Titans: Barbara Gordon review – S3 E1

Titans has always been the most needlessly moody and dark comic book-based TV series around. If the premiere is any indication, Season 3 is doubling down on the darkness to be the most bleak and utterly joyless installment yet.

There’s been a sense of the series speeding through important Batman-centric storylines for no good reason. Dick Grayson left Batman after spiraling out of control only to quickly get replaced by Jason Todd and become Nightwing. That was a lot of story packed into two 10 episode seasons.

The fast forward button is in full effect to kick off Season 3 as Jason learns The Joker has escaped Arkham and is on another killing spree. Despite Bruce’s warning, he runs off and gets bludgeoned by The Joker. The decision to not show more of The Joker than his silhouette and only howl with laughter makes this a more terrifying and brutal moment. Yet it doesn’t provide that emotional gut punch since it plays out so quickly.

Death in the Family is one of the landmark Batman (or DC as a whole) storylines and to play it out over the span of 10 minutes was a bad call. Warner Bros. Animation was able to craft two excellent movies, Batman: Under the Red Hood and Batman: Death in the Family, out of that four-issue arc. Spreading it out some would have allowed Titans to show more love to the other characters.

batman death in the family box art

In making the show so Batman-focused, the writers really missed the mark in not casting Iain Glen as Alfred instead of Bruce Wayne. Glen could play the kindly, sage butler far more effective than a Batman who looks to be at retirement age. Given the way the writers have portrayed Batman as more of a specter than a person, maybe the show needed someone to just stay in the Batman suit and not bothering to cast a Bruce Wayne at all.

With so many Robins running around Titans really could have used an Alfred. Just like the comics, but that’s an entirely different long winded gripe.

Meanwhile, the Titans — Nightwing, Starfire, Superboy (with Krypto) and Gar — have settled into a highly functional team as they take down Gizmo. Titans fight scenes are always more brutal than is typically shown in a comic book series, but there’s no need to feel much sympathy for criminals.

This interaction with the team, right down to support from the San Francisco police, is encouraging. The last thing Titans needs is the annoying cliché of cops going after the heroes.

Titans could use better musical selections. Some of the soundtrack is alright while other songs are bad fits and distracting.


One of the weird things the episode does is throwing up a location tag when switching between Gotham and San Francisco. One could argue there should be a visual difference in terms of light and darkness to convey the different locales instead of having them both play out solely at nighttime.

Another switch to Gotham provides the first look at Tim Drake (Jay Lycurgo). Tim has a black father and an Asian mother, which adds some nice unique elements to this portrayal of the character. 

Dick immediately heads back to Wayne Manor after learning of Jason’s death only to find Bruce acting like nothing has changed. The Bat Cave has some cool touches like a hologram dinosaur and giant penny. Bruce has already buried Jason next to Alfred. There’s the little nagging question of how Robin was discovered dead and his secret identity wasn’t immediately outed since Bruce was in a plane returning to Gotham, but maybe that was due to Gotham’s police commissioner? 

Dick reconnects with his old ally, Barbara Gordon (Savannah Welch), who’s not exactly on speaking terms with Bruce and thinks Jason got killed because he had something to prove to Batman. Barbara’s not feeding in to Dick’s investigation of the chemistry book in Jason’s room, but she agrees to pay Bruce a visit for old time’s sake.

This goes badly as Barbara blames Bruce for her father dying from a heart attack after being encased in a block of ice from Mr. Freeze. No one’s having a happy, well-adjusted life in the Titans universe. She gives Bruce a thinly veiled threat about no more Robins presumably with the suggestion she’s going to come after him if she sees him with another teen sidekick. 

Back at San Francisco, Kory tells Connor and Gar she’s pissed Jason wouldn’t listen and never evolved, which got him killed. Side note: Kory’s hair is dramatically improved from season 1. Anna Diop is one of the show’s MVPs and while she had limited screen time, all of her scenes were terrific. And kudos to the costumer for coming up with an outfit that fits Starfire.

Gar watches videos of animals hopefully to figure out how to channel his powers to turn into more than a tiger. This would be a very welcome development this season. 

Dick isn’t sure if the Titans didn’t fail Jason more than Bruce, which is an accurate assessment. He finds Jason’s secret stash of a not quite girlie mag, some cash and a print out of an address. To quote the great Gorilla Monsoon it seems highly dubious that a teenager would have one girlie mag or print out anything when his phone could easily accomplish both.

titans nightwing debut

After roughing up the landlord of the property, Dick fails to identify the substance he retrieved from the site. But, he does find a file with Carrie Kelley, Dayton Chill, Stephanie Brown and Duke Thomas. This isn’t a good look Bruce. He doesn’t even bother making excuses and says they’re potential recruits. Yep, definitely not a good look.

The writers might not have the best handle on Bruce when they have him ask Dick if he wants to be Robin again and utters the word please, Not happening. 

Dick is awakened by Bruce coming in to his room — crowbar in hand saying he killed The Joker. 

This was a very puzzling decision. One of the driving forces with Jason being Red Hood is he’s pissed of that Batman keeps allowing psychopaths like The Joker to keep breaking out of Arkham and kill dozens of innocent people.

With Batman taking the extreme measure of killing Joker, that robs Red Hood of so much of his motivation to gun down criminals in defiance of the Bat Family code. And it somehow makes the Titans version of Batman even more psychotic as he seems unraveled, lacks a code he sticks to no matter what and really is treating Robins like replaceable soldiers. 

It’s over for Bruce now, but he asks Dick to be a better Batman. This could have been an intriguing subplot three seasons down the road, but the show keeps taking Dick away from the Titans on his own adventures and it feels like Titans has become more of a Nightwing series. That probably wouldn’t be a bad idea for HBO Max, but Titans clearly is at its best with the Titans Together. 

Titans snuffs out even more light with its HBO Max debut, but with the success of Stargirl and Superman & Lois, is this dark direction really what’s best for this series?

Rating: 7 out of 10

Photo Credit: HBO Max