“This Titans family is something worth keeping together.”
After last week’s penultimate episode ended, my first thought was on how in the world would the creators be able to weave a coherent and powerful finale for a season that, while good in individual installments, severely lacked a narrative cohesiveness? “Nightwing” answered that by serving as the microcosm of what has plagued Season Two throughout: way too many balls (or storylines) in the air that don’t give the characters time to breathe and grow, doing a shameful disservice to this series’ massive potential. Maybe the most egregious error of the finale—from a season-long perspective, at least—is the final confrontation between Slade Wilson and Dick Grayson.
Make no mistake, Dick’s ninja-like appearance as Rachel, Donna, Kory, and Dawn are pinned down by Deathstroke’s gunfire was a perfect introduction to him donning the mantle of Nightwing. Even the fight between him and Slade, despite choppy editing that negatively impacted the flow, was a strong back-and-forth before the meta-assassin gained the upper hand. Then Rose, adorned in her Ravager outfit, enters the fray and evens the odds. She and Dick battle it out with Slade in a scene that should have been much more than the undercard fight it ultimately becomes.
Though I’m not a fan of how they beat Slade (and save Jericho in the process), it’s more about the hastiness of this arc’s end that had been, in Titans time, five years in the making. I’ve had many issues over the years with Arrow and its sometimes-shoddy narratives, but if there’s one thing they did exceptionally well, it’s its handling of Deathstroke. Not only was he much more of a terrifying presence (no disrespect to Esai Morales, who was one of the better parts of the season), but he wasn’t skewered is such an off-hand manner. A character with Deathstroke’s history deserves a much more magnificent and epic death, not being ended by his daughter on some abandoned street, no matter how narratively apropos his death mirrored that of his son. And yet, what Slade suffered is nearly surpassed by the head-scratching, fist-shaking fate of Donna Troy.
When Conner was introduced back in Episode 6, it made sense to give viewers a bit of background on Cadmus and its relation to Lex Luthor. This mistake was making Cadmus the second-half antagonist. Had Titans enjoyed a 22-episode series order, then pulling double-duty between Slade and Cadmus would have worked out fairly well. In fact, one issue I’ve had with many network genre shows is the focus of one overarching villain for the entire season, with a smattering of sub-villains and unavoidable filler thrown in. But Titans was not this and in splitting time between Slade and Cadmus stories weakened both.
Still, even with Mercy Graves taken down, the Cadmus threat is not gone; sadly, we can’t say the same for Donna who, as the team celebrated Conner (and Gar) breaking their Cadmus-enforced mind control chains, gives her life by saving dozens from a falling transformer. Her death is so senseless and abrupt, it came across like a last second addition to the already blustery and uneven script. Yes, out of her death, we get the Titans (sans Jason and Rachel, the latter accompanying Donna’s body to Themyscira) finally putting their own grief and imperfections aside to become the team they’ve always wanted to be, but at the cost of a character who could have been so much more.
“So much more”. Those are the words that come to mind when examining Titans, Season Two. Twas a season filled to the brim with potential and, save for Rachel and Kory, every other character had their own individual moments to shine. But unlike synergy, when the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, Titans Season Two will always been remembered by this author as a season where the individual efforts were, at times, exceptional, and yet the overall product falls short of what it should have been. Still, the saving grace is that the series gets a third season to explore these fascinating characters and, despite the ups-and-downs, the Titans have finally become a team. A family. Heroes.
One of the more frustrating things about a production such as this is that in better hands, it could have been extraordinary, and I mean The Boys level of great. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed this season of Titans much more than the first season and there are individual episodes here—“Conner”, “Atonement”, and “Jericho” are 3 examples—that are as good as any genre offering that I’ve seen this year. But even they don’t erase the bad decisions that sidetracked what originally seemed to be a well thought out and focused narrative. Season Three needs to take advantage of the stars they have; allow these characters more room to grow and, more importantly, stick to a singular antagonist for the season (we only have 13 episodes for the story to unfold) and if you wish to sprinkle in hints for a possible fourth season, do so with a bit more care.
I look forward to seeing a lot more of Curran Walters’ Jason Todd as well as Joshua Orpin as Conner. Both were perfectly cast and had an aura about them any time they were onscreen. Walters was especially brilliant and to delve more into Jason’s fractured psyche is one of my biggest anticipations for next year.
Finally, two characters who deserve recompense for their inferior arcs this season are Kory and Rachel. Not only are these two good actresses but they both have fascinating stories. Season Two basically kicked the duo to the curb, casualties of the dual antagonist overreach. Though nothing about Blackfire was particularly interesting to me, at least this will give Kory the attention to step back into the light. As for Rachel, who knows what her time in Themyscira will do for her burgeoning powers, especially when it seems like she orchestrated putting the team back together when they were at their lowest. If her powers have grown that much under the radar, what will happen when she’s given center stage? Or worse, if Lex Luthor sets his eyes on her as another potential weapon?