Continuing with its seasonal theme of character-titled episodes, this week’s Titans answers the season’s underlying question: what was the horror five years ago that was so damning as to tear the young heroes apart?
Taking place shortly after the ending of “Aqualad” when Dick ‘just so happened’ to bump into Deathstroke’s son, “Jericho” lays out the Titans’ attempt to glean information from the young man regarding his father. It’s one thing to turn someone into an asset when they know the deal but using Jericho like they are is a dodgy move, one where Dick is taking Dawn’s demand that he “be Batman” to heart. Part of the ugliness in “Jericho” is watching the team fray at the edges by what they are doing with the revenge-fueled Donna the only member completely at ease putting her conscience on the shelf in order for them to get the bad guy. And Slade Wilson is most definitely that bad guy.
While most of the focus is on Jericho’s relationship with the Titans, we also get the briefest of glimpses into Slade’s past, his stint in the Army then H.I.V.E., how he became Deathstroke, and the consequences his occupation took from him and his family. Eerily similar to the Titans’ own split, Slade’s actions cost him greatly, violently highlighted when masked perpetrators come to his home, demanding answers on one of his jobs. Slade ends the threat but not before one of them slices Jericho’s throat, permanently robbing the young man of his voice. Despite his secret life, Slade loves his son but the fallout of his choices rains down on them and this particular side of the family drama (sans Rose) is played out to a heartfelt and deadly conclusion.
Fans of the comic familiar with Jericho know his meta-human abilities but those who’ve only followed the series are given a surprise when Jericho showcases his powers. Able to project his consciousness into another person, giving him control of them (without that person really being the wiser), Jericho’s talents changes Dick’s plans of distancing themselves from the asset-turned-friend. They’re surprisingly honest with Jericho, not just about his father’s heinous acts but also their initial purpose in befriending him.
Dick’s decision—one born of wanting to care for wayward individuals like he was once—puts Jericho in danger he was not yet ready to face. And though he never became a Titan, Jericho’s final act—taking a sword through the heart to save Dick from being murdered by his father—solidifies him as a young man whose character would have made him a wonderful hero.
For Titans, that’s three straight weeks of exceptional storytelling accompanied by solid action. “Jericho” is a wonderful exploration of the titular character and how the war being waged between his blood and the group where he finally felt as if he belonged. Chella Man is fantastic as Jericho, imbuing the pain and conflict of a son whose father has not been the best of influences, yet can’t let go of the dream of having his father love him and consistently be in his life. The chemistry between Man and Esai Morales gives an even greater depth to painting Jericho’s desire for a normal family life. Aside from Dick and Donna, the other Titans are bit players, though their genuine like for one another gives their eventual disbanding the necessary sting, even though the audience knows it’s coming. With the blanks finally filled in, the remainder of this season is poised to focus more on the coming confrontation between Deathstroke and the Titans. It’s a fair to surmise that, when that happens, odds are good that someone (possibly plural) won’t be walking away from it.
Teen Team Titans
- While not the most important part of “Jericho”, the episode’s success in showing Deathstroke off as the badass he’s always been only padded the positive stats of an already emotionally engaging entry into the series. Though lacking the fluidity I’d hoped to see, the violence and skill he displayed in taking apart both Donna and Dick (on separate occasions) was everything I could have asked for. Even five years later, no Titan is going to be a match for Slade in a one-on-one, with Kory and Conner the wildcards whose meta abilities can cancel out (in Conner’s case, over match) Slade’s martial skills. Still, something tells me we have yet to see Deathstroke the Terminator working on all cylinders.
- After that peek into the past, I’m now more interested in Rose’s story. She’s Slade’s daughter, but does she share the same mother? I understand that Jericho was the primary character this week but not even a casual mention of her by Jericho or even Slade? There is going to have to be an episode dedicated more to her backstory than what we’ve been given so far. It has to be, considering that, to this point, she’s been scarcely used.
- Deathstroke’s initial contract to kill Jillian makes me think that another character is waiting in the shadows. Whether this unknown entity will have a deeper connection to Donna remains to be seen, but I hope this particular story thread (if it’s explored at all) is held off until Season Three.