Titans: Barbara Gordon

Ok, one quick pose before we beat up these non-powered thugs, right?

The Titans, a live action series that started on the now-defunct DC Universe and migrated to HBO Max along with Doom Patrol, returns for their third season. Season two ended with the tragic (and poorly written) death of Donna Troy, AKA Wonder Girl. Things don’t exactly get light and cheery when Dick returns to Gotham for several reasons, including seeing “Barbara Gordon.”

I’m opening with something of a spoiler, but considering it’s been plastered all over the place, I don’t feel too bad about it. Jason Todd, left alone in the Batcave, manages to track down the Joker with some skilled use of Bat-tech. He excitedly reports in to Bruce, but his mentor orders him to stand down since he won’t be back to Gotham until morning. To no surprise at all, Jason disregards this and, after doing something odd and questionable, suits up as Robin and goes it alone. This quickly turns into a variation of the classic “A Death in the Family” storyline, which ends with Joker beating Robin to death with a crowbar. Welcome back, everyone.

In San Francisco, where the Titans are based for whatever reason, a decent adaptation of long-time Teen Titans foe Gizmo from the comics tries a break-in at Dayton Labs. He’s stopped by the current team, consisting of Nightwing, Beast Boy, Superboy, Starfire, and Krypto. Everyone has leveled up, and we see Nightwing showing off a bit, Beast Boy fighting with some impressive skill before using his powers, and easy attacks from Superboy, Starfire, and even a new one from Krypto. Of interest in this scene- Gizmo is one of the Fearsome Five, a group that the Titans have fought often, as is Shimmer, who appeared in an earlier season, and Dr. Light occasionally, also on last season. Dayton Labs is run by Steve Dayton, one of the world’s richest men, occasional Doom Patrol member Mento, and in the comics, foster father to Gar Logan, Beast Boy.

The non-powered thugs don’t stand a chance, and afterward, we see the team interacting with the police and the press. Starfire handles the reporter well, Superboy and Beast Boy’s time with the police is amusing, and Nightwing, true to training, hides and avoids everyone. His later talk with Starfire gets interrupted by a phone call and the tragic news from Gotham. For her part, Starfire gets a call from Justin, a man she hooked up with in Vegas. They actually have a nice chat and an adult conversation, which is a good change of pace. In Gotham, we see more bad cops (do they have any others that aren’t heroes-in-training or allies the Bat?), and meet a very different version of Tim Drake. Tim, in the comics, becomes the third Robin after Jason’s death, in part by impressively figuring out who Batman and Robin are on his own. Dick also arrives in town, and stops his car just outside the city to look at the place form a distance. I’m curious about that scene, actually. It’s a nice visual and all, but either Gotham Airport is way outside the city ,or Dick, hurrying home after a tragedy, drove from San Francisco to Gotham, which is on the opposite side of the country?

Eventually making it to Wayne Manor, Dick goes in and wanders the place, looking for Bruce. Even the entry to the Batcave was right out of the comics, and down there is where he finds Bruce, getting blood out of the Robin costume. They have a very tense scene amid the trophies and equipment of the cave, and Bruce is acting off, even for him. Dick expresses concern and interest about some things he found in Jason’s room, which Bruce dismisses. Dick is also shocked by Bruce’s cold, efficient handling of Jason’s funeral and burial, which he didn’t wait for Dick to get home for. The scene also confirms Alfred is dead, which I think was hinted at but not stated last season. Bruce continues acting oddly and goes to make them lunch, leaving behind a confused Dick. In the Tower, Kory breaks the news of Jason’s death to a stunned Superboy and Gar. She’s clearly upset, and lectures the two younger heroes about the need for learning and growth before stalking off.

In a kind of sad scene, Gar is off by himself watching animal documentaries. He muses on his powers, the loss of Jason, and talks to Rachel, who is off with the Amazons and Donna’s body. It’s a short scene that makes me feel bad for him. Back in Gotham, the police investigate the latest in a series of distinctive murders. Dick arrives on scene asking to talk to Commissioner Gordon, which in this world turns out to be Barbara Gordon, in a wheelchair like her time as Oracle in the comics. They have a tense conversation, we get a feel for who this version of Barbara is, and Dick ends up asking for help, which she reluctantly agrees to.

This help takes the shape of a late night visit to the Manor, as Barbara, Dick, and Bruce share stories about Jason’s time as Robin, and funny encounter he had with Mad Hatter. The relaxed atmosphere changes suddenly when Bruce asks about the current string of deaths. Barbara loses her temper (why does everyone in the Bat-clan have anger issues? That’s the opposite of what you need to be a non-powered vigilante) and lays in to Bruce about how he handled Jim Gordon’s death (at the hands of one of Batman’s foes). She also tells him he needs to stop recruiting Robins. Bruce goes on about the war he fights, which further enrages Barbara until she leaves. Dick catches up with her on the way out and they talk. Dick shows he doesn’t understand Bruce as well as he thinks he does.

Unable to let things go, which can happen when you’re trained your entire life by the World’s Greatest Detective, Dick prowls Jason’s room, which pretty clearly used to be his. He makes a discovery that sends him out into the city. He finds some disturbing things, has a run-in with a low-life who gives him a few answers, and once again shows that he has a temper much more like the comic book Jason Todd, not Dick Grayson. Returning to the cave, Dick analyzes some clues about his finds. While he’s using the computer, a file pops up. Dick shows that Bruce has horrible password security (another thing that’s way out of character) and makes a shocking discovery with several nods to the comics. Bruce comes in and Dick loses his temper at him. Bruce makes an offer that shows just how out of touch he is with everything, and Dick gets even angrier, which is impressive.  Dick is too furious to realize how important it is when Bruce actually asks him for something.

Back in San Francisco, Kory deals with her grief like so many do, with alcohol. While that’s rarely a good idea, it’s even worse here as it triggers something that takes her completely by surprise and leaves her in a difficult position. The episode ends with a shocking development. Dick is awakened from his sleep by Bruce returning from an errand. Bruce drops something important to the floor, confesses what he’s done, lays a heavy charge on Dick, and staggers off, leaving a stunned Dick staring at the object on the floor. Interestingly, this same sort of event led to Batman disappearing over on Batwoman in the Arrowverse shows on the CW. I was shocked by this and am intrigued to see where this goes.

What I liked: Jason Todd seems very much like the same character from the comics. The fight with Gizmo at the beginning was well done, and they got his look pretty close. Krypto’s new fight move was fun to watch, and Gar has really leveled up with his fighting skill. She’s darker than I like tone wise, but it was good seeing a live action Barbara again. A lot of the touches in the Batcave were fantastic. The choice Bruce made at the end was shocking and should make for an interesting story. The names in the computer file were a nice touch.

What I didn’t: I just don’t like the darker tone of so many of these characters, especially Dick and Barbara. I was sorry to hear about Jim Gordon. They seem to be continuing to not give Gar much credit, but they at least mentioned it.

I have a lot of personal investment in these characters, so I’m picky about them. That said, it really wasn’t a bad episode. I’ll give this one a 3.5 out of 5.

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