A Retrospective on Titans, Season 2
The DC Comics team known as the Teen Titans has served as a huge inspiration for my love of comic book lore since I was a child. I grew up reading the works of Marv Wolfman and George Peréz. I also grew up watching the acclaimed animated series Teen Titans, a series I still find myself enjoying as an adult.
Thus, it should come as no surprise that I would be excited about a live-action adaptation of the team in the form of the DC Universe original series, Titans.
In regard to season 1 of Titans, I found myself pleasantly surprised. Candidly, I did not expect much from the season based on its marketing. However, upon watching, I found the first season to successfully manage its dark tone and expand on various compelling characters. Sure, season 1 maintained various flaws, but it presented a solid foundation for subsequent seasons to build upon.
This brings us to season 2.
Let me begin by saying that overall, season 2 is a vast improvement upon season 1 as its overarching narrative is much more nuanced. Though, there are plenty of aspects to tackle in the form of the good, the bad, and the ugly.
It is safe to say that Dick Grayson's evolution into Nightwing is by far season 2's highlight. I particularly enjoyed the pacing of this evolution as it is not too rushed nor too speedy. Rather, it feels authentic and allows Dick to truly come into his own and come to terms with his own history as Batman's sidekick in addition to the future he wishes to build on his own, outside of Batman's shadow.
With this, the development and focus on Deathstroke stood out to me as well. Yes, we know Deathstroke to be this ruthless mercenary, one who remains unapologetic in his duties. However, Titans season 2 provides another facet to this characterization as it explores the man behind the mask, Slade Wilson.
Through this, the show showcases Deathstroke as a villain who is far from one-note. He has a family and a life that contrasts his killer tendencies. Consequently, the dark humanization of Deathstroke promotes a fleshed out, complex antagonist who serves as a great counter to Dick Grayson and the rest of the Titans.
With this, I wish the season dug deeper into his relationship with Rose as the tidbits that we were exposed to provided insight into a fascinating, though toxic, dynamic between the two.
Finally, I adored Chella Man's portrayal of Jericho in addition to Joshua Oprin's portrayal of Superboy. Both characters maintain tragic storylines, and both actors exemplify their arcs in a stunning and sympathetic manner. I hope to see more of them in future seasons as they provided some serious emotional weight to this season.
Of course, it goes without saying that Krypto, Superboy's loyal compnaion, may have been the season's breakout star. I also hope to see more of him in the future.
Now, one of the bright spots of Titans season 2 is the introduction of new characters such as Jericho, Superboy, and Deathstroke. Ironically though, this highlight appears to have provoked one of the season's weakest points.
Unfortunately, season 2 seems unable to balance the plethora of characters it manages to bring in. Familiar faces such as Starfire, Garfield, and Rachel appear pushed off to the sidelines for the majority of the season.
This is particularly unfortunate as I enjoy Anna Diop, Ryan Porter, and Teagan Croft's portrayals of their respective characters. Additionally, the evolution of Rachel's powers is a subplot that is continuously alluded to without any tangible resolution. As a result, despite being two seasons deep, Titans still fails to provide a concrete portrayal and understanding of Rachel's own powers.
With this, Hawk and Dove's respective roles in this season feel a tad disconnected. Sure, they play vital roles in a few of the season's arcs, both past and present. However, their implementation in these arcs continuously feels forced. Also, Hawk's storyline comes across as one of the weaker aspects of this season, especially in the season's later episodes. It ultimately appears as though his character development stagnates and fails to resolve itself.
So, moving forward, I hope to see the series better balance its ensemble of characters and dig a little deeper as to not maintain shallow characters.
Yes, overall, Titans season 2 is a better season than its predecessor. Unfortunately though, the culmination of its storyline falls flat in the season finale.
Firstly, the editing and overall production of the fight sequences appear chaotic. For example, the confrontation between Deathstroke and Nightwing feels incredibly clunky through its plethora of cuts and uneven transitions.
With this, the conclusion of Deathstroke's arc is disappointing to say the least. The series spends the majority of its second season developing Deathstroke and his motives only for the character to be thwarted within the finale's first quarter in a completely anticlimactic manner.
Ultimately, and as aforementioned, season 2 struggles to balance everything it was given. It struggles to develop and provide substance to the show's most significant characters, and it struggles to balance the two primary antagonists, Mercy Graves on behalf of Cadmus and Deathstroke.
Therefore, I believe it would have been beneficial if Deathstroke was the sole focus of season 2 and its conclusion with Cadmus maintaining the primary focus of season 3.
Of course, this is not the case.
Thus, the confrontation against Mercy Graves and her Cadmus forces takes the focus of the season 2 finale. Though, once again, this conflict is managed all too tidily, primarily through the all-powerful abilities of Rachel.
As I previously stated, Rachel's abilities appear to evolve, without much explanation, when it is most convenient to the plot. Additionally, one major critique I have of this season and its predecessor is the amount of resolution that takes place within one's mind, dreams, or visions. It ultimately comes across as a cheap plot resolution device.
I understand a lot of necessary character development, particularly in Nightwing's arc, takes place within one's own psyche. However, when this device is used repeatedly, it becomes contrived.
Now, when it comes to the Titans season 2 finale, there is an elephant in the room we must address: Donna Troy's death.
The manner in which Donna meets her fate is ridiculous to say the least as she gets electrocuted to death following the finale's two main battles. If Donna had died in another manner, perhaps in combat with Deathstroke or Cadmus forces, perhaps her death would have felt more poignant.
Ultimately though, it feels unnecessary and incredibly forced, further contributing to a disjointed finale that sends an overall solid season out with a whimper.
What Lies Beyond
Titans has been renewed for a third season, and one can assume that Starfire's sister, Blackfire, will take the reins as the next big bad.
I look forward to this arc as it will allow Starfire to grow as a character and get the attention she deserves.
Now, I fervently hope the writing of season 3 is much more cohesive than its predecessors. Sure, season 2 is a pretty strong piece of work apart from its disastrous finale. Though, there is plenty of room for improvement.
I hope to see deeper development on the characters that were left behind in season 2, and I hope to see a more streamlined approach to the overarching narrative as to not promote a disjointed and clunky storyline.
I adore the Teen Titans and their various adventures over the years. Thus, it is my fervent hope that we experience authentic and faithful adaptations of their beloved stories.