DC Universe’s Titans has been patchy at best, but Titans episode 5 has turned out to be the series strongest yet.
After an uneven first four episodes, Titans seems to have finally come into its own with its fifth episode, ‘Together’. Directed by Meera Menon, ‘Together’ feels cohesive, well-paced and, most importantly, exactly what one would expect from a superhero TV show.
We analyse what Titans episode 5 did right in comparison to the earlier episodes. Spoilers ahead!
Dick Grayson is a hero again
Titans hasn’t been kind to its central hero, Dick Grayson (Brenton Thwaites), aka Robin. We at Digital Fox have been critical about why Grayson has been an awful human being till now, especially as his comic book counterpart is one of the nicest characters around.
Episode five seems to have taken fans’ criticism aboard and given viewers a Dick Grayson much closer to his comic roots than the angsty and negligent anti-hero we have encountered. Grayson in this episode takes his role as leader very seriously. He concentrates his efforts on keeping his team safe, and training them so they can fight on their own if they have to. He isn’t dismissive of their concerns, and actively engages with them at every turn.
The only sour point was when Grayson refused to show his team his skills, but that was rectified by the end when Grayson had to don his Robin persona to save his team.
But it isn’t just Grayson’s interaction with his team that make him tolerable here. Early on in the episode, the owner of the motel the team is staying at makes her interest in Grayson very clear. When it doesn’t work out, Grayson let’s her down easy, instead of being harsh or condescending, and leaves the door open for the possibility of a date in the future. Obviously, that is never going to happen, but considering Grayson’s behaviour in previous episodes, I was genuinely surprised that he wasn’t mean about situation.
From what we’ve seen in ’Together’, it seems Titans is finally giving us the Dick Grayson we have been waiting for – a hero, a leader, a kind-hearted person, and even a considerate lover. Long may it continue!
Starfire is the Bomb
Considering how much vitriol Anna Diop faced when she was cast in the role of orange alien Starfire, it comes as no surprise that Starfire has turned out to be one of the strongest characters on Titans. Despite not having her memories, Kory Anders, Starfire’s Earth name, is intelligent, powerful, and vivacious. She is a team-player, but more than capable of dealing with problems herself.
This episode doesn’t just show us an action-oriented side to Starfire, but the more human side of her. Her interaction with the team, particularly during the training scene, is a highlight. I love how mischievous she is with Garfield (Ryan Potter) when he has to transform, and how she misses her target when she is showing off her powers to the team. She’s powerful, but not perfect.
Starfire also gets to explain her powers – that she draws her abilities from the sun, and is thus, weaker at night. She needs time to recharge, which explains the seemingly random tanning bed in Starfire’s storage room from two episodes ago. I’m glad that we get an explanation for Starfire’s powers from her and not someone else. Starfire is discovering herself and her powers and it’s great that the audience gets to join her on her journey of discovery.
But, it’s Starfire’s interaction with Grayson that gives us the greatest insight into her. When Grayson gives the team a pep talk, Starfire asks him the difficult questions, forcing him to share all his plans with them. Later, she tries to urge Grayson to share his secrets with her, though she doesn’t succeed.
Though we haven’t seen much chemistry between her and Grayson, the Starfire-Robin relationship is iconic in the comics, and it was expected that the show would lead the characters in that direction. And, interestingly, Starfire is the one to initiate the relationship here, as she somewhat does in the comics, as well. I am still unsure whether Starfire’s intentions were entirely noble or she seduced Grayson for the sole purpose of uncovering his secrets. Either way, I like that she has agency in their relationship.
And, even though Starfire doesn’t succeed in getting Grayson to spill his deep, dark secrets, she doesn’t hold it against him, opting to fight alongside him and the team when they are found by the Nuclear Family.
Also, lest we forget, that hilarious moment at the end when Starfire finds the Nuclear Family with their heads blown off. Instead of worrying about the Family, she immediately moans that Grayson is going to assume she killed them. Such a fantastic character moment there! Starfire is getting more and more fascinating by the episode and I can’t wait to find out more about her on Titans.
It seems strange to focus on the little guys in a superhero show, but the supporting characters made this episode memorable for me!
Starting with the motel owner that is smitten by Dick, to Gerald, the car shop dealer, to the knowledgeable liquor store attendant, the supporting cast add so much colour to the Titans universe.
The motel owner, in particular, is a brilliant character. In just two short scenes, we learn everything about her. She is a lonely woman, stuck with a motel that hasn’t done well in five years, all because her ex-husband left her with it when they divorced. Because Grayson is good-looking, kind and sweet, she feels attracted to him and is bold enough to make her moves on him. She takes the initiative to go meet him later, an ill-advised step that she could not have known about. I also like that she sees Starfire leave Grayson’s room but doesn’t mention it. Too often a scenario like this would end in a ‘catfight’ between the female characters, but the show doesn’t go down this route, which is such a relief.
Gerald, the car shop owner, who is murdered by the Nuclear Family, demonstrates how much collateral damage superheroes leave in their wake. To protect themselves, the Titans swap Grayson’s recognisable Porsche with a bland mini-van that is large enough to carry all four of them. Gerald is the unfortunate soul who sold them the car, which makes him a person of interest for the Nuclear Family. What makes the scene with Gerald and the Family so interesting is how realistic it is. Here is a man just doing his job, being friendly and polite to potential customers who are being demanding and difficult. Take away the assassin element of the scene and what you have is a slice of real-life.
And finally, we have the friendly liquor store attendant. For one, I love that she is a woman of colour, because this show needs more diversity! She’s extremely friendly, another rarity in comic book properties where people tend to be hostile just because. When Starfire asks for recommendations, the attendant gladly shares her knowledge of people and products. It’s an illuminating scene that shows us how uncanny Starfire’s situation is, but how someone who is good at her job can put an uneasy customer at ease. We immediately recognise this unnamed woman as a people-person, who is knowledgeable and really good at her job. All from one throwaway scene!
There are so many little details that makes this episode stand out, and the supporting characters are a massive part of that. One can only hope that this is the tone the show continues to adopt.
This episode is surprisingly action-heavy, what with the training sequence and the multiple fight scenes between the Titans and the Nuclear Family.
The action feels so much more fluid in this episode than in the ones before, and part of that is because the Titans are evenly matched against the Family. In episode one, Robin gets a brutal action scene against a bunch of thugs, who are armed but not trained. In episode two, Robin, Hawk and Dove go up against gangs and the Family, but they are caught off-guard and lose miserably. The fights have been mismatched, with either the heroes or villains being less equipped to fight the other. That all changes here.
The fights in the motel are superb. The claustrophobic spaces makes the choreography easier to absorb. Grayson and Starfire move with ease and purpose, that has been all but missing thus far. Grayson’s movements have bordered on clunky so far, which is a surprise because he is an acrobat, but here we see more of that athletic skill associated with the character. And Starfire, who gets a hallway fight scene, moves with so much energy and pace, that you can’t help but hold your breath when she goes up against the Nuclear Siblings.
The Nuclear Family are hard to take down which sets up a stunning final fight. It’s the moment we had been waiting for – the four Titans together, teaming up against the baddies. It took five episodes to get there, but the team-up was definitely worth it, if not entirely complete.
With Grayson apparently out for the count, Starfire and Beast Boy try to protect Rachel (Teagan Croft) from the Nuclear Family. But it’s night-time and Starfire’s powers fail her, leaving the team vulnerable. Until smoke bombs distract the Nuclear Family and Robin appears in all his superhero glory to take them out. He is ably helped by Gar, who transforms into a tiger, and Rachel, who manages to control her soul-self long enough to fight. Even Starfire, who is knocked out, gets back up again, and viewers finally get to see the Titans standing side by side, a veritable fortress. The Nuclear Family surrenders.
These are the kind of sequences we’ve been waiting to see on the show and I really hope that it’s a trend that continues, because they add so much to the viewing experience.
It isn’t just Dick Grayson’s Robin who gets a grand entrance in ‘Together’. In the closing moments of the episode, Grayson finds himself in a serious pickle. Having confronted Dr Adamson (Reed Birney), the man ‘employing’ the Nuclear Family, Grayson tries to get some answers but Adamson merely threatens him, saying they are about to be taken out by a mysterious organisation. A squad of SWAT-like assassins soon arrive, shooting up the entire place, and ganging up to take down the unarmed Grayson. It’s the first time we’ve seen him unable to defend himself and, for once, it looks like the Titan won’t be able to get back up.
And that’s when we see a smoke bomb, just like the one Grayson used earlier, and a figure clad in Robin’s costume, fighting his way through the squad to ultimately rescue Grayson. If you were looking for a grand entrance, you got one, Jason Todd, aka Robin 2.0 (Curran Walters).
I loved this scene. We get to see Grayson be a detective and Rachel’s protective father figure, while also getting some much-needed answers from Dr Adamson. But, it’s the suspense in this scene that sells it for me. Is Adamson lying about the assassins or not? Can Grayson overcome the assassins? Who will save him when his team is so far away? And then, enter Jason Todd, who continues the theme of energetic fight scenes.
DC fans had been awaiting the first live-action version of Jason Todd to appear in Titans. There had been several promos teasing his entrance, but we have had to wait five episodes to see him. Which is fine, because that entrance was everything! It’s got the flair and flamboyance, not to mention the ruthlessness, often associated with Todd, and sets up what will hopefully be another amazing team-up in the show.
‘Together’ has been such a strong episode for Titans, and so much of it is down to the person in the director’s chair. Meera Menon may not be a well-known name but look through her credits, and you’ll notice a lot of popular shows. She has directed an episode each of Man in the High Castle, Glow, Fear the Walking Dead, among many others, and is clearly no stranger to action and character development.
Menon had her work cut out for her, as did writers Edward Hill and Gabrielle Stanton, having to corral together the characters and plotlines into one cohesive whole. They did an excellent job and have demonstrated what a difference diversity behind the scenes can make to events on screen. We’ve seen it with so many other shows, and we’re seeing it here.
Hopefully, Titans will learn from this and continue to improve on what we’ve seen in ‘Together’. I, for one, am definitely more excited about the rest of the show after this one episode. Bring on the superhero action!