory’s heartfelt conversation with Rachel, whose morphing powers has the teen terrified of what she might become. Maybe now that Kory is heading back into the arms of her friends, her Starfire shine will return and we can forget the empty nature of her arc in this particular episode.
On the topic of characters, the host of stimulating and pertinent interactions gives some much-needed steam to “Ghosts”. From Rachel and Rose bonding over their wickedly awful father-figures, Dick’s individual moments with his former Teen Titans, and Jason’s need to prove himself to Dick, does a lot of the heavy lifting in an episode plagued with droll moments that could have killed it. These interactions prevent “Ghosts” from being a forgettable filler episode but the over-extension of the narrative to try to flesh out so many different character arcs prevents it from reaching its potential. Scrapping a scene or two between Kory and Faddei and editing down the action sequences (another area Titans could use some work) could have provided the pacing and cohesion that would have made for a much stronger showing.
As it stands, “Ghosts” is an average installment that helps further our anticipation of the Titans’ past and whets our appetite for the inevitable confrontation between them and Deathstroke.
Teen Team Titans
- I made my concern over Esai Morales as Slade Wilson known after the Season Two premiere. It may be early and he’s yet to see any real action but in the little he’s been given, Morales has exemplified the intimidating and commanding aura of Deathstroke. The narrative surrounding Rose and him killing Jericho aside (allegedly), the authority in his performance was exactly what I was looking to see. Time will tell if he can maintain this same gravitas throughout the season but, if he does, he may find himself being mentioned in the same breath as Manu Bennett.
- Though Curran Walters has a tendency to go one note higher than is required, the dynamic between him and Dick is fascinating. Dick’s reluctant professor/big-brother attitude towards the high-strung Jason is that perfect undercurrent of the team dynamic when weighed against the varying degrees of conflict with the show’s villains. The truth is that the most disruptive force is that which comes from within—something expertly manipulated by Zemo in Captain America: Civil War— is heavily implied to be the schism between the original Titans years years ago. Dick still carries the ghosts of that failure with him and his fear of failing this new generation and Jason’s continued need for his acceptance will cause these two to butt heads throughout the season.
- Rachel’s scary changes will be another thing to watch. The power within her, a power strong enough to banish Trigon (no matter what she thinks, her daddy dearest ain’t dead), will be something to watch. I must admit, a part of me thinks that her conversation with Kory was an act and that Rachel’s dark side had bubbled to the surface and wants out for good; what better way to achieve that goal than to take away the things the good Rachel loves? Like Jason and Dick’s conflict, Rachel’s wrestling with her darker side will most likely be a season-long effort.
Titans – “Ghosts”
6.5 out of 10