Titans: Season 1 — a review

 

DC Universe is a video-on-demand service operated by DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Digital Network. Titans was the first web television series offered on this streaming platform.

The series was created by Akiva Goldsman, Geoff Johns, and Greg Berlanti, three names that should be familiar to DC Comics fans.

Akiva Goldsman was a screenwriter on a couple of early Batman movies he’d probably like to forget (I wish I could forget Batman & Robin), but redeemed himself when he won an Academy Award for A Beautiful Mind; he also directs and produces, a lot.

Geoff Johns has been a DC Comics wunderkind for years, serving as the Chief Creative Officer of DC Entertainment for years before launching his own production company, Mad Ghost Productions, to continue to focus on writing and producing film, television and comic book titles based on DC properties.

Greg Berlanti is, of course, the man behind the CW’s Arrowverse (or Berlantiverse, as I prefer to call it), that includes Arrow, Flash, Supergirl, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow and Black Lightning.

What I’m saying, I guess, is that Titans has a pedigree. And, being the first show offered by DC Universe, I expected it to knock my socks off.

It did. Knock my socks off, I mean. I enjoyed this 11-episode first season a great deal. Sure, it has some flaws, and I’ll get into those in just a moment, but my first impulse is to throw the windows open wide and loudly proclaim that Titans is superhero television worth watching.

Okay, I’m not going to do that, literally. People in this neighborhood get a little bent when you throw your windows open and loudly proclaim anything. I don’t want my name on any kind of list. Instead, I’ll proclaim it here, but calmly and rationally, resisting the impulse to USE ALL CAPS, which is just rude.

If you are a fan of superhero television series at all, you should watch this one. This first season was as good, and frequently better, than any of the CW shows in their prime. My opinion that the Berlantiverse shows are past their prime is a topic for another post, and it’s just my opinion. This series, however, is hitting on all eight cylinders right out of the gate.

Let me talk about what I like about this show.

I love the cast. They all seem to be veteran actors, but most are unknown to me. Brenton Thwaites, who is Dick Grayson/Robin, and Teagan Croft, who is Rachel/Raven, are both Australians. Anna Diop, or Koriand’r/Starfire, is a Senagalese-American (she immigrated when she was six years old), and Ryan Potter, or Garfield “Gar” Logan/Beast Boy, is American. They’ve all been in other things that I’ve never watched. And this works for me, because I have zero preconceived notions about the actors and can readily accept them as the characters they are playing. In fact, I didn’t realize that two of them were Australian until I began writing this.

Two recurring actors were a bit more familiar to me. I’ve seen Minka Kelly, who is now playing Dawn Granger/Dove, in other things before. And Alan Ritchson, or Hank Hall/Hawk, was also AC, or Aquaman, on Smallville. He’s been in plenty of other things as well. I liked both of these characters as well and hope they’ll be permanent Titans going forward.

My experience with this superhero group goes back to The New Teen Titans, by Marv Wolfman and George Perez, way back in 1980. This wasn’t the first incarnation of the Titans, but it was where I came on board. The fact that this was nearly 39 years ago now seems unfathomable to me. This comic book series introduced Cyborg, Starfire and Raven to the DC roster of heroes. I understand that Cyborg is now being used in other properties, but I’m still holding out hope that he’ll be introduced into Titans at some point as well.

I stopped buying and reading comic books—for many, many years—only a few years after this series came out. My lack of knowledge of the storylines during the intervening years in no way hinders my enjoyment of this television series.

Titans shows how this group of powered individuals comes together as a team in a natural, organic way, as opposed to the “Hey, guys, let’s get together and put on a show” approach. Dick Grayson, as the series premieres, has hung up his Robin tights and left Batman behind for good to focus on his job as police detective. Rachel Roth, the daughter of the demon Trigon, comes into his life after her adoptive mother is murdered. Meanwhile, Starfire, as Kory Anders, is on the other side of the world in full-on bad-ass mode, with no memory at all of her life or abilities. She and Garfield (Beast Boy) join up with Dick and Rachel a couple of episodes later. Gar is a member of Doom Patrol, which appears in episode 4 in a kind of backdoor pilot (it’s a forthcoming DC Universe series, by the way), before leaving to join up with this ad-hoc team.

Hawk and Dove are also connected to Dick Grayson’s past, and are introduced as adjunct members. Donna Troy, whom comics fans know as Wonder Girl, is also introduced as a long-term friend of Dick’s, through Batman’s association with Wonder Woman. She doesn’t feel like a member of the Titans yet, but maybe she will be.

Like I said, the connections seem to form naturally. Organically. With the central mystery being why everyone seems to be after Rachel (including—SPOILERS—Starfire once she gets her memory back). I don’t believe they even refer to themselves, officially, as a team, even at the end of the season, even though we know that their bonds have been formed.

Now, for a couple of minor quibbles with the show.

Dick Grayson never becomes Nightwing in this season. All comic book fans expected this to be the big reveal at the end of the season. It didn’t happen. I expect this to come early in the next season since we’ve already established Jason Todd as the new Robin.

Also, Gar—our Beast Boy or Changeling—seems able to change into only a tiger. That’s impressive, but I seem to recall that he could change into any animal in the comic book. Maybe this was a CGI budgetary issue. The green tiger was impressive. I’ll give them that. But, this is Beast Boy, not Tiger Boy.

The season also seemed to be building to a major showdown with Trigon. This doesn’t quite happen. I understand that we were supposed to get 12 episodes originally, but, instead, we end at 11. I started to point this out as a quibble, but it’s not really. Episode 11 was a powerful episode, and in hindsight I’m happy the powers-that-be chose to end the season here. I’m not going to spoil that one for you, but it’s a doozy. One additional episode wouldn’t have been enough to do a Trigon showdown justice, so I’m happy that the story will be continued in Season Two, which was greenlit before the first season even aired.

One last thing I’ll point out is that Titans isn’t faced with the same restraints that the shows on the CW are. There is swearing, some of it gratuitous, in my opinion, and the violence is rated R. I’m not complaining because I like watching a more mature-oriented superhero show. Just know that it may be a bit over-the-top for the too young or too sensitive.

This series looks promising. I’ll be watching when Season 2 airs. I may even give Doom Patrol a look as well.

Season 1 Report Card: A

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