This show should’ve been better and the fact that it wasn’t means that it’s up to bored critics like me to critique it on the internet, hoping that in some convoluted, fantastical way it has a tangible effect on how the next season turns out. Or maybe this might be the piece on top of the steadily increasing pile of disappointment, confusion and annoyance on social media that tips the whole thing over and causes the companies at the helm of this ship hand it over to the creatives that care about these characters and create a show actually worthy of the name. One can only hope.
Okay. Here we go.
I didn’t really know what to expect with Titans. It being a TV show, I capped my expectations at a certain level – I didn’t expect amazing CGI, consistently snappy writing or even a plotline that didn’t take a few liberties every now and then. I was willing to suspend my disbelief and criticisms to a level that allowed me to still enjoy the show. On top of that, I was willing to be understanding if it took a few episodes for the show to find its feet tonally. I was just going to ease into the show and see what they showed me. Simple.
And for the most part, I was intrigued. The first three episodes introduced us to most of the characters with a little snippet of Beast Boy in an after credits scene. Everything moves sort of quickly (except for most of the second episode with Hawk and Dove, but I didn’t mind because the tension kept me pining for more), with enough quiet moments for us to see them start to build or further explore their relationships with one another. It was a gradual introduction into the story and honestly, I was interested in catching up with what was going on in their worlds. It felt lived in already, like these characters already had their own issues and relationships that meant a lot to them. Dick Grayson entering adulthood, trying to find an identity separate from his alter-ego. Rachel Roth’s already complicated teenage years only further complicated by her dark powers. Kory Anders finding out about herself. There was a common theme and it set-up these characters to connect on a deep, emotional level. It felt real.
As for the acting, all the actors performed with a genuine attention to detail and consistency that made it easy to understand the kind of people these characters are – their traits and motivations, flaws and desires. Which is good because in a show with so many different and unique characters, you need to be able to understand who and what someone is as easily as possible. Additionally, the writing was charismatic and unique enough that the dialogue wasn’t half as cringey as I expected for those few episodes. But maybe that’s just because I guiltily indulge in Riverdale, so I’m immune to awkward, unrealistic dialogue.
However, I think that’s where most of the good stuff ends. Now, I’ve got to crap on this show. Excuse my language.
Firstly, let’s talk about the characters. Yes, I know I was just complimenting how well they were done. And they were done very well. At first. Even the guest characters in Episode 4 (loved this episode – awesome characterisation, exquisite acting and funny, nuanced dialogue) were portrayed wonderfully. But from episode four, the show started to lose focus.
The editing and pacing became sloppy, sometimes not making it clear how or when location changes occurred. Character motivations began to fluctuate, which only confused me about my understanding of them. Sometimes, it seemed like they would do things just for the sake of the plot. Got to drive the story forward somehow, right? By the end of the show, I realised there were no serious character arcs or development aside from maybe Rachel, only for all that to be undone in the last episode anyway! In fact, I think some characters could’ve been removed from the show entirely and it wouldn’t have that much of an effect. At least not so much that a quick retcon couldn’t fix it. And that’s kind of sad, isn’t it?
Like I said earlier, I wasn’t expecting anything ground-breaking. But I was expecting a cohesive narrative with careful attention to the character development mixed in with awesome fight scenes, gadgets and superpowers. Sure, all the nods to other famous DC characters were great (Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman, for example) but it wasn’t enough. Not to carry a whole show. You can’t blow my mind by showing me Batman’s villains continuously. I get it. They exist in this world. I got it from the first mention of them. No need to keep going on about it.
I would’ve appreciated seeing more of the them outside of battle mode. In the casual moments. The most we got of this were in episodes four and five, where they were split and reunited, respectively. In these moments, we saw more of how the dynamic of their relationships worked, at least enough to understand why they liked each other. How their friendships worked. I would’ve liked to see each of them connect with each other individually on some level. I would’ve liked to see why they stayed with the team. Why they even formed one, despite whether they meant to? Why Kory and Dick, as the oldest members, chose to take on responsibility as essentially guardians and mentors of superpowered teens?
In not more accurately answering these questions, the show missed an opportunity to give the core – the heart – of this show a greater emotional weight. A stronger relationship between the characters, individually, and with the audience themselves. Not only would these little moments have been perfect for some interesting, expositionary dialogue but also an opportunity to deepen the relationship between all of them for a great emotional pay-off later in the series.
Finally. Let’s talk about the directing. I’ve seen some people complain about it, claiming it’s boring and bland and unclear sometimes. Now maybe it’s because I capped my expectations, but I was quite pleased with the directing. Sure, it wasn’t as dynamic or active as you might want from a show literally about teenage superheroes fighting together, but compared to other TV shows, I thought it was a good step up in the right direction. Maybe that isn’t good enough an excuse for some. For me, It works.
But what isn’t okay is the way the cinematography works. There’s a consistent blue-ish tint that makes it look like a generic dark, detective thriller film. I shrugged it off at first but after seeing it much more richly, I couldn’t go back to watching the show without thinking of how much the show shot itself in the foot with its unfitting, wannabe Dark Knight colour grading. I mean, even in the Dark Knight, they switched it up every now and then, using warm colours like brown and orange to highlight different moods and locations. This show failed to do that. Everything had a feeling of grey overcast and plainness that clashed with the exuberance normally associated with the team’s bold looks. For example, Starfire in magenta and purple; Raven in black and dark purple; Beast Boy in bright green and Robin in red, green and yellow. This show should’ve been littered with bright, rich colours that reflected everything about these great characters.
FINAL VERDICT – Titans had potential. It still does. This season was entertaining, no doubt. It’s compelling enough that you could easily finish it before you know it. However, you may be frustrated. Confused, sometimes. You may ask questions to which there are no answers. But you’ll be entertained. And if that’s all you want, then this is a show for you. However, if that’s all it takes for you to give this show a great rating then you are part of the problem.
By John Oparah.