“If you won’t protect one another, then who will?”
It was bound to happen. After six weeks of solid storytelling, Titans falls back to earth with “E.L._.O.”, the most narratively inconsistent episode of what has been, to this point, a surprisingly strong season.
As much as I have enjoyed season two thus far, its biggest issue has been the splintering of the Titans. For a show predicated on them being a team, they’ve had very little time together as such. That dysfunction is a major aspect this week as the narrative jumps between the individual threads, with Conner (and Krypto) and Hank the only characters absent from the jumble of dodgy cuts and uneven storytelling. Even Jason and Rose, offscreen for two weeks now, have their own arc that, despite being the strongest feature of the episode, would have been better served had the pair been sprinkled in for a scene or three these last few weeks. Even with the inconsistency of narrative, perhaps the biggest flaw revolves around the showing diving into the ‘hallucination well’ for the second time this year.
When Dick catches a fever in prison, he once again conjures visions of his old mentor, Bruce Wayne. We all know this is Dick’s subconscious mind’s way of battling it out with what he thinks is right versus what he knows is necessary. Unlike books, where these internal struggles can be written out through the prose itself, it’s not as simple in visual media where the protagonist needs to play his thoughts off another character.
It’s unfortunate that “Bruce Wayne” used this same technique as “E.L._.O.” would have benefited more from its use (though the previous episode does a much better job executing it). Instead, what we get is an even more over-the-top depiction of Bruce Wayne that culminates in a one-on-one fight that is one part impressive and two parts laughably bad. From an emotional standpoint, it gets Dick where he needs to be—mainly, escaping prison in order to confront Slade and the truth that Jericho lives—it’s just unfortunate the road there was lined with potholes.
Funny enough, Bruce isn’t relegated to Dick’s psyche. The real McCoy shows up as well, directing Rachel, Dawn, Donna, and Kory to meet at an out-of-the way diner to impart some knowledge on them that, as a family, they need to get their crap together because, if the darkness comes, they won’t survive on their own. Though Glen is passable, and his come-to-Jesus talk pulls no punches (and is also extremely accurate), he doesn’t quite carry the gravitas I expect from the Dark Knight. Still, his manipulation of the four characters is completely in line with a man of his tactical brilliance. It speaks to Bruce Wayne’s formidability better than any of the more recent iterations, including his exploits in the Nolan trilogy. Still, even as Rachel and Kory team up to rescue Dick (a bit too late for that, ladies) and Dawn and Donna head off to rescue Gar, it’s not enough to rescue an episode that was in definite need of a win.
There’s a lot going on in “E.L._.O.” that, despite the harried nature of its structure, will be vital as we close in on the final two episodes. Dick has confronted the truth of his détente with Slade and perhaps ready to fully take ownership of his part in Jericho’s fate, Rose rejects her work with Slade to undermine the Titans, and the gang as a whole are just a few steps from being reunited. Still, as its own installment, “E.L._.O.” fails to land on the right beats or maintain much in the sense of confidence in its direction. Adding to that is its lack of a genuinely “wow” moment and “E.L._.O” will be nothing more than a forgotten dip in a Titans stock that has, for much of the season, been consistently trending upwards.
- Every narrative this week had issues but the worst by far was Kory’s nonsensical storyline. She gets sick playing an arcade game, is provided therapy from her almost one-night stand and, despite having very little time on Earth, somehow exudes the ghetto woman stereotype. It’s a bad turn for her, one that does very little in the way of strengthening her character or really touching on her Tamaran arc. It’s another example of her criminal misuse this season and I hope the writers are able redeem themselves next season with her and a Tamaran arc that should play a major role.
- I’m still trying to figure out what Cadmus is doing to Gar. Are they trying to recondition him to become more than he is and become a loyal asset to the corporation or are they trying to discover his secrets only to exploit his shapeshifting abilities to use as they see fit? There is some good material here and, with Cadmus and Luthor’s introduction this season, it only makes sense for them to become more of a seasonal antagonist in the future.