‘Asylum’, the latest episode of Titans, put the titular superhero team through their greatest mental tests yet. How do they fare?
Titans episode seven, ‘Asylum’, sees the group split up, with disastrous results. The team has barely come together, and they’re still trying to figure out the dynamic they have with each other. There were going to be hiccups along the road, but the price the team pay for it is particularly high in ‘Asylum’.
Quite a lot happens in this episode, ultimately culminating in the Titans breaking free from their self-imposed shackles. But, not all the members of this team are going to leave stronger or unscathed.
We break down each character’s arc in this episode and what it could mean for their future on the show. Spoilers ahead!
Technically Rachel Roth (Teagan Croft) isn’t known as Raven yet but she’s well on her way there after the events of this episode.
At the start of the episode, Rachel bravely confronts Dr Adamson (Reed Birney), who had insisted on speaking to Rachel alone.
Though Rachel learns little from Adamson about The Organisation, she does uncover a heretofore unexpected ability – she can heal people. Granted, Adamson sliced his throat to convince her of her powers, but at least she now knows.
However, what is of greater interest is that Rachel’s soul-self also has the ability to undo her powers! Adamson finds this out later in the episode when he is tormenting the Titans in the hopes of getting Rachel to join The Organisation. A furious Rachel, controlled by her soul-self, announces to Adamson that she doesn’t want him healed anymore, promptly reopening Adamson’s throat wound and re-killing him.
In addition to her newly-discovered powers, Rachel also learns about her birth-mother, Angela (Rachel Nichols), who is being kept in a secret asylum. Having lost her adoptive mother in the Titans premiere, she is desperate to find what remaining family she has.
Unfortunately for Rachel, her desire to find her mom ends up getting the team in trouble. Rachel and Garfield Logan (Ryan Potter) go against the express wishes of Dick Grayson (Brenton Thwaites) and Kory Anders (Anna Diop) to wait till they’ve done some recon, going off to the asylum on their own where they are both promptly captured.
Despite the many setbacks in her non-plan, and the very real possibility that her team will die, Rachel manages not to be bamboozled by Adamson, and overcomes him so as to find her mother. In essence, Rachel is the only one in this episode who has her wits about her. She is undoubtedly the MVP of ‘Asylum’.
Rachel’s mother Angela has clearly suffered at the hands of The Organisation but Rachel brings her back to her senses and they even team up to save the rest of the Titans.
It is going to be interesting to see how this new character, especially one who is so important to Rachel, and who might have some clue as to what and why Rachel’s father wants, will add to the team. In the DC Comics, Rachel’s mother plays a pivotal role in the fight against Rachel’s father. Is that what we are about to see in upcoming episodes of Titans?
Right, so Gar Logan isn’t called Beast Boy yet either, but he sure let the beast out in ‘Asylum’. Yipes!
Gar starts off the episode being a bit of a goody-two-shoes. When Rachel is desperate to go after her mother, Gar firmly takes Dick and Kory’s side to stay put.
But, minutes later, Gar finds a sulking Rachel and suggests they go find Angela on their own. The only reason Gar agreed with Dick and Kory before was because that is how they did things under Dr Caulder. The more we hear about life in Doom Patrol, the worse it sounds and we can’t wait to find out more about it in the spinoff next year.
It isn’t long before Gar regrets his willfulness – after he and Rachel are caught Gar is stripped and held captive in a cage with the asylum-workers prodding him with electric sticks, trying to get him to change form. It’s absolutely dehumanising, especially as Gar has been the most ‘human’ and innocent member of the team so far.
By the time Rachel and Angela find Gar, he is a broken mess but that doesn’t mean he isn’t ready to defend his friend when one of the asylum-workers attacks them. Gar has unveiled his tiger form several times in Titans but usually to intimidate and threaten, never to attack.
All that changes with the asylum-worker. Gar rips and bites with abandon until the worker is dead. But, once Gar returns to his human form, he is appalled by his actions, and disgusted by the human flesh that he has literally sunk his teeth into.
For the remainder of the episode, Gar refuses to engage in any fights. He is not going to be the same after the events of ‘Asylum’. But, perhaps, this could be the catalyst for him to shape-shift into other animal forms, like he does in the comics.
Kory hasn’t taken the title Starfire yet. We’re seven episodes in; when are these characters going to use their superhero names?
Kory has been the strongest of the Titans thus far, though she needs a bit more training. She has also put up a strong front alongside Dick when handling Rachel and Gar. In this episode, Kory firmly believes that the team needs a plan before breaking Angela out of the asylum but when the kids run off, she and Dick have no choice but to go after them.
They clearly haven’t thought through a plan because they too get caught soon after arriving. Kory is unable to use her powers to defend themselves because of the gas pipes around them.
Kory then finds herself trapped in an underground tunnel that her powers have no effect on. And, since it’s night-time, she gets depleted very soon, and becomes vulnerable to the asylum’s knockout gas. To say that The Organisation was prepared for the Titans is an understatement.
When Kory wakes up, she is bound to a surgical table with a pipe down her throat, and then operated on without being sedated.
I found what happened to Kory to be particularly disturbing, much more so than for any of the other characters. Kory’s dilemma is shockingly reminiscent of what many people of colour, particularly African-American women, were subjected to at the hands of white doctors in the past. I’m not entirely sure whether Titans intended to make this connection but, considering that Kory presents as African-American, it is hard to ignore.
Thus far, Titans has stayed away from making political statements, but superheroes have always been about much more than wholesome entertainment. Whether what happens to Kory in this episode leads to something, I’m not sure, but it certainly lays the foundations for more political discourse.
By the end of the episode, Kory is rescued by the team and it is discovered that she has some regenerative capability. She gets her revenge on the doctors who tortured her by burning the place down, a course of action that Dick surprisingly instigates. Kory hasn’t been afraid to take lives and it is interesting that the no-kill motto of Batman and Robin has rubbed off on her. However, Kory is at her best when she is let loose, so hopefully she will have more freedom to burn things down in the future, preferably after evacuating any innocent bystanders.
In the previous episode of Titans, it seemed like Dick Grayson had very firmly hung up his Robin cape but, it turns out, his superhero alter-ego isn’t quite done with him yet.
Dick is dead-set against Rachel’s plan to rescue her mother,but Rachel acts out on her own nevertheless. Dickhas been a terrible father-figure to Rachel thus far so this isn’t exactly surprising. His upbringing by Bruce Wayne and Alfred has much to answer for.
When Dick eventually gets captured by The Organisation, he is strapped into a chair and injected with a serum that makes him face his deepest, darkest fears. With a character like Dick Grayson, there should be no dearth of material but unfortunately, this is where Titans fails.
In ‘Asylum’, Dick’s deepest, darkest fear turns out to be his younger self pummeling the ever-loving crap out of his Robin, blaming him for ruining his life. It… doesn’t work. Mainly because it feels toothless. Shouldn’t his greatest fear be losing control completely and becoming the very thing he has been fighting? Or, becoming Batman, the one thing he’s running away from?
Dick has been struggling with his Robin persona throughout the show and it seemed a bit of a cop-out to have Dick going through the same thing again in this episode. Plus, unlike his comic book counterpart, Titans’ Dick views Robin as a separate being – not even just a personality – one that gives him the license to do as he pleases. The mask may hide his true identity, but in the comics, that has never been an excuse to get away with murder. If this is the direction the show wants to go, that’s fine, but this episode should have been more blunt about it.
But, more than anything else, the reason we don’t get to really see Dick face his fears is because Batman can’t appear on the show, and it was never more obvious than in this episode. Something went down between Batman and Robin which has informed Dick’s views on his alter-ego but without Batman making an appearance, the show cannot explore that. However, we did get to see the Batcave and a brief glimpse of the Batmobile and hopefully we will see more in the future.
By the end of the episode, Dick seems well and truly ‘cooked’ until Rachel brings him back from the brink. It is actually a sweet scene, and a great role-reversal, as Dick has been the one rescuing Rachel all this while, and this time she gets to save him.
We also see how well Dick can fight outside of his Robin suit. While escaping, the team are confronted by a whole squad of guards, but Dick makes short work of them without killing anyone. That all gets thrown to the wind when Dick asks Kory to burn the place down a few minutes later. In yet another role-reversal, it is Kory who cautions against murder. But they both agree that the asylum is too dangerous and the place is blown to hell.
In the closing moments of the episode, Dick says a final goodbye to Robin by burning his suit. I thought we’d already gone through this in the previous episode, but without the suit to fall back on, it seems that Robin is now gone for good.
What’s Next for Team Titans?
Angela is going to be a massive asset to the team. She’s the only one who can give Rachel the answers she needs about her powers and her father. But, if the comics are anything to go by, Rachel should not get too used to her mom being around.
Gar is going to be a changed man after this episode. He will have to face what was done to him, and what he did, at the asylum, and seriously question how much of a beast is hiding within him. Perhaps that is why Dr Caulder didn’t want Doom Patrol interacting with the world?
Kory isn’t afraid of a little murder so I doubt she’s going to be much bothered about blowing up the asylum. However, being helpless and tortured? That’s got to have some lasting psychological effect on her. Hopefully she will have more time to train in the final episodes so she can defend herself better.
As for Dick, he is now done with Robin for good. If Titans intends to debut Nightwing this season, they have laid the foundations for it.
Dick and Kory continue to make an excellent team, and riff off each other really well. In the comics, the two were in a relationship for a long time and it does feel like there may be romance in the future for their Titans’ counterparts as well. At the moment, they have more chemistry as teammates than romantic partners, so a slow-burn would be preferable.
I feel the next few episodes will finally introduce Trigon. He’s been teased all season and it would be great to see him in the flesh finally. Having said that, Titans has not had the best production values thus far, so if Trigon is to make an appearance, I would keep my expectations pretty low!
Titans has had a pretty choppy start but the past three episodes have been incredibly strong. There are still a few things the show could do better, but it’s on the right track to a great conclusion.