The Titans only have 11 episodes in their first season. Compared to a lot of shows, that’s not a lot of time. So it makes the choice to devote all of episode nine, “Hank and Dawn,” to the Hawk and Dove characters we haven’t seen since episode three very puzzling to me. They are minor characters, and peripheral members of the various Titans teams in the comics. These versions, which share names and costumes only with the original characters, are odd choices for the series, but fit with the general pattern of drastically reducing the power levels and abilities of all the characters we’ve seen so far.
In the comics, the original and later pairs of Hawk and Dove (there have been several) could transform into their powered selves by yelling “Hawk” and “Dove” respectively if there was danger nearby. They possessed numerous physical enhancements, and various other powers depending on who was writing them. Hank and Don Hall were the original heroes, with Don dying during the Crisis on Infinite Earths and later being replaced by Dawn Marie Grainger. That part stays the same, at least, as far as names and replacements.
The episode opens with fledgling heroes Hawk and Dove stalking someone and recording themselves doing it. Their target is a man they have learned has been charged with child pornography, and they deliver a savage beating to “convince” him to confess. They then yell into the camera that Batman and Robin have company. Switching to the present, Hawk is sitting next to Dawn’s hospital bed, where she has been since they were attacked by the Nuclear Family back in episode three. Hank has flashbacks to that fight, and only interrupts his drinking long enough to break into the hospital pharmacy, which apparently has no alarms or cameras, and steal some drugs. All hail the hero?
Jumping back in time, we see Hank as a kid playing football, perhaps of grade school age. His brother, Don, cheers him on from the stands. For whatever reason, Don’s race has been changed, making them half-brothers. They have a run in with Coach Vincent, who has no business being anywhere near children, and Hank makes a terrible sacrifice to protect his kid brother. Skipping ahead to college, Don sits in a room watching Hank play football. Both uniforms we’ve seen Hank in are red and white, the same colors as his eventual costume. Hank gets hurt badly, and Don rushes to the after party to check on him. They disagree about him going to the doctor when Hank settles the issue by passing out.
Don is in the doctor’s office with Hank, and gets more and more worried about the answers Hank gives to the doctor’s questions. Hank doesn’t want the pills she prescribes, and isn’t listening about the recommendation of sitting out the season. This leads to a furious confrontation in the library when Hank finds Don, furious that Don told the athletic commission about Hank’s health issues. Their screaming match gets interrupted by someone complaining that they’re in a library, which somehow turns into what looks like a barroom brawl, with the Hall brothers kicking the asses of several students.
In the Dean’s office, she seems to be considering leniency, and Don curses her out and literally tells her to kick them out, with much stronger language. They return to their apartment, and Don says this is his fault for the incident with Coach Vincent so many years ago. Hank denies that anything happened, then says he needs football as a positive outlet for the violence inside him. Don gets the bright idea of them becoming vigilantes, and Hawk and Dove are born, preying on people charged with crimes involving children. To be clear, they don’t go after people in the act of committing crimes, just people have been charged with those offenses in the past. They use the sex offender registry as a target list. The only tie to the current storyline at all is that Rachel briefly appears on a computer monitor in Hank’s memory, yelling but making no sound.
Next up is Dawn, who we see performing ballet on stage to her mother’s rapt approval. Dawn’s clearly American, but her mother is English, and they go out for tea after. We learn that Dawn’s mother is going back to the father, who abuses her, and that Dawn broke his arm in the past. We also hear mention of Dawn’s sister Holly, who eventually became Hawk in the comics. Dawn insists that her mother leave her father, and, between the simplistic view of domestic abuse and the ballet and vigilante tendencies, it really seems like Dawn has a lot in common with Tandy Bowen over on Cloak and Dagger. Mom and Dawn go for a walk, and Dawn literally runs into Hank, out with Don, checking out their exploits in the local paper. A remarkably unlikely accident occurs, changing Hank and Dawn’s lives forever.
Some unspecified amount of time later, Dawn goes to a grief support group. Hank is also there, although not talking. Dawn follows him to a bar, and they talk for a bit. Next meeting, Hank’s chair is empty, but he meets up with Dawn outside, and they talk about their losses and share parts of their worlds. Dawn, each time we see her, is in pale blue and white, the Dove costume colors. Later, he tries to cook for her, with stereotypically bad results. What either of them is doing for a living is never addressed. When Hank comes back from a booze run, he drops a bottle, which Dawn naturally catches, and talks about her years of ballet, gymnastics, and jujitsu, because that’s a natural combination. Some building sexual tension gets broken when she tries to get something out of a closet and discovers the Hawk and Dove costumes. Hank tells Dawn about what they did, and why. Dawn asks about the coach, and Hank reveals a rare moment of weakness, saying he never confronted the man.
Later that night, Dawn wanders the dark apartment, snoops a bit, and finds the coach’s name. Hank later gets up, finds her gone from the couch, and his computer on a page about the coach. Dawn drives to the coach’s house, rings the bell, and pushes her way inside, demanding he confess to what he did. Things get more and more tense until the coach pulls a gun. Dawn disarms him, but loses the fight after both get battered. The coach is crawling for the gun when Hank steps on his hand. Hank beats the coach badly as Dawn closes the door. Back at Hank’s place, we see the usual American oddness about violence is fine and sex bad, as the brutal beating is followed by sex in the shadows that doesn’t really show anything. The next morning, Dawn says they can’t be together like this. Rachel pops up again to soundlessly yell from another reflection, and, back in the present in the hospital, Dawn wakes up. Hank is stunned as Dawn makes it out of bed and tells him they need to go find Jason Todd, although neither of them know who that is. She tells him Rachel is in trouble.
What I liked: Um. The characters are based in Washington, DC, where they were in their series back in the 90’s. The costumes are pretty close. Alan Ritchson, Hawk/Hank here and Aquaman back on Smallville, is doing the best he can with the scripts, as is Minka Kelly, Dawn (who never appears as Dove this episode). The nod to Holly was interesting.
What I didn’t: Most everything else. Why take a whole episode to focus on two characters who have been off screen most of the season? Why was Don’s race randomly changed? These characters aren’t acting like heroes, they are costumed criminals. The accident that set the later part of the story was bizarrely unlikely. Don’s outburst in the Dean’s office was just… weird. He went from being the calm one to unhinged with no transition. The library/barroom brawl was just dumb.
I like Hawk and Dove in the comics. These two, not so much. I’ll give this a low 2 out of 5.