Not that we needed another episode as proof, but Titans has mastered the art of the highly effective cliffhanger. Aqualad was another terrific episode that showed us a look at the kindler, gentler era of the team before it all went downhill. And also made me realize how much I want more early era Titans-focused episodes.
Given how tense last week’s crossover was it’s surprising how well Aqualad worked since this is one long flashback episode. As it plays out, it’s clear why this episode was necessary as it gives us another week to imagine what horror awaits Jason at the hands of Deathstroke.
We turn the clock back five years ago when the Titans were more cheery and playful. The roster consisted of the members we knew — Robin, Hawk & Dove, Donna/Wonder Girl — and Garth aka Aqualad. I was impressed how much this episode captured the tone of the original Teen Titans lineup with Hawk basically filling in for Speedy. I do wish this lineup featured Wally West aka Kid Flash as well as he was the only one really missing.
Dick and Dawn are still together while Garth is pining away for Donna, who’s reluctant to give in to her undeniable attraction to the Atlantean free spirit. Hank is the odd man out, but he’s pain-free and merely tormenting his pals with his sarcasm. This was the Titans at their best where they’re less a team and more of a family that’s grown up together.
Dawn tells Dick at one point to not try and be Batman. He hasn’t reached the point where he’s hurt and resentful of his mentor, but this episode definitely lays the foundation for that change.
Underneath all this brightness we know a dark cloud is coming as Slade Wilson has taken down some high profile targets in some pretty hard to assassinate target zones. That’s no problem for Deathstroke the Terminator though. Slade is also keeping his eye on Jericho (Chella Man, who is actually deaf in real life). I won’t spoil it for those unaware of Slade and Jericho’s connection since it’s not been fully addressed yet.
Most of the focus is on Donna attempting to deny her feelings for Garth and return to Themyscira. Garth has a lot of swagger without being obnoxious and while he’s clearly on borrowed time, it was fun seeing Drew Van Acker’s take on the perennially underrated Titan. While they’re not dealing with personal issues, the team has their first encounter with Dr. Light.
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The execution of the Titans’ costumes are so impressive. Aqualad and Wonder Girl’s costumes were fantastic representations of the comic book source material. This fight scene was pretty well staged and showed how efficient the Titans were in fighting as a team. We haven’t seen much of that from the new Titans and I’m always a sucker for team fight scenes where they combine their efforts against a villain.
Donna’s set to leave and tells Dick. She doesn’t have any words for Garth…or clothes as she gives in to her impulses. I watched this scene with dread wondering how wide open the Titans’ windows are and if Slade would kill Garth before or after the hook up. Turns out it’s neither. Donna leaves and Garth is beaming until Dick tells him Donna is heading back home.
He confronts her at the airport with her Themyscira handler Jillian (Ann Magnuson) and says him and her destiny could be the same thing. Donna chooses Garth and right after they embrace, a bullet goes right into Garth’s chest killing him instantly. Deathstroke can’t take out two Amazons who are on to him — surprise is his best element — and he escapes.
Donna decides she can’t leave the team now, but Jillian warns vengeance is not always the best path. This would be some serious foreshadowing as Dick has tracked down Slade’s identity and they’re ready to get revenge. Dawn says now it’s time to be Batman and that’s all Dick needs. In what would otherwise be a fun meeting of future Titans, Dick “randomly” runs into Jericho at a record store and quickly drops his smiling facade when Jericho heads off as The Big Payback plays.
Figuring out what our heroes are going to do for revenge after losing one of their own and knowing this decision ruins the original incarnation of the Titans is a great cliffhanger. I’m loving pretty much everything we’re getting from Titans right now and following this flashback should prove for an interesting juxtaposition from the current day Titans events. This might offer some more insight as to why Slade is gunning for the team now.
Rating: 9.5 out of 10
Photo Credit: DC Universe