Titans returns from hiatus with an episode struggling to move on from the past and embrace its future.
Four years ago, Dick, Donna, Hank & Dawn formed the Titans with Garth aka Aqualad. But the team is tested with the arrival of a new villain.
Going in to “Aqualad” I had the distinct feeling we would be forgetting the present day narrative to explore a story in the Titan’s past. I had hoped the series had grown beyond the need to tell stories in one time period and instead jump between two – a la Arrow.
But alas that was not the case here.
Titans forgets all about Jason Todd’s current predicament with Deathstroke (Esai Morales) to jump backwards four years and fill in more of the back story as to the end of the first group of Titans.
Credit where credit is due however as Jamie Gorenberg (Shadowhunters) has crafted a self-contained story which is still vital to the on going narrative of season 2. “Aqualad” is certainly another very successful episode of Titans.
Where it succeeds is in fleshing out the much-swelled cast of characters. Whilst there are glimpses of a much happier Hank (Alan Ritchson) and our first proper time spent with Dick (Brenton Thwaites) and Dawn (Minka Kelly) as a couple, the episode really hones in on the titular character – played by Drew Van Acker – and Donna (Conor Leslie).
Plenty of Titans fans will cite Leslie/Donna Troy as a highlight in the cast. So to spend more time investing in her backstory was a brilliant idea at this stage in the season.
Watching Donna interact with Jillian (guest star Ann Magnuson – Panic Room) fleshed out her connection to Themyscira but also allowed us to see a more vulnerable and less self-assured side of her personality.
Leslie is able to show much more versatility in this episode as we see Donna go through the pain of heartbreak and happiness in the space of forty-seven minutes.
The episode hinges on her chemistry with Van Acker as Garth/Aqualad which, thankfully, is palpable on screen. Though his characterisation suffers from this one-time-only appearance. Garth feels updated to be more in line with Jason Momoa’s version of Arthur Curry/Aquaman which, although gives a wider connection to what is going on in live-action DC, does reduce his character’s impact on those around him. Aside from Donna.
Ultimately his appearance in this episode does feel frustratingly squandered. Having an original Titan from the comics reduced to a guest star seems a shame but that being said there’s still plenty of room for flashbacks prior to this story.
Van Acker does well with what he’s given to do in the episode. I was concerned there wouldn’t be much room in the budget for aqua-related-action but director Glen Winter (Arrow) is able to pull off a number of very cool action sequences including the character.
More importantly, despite his short runtime, there are still glimpses of strong bonds between the Titans themselves and his character doesn’t feel shoehorned in for the sake of a cameo.
This episode also introduces us to Jericho (Chella Man) although only in a very brief sense. There is clearly more flashback story to be told here but the episodes cliffhanger ending has us a little worried about just what happens next for the character.
Though the episode does break up the present day storyline, the excellent pacing and engaging story actually maintain the momentum of the season rather than interrupting it. Where season 1 Titans would go off on a tangent to tell us an unrelated story season 2 Titans is completely self-aware and working towards a much larger goal.
Whilst “Aqualad” doesn’t necessarily make best use of its namesake the episode still provides an intriguing glimpse to a pivotal moment in the Titans past. Engaging and tense without impacting heavily on the season’s overall narrative.
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.