Context is everything of course and albeit a tad late here we find out exactly what’s been going on with Jason in the excellent `Lazarus`. Arguably this would have made a great second episode even if it took way the shock of him seeming to die which was taken away in the actual second episode in any case. Essentially a four handed episode without any of the other Titans and an excellent script from Bryan Edward Hill unfurls a story of a boy trying to impress his mentor who in turns is doing his best to stop the kid getting into any more trouble. It reverses the arguments of episode one which painted Bruce as uncaring- as Dick saw him and accused him of- to reveal exactly the opposite. Stung by how his time as Robin damaged Dick, he is determined not to repeat the mistakes with Jason. The latter though, still traumatised by what happened to him in season two, thinks Bruce is trying to protect him because he’s weak and wants to show otherwise hence his attempt to confront the Joker. It’s a potent brew that bubbles constantly and includes some of the best scenes the series has so hitherto played.
Curran Walters is a very strong actor who holds the episode as required without resorting to obvious choices- his expressive performance (along with those expletives) kicks so well against Ian Gleen’s buttoned up, experienced turn as Bruce. His accent may waver but his commitment never does and the scene between the two of them at the spot where all those years ago Bruce’s parents were killed has real pathos and cannily chosen moments of drama. At moments like this you almost forget we’re talking superheroes and superpowers- it’s a debate between a would be father and a wayward son. They both want to prove something to the other but it seems the only successful way they can do is by fighting either each other or some enemy.
There are two other crucial roles in the episode. Krista Bridges is psychologist Leslie Thompkins whose personal history with Bruce and knowledge of Gotham’s dangerous underworld makes her the perfect choice to try and talk to Jason. Their cat and mouse scenes are very well played; she is an offbeat character and though we’ve seen this scenario a million times before this is a great version. Finally, we have Vincent Karthesier’s Crane who deservedly gets more screen time and effectively becomes the mentor figure Jason wants. Karthesier has always had a sly side to his performances even back in the day when he was playing indie roles and here he prods and pushes Jason and later gets to do a scarecrow dance that has a menace about it.
Its remarkable how Curran Walters matches these three more experienced actors showing too what an interesting character Jason is. He doesn’t do the angst of the series’ other main roles and you feel the actor could headline any series after a display like this. Though the storyline does pull at the elastic of credulity- Jason did actually die but had beforehand perfected a formula helped by Crane and is brought back to life- these four actors and a zippy script makes us believe the whole thing. Atypical it may be but `Lazarus` is surely a candidate for the best episode of Titans.
`Lady Vic` adds a little levity to the menu despite an opening of pure brutality when a white haired lady assassin who is handy with knives in a dangerous manner kills two police officers. Her backstory is related to events of six year back when Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon were something of an item, not just romantically but also teaming up to execute some robberies. This may seem an unlikely dalliance for the one time Boy Wonder but it does underscore that he was from the wrong side of the tracks. These sequences are mixed with the present day attempts by the other Titans to track down the mysterious new killer.
Blackfire’s presence at Wayne Manor is a hoot as she imperiously expects to be treated like a Queen – her expression when she is told about such tasks as doing the dishes is a picture! Damaris Lewis is exquisitely haughty and a promising addition to the team. Lady Vic herself is not really given much of a story yet- she is here to get revenge for the death of her boyfriend six years back during one of Dick and Barbara’s robberies that they interrupt. It’s neither the strongest motivation nor explanation but perhaps she will have a flashback episode herself later on. Kimberly Sue Murray who plays the role will hopefully get more to do. One innovative sequence involves Lady Vic fighting Barbara Gordon which considering the latter is wheelchair bound these days is very well choregraphed especially as Barbara holds her own.
Jason, meanwhile, is eager to take the formula Crane and his suddenly well populated lab of white coated scientists are developing so nicks some and starts trouble on his own. The telling shot is at the end when we see Jason looking momentarily regretful before he imbibes another hit of the stuff and once again becomes the villain. Clearly this storyline is an allegory for drug addiction and the problems it causes but if he is to be rehabilitated down the line the script writers are painting themselves into a knotty corner at the moment!
There are shades of The Godfather in `51%`, an episode that manages to mingle familial issues with considerable bloodshed and make it all seem reasonable. In the search to stop Crane’s increasingly approaching plan to flood the streets with his drug the Titans try all options including a chatty sentient computer called Oracle. Sort of a low rent Cerebro this machine can pick up people’s voices only Crane has accessed it too. They also try one of the mobsters whom they believe to be dithering over wholeheartedly supporting Crane’s plan, Valeska Nox. Sisters Starfire and Blackfire take on this task which leads to a surreal scene in which, after reuniting Valeska with her son she promptly kills him. So Starfire kills her! Quite how this leads to a rather tender admission between sisters as to why Blackfire killed their parents takes the episode to unexpected places.
It's good that everyone gets plenty to do this episode as some characters have been somewhat left to one side, especially Gar who seems to spend much of his time watching things happening. He’s investigating on his own this week though why he didn’t think to search Jason’s room days ago is unclear. I like the way Crane’s villainy – in a show were even the heroes are turned up to eleven- manages to be much more underhand and sneaky even when teaching Jason a lesson or two.
There’s an excellent fight sequence in the ice cream factory where Crane’s operation is based with Blackfire, courtesy of Tamarind tech, joining in. Damaris Lewis has so far proved an excellent addition to the cast and her scenes with Anna Diop are always well written and played. If you check the reviews on somewhere like IMDB this episode split viewers down the middle, some declaring it perfect, others trash. For me it drives the overall plot forward and creates a new dynamic with Crane and a reluctant Jason now fugitives but as we know villains are never as dangerous as when they are cornered.
`Home` is an odd, unsettled episode in which both Starfire and Nightwing are hallucinating, perhaps for different reasons while both Jason and Crane’s thought’s turn to home. It feels at times like filler material and moves awkwardly to some sort of conclusion. Running through it too is the character of Tim, glimpsed in passing in earlier episodes who seems to be a Titans superfan and can track down Jason when the combined resources of both the Titans and the police have not managed to do. This is a strange storyline to insert though perhaps its purpose will become clear.
While all this is happening the plot upon which much of the season has pivoted- the uneasy alliance between Crane and Jason – ends somewhat summarily. I’d hoped that when unable to access the drug that has kept him villainous Jason might still be conflicted adding an element for the viewer that we don’t know how truly he is sorry but nothing so subtle is introduced. Instead, Jason wanders about and then contacts Dick.
Enabling actor Vincent Karthesier to let loose, Crane becomes somewhat deranged this episode even consulting his mother which doesn’t end well for her. It struck me that this season has seen a lot of casually violent murders along the way and little shock about them. Even Hank’s demise is now viewed as another bad thing and it doesn’t seem to have taken the Titans much time to get over it. You could call it battle hardened or you might prefer to call it loose plotting.
The direction in the episode is suitably murky conjuring up a surreality especially as Dick keeps seeing memories and Kory is once again succumbing to odd visions that find her somewhere she then doesn’t recognise. I’m not sure where all this is going but to top the bizarre feel Commissioner Gordon’s leaking ceiling also becomes a recurring plot point though this dovetails somewhat cleverly into the cliffhanger as poisoned water is released into the city’s infrastructure just as water comes crashing through into her office. I hope she moved the fish.
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