Launched last year on the new app, DC Universe, something that isn't available over here in the UK, Titans is the first of many live action and animated shows to come out on the new site. For everyone else in the world, Netflix is currently our best friend and now that we've all had time to watch the entire first season and think about it, Titans is certainly an interesting show, but one that also feels at odds with itself, representing everything that's both great and not-so-great about the DC TV universe. Essentially it is a love letter to the comic books that spawned it with a healthy splattering of blood and grisly effects and an after-effect that makes you feel like you've been on drugs. And while I had a great time with this show, DC Universe will have to make and tweak a few improvements for fans to stick around through the next season.
This opening season does an awful lot of work in showing us where the Titans will be going. It introduces us to Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, Hawk and Dove, Raven, Beast Boy and Wonder-Girl. And it introduces us to a whole new show within it in the form of Doom Patrol. That's an awful lot for one season to do.
Really this is a season that belongs to Raven and Robin. Raven is just a fourteen-year-old girl who is discovering she has dark powers. And Dick Grayson is an expert in combat training, mental conditioning and has the prowess to fight of being drugged. But he isn't too different from Raven and her dark powers. When he puts his mask on to become Robin, he can barely control his violence and anyone standing in his way is a target for his anger.
Most of this opening season tries to contend with how the life of someone who is a vigilante can effect them and while the comic that inspired the show is called Teen Titans, most of these guys are not teens anymore but what they did in their teens certainly does shape where they are now.
In the case of Robin, Batman's single minded attempts to get justice has given him a take-no-prisoners style of justice that might just work against someone like the Joker but not against a trafficking ring of any kind. And once a little bit of anger comes out, all of the anger comes out and heaven help whoever is in his way. What makes it worse is that all the characters keep commenting on it.
This comment is at its sharpest when Robin pays a visit to Donna Troy, a former superhero who has given up the job. She's seem plenty of action alongside Wonder Woman and she's not afraid to get her hands dirty. But she is much quieter and next to her, Robin's actions look a lot more psychotic.
It is also on display again when Jason Todd arrives on the scene and Dick knows he is messed up by Dick is too messed up to get help, having taken Bruce's mentality and internalised it. He just sees Jason in a high tech suit, kicking some serious ass and warns him about how easy it is to go over the edge. Actually it is an interesting way to start the show out, allowing Dick to grow as a leader and his own version of a hero and allowing him to be a big brother to Rachael as she deals with her strange new powers.
The problem though is that now of the characters get much character development, there are a lot of factors that see the characters moving from location to location and learn things about themselves but they don't do anything with that. In fact, by the time we reach the final episode, Dick still has no control over his anger issues and Rachel is starting to develop into her powers but is scared throughout the whole thing.
Starfire has plenty of time to discover who she really is and begins a relationship with Dick but even then, we barely know anything about her and her alien side and as a result she comes across feeling more like a member of the supporting cast rather than a member of the main cast. Beast Boy comes across very much the same, he is a cool effect and a cute actor, but he is only there to introduce us to the new show, Doom Patrol as he is to join the Titans. We've got a whole episode devoted to Doom Patrol but they never turn up again and while they looked cool and got me excited for the show, it did little to further the plot of Titans or serve any of the members particularly well.
In fact, the whole show is less concerned about developing its characters than it is because it instead decides to focus on moving the plot forward. With the show pulling from the Terror of Trigon storyline from the original run of comics, it seems to focus on that, rather than rightly placing its focus on the characters of the piece.
Actually, one thing that really nagged at me throughout this debut series is something that is glaringly obvious in the finale. With the final episode being an almost entire dream sequence that is a waste of an episode, it seems to eager to let us look into the world of DC Comics, but it almost feels scared to actually let us see any of it. With Batman featuring so prominently in the final episode, they hardly show us him, which is a bigger disappointment.
In this dream sequence, Dick, now living in California with Dove as his wife, is called back to Gotham City because Batman has finally snapped and gone over the edge and Dick is the only person who can pull him back. What little we see of Batman is accompanied by the Joker, Two-Face, Riddler and Scarface. But we don't see any other them. Two-Face is lying away from us with his human side up, Scarface is just a dummy lying on the ground and the Joker is face down on a broken car and hidden by the shadows of a hospital ward.
And when Batman and Dick finally come face-to-face, we don't see Batman's face and while I understand why this was, it was Dicks show and the creators didn't want him to be overshadowed, but it still feels like a bit of a mistake. However, the casting of Batman would be big news, there would be people saying he wasn't right for the job. You can almost see the tweets and they wouldn't be pretty. But trying to keep Batman away from the camera is distracting and the whole conflict could have been resolved in 15 minutes and not needed the entire episode to be concluded.
The reluctance to show us Bruce Wayne also bothered me at the beginning what with his lifestyle being the reason that Dick's life was so screwed up. I think its a fair thought but with Bruce always being off-screen or blurred out because DC daren't cast him, it is distracting yet again. However, it doesn't mean that we don't get to see the pair interacting, the two characters would have spent hours together as they patrolled the streets as the dynamic duo. But the reluctance to show us anything else related to the DC universe made the show give us a look at Dick's life as he was neglected by Bruce, which he wasn't but it is, yet again, wholly distracting.
However, we've got some of the best costumes in the history of superhero TV and film on display here, both Robins, Hawk and Dove look so excellent one might feel a little insecure displaying them against the CW heroes. But Starfire's costume is just as confused as her character, whether they were going for a sex-worker look or not is up for debate but that is she looks because the whole costume is so OTT. And Raven's costume suited her because she is a moody 14-year-old who wears black and denim. It worked for her.
Titans gets off to a rather interesting start but it gradually becomes quite troubled as it goes on. With an season which was originally 12 episodes long, it was shortened to 11, we've got one episode that is a back-door pilot for another show, and one that was an entire dream sequence. In the end then, we get nine episodes which has very little character development but we get some cool action sequences, plenty of CGI-blood and some cool casting.
In fact, the casting was excellent across the board and the cast work tremendously well with what little they are given. With the post-credit sequence showing us that Superboy will feature heavily in the next season, the inclusion the Krypto, (a character I've wanted to see in live action for so long, dogs are so cute,) and the beginning of Dick taking up the Nightwing mantle, things look promising. I just hope that the writers focus more on getting us invested in the characters and are less afraid to show us the DC superheroes.
After-all, they're who we're here to see...