Titans isn’t as bad as the trailers suggested but also isn’t quite interesting enough, with the premiere getting the first season off to a drab, sulky start.
Well, blimey, that was grim. And I’m one of the few people who was really hoping to like Titans. I’m not precious about the source material and I’m not opposed to some “mature” content, but unfortunately, at least judging by the premiere, Titans has interpreted “mature” as humourless, drab, glacially slow and, thus far anyway, decidedly uninteresting.
Still, there’s potential here. Being exclusive to DC’s new streaming service gives it a bit of leeway in terms of content, I like the Titans as a team and I’m not totally against their darker characterisations, and the premiere episode wasn’t totally incompetent by any means. But it was relentlessly downbeat in a way that sapped some life out of the characters, who, perhaps predictably, aren’t yet part of the titular superhero team.
That the show isn’t in a rush to get the band together, especially since it’s clearly making an effort to reintroduce new-ish versions of these characters that work as a counterpoint to The CW’s happy-go-lucky superhero shows. The premiere episode mostly focuses on the thus far unexplained connection between Dick Grayson (Brenton Thwaites) and Raven (Teagan Croft), although it makes some time for Anna Diop’s Starfire, despite the fact she’s on another continent for the first episode.
Depending on your tastes you’ll be pleased to know that the now-infamous trailer for Titans was cleverly edited to create the impression that the show is a bit more over-the-top than it actually is, even if it is occasionally a bit too willing to use violence for impact rather than putting in the dramatic legwork. That having been said I actually though the choreography in that “**** Batman” scene was quite nifty, and if that’s the vibe the show is going with I can dig it. Thwaites nails the Dick Grayson side of the character and his general moodiness following his split from Batman and his new life as a detective in Detroit is a decent-enough foundation for his inevitable transition into Nightwing.
It’s also probably a smart move to introduce the characters gradually across a couple of episodes rather than hopping schizophrenically from one to the other in the opening hour. Beast Boy (Ryan Potter) isn’t introduced until the very end of the premiere and Hawk (Alan Ritchson) and Dove (Minka Kelly) are nowhere to be seen. But the overall tone feels too dour at the moment for the story to be all that compelling, and I’d like to see the grimness offset with some levity. Not too much, obviously – this interpretation is quite clearly the intention of Titans, and that’s fine. But the angsty, broody routine is difficult to latch onto, and if the show wants to really generate a keen audience, it can’t rely too heavily on the novelty of seeing bloody headshots and faces being scraped through broken glass in a DC superhero show.
But, here’s the upside: It isn’t as bad as it looked. That’s a start.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.