Titans season 3, episode 5 recap – “Lazarus” nothing to fear but fear itself

August 24, 2021
Jonathon Wilson 0
HBO Max, Weekly TV
3.5

Summary

“Lazarus” provides some context for an important character’s downfall as it flashes back to earlier events leading up to the season premiere.

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3.5

Summary

“Lazarus” provides some context for an important character’s downfall as it flashes back to earlier events leading up to the season premiere.

This recap of Titans season 3, episode 5, “Lazarus”, contains spoilers.


It stands to reason that a character like Jonathan Crane hasn’t just been languishing in Arkham smoking pot. I remember saying way back in my spoiler-free season review that some fans might quibble with this new interpretation of the famous Batman rogue, but as the season progresses, it’s becoming obvious how clever and dangerous Scarecrow really is. “Lazarus”, an episode that takes place almost entirely in flashback and loops back around to the season premiere, filling in lots of important context and details all the while, is at face value an explanation of why Jason Todd fell so quickly and completely to the Dark Side, becoming the murderous Red Hood and killing off most of Gotham’s criminal underworld and a few of his friends in the process. But it’s really a showcase for just how much of what we’ve seen so far has been Scarecrow’s doing, helping to characterize him as a terrifying threat to the Titans without him having actually had to do anything personally — not yet, anyway.

Titans season 3, episode 5 recap

The opening moments of “Lazarus” immediately make it clear that Jason and Scarecrow are working together, but they also make Jason obviously subservient to Crane, or at least to the amber liquid he keeps making him huff to calm him down. We’ve been wondering about this stuff since the premiere. Here, in the earliest moments, I suspected it might be a derivative of Scarecrow’s famous fear toxin, and his plan to immerse Gotham and its people in fear is certainly in character for him. But as things progress we learn that the substance is quite the opposite, an anti-fear toxin created by Jason himself, for reasons deeply and satisfyingly rooted in his continuing character development, particularly the trauma of his encounter with Deathstroke in the second season.

Flashing back to three months earlier, we see Jason roaming the halls of Wayne Manor, besieged by visions of his friends and enemies which turn out to be a nightmare. Bruce Wayne, sitting concerned at his bedside, lets us know that he has been having similar bad dreams for weeks, and recommends Jason sees a friend of his, psychologist Leslie Thompkins. If he doesn’t, then he can no longer continue to be Robin, which is something that Jason is absolutely adamant about.

While he’s benched prior to his first date with Thompkins, Jason meets with his friend, Molly (maybe a rework of his old comics love interest, Rena?), and, clearly itching for some action, goes with her to confront the scumbag who has been snatching up street kids on behalf of the Joker. When Jason tries to take him on, though, he’s rendered totally useless by his flashbacks to Deathstroke and gets badly beaten down. Maybe Bruce’s therapist wasn’t such a bad idea after all.

It’s difficult to say, though, since while Thompkins begins to bond with Jason, he’s most fascinated by a picture of Scarecrow that she keeps in her office. He was a graduate student then, a brilliant one by all accounts, and he considered her a friend until he subjected her to his fear toxin and tried to murder her. Jason is unhealthily fascinated by this since he is, of course, fascinated by fear — he’s presently terrified thanks to his recent encounters, and he’s afraid of Bruce realizing he’s scared and taking Robin away from him as a result. “Lazarus” is walking a fine line here. Jason, as a character, is always arrogant, obnoxious, and annoying. Those negative traits are central to his character. But we also have to buy him as a young man who has been traumatized; someone who is deeply insecure and needs to feel like he belongs, like he’s loved, in order to get by. This is why he fell so quickly and deeply for Rose in the second season. It’s why he’s so obsessed with continuing to be Robin. And it’s why he’s so presently obsessed with fear — or at least with banishing his own fear to protect himself.

This all ties into the season’s overarching themes. Thompkins reiterates once again that Batman has a borderline personality disorder and that the idea of Robin is just a projection of his — there’s no real reason for Jason to feel so attached to the costume and persona. “Just because you’re afraid doesn’t mean you’re broken,” Thompkins reminds him. But a more telling scene occurs in the Batcave, where Bruce keeps various momentoes of the criminals he has taken down. Among them are Scarecrow’s iconic mask and a sample of his fear toxin. There, Bruce calls Jason “son”, and the young man allows himself an earnest smile.

Batman, though, isn’t too good with emotions. He knows he loves Jason, and considers him a son, and wants to keep him safe, so the best idea he can come up with is to stop him from being Robin (he even takes him to Crime Alley to break this news for maximum symbolic power). But he doesn’t understand how much being Robin means to Jason. “You don’t need to wear a costume to be my son,” he says, as though it’s as simple as that. Jason is paranoid, as he always has been, that Bruce perceives him as weak; that preventing him from being Robin is Bruce giving up on him. Bruce takes the opportunity to leave for London on a business trip, only proving how little he understands the young man whom he supposedly considers a son.

Incensed, Jason calls Thompkins to leave her a vaguely threatening voicemail, and then visits Scarecrow in Arkham, using Batman’s seized vial of his toxin as a negotiating tool. Scarecrow immediately recognizes the value of Jason, so he agrees to help him refine a substance that will eliminate fear in exchange for a granular look at Batman’s operations. We don’t see him work through this information, but we can certainly assume he did, plotting from his cell at Arkham while Jason, out on the street, buys the loft he used for his chemistry experiments and begins working on the formula under Scarecrow’s instructions.

Of course, Scarecrow’s formula was just a little bit off, “far enough for you to have skin in the game,” he tells Jason, who has ingested every failed concoction so far and is becoming increasingly pliable as a result. Scarecrow suggests they need to test the concoction, which seems to dull not just Jason’s sense of fear but all his emotions entirely, on Batman’s most sinister enemy. Thus, we catch back up with the opening scene of the premiere; Jason attempting to apprehend the Joker alone and getting beaten to death by the Clown Prince of Crime.

What we see next, though, is new. Scarecrow arranged for him to be dragged to a Lazarus Pit, a pool of mysticism courtesy of Ra’s Al Ghul that even Batman doesn’t know about. Newly revived, Jason is taken to Arkham, where Scarecrow immediately begins pumping him full of more anti-fear toxin, and leads — nay, pushes — him down the path of becoming Red Hood. As Jason tells Molly when he delivers her Diego, the missing young boy they were looking for earlier, things are going to get worse before they get better. He was certainly right about that.

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