“Hank and Dawn” chooses an odd spot to flesh out two peripheral characters, but great casting and chemistry sees it through.
This recap of Titans Episode 9, “Hank and Dawn”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
If there’s a complaint to be made about Titans overall – and believe me, I have far fewer than I expected to – it’s that its frequent deviations away from the main plot can sometimes feel like they’re working to the detriment of the broader season. But “Hank and Dawn” actually made me feel slightly differently about that.
Whereas I once thought these were avoidable issues with structure and pacing, now I feel like they’re intentional long-term decisions made to flesh out an ever-expanding small-screen DC Universe. While these capsule episodes might not have necessarily furthered the main plot in any major way, they have all introduced additional characters and created spaces within DC’s expansive continuity for new stories to be told. Even though “Hank and Dawn” sucks some of the air out of the previous episode’s major cliffhanger, it also reintroduces two exceptionally well-cast heroes who have mostly taken a backseat throughout this first season.
What’s more, it makes us eager to see more of them, both in this series and, potentially, their own. I think that’s the point.
Anyway. While Dawn (Minka Kelly) is laid up in hospital after being chucked from a roof early in the season, Hank (Alan Ritchson) dozes through a trip down memory lane that explores his history of sexual abuse, his curtailed athletic career, the origins of Hawk and Dove, and the shared trauma that connects him to the woman whose bedside he currently sleeps at.
It’s a lot to get through, and the episode’s pacing doesn’t always hold up. But I’d be lying if I said there weren’t some truly affecting scenes here; “Hank and Dawn” might be the most emotionally varied episode of the season, running the gamut from deeply unpleasant to uplifting to funny to heartbreaking. Were it a little bit more stretched out it could have been even better, but for once Titans’ relatively short 40-minute runtime feels like a bit of a hindrance here.
Still, Hank’s relationship with his brother Don (Elliot Knight) and their burgeoning crime-fighting career is great stuff, and their targeting of local paedophiles makes sense given Hank’s backstory. There’s also some fun had with the pre-social media age of vigilantism, with Hank and Don excitedly looking at themselves on the front page of a newspaper when they cross paths with Dawn. It’s a funny scene right up until a truck ploughs into both Don and Dawn’s mother, killing them both.
Dawn comes from an abusive household and can handle herself, but she’s in the depths of her loss, and bonds with Hank in grief counselling sessions where they both gradually come to terms with the world’s general unfairness. Their connection is an anger at that unfairness, and the realisation that they’re both able to do something about it. A cutesy montage is less effective than the scene in which Dawn discovers Hank’s crime-fighting outfit and he reveals to her his history of childhood sexual abuse; these two are stand-out members of a pretty stellar cast, and “Hank and Dawn” helps to prove that by characterising them as much deeper and more complex personalities than their ludicrously good-looking exteriors suggest.
Dawn sets out in the night to take revenge on Hank’s coach, and Hank, figuring that out, manages to stop him overpowering her. There’s an excellent bookend to the episode as a visual of a door closing on Hank and his coach is used twice; once to imply the original sexual assault, and again to imply Hank’s revenge. It’s a nice moment, and gives “Hank and Dawn” its own little arc – you’d be forgiven for forgetting that this was part of Titans at all.
It is, of course, and periodically throughout the episode Rachel can be briefly glimpsed in reflections trying to get the pair’s attention. Eventually she succeeds, offering the cryptic advice that they need to find Jason Todd, whom neither of them know. It’s only a very tenuous connection to the broader plot, and it might not amount to much this season, but if the goal of “Hank and Dawn” was to make us eager to see more of them, then mission truly accomplished.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.