Titans returns from hiatus with an episode struggling to move on from the past and embrace its future.
The season premiere continues the apocalyptic events of last season as Trigon sets out to win the Titans over to his side by embracing their inner darkness.
We knew that returning to Titans for its second season would start with a bumpy ride. Though season one was an overall excellent ride, it suffered from some storytelling issues and a particularly weak cliffhanger.
For whatever reason TPTB at DC Universe felt the last episode needed retooling into the season two premiere. The biggest problem with this is that much of “Trigon” then feels like a season finale.
Around 35mins in to the episode was reach a parting of the ways which clearly was set to be the original ending for season one. It’s a touching moment amongst the team which would have injected hope in to the Titans world in a way which the “F**k Batman” detractors would never have expected.
It’s the latest stumbling block for Titans but not one which is refuses and stand up and rebel against. The first two acts of the episode pick up right where “Dick Grayson” left off with the full team assembling at the Azarath family home to witness the arrival of the titular Trigon.
The episodes 52min run-time is bloated by separating all of the series main characters, including the recently promoted series regulars of Dove (Minka Kelly), Hawk (Alan Ritchson), Wonder Girl (Conor Leslie) and Jason Todd (Curran Walters).
Each is forced to face a nightmare scenario at the hands of Trigon in order to force them in to falling under his spell. Though each presents some interesting metaphorical questions for our characters it ultimately delays an inevitable confrontation.
Donna Troy/Wonder Girl has the most interesting scenes as we go back to the moment her father was killed in a building fire. Conor Leslie is still undeniably one of the most compelling actors on the show. Her portrayal of Donna is understated and warm, instantly making the character likeable but without forgoing the strength which makes the character a hero.
Equally compelling, but for other reasons, is the scene set in Jason Todd’s head where he fights Dick Grayson. It’s a battle of wills between the Robin’s but more so it’s an excellent example of the series fight choreography.
Given that the two characters were both trained by Bruce Wayne they’re evenly matched as one would expect. The scene escalates as the two try to one-up each other and it ends in quite a shocking manner which is typical of the show’s dark origins.
As for Trigon himself? The producers decided not to invest in a live-action suit like we have seen recently in Swamp Thing, instead opting for a fully CGI creation. It’s understandable given that he is dispatched by the end of the episode and may be a one-and-done character but does harm some of his scenes.
The level of CGI is variable at best. As we see Seamus Deever transform from human to demon I was impressed. The visuals went beyond what I had expected of the episode, going in I had expected either a cheaply made practical suit or a partial CGI creation.
It was only when Trigon exited the house that things went slightly ropey. Several shots feature overly out-of-focus backgrounds compared to a sharply focussed Trigon. The depth-of-field being thrown slightly off kilter really puts me off this scene and it does begin to veer towards music video/video game territory.
All of this culminates in a sequence which, although visually excellent, expels Trigon fro the series far too easily. With Raven, now featuring the gem on her forehead, controlling her power and banishing the demon.
Hopefully he went through that portal and into the gem on her forehead otherwise it’ll be a sad deviation from the comics. OVerall though it was far too easy for her to just embrace her abilities and get rid of him straight away, it’s fair to say he didn’t even put up a fight. The sequence ends feeling like a slight waste of viewers time but does open us up to what comes next.
In its final act “Trigon” pulls together to achieve some of the most cohesive scenes that Titans has ever featured. They’re well written, well acted and well executed sequences which show how the producers have taken inspiration from the other live-action DC Universe shows and made improvements.
It’s fair to say that not everybody will enjoy Iain Glen’s portrayal of Bruce Wayne. His accent felt very out of place to begin with although I would argue it’s a mixed American accent which is confusing not that he sounds Scottish. But accents aside the scenes between Bruce and Dick were something we’ve never had chance to see in live action and I relished seeing the two patch things up.
Dick’s offer to restart the Titans project also felt like an excellent way to contextualise the final scenes of the episode as he took the new (Teen) Titans to San Francisco and the (not T-shaped) tower.
All of these scenes showed a new vigour for the show. A new sense of hope and more importantly a sense of fun. This feels like Titans 2.0 and so far there’s a lot to love here.
We’re seeing a new reverence for the characters which puts season one in to better context. It’s clear that the writers felt the dark storyline of season one was necessary in order to bring the characters together to the point where we now find them. It certainly feels more exhilarating as a pay-off having seen what came before.
Finally, the episode also briefly introduced us to Esai Morales as Deathstroke. We don’t get to see much of him here but there’s clearly a lot more to this version of the character than meets the eye.
We’re clearly alluding to a strong link between the original Titans and Slade Wilson. But what was unexpected was the suggestion that they broke him as much as he broke them.
This does not bode well for the future…
Whilst “Trigon” suffers from the hangover of Titans first season’s mistakes, it’s able to use tying up the loose ends as a transformative moment for the team and a spectacular jumping off point for season 2.
Titans stars Brenton Thwaites as Dick Grayson/Robin, Anna Diop as Starfire, Teagan Croft as Raven, Ryan Potter as Beast Boy, Alan Ritchson as Hawk and Minka Kelly as Dove.
Titans season 2 is available to watch now on DC Universe in North America. internationally the show will be available via Netflix.