DC’s ‘Titans’ is an excellent addition to the list of binge worthy Netflix shows, but a ‘Nightwing’ spinoff - now that would be something.
Leaving me with a mostly positive impression, the new superhero series’ engaging narrative, decent action and surprisingly impressive performances made for a very decent watch.
The desire for more was certainly present after it finished, but it wasn’t necessarily the team which peaked my interest but rather the brief glimmer of a world which some have wanted for years - a live action ‘Robin’, stepping out of the shadow of the ‘Batman’ and grafting his own vigilante path.
Showrunners Akiva Goldsman, Greg Berlanti and Geoff Johns have established a good platform for this to happen and, much like its source material, the likelihood of a solo run will all depend on the success of the group.
Based off the best selling comics, ‘Titans’ centres around the mystery of Rachael Roth, a young woman plagued by an unstable, demonic power that uncontrollably bursts forth in moments of heightened stress, putting those close to her in constant danger.
Scared, alone and being hunted by an unknown organisation, Rachael’s journey to the truth of who she is brings her on a collision course with Dick Grayson, former ‘Batman’ protégé turned detective, who feels he must protect the teen out of a cathartic need to right the wrongs of his own past.
Running from those who wish to abduct her, Rachael and Dick cross paths with Kori, a woman with no memory of herself nor her ability to harness and wield the power of the sun, and Garfield, a young man who transforms into a beast at will.
With each reluctant to reveal their true nature to one another, they form an uneasy alliance, forcing the bonds of trust to be forged as they come to the inevitable conclusion of self discovery as well as the dark truth behind Rachael’s origin.
"But the gem of the series, and highly underrated performance, belongs to Brenton Thwaites’ emancipated ‘Robin’."
The show’s writers do a nice job at combining the layers of complexity that exist in our world with those of the comic world, but the time spent with certain characters just simply isn’t enough to feel invested.
Apart from the slightly less linear approach (with flashbacks jumping us to and fro), the narrative itself serves as a compelling testament to how good DC comics are; balancing horror, action, drama and humour harmoniously.
The CGI is quite impressive (apart from one horribly bad car crash scene which has more in common with GTA III than a TV show) but the settings were terribly constrained and claustrophobic, feeling more like closed streets and warehouse sets than an immersive world. The real heart of the series however, comes from its cast.
Anna Diop is outstanding as ‘Koriand’r/Starfire’, commanding the attention of every scene she’s a part of with an enigmatic presence and confident swagger, laying to rest the unfounded vitriol she received before the show aired.
The kindred spirits of ‘Rachael Roth/Raven’ and ‘Garfield Logan/Beast Boy’ are not the strongest of the group but this is by no fault of their own, as the former feels more like a plot device than a fleshed out character and the latter is placed in scenes to seemingly ease the grimness.
But the gem of the series, and highly underrated performance, belongs to Brenton Thwaites’ emancipated ‘Robin’.
Considering the responsibility of playing such a beloved and iconic character, he shoulders the weight effortlessly; crafting a compelling lead that embodies the central themes of trauma, suppressing the darkness within, and whether you allow that to define you, with a maturity and poise that elevates ‘Titans’ beyond the average teenage drama.
The scenes dealing with ‘Dick Grayson’ directly were the most engaging, especially those that diverged from the main plot as they served up morsels of his lineage from the Bat-Family, including a wonderful exchange with the current ‘Robin’, Jason Todd, played by Curran Walters.
From a purely executive point of view, the focus on Grayson and his backstory makes sense - why wouldn’t you have your writers heavily lean into the most known hero in all of comics: ’Batman’. By exploring the lore, you give the audience that immediate recognition of familiarity and draw casual viewers to the show as well as hardcore fans.
It doesn’t take much to see that this thought had already crossed the creator’s minds, with *SPOILER* the final episode’s dream sequence being so heavy handed that they might as well have place a banner which read “testing the waters for a ‘Nightwing’ series”.
This doesn’t diminish the quality of ‘Titans’ or the loyalty of their fans - as the group has historically performed just as well as the solo crusader - but for the non-fanatical who are mindlessly browsing, they’d probably be more inclined to click a pseudo ‘Batman’ show which they partially know than a team-up where they only know one.
With Marvel’s ‘Daredevil’, ‘Ironfist’ and ‘Luke Cage’ all being axed (and ‘The Punisher’ and ‘Jessica Jones’ seemingly about to meet the same fate), DC have been granted a rare window of opportunity here to not only snap up the stunt coordinators, directors and fight choreographers from these shows, but also saturate market before Disney+ arrives.
‘Titans’ is a solid show and their quick approval of a second season is a testament to that, but the inclusion of ‘Deathstroke’ (famed ‘Batman’ villain) as the main antagonist adds credence to what I’ve been saying here, as fans will be eagerly awaiting the inescapable battle between the boy wonder and master assassin.
Perhaps we’ll get another small taste of what a ‘Nightwing’ spinoff would be like.