The third season of Titans started off with a bang and hasn’t let up. Jason Todd, the second Robin, was beaten to death by the Joker. In turn, a grieving Batman killed the Joker, abandoned his masked identity, and fled the city, leaving everything in a stunned Dick’s hands. And Jason, like in the comics, came back to life (we still don’t know how), became the Red Hood, and began operating as a flat-out supervillain. Worse, a smart supervillain, trained by one of the world’s greatest tacticians, who knows the Titans inside and out. There’s a lot of trouble coming for the team, and some specific members, in “Hank and Dove.”
The episode opens with Dick very understandably doing some literal digging. What he finds, or doesn’t find, shocks him, and he goes to brief the team. The group are trying to get their collective heads around Jason’s death, resurrection, and supervillainy. There are passing references to Ra’s al-Ghul, who played a part in this in the comics and Donna Troy, their recently killed teammate. Everyone’s confused and shocked, and Hank doesn’t help matters by pushing everyone’s buttons with a simplistic idea about how to handle the situation. The fact that he might actually be right isn’t helping anyone. As the meeting breaks up, Dawn follows Hank to the kitchen to argue with him about his approach.
On the heels of his argument with Dawn, Hank gets a call from someone and agrees to a private meeting. On any action/thriller show, this pretty much never works out. While Hank makes a series of bad decisions, Gar records a message to send to Bruce down in the cave. It seems unlikely from the start the message will get through, and Conner expresses doubts as well. They agree on what they need to do, but both have a lot of problems with the idea.
Since Gotham is based, at least in part, on New York City, it makes sense Gotham cabbies share some of the attitude of the ones from the Big Apple. Hank gets a lot of static from his driver as the Titan gets a series of cryptic directions. After a series of well-done countersurveillance tricks, Hank has to go through something embarrassing to proceed. He does, and then gets ambushed neatly. In the Cave, the team has realized Hank is gone, and are doing what they can to find him. They do some impressive detective work, but then Hank himself returns, very much the worse for wear and bearing bad news. There’s a brilliant deathtrap and a fairly unique ransom demand. Dick tries to reason with Jason, and that gets him nowhere. After some debate, Dick gives some good orders and then has an argument with Dawn about priorities.
Not only benched, but bed-ridden, Hank gets a visit from Dawn, who comes with medical equipment. Hank is trying to accept everything happening, but that’s not his strong suit, and Dawn manages to calm him with some massage techniques and banter. Dick goes to see Dr. Crane for a special consultation, and brings the man his price without debating this time. Crane provides some valuable insight, and Dick rushes off again. Conner and Gar are looking for clues in the various databases the Batcomputer has access to, but Dick comes back and points them in an unexpected direction. Sure enough, he was right, and things are even worse than they seemed at first. With a creative use of his powers, Conner gets some information. Dick gives him a new task that the Boy of Steel clearly isn’t comfortable with, and Gar tries to be reassuring.
There are a lot of bad decisions in this episode, but high on the list would be Starfire going to GCPD to get help from Barbara. A hot-tempered alien dealing with someone who is already mad at the team is bad enough, but Barbara is Dick’s ex, and there’s something evolving between Dick and Kory. Bad plan all the way around. Dawn visits Hank again, and there are jokes about food and cooking before Hank sends Krypto, who has been keeping him company, off on an errand. Things almost get out of hand with Hank and Dawn, but she realizes what a bad idea this is before things go too far. I can’t imagine that turn of events helped Hank’s frame of mind any. Conner combines both aspects of his heritage in a unique way I don’t think I’ve ever seen before as he tries to handle Dick’s assignment, while Gar can’t do much more than offer moral support and a bit of play by play for the viewers’ benefit.
Working together in spite of their differences, Barbara and Kory review footage from the morgue, trying to run down another lead. They finally see at least some of what they need, and move ahead with their investigation. Conner, as we will see in many quick cuts during the episode, is working away as fast as superhumanly possible. Dick paces the halls, and then has another discussion with Dawn. The two are clearly not in agreement about how to handle things. We find out how much they are on different paths when Dove takes unilateral action and contacts the enemy. The Red Hood gives more instructions and then turns his attention to someone we saw earlier. Hank lies in bed, and has flashbacks to some of his various moments with Dawn. Gar comes in to talk, and they mostly banter about song lyrics before Hank sends Gar on his way.
Dick continues his odd habit of responding to events while out of costume, and let’s think about that for a moment. Especially for non-powered hero, the costume not only protects his identity, but provides armor and equipment. Why would you chase after someone dangerous, with a friend and teammate’s life at stake, without every advantage at your disposal? Dick gets a surprise distraction, a phone call, and is directed to go somewhere else. He leaves in a hurry, once acting very out of character for any Dick Grayson I know of. As he races through the streets of Gotham, Dick calls in to check on Conner’s progress, and then calls Hank. The two share some memories, Hank makes a startling admission, and Dick plows ahead with his task as we get another quick cut of Conner desperately working.
The final few scenes are really brilliantly done on several levels. The tension mounts as Dawn goes to a meeting, off on her own with no backup anywhere nearby. The Hood has laid a very clever trap, playing on Dawn’s weaknesses. It’s a masterpiece of misdirection and manipulation. Nightwing arrives, finally in costume, and he and Dove fight over what to do next. She finally gets to what she’s been trying to do, and nothing goes as she thought. Conner finishes his job and through no fault of his own fails. There’s a very shocking decision from Dawn, an even more stunning result, and the episode ends in tragedy, lightened slightly by a visual effect as Krypto reappears. The team will literally never be the same again.
What I liked: I’m not a big fan of the Red Hood, and back when they first did it in the 80’s, I voted in the phone poll DC Comics did to kill Jason instead of save him. That said, this was a great episode with some amazing writing. Red Hood’s plan is brilliant, and he knows just what buttons to press to make things happen the way he wants them to. This is a clever use of Conner, and I don’t think I’ve seen anyone bring both parts of his heritage together like this before. The ending was incredible, and each moment built on the one before it. Dawn’s actions are going to haunt her a long, long time. Crane’s insight was valuable and showed the worth of his special arrangement with the GCPD.
What I didn’t: Gar is once again more or less comic relief. Why is Dick running around out of costume with so much at stake? With the way the ending happened, I feel bad that one character didn’t get a chance to suit up at least one more time.
I have found this series uneven, but this was, by and large, and excellent episode. They really impressed me. I’ll give this a 4 out of 5 for some brilliant writing and planning.