Titans S01E01 "Titans" Review

After great anticipation, the new DC Universe" "Titans" series, a darker, live-action take on characters best known to viewers from various animated adaptations premiered with a strong set of first impressions. Beast Boy is the main lead with the shortest introduction thus far, as he's saved for last with a shift from a green tiger robbing an electronics store for a game before shifting back to human once he's made it out into the woods. Mystery is the recurring story-telling mechanism in this premiere as each of these main character stories are drenched in lingering questions to draw the audience in hoping to learn more.

The episode is most closely focused on Rachel Roth ("Raven"), who is at the earliest stages of her hero journey. She doesn't understand her dark powers, their origins, or even have much of a sense of how to control them. They protect her from mysterious threats, in particular the man that kills her mother (who apparently wasn't actually her mother) and continues to pursue her throughout the episode until her darker manifestation emerges while Rachel is held kidnapped and kills him violently. Rachel's journey speaks to the lost and wandering feeling many young teens and adolescents feel particularly after a significant loss or trauma. Her story is also the catalyst to the entire story and seemingly the inevitable Titans team forming. Her nightmares show her a young Dick Grayson's worst experience, the loss of his parents at the circus. She recognises him immediately when her powers guide her to getting arrested off the streets of Detroit and he is the one to question her.

Dick Grayson ("Robin") may be the most popular character to entice DC fans in for this new series and the writers have wisely decided to keep more of his back story secret for the time being. He hints at his time with Bruce Wayne, whom we see as a comforting hand rescuing Dick from the virus after the loss of his parents in a flashback. He opens up to Rachel about his reasons for wanting to find his own way, but there's still plenty of room for the writers to give a greater context and exploration of his character as the season progresses. Brenton Thwaites offers a well-rounded portrayal, from the aggressive fight scenes with criminals in a dark alley, to the more tender moments when rescuing Rachel. It shows Dick growing into his own, and taking on more of a caretaker role, paralleling the way Bruce Wayne has brought him and other Robins (in the comics) to his life and family.

Kory Anders ("Starfire") is a very cool character. She's visually stunning to look out with all the bright colours from her hair, eyes, wardrobe, and that wickedly awesome fire power she packs when combatting her foes. She's first introduced with a bit of amnesia, offering new viewers the opportunity to get to know her at the same pace that she is rediscovering herself. She can speak German, for one, which certainly comes in handy since the show first has her operating out of a penthouse suite in Vienna Austria. We could go into further detail about the various European baddies she fights, kills, and incinerates, but the most important driving force that's revealed about her action is that she has also been searching for Rachel. This brings us right back to our previous point about Rachel being central to the show's beginning and the Titans team forming.

All of the main performances have been excellent, with Teagan Croft and Brenton Thwaites in particular having been able to show great range in this premiere episode. Anna Drop and Ryan Potter have also played their material well and have shown enough promise for us to be confident in their ability to expand their characters in future episodes as the writing develops them further. The action sequences are truly excellent, with Robin's alleyway fight scene being not only exciting but a more honest depiction and exploration of the character than what one would expect from studio films or network television programming that would be more inclined to water things down to chase PG-13 ratings or to meet standards and practices. Streaming platforms have truly been a gift to superhero live action content, as the nature of these services is such that writers and filmmakers don't have to dull the edges of their stories. The special effects are also very strong as evidenced by both Raven and Starfire's most bombastic displays of their powers. The verdict is still out on Beast Boy's since we've only had a glimpse at what he can and will do. With just twelve episodes in the season, we're expecting zero filler content from this show and could not be more excited to see these main characters all meet and team up.

"Titans" airs on Fridays on DC Universe.


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