S1:E6 — Before he can reunite with The Titans, Dick reluctantly teams with Jason Todd (CURRAN WALTERS), the new Robin, to catch a serial killer targeting people from Dick’s past.
Before we get into this week’s episode, I want to point you in the direction of a video made by Alex Hunter on his HiTop Films YouTube video.
Try to watch the whole thing; I realize there’s a weird…humor to the first few minutes, but see it through. There is a lot of what I’ve been trying to articulate in this weekly column, things I’ve been trying to say but couldn’t find the words. The points Alex makes are spot on, and he answers some of the questions I’ve posed in prior articles. If you can, watch before reading this.
Back? Ok, let’s run…
This could be an extremely short review, because in my opinion, this episode was what we were waiting for. If the quality increases from here, this cements the legacy of this show. Which, in a way, absolutely sucks because it deserves a bigger audience, but the extreme violence, the language…it’d never make it on the air. However, maybe word of mouth will bring more folks to the app, and make it more accessible. No idea how any of this works, but let’s look at the other side of the coin; if the quality goes down from here? I think the only thing that saves the DC Universe app is Young Justice Season 3.
But I think it’s a waste of time to talk about the possibilities of the entire show. For one week, at least, this was the best show on TV.
Or your computer. Whatever.
The thing that sets this episode on a really high pedestal isn’t just Jason Todd’s introduction; it’s the juxtaposition of Jason’s story with Dick’s.
And, since we’re most familiar with Dick, and are more interested, in terms of this show, with Dick’s journey, we see and feel all that Dick does.
And it’s remarkable.
We open with a flashback to the Grayson’s funeral and meet some of Haly’s Circus’ performers.
In other words, we meet Dick’s family, and we spend a long time on this pre-credits scene. Like, it was long enough that it got very important information across and didn’t feel rushed. We don’t even go back to the present until AFTER the credits. When we do come back, it’s almost as if we walked into a Coen Brothers movie (calm down, only the first few minutes, as they’re dragging Adamson’s unconscious body), and more importantly, the tension between the Robins is palpable. The carefree (careless?) attitude of Jason versus the serious nature of Dick. Dick constantly warning Jason about what will happen if he stays with Batman, who he’ll become, never realizing (until the end) that Jason is already there.
The most impressive thing about Curran Walters’ portrayal as Jason Todd…or maybe it’s the writing…is that this is very clearly the Jason we know from the comics, but he’s not an 80’s kid; he’s perfectly updated for the current times.
We could probably argue back and forth if Jason is supposed to be an entitled millennial here (or a trust fund baby), but however you look at him, he’s a giant asshole. Again, when you put him up against Dick’s stoic nature which is hiding a dark secret (spoiler alert: Dick’s Robin let Tony Zucco, the murderer of his parents, get killed by the Maroni gang while he stood by…I’ll come back to this).
At the heart of the episode is the idea that Dick’s past is coming back to haunt him. Jason presents Dick with an envelope of photos, pictures of his circus family murdered by a villain calling himself the Melting Man via hydroflouric acid (which gets a great Easter egg name drop). The other Titans meet up with the Robins at a Batman safehouse and the team splits up (AGAIN).
The subplot is Dick’s reunion with Clayton, the former strongman from Haly’s, who gives us a link to Dick’s past and who says that Dick looks happy.
From all we’ve seen in this show, to this point, Dick has looked anything BUT happy. But Clayton is the next target of the Melting Man, who turns out to be Tony Zucco’s son, Nick, seeking revenge on Dick Grayson’s family because, by letting Tony die, he ruined Nick’s family’s chance to get into protective custody and thus killed them. Nick, as the Melting Man, is kind of Robin’s personal Two-Face, mixed with Doctor Poison (Maru) from the WONDER WOMAN movie. He’s even dressed in a three-piece suit, like a Dick Sprang designed villain.
Watching Robin stand by, as the Maroni gang completes a hit on Zucco, is jarring, but if you think about it, it is almost…ALMOST…as if Dick learned how to deal with his anger from Christian Bale’s Batman in BATMAN BEGINS. “I’m not going to kill you, but I don’t have to save you.” Remember that part? It seems as if that kind of gets passed down to Robin, and this is the thing that drove Batman and Robin v1 apart. If you go back and watch the interactions with Dick and Jason, there is this ominous feeling that Dick needed to leave Bruce. When Jason is asked why he didn’t go to the cops, he lashes out, saying there are two types of cops (“useless and dirty”) and later, that bouncers are assholes. Complete disregard for authority, which you can see rankles Dick, who is a police detective.
Jason is a constant catalyst for trouble. He sneaks into the bar, steals a sip of a drink, starts a fight…he’s truly a pain in the ass and more than a bit of a dick. You kind of want to be in the room when he meets the business end of a crowbar, you know? The tipping point is when he takes down five police officers for no reason. Brutally, I should add.
When Dick confronts him about this senseless attack, Jason goes feral, telling Dick that he knows who he is. Dick, at this point, realizes he’s not Robin any more, which means…
…NIGHTWING IS COMING!!
This episode is an incredible updating of the classic Batman: The Animated Series episode “Robin’s Reckoning” (a two-parter). There’s a familiarity here, in the source material, and yet it feels fresh.
There are a lot of things wrong with this show, mostly technical things like the weird blue filter and some of the stiff acting, but I’m serious when I say that this show is good on the way to fantastic.
Will you watch next week’s episode?
Yep. It looks like they are going to Arkham (if the title is any indication) and I kind of want to see how that shakes out, within this universe.
EXTRA POINTS & NIT PICKS:
- Soundtrack was nothing special which was fine for the episode. It didn’t need to be overly ostentatious.
- The “Previously on TITANS” opener was much shorter than last week…as it should be.
- Guys, is hydroflouric acid even a thing? My spell check is saying no.
- Ages and time are relatively fluid in this show. I’m not sure how old Dick is supposed to be, but Jason is 19 and Dick is…25? Maybe?
- Ryan Potter tried out (or made an audition tape) for the role of Robin. So, seeing him say that he would like to be Robin is very funny, in a meta way.
- “How many Robins should I expect?” “None.” DUDE!!
NEXT WEEK: S1:E7 – ASYLUM
Vito Delsante is a comic book writer, graphic novelist, editor, letterer, and the co-creator/writer of STRAY with Sean Izaakse, and THE PURPLE HEART with Dean Haspiel and artist, Ricardo Venâncio. He’s written for DC Comics, Marvel Comics, Image Comics, AdHouse Books, and Simon & Schuster, among others, and his stories have been reprinted in other countries. He lives in Pittsburgh, PA with his wife, Michelle, his daughter, Sadie, his son, James, and his pitbull, Kirby. You can find him online at incogvito.com and you can follow him on Twitter @incogvito