“What we do…other people count on us to help them.”
A major tenant of the Hero’s Journey is when the protagonist, whether through the actions of the villain or his or her own folly, is brought low. It’s an imperative step to traverse the valley of doubt and failure before the hero can truly become what he or she is destined to be. The last couple weeks of Titans has driven this point home as the titular team has splintered, drifting off and away from their principled mission of helping those in need. “Fallen” examines this concept in greater depth though, despite its glum undertones, sprinkles in the faintest glimpses of hope for a better—and braver—future.
Instead of diluting the narrative by squeezing in the struggles of every Titan, “Fallen” smartly focuses on a handful of members, with Dick’s arc garnering the most attention—an understandable decision, given that he’s the face of the team. The episode catches up with him after being booked and pleading guilty to assaulting a federal officer—an offense that earns him 7 years with no possibility of probation. After such an out-of-character action, I was all but convinced that Jericho had taken up residence in Dick’s body. Now, I’m not so sure.
While serving his time, Dick reiterates the fact that he’s done helping people. If it’s his way of offering penance, it’s particularly ignorant, considering the best way to make amends is to help others in need. It’s a lesson that takes him the majority of the episode to learn but, after Santos’s murder, one of his three cellmates trying to distance themselves from their violent pasts with the Corto Maltese (a nice name drop for Arrow fans), Dick comes out of his shell of self-suffering to help the other two escape. Combining his last second heroics with Luis’s story of Alazul—never mind the oh-so-familiar visual outline of the bird, or its domicile “between the moon and the stars”, appearing to those in great need. Though Dick remains imprisoned at the end, maybe, just maybe, the inspiration he drew from Luis’s faith will be the motivation he needs to make amends. And finally don the Nightwing mantle we’ve all been waiting for.
Dealing with their own, less focused struggles, are the youngest members of the team. Gar’s still trying to make things right after screwing up the Conner situation, led to the wayward super boy thanks to Krypto. The trio don’t get long to redirect their focus as Cadmus breaches the Tower, taking down both Gar and Krypto. Conner’s surrender requires no threats or weapons of kryptonite; instead, Mercy Graves uses her prodigious guile to reach Conner at his weakest point, his fear of losing control and hurting innocents. It’s difficult to take her words at face value, considering how she’s locked Gar up against his will and yet she may be true to her word (though it’s doubtful due to her altruistic nature). Her promise to give both Conner and Gar what they desire is a greater tool of coercion than any weapon she could wield.
Lastly, there’s Rachel who finds a kindred spirit at a soup kitchen. Both girls can relate to the screwed-up nature of their families and when a violent figure from the other girl’s past tracks her down, Rachel steps in with her dark powers to save the day. When the girl brings Rachel to another group of abandoned and homeless teens, it could be just the type of band Rachel has been looking for. But finding her tribe may be the least of Rachel’s worries as, after scaring off her new friend’s past, echoes of her dark power animate a gargoyle that tears the man apart. It begs the question of how Rachel’s burgeoning abilities are controlled. It seems as though there is a subconscious element to them and, if that’s the case, she will need her Titans family much sooner than she realizes.
Slower-paced than the last few weeks, “Fallen” takes a strong examination at the reality that heroes are just people too. Rachel’s commentary on how, as children and teens, we see adults as knowing everything is just as relevant to the topic of heroes. There’s a great danger in putting people on a pedestal that, no matter how much good they do, when they inevitably mess up, it colors our opinion of them. We all make mistakes, there’s no getting around it. The question becomes; when we do screw up, how do we go about making amends? It’s a question that will most likely be a focal point in the remaining season two narrative.
Teen Team Titans (?)
- Though he still has his own demons to sort through, Gar’s the only Titan in “Fallen” to have a dedicated sense of purpose. He wants to be a Titan, someone that will help those in need. His determination to make this dream real may prove to be an issue should he trust Mercy to make him more but—more importantly—it may be the rallying cry the others need to redirect their own doubts and return to the road of a hero.
- Even as someone who hasn’t been a huge purveyor of the comic book world in recent years, catching sight of that Night Wing morsel was a certified geek-out moment. The question that remains at large though is, with Dick’s current prison sentence seemingly set in stone, will he decide that escaping prison and rededicating himself to helping the helpless is a better way to serve his penance than rotting behind bars? This would truly make him an outlaw where hiding behind the mask would be even more important. Also, I’m still not 100% convinced that Jericho didn’t have a hand in nudging Dick towards this course of action.