Titans season one

 Given the similarities between superheroes across various franchises it is becoming more difficult for tv shows and films about them to stand out. This series, launched in 2018, is from the DC stable whose television work has generally surpassed their big screen offerings, Wonder Woman being the exception. Based on the Teen Titans comics, the series is clearly aimed at a younger audiences with it’s cool stylings, outbursts of kinetic violence and edgy characters. It is an earnest narrative full of teenage angst even if some of the characters are older.

An obvious touchstone is X Men with which Titans shares its basic premise. I’m told in comic book lore this came first but it doesn’t really matter. As some of the X Men films have shown just having cool inventive powers is not enough to hang a story on and Titans seems to realise this so keeps a focus on the characters first and their superpowers second. The first season takes its cue from the Batman strand focussing on what Dick Grayson did next after leaving Gotham behind. Presented as the lead character Dick is a police officer who never seems to report in or get back to his office! He struggles with his aggressive tendencies, honed over years of crime fighting with the caped crusader but is this also a reflection of something more?

Along the way we meet an assortment of other troubled characters - each bizarrely with a different hair colour - battling their inner demons, literally in the case of thirteen year old Rachel Roth. The personification of goth, she is haunted by seemingly vast but uncontrollable power which sometimes manifests itself for our benefit as a scary image in a mirror or window. The first time it happens you might jump out of your seat! We also encounter Kory a flame haired bundle of confusion who can generate fire but has no idea who she is. Then there’s Gar, a boy who can turn into any animal though seems to prefer a green tinted tiger. He lives with an even odder bunch of misfits in a mansion straight out of The Addams Family.

The quartet make an unlikely team as they trail around the country over an indeterminate time to try and resolve their various issues. There’s a lot going on and with only eleven episodes at its disposal the season has to cover a lot of ground by way of a myriad of flashbacks not all of which are necessary as they only underline what two lines of dialogue can tell us. One episode fills in the backstory of two other characters just to tell us what we already know. The flashbacks involving Grayson in Gotham are very stylish yet they so obviously don’t want to show us Batman it undermines their impact.

The group’s journey in the present day is much more interesting as they encounter an ordinary looking family who seems to be trained assassins, a creepy notion that works well. An episode set mostly in an asylum is also very well done as is a strand where Dick meets his replacement in the form of a new (profanity spouting) Robin while Wonder Girl is a definite boost to the series when she turns up.  Some of the revelations are very good, others so-so (Cory’s real identity is somewhat underwhelming) leading to a final episode that’s set in some alternative timeline.

Titans-  They may be superheroes but they still have to wait for the bus.

I definitely found the first half of the season more engaging than the second. Like a lot of genre shows Titans at this stage seems more assured with the build up than the payoffs though does have some great cliffhanger resolutions. Visually the series is fantastic with an emphasis on darkness and shadows enabling some gymnastic action sequences. Despite the scenario it aims for a sort of glossy noir punctuated with violence. It has so much style that it can sometimes resemble a music promo film but this works in its favour. A cracking musical soundtrack adds to the atmosphere.

It can seem, even in this short number of episodes, repetitive and heavy at times and the only vaguely happy character, Gar, is often sidelined as if the writers don’t want too much levity on show. With one foot in horror and the other in comic book fantasy, the series has potential in either direction. This first season has some powerful set pieces and sometimes brings an unpredictability to a familiar type of story more than enough to make you want to watch the second.

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