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Titans Season 3 Is a Major Step Up For the Series
Liam Nolan
2021-08-07T00:01:55
Nightwing in Season 3 of Titans
Nightwing in Season 3 of Titans
Through its first two seasons, Titans was often quite a rough series. The gritty take on DC's titular team rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, and the show had a definite problem capitalizing on potentially interesting characters and ideas. In many ways, the first five episodes of Titans Season 3 -- which were the only ones made available for review -- fall prey to those same problems. However, there are a lot of general improvements that help Season 3 feel like the best possible version of Titans.
Picking up shortly after the events of Titans Season 2, Season 3 introduces a brand new threat for the titular team in one of their former allies: Jason Todd (Curran Walters). As in the comics, Jason takes on the mantle of Red Hood after a deadly confrontation with The Joker. However, there are a lot of deviations from the source material in just how that happens, and the mystery surrounding Jason's apparent resurrection is a genuinely interesting plot thread for Season 3's early episodes.
Season 3 of Titans on HBO Max
Season 3 of Titans on HBO Max
Following Jason's death and Bruce Wayne's retirement, the Titans relocate from San Francisco to Gotham to support Dick Grayson/Nightwing (Brenton Thwaites). They soon start working with Gotham City Police Department Commissioner and former Batgirl Barbara Gordon (Savannah Welch) to investigate the emergence of a mysterious villain known only as the Red Hood. After learning this new foe is -- unsurprisingly -- Jason, Nightwing is forced to work with Batman villain Jonathan Crane/Scarecrow (Vincent Kartheiser), who has been working as a GCPD consultant following his arrest and imprisonment in Arkham Asylum.
Kartheiser's Jonathan Crane/Scarecrow is one of the most delightful parts of the series. While there are certainly some parallels between Scarecrow and Hannibal Lecter, Kartheiser doesn't copy that iconic cannibal. Instead, he finds a space all his own. In many ways, Kartheiser toes the line between the show's trademark self-seriousness and a sort of explicitly camp spin on Reefer Madness, a contradiction that makes him absolutely fascinating to watch.
Scarecrow, as a character, does a great job of elucidating the themes of Titans Season 3, which include legacy, trauma and the role of fear. The former psychiatrist angle comes out a lot, especially in conversations with Nightwing. Scarecrow is able to challenge Nightwing unlike any other villain, calling into question his motivations and past trauma. But while Scarecrow may very well be correct in his analysis of Nightwing, it's impossible to forget that he's also a terrible monster who would manipulate anyone for his own ends. This adds some depth to a show that is, perhaps, most infamously known for Grayson saying, "Fuck Batman" in its first trailer.
That being said, the general ethos of "Fuck Batman" never quite leaves the show. There's still a grittiness to virtually everything Titans Season 3 does. But that grittiness doesn't always mesh well with other aspects of the show, informed in part by how often things just don't make a whole lot of sense. There are a lot of huge jumps in logic, obvious misunderstandings and missed opportunities that make the characters seem, at times, like incredibly dumb people in a dangerous, but equally dumb world.
Titans Season 3 also suffers from the too-many-plotlines problem of previous entries in the series. Starfire and Beast Boy's story primarily revolves around Blackfire, while Nightwing almost exclusively deals with Red Hood. In the first five episodes, there's a bit of interweaving of these plots, but after a major twist, characters start just doing their own thing and seemingly lose any desire to help one another. For example, Superboy -- who is definitely given more characterization than in Season 2 -- ends up on the sidelines doing a shocking amount of nothing with his powers that could easily solve a number of major plot points. Adding to the issue here is that promotional materials have made clear that there are even more plots to come, and it's hard to not feel like that's going to be a problem down the line.
That isn't to say that Titans Season 3 is bad. The show is a lot of fun, and the action scenes are smooth and brutal. The music choices are still absolutely on point, and the Jason-centric fifth episode is genuinely a good piece of storytelling, due in large part to its tight focus on the character. That episode in particular has some incredibly strong moments between Walters' Jason and Iain Glen's Bruce Wayne that prove the show works best when it's not leaning into shock and awe.
By the end of its first five episodes, Titans Season 3 is the show's best version of itself, but the series has, historically, had trouble sticking the landing. And thanks to the sheer number of plot threads, it's hard to imagine the show will satisfactorily accomplish everything that it wants to in 13 episodes. Still, the journey is certain to be a lot of fun.
Originally part of DC Universe's TV line-up, Titans Season 3 debuts Aug. 12 on HBO Max.
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