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‘Titans’ S01E07: ‘Asylum’ (review)

S1:E7 — The Titans set out to rescue Rachel’s birth mother from a mysterious psychiatric facility, but find themselves confronting their deepest vulnerabilities and fears.

SPOILER ALERT: It’s not Arkham.

I don’t want to ruin it for anyone, but I think the expectation of it being Arkham is there, once you look at the title, and I think that maybe there’s a missed opportunity because they just use some random ass asylum. It’s not a bad thing; don’t get me wrong. I just can’t help but imagine how this week’s episode would have played out with the spectre of the Joker in the next cell. Or Harvey Dent (which, truthfully, I feel like we had with the Melting Man last week). Instead, we have is an extremely brutal episode set in an extremely brutal “hospital.” I’m not the squeamish type, but I have to admit that a lot of the storytelling choices, and how they played out on screen, made me recoil just a bit.

This episode is, in a word, intense.

The plot of the episode centers on Rachel/Raven and her quest to find her birth mother, whom she finds out is still alive and being held in the aforementioned asylum by Doctor Adamson’s organization (which, I kid you not, is what they call themselves…The Organization. You couldn’t come up with a better name?).

Adamson reveals that Rachel’s destiny isn’t to destroy the world (as Kory thought in an earlier episode), but to heal it, and immediately, you have to parse out anything Adamson says as a lie or half-truth, at best. He slits his own throat, trying to force Rachel to use her abilities to heal him (which we saw first used in Episode 4).

Adamson is creepy, and you get the feeling that the characters can’t see it. It’s like watching SAW or HOSTEL or something like that. Extremely gory, bloody. Dick and Kory take umbrage with Adamson’s methods, and there’s a really cool mirror technique that they use where Dick’s reflection in the glass looks as if he’s got himself in an armlock (and that Adamson is torturing himself). I can’t describe it fully, because it’s purely visual, but it’s a good trick and a bit of foreshadowing.

Ready to roll your eyes? Rachel’s birth mother’s name is Angela…Azarath.

Rachel and Gar sneak out and head for the asylum without Dick and Kory in an Uber using Kory’s account. Once Dick and Kory realize they’re gone, it becomes a rescue mission and that’s where it all goes south for the team. The teens get caught, and the Titans are forced to surrender when a gun is put to Gar’s head.

Gar is tortured with a cattle prod. Kory is subjected to an alien autopsy.

And Dick? He’s severely drugged and fighting his younger self. I want to focus in on that, as we have more time here than with the others. In this hallucination, Dick is in his Robin costume and his younger self basically says that Robin was “the answer,” he was supposed to free them/him, not be a prison. There’s a lot to unpack here, and I don’t want to get into psychoanalysis, but it’s possibly the crux of the entire episode.

After facing another Robin, and deciding that he is done with that costume, he basically goes inside (by force), and has to divorce himself from that part of himself (boy, that’s a weird sentence to write). This culminates with him burning the Robin costume at the end of the episode.

Rachel finds her mom, and they free the team and escape, but not before Gar kills a guy (as a tiger) and Kory blows the entire asylum up.

They make a big deal about Rachel’s healing ability, and there’s a really cool moment where, when she confronts Adamson at the asylum, she “goes dark” and “takes back” the healing, causing Adamson to bleed out from that wound from the beginning of the episode.

But the healing…there were two moments when I thought she would use that again. First, right before she and Gar leave the safehouse (I thought he was going to ask her to heal him from being able to transform). The next, when they rescue Dick, who is catatonic. I figured she’d purge the drug from his body, but instead, she just says he’s the strongest person she’s ever met, and it’s kind of corny, but I suppose it works for a comic book adaptation.

I’m not ok with how…carelessly the heroes murder in his show. Kory…that kind of makes sense. Rachel, by my count, has killed two people (possibly more). Dick is brutal, and his actions could cause someone to die (like Zucco last week), but as of yet, he hasn’t murdered anyone. Close, but not yet. He goes HAM on the asylum guards, and it looks really bad, but I think they more or less survive that run in (until Kory blows the place up).

Ryan Potter really struggles with his actions, and I appreciate that in his performance, but I really don’t want to see Beast Boy rack up a body count. Maybe that’s just me.

Will you watch next week’s episode?

While my enthusiasm kind of plateaued this week, maybe even dropped a bit, I am anxious to see what Dick and Donna’s history (alluded to in Episode 2) is, so yeah…I’ll check it out.

EXTRA POINTS & NIT PICKS:

  • The more I see the kid that plays young Dick Grayson, the more I appreciate his ability to take the material and run with it.
  • With all the glass at Bruce’s safehouse, where the team is currently staying, and I’m starting to wonder if this will be Titans Tower.
  • We only see a corner of it, but the Batcave looks really sweet. Unlike any we’ve seen before.
  • If I were to guess, I think we’re three weeks away from Nightwing. Not next week, not the week after (which I think will reveal Trigon or Brother Blood), but Episode 10.

NEXT WEEK: S1:E8 – DONNA TROY

 

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

 

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