OK, I think it’s about time to admit that Titans really is the best DC show on TV right now. Hank and Dawn sealed it for me with another amazing character focused episode.
Confession time: I’ve always been a fan of the Hawk and Dove dynamic. Their spotlight episode on Justice League Unlimited was one of my favorites. The Titans’ take on the brothers was predictably darker, but it really worked in the context of the show. While I’m still not a fan of going gritty for the sake of being ‘realistic,’ this episode explained the nature of Hawk and Dawn’s relationship far better than their earlier appearance.
Like the comics, it’s Hank and Don Hall (Elliot Knight) who start off as superheroes/vigilantes with a modern slant to their origin. I dug that in this history Don and Hank are half brothers and Don’s father was black.
Hank was always protective of Don right down to getting molested by a perverted football coach. This was a very dark twist for the brothers and shows how much Hank loves his brother. We’d seen Hank acting kind of aggressive and possessive so this was a welcome other side of him. It shows how hard Hank loves and the kind of sacrifices he makes for people he cares about.
Fast forward to college where Hank is a football standout on scholarship, but he’s starting to show CTE effects like passing out. I loved that the team was named the Kessel Hawks after Dawn Granger creator Karl Kesel. Worried about his brother’s well being, Don gets him benched. That doesn’t sit well and leads to a brawl in the library of all places. It was fun watching Hank and Don fight as a team even if it was just against their fellow students. And it was a nice visual Easter Egg for them to be in red and blue outfits.
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Fed up with the lack of apathy from the system and the prevalence of sexual predators in their neighborhood, Don wants to strike back. This is a big departure from the comics here Don is the pacifist who doesn’t consider violence a viable option. But Hank’s back story justifies his anger and desire to do something against the type of people who abused his brother.
Wearing some janky outfits with football pads, the brothers take to the streets and beat down another sexual predator. This is definitely more proactive than most heroes, but again it works here. Hank won’t talk about what happened and Don has found a means to channel his brother’s rage in a productive manner.
Meanwhile Dawn has just had a successful ballet performance with her mother in attendance. Her mom (Star Trek: A New Generation’s Marina Sirtis) breaks the news that she’s returning to her abusive husband. This is the same man who regularly beat Dawn and her sister. Both Hank and Dawn’s lives have been shaped by abusers and it is a common thread in their relationship.
The other is far more tragic as Don and Hank celebrate their front page vigilante story while Dawn and her mother casually bump into them at a newsstand. While the four are chatting, a speeding car crashes into the newsstand instantly killing Don and Dawn’s mother. It’s a genuinely shocking moment that only serves to make Hank and Dawn more sympathetic. I wish we got to see more of Hank and Don teaming up as heroes, but we get the gist.
Over time they begin to bond over their shared loss. They’re broken, but start to find strength in each other. Alan Ritchson and Minka Kelly delivered very strong performances throughout this episode. It’s odd how in two episodes I almost feel like I know Hank and Dawn more than the other Titans. Amazing how a concise story without deliberately delaying reveals helps with character development.
Dawn finds Hank’s Hawk costume and he reluctantly shares about their vigilante exploits. More importantly, he finally opens up and shares about the molestation at the hands of the football coach. Dawn refuses to let it go and that night she tracks down the coach and demands he confess his crimes.
The coach fights back leading to a pretty violent and brutal fight scene that ends with Hank arriving to get some long awaited payback. It’s a lot easier to sympathize with Hank’s anger at Dick. Dawn isn’t some conquest for Hank and is in many ways the same kind of protector that Don was earlier.
After the first night together, Dawn says they can’t be together like this, but we know that doesn’t last.
The most intriguing aspect of this episode was Rachel randomly appearing trying to get Hank and Dawn to hear her. Was Rachel traveling through time or trying to disrupt their memories?
Dawn snaps out of her coma and tells Hank they need to find Jason Todd. Rachel needs their help. From Kory’s attack or something far more dangerous? This episode really made the decision to release episodes on a weekly basis infuriating. Not because of the quality of the episodes, but because this cliffhanger was really solid.
Hank and Dawn kept the main Titans storyline sidelined, but its strongest character episode yet resulted in another strong outing.
Rating: 9.5 out of 10
Photo Credit: DC Entertainment