TITANS Season 1 Episode 1 Review: The Dark Side of Angst

TITANS opens with Raven, one of the core members of this famous superhero team, drifting through a dark, hazy dream. She finds herself in front of an eerie circus tent, one that, to no surprise, is the past home of Dick Grayson, a.k.a. Robin, another core member. This entire sequence symbolizes the opening episode of this new series: it’s mysterious, it’s emotionally and quite literally dark, and it’s just an amalgamation of visceral violence and heavy drama shoved into a world just as bleak as your childhood memories of this team. 

The Titans have grow up since they were the Teen Titans, but many of the aspects of this team that used to make them relatable, interesting, and actually entertaining are replaced with violence, sexual tension, and a whole lot of blood. Though this is still episode one and there is still so much more to go, each character seems miles away from any aspect of them that you thought you knew. Instead, they’re replaced with dark parallel universe versions of themselves, ones who are still destined to form their team, even if the world isn’t ready for it. 

Let’s start with Robin, a character so drenched in angst that he’s going around telling Batman to go fuck himself. To give some context, Robin’s anger with Batman comes from the Caped Crusader himself adopting murder as a new tactic in stopping crime. Though this seems noble on Robin’s part, standing up to the unlawfulness of his father figure, it’s quickly diminished when Robin himself slides someone’s face across a giant piece of broken glass. Killing people? That’s not Robin’s style. Hurting people so badly that they come inches away from death, and then walking away as if you’re some sort of beacon of morality and ethics? Sounds like a pretty good Tuesday night to ol’ Dick Grayson. (I mean ol’ quite literally too, Robin is a fully formed adult by the time this series starts.) 

Robin would be stuck in his rut if not for Raven. This Raven, in tradition with the new fad of ultra-dark television, starts the series with a whirlwind of a tragedy. Not only does she find out that the woman who raised her isn’t even her real mother, she then immediately has this woman, the only consistent person is Raven’s life, brutally murdered in front of her. Raven’s story seems like the core of the darkness in this series, rooted in trauma and repression. The most difficult part of this source of darkness is that her situation is shadowed by the surrounding circumstances. The entire episode is focused on Raven and Dick Grayson meeting, so instead of letting her react to her situation, they just push her along to the next dark and scary thing. 

Next is Starfire, a character completely lost in this world. She’s introduced to the audience with absolutely zero memory of who she is or where she’s been. After she finds a hotel room key in her pocket, she’s set off on a journey to discover who she is, or at least what she was trying to do before she lost her memory. Her story is also linked to Raven, as she was apparently trying to track her down all the way from Austria. Though it’s difficult to describe a character when you just as much about her as she knows about herself, I will say that Starfire’s powers, when she unintentionally uses them to save her life, are the biggest spectacle of the episode. The disco tune accompanying the use of her powers is fitting, as she engulfs a mob boss’ entire office with a colorful, yet powerful flame right after giving off one of the most intimidating insults I’ve ever seen on a comic book series. Starfire, from this one moment, shows that even though she may have zero control over her powers, she’s going to easily become one of the team’s most powerful members. 

I regret to even be typing this, but there is very little to even say on Beast Boy. His appearance is more in the form of a tease, showing him as a careless teenager amongst almost an hour of bleakness. This seems to show the audience that though this world is going to be outright depressing at times, it will still have some comic relief. Though this may be true, the comic relief is grossly overpowered, and even feels muted against the backdrop of bloody faces, demonic possessions, and burnt corpses. 

TITANS has an uphill battle to face. I say this not even because of the first episode, but more knowing the audience conditions that it has to face. This show has already been under so much heat that it feels like DC is trembling at the audience’s response, knowing that they’ve invested an entire streaming service’s original content off of the world that this series will build. 

It’s important to note, though, that DC chose a team with some of the most drastically different adaptations out there. DC has fit the Teen Titans into almost any mold, ranging from serious dramas to a borderline children’s entertainment. Each of these adaptations has worked within their own right, so I will hold off on making any lasting judgments about the series. Though this episode has its faults, and those faults shine an unfortunate light on the series, I hope that you’ll join me in giving this show its due chance. But, if that doesn’t work out, then Robin will have to tell this series to go fuck itself, because it will have committed a murder of its own.

Written by Williams Staton, TITANS Beat Writer