DC Universe’s Titans season one has come to an end with an incredibly bleak conclusion. What do the events in the finale mean for the show?
Titans’ first season has limped to its finale, ‘Dick Grayson’, after fighting an uphill battle since its trailer dropped to mixed reviews in mid-2018. The first couple of episodes left much to be desired but the show steadily picked up pace, with the help of a few strong episodes, from female directors no less! The once-dull characters developed fascinating personalities, plots became livelier, and the action more exciting. We can genuinely say that the latter half of the season has been spectacular.
The finale took a different approach to the Titans story – there is plenty that happens here to conclude the events of the season but a lot of it relies on viewers having some knowledge of the existing DC Comics universe. Viewers who aren’t already comic book readers might find it all a bit overwhelming – we will endeavour to explain what happens in the episode, and how it all works out to reach that shocking conclusion. Spoilers ahead!
Following The CW’s alternate reality crossover, ‘Elseworlds’, DC Universe takes a stab at the popular concept in the Titans finale, ‘Dick Grayson’.
Last we saw of Dick Grayson (Brenton Thwaites), he had managed to get through Trigon’s (Seamus Deaver) protective barrier, while Donna Troy (Conor Leslie) and Kory Anders (Anna Diop), couldn’t. In this episode we learn why it is that Dick was allowed through by Trigon.
The episode opens with Dick lying on a float in a pool. He’s in sunny California, his son Johnny is jumping into the pool with him. Upstairs, Dick’s wife, Dawn (Minka Kelly), is picking through possible colours for their second child’s bedroom. The family receive a welcome call from Rachel Roth (Teagan Croft) and Gar Logan (Ryan Potter), who are away at college, and doing well.
But the morning is further interrupted by the arrival of Jason Todd (Curran Walters). It’s been five years since the two Robins met and Jason’s life as the Boy Wonder hasn’t panned out as well as Dick’s. Batman and Robin tried to take down gun-runners in Gotham but Jason got too cocky and ended up being shot in the spine by the Riddler. He is now wheelchair-bound, but that’s not why he’s here for Dick. Batman is spiralling out of control and is dead-set on murdering his arch-nemesis – the Joker.
What’s Wrong with Batman?
In this reality, where Dick has a great life, no one else does. Batman has lost his own mentor/ father figure, Alfred, though we aren’t told how. Jason also arrives with news that Commissioner Jim Gordon, one of the only non-vigilantes Batman has ever trusted, has been killed by Joker, after being tortured for an entire week. From what Jason tells Dick, Gordon’s demise is similar to the events of The Killing Joke, a seminal Batman arc in the DC Comics, that has recently been deemed problematic for its portrayal of Barbara Gordon.
Interestingly, Barbara is mentioned soon after. But, in this reality, she has gone missing, as Dawn mentions, but she definitely had some connection to Batman. In the comics, Barbara Gordon was known as the hero Batgirl, and has been a long-standing part of the Bat-family. As her other hero alter-ego Oracle, she was invaluable for her technological know-how.
It seems that with Barbara having gone missing, Jason’s injury, and the dual deaths of Alfred and Gordon, Batman has lost his sense of moral righteousness and is willing to break the one code he has held dear since his parents were murdered in front of him in Crime Alley – to take another’s life.
So, What Happened to Batman’s Morals?
Honestly, we aren’t even surprised by this turn of events in Titans. Even if this arc for Batman isn’t part of the main continuity, tonally this Killing Joke-esque re-imagining fits perfectly with the rest of the show.
In the comics, Batman’s moral code has been put through the ringer several times but he always manages to come back, partly because of the love of the people around him, like Alfred, but especially his sons, the four Robins – Dick, Jason, Tim Drake, and later, Bruce’s biological son, Damien. In turn, Batman has been the enforcer of morals for his sons, his friends, and even some of his enemies.
But a dude can only take so much before he snaps. The whole point of The Killing Joke comic was for the Joker to show both Batman and Gordon that one very bad day can turn even the best of men into monsters. In the comic, Gordon’s daughter is crippled by the Joker, and he is tormented by images of her maimed body, and further humiliated in front of Joker’s goons, but decides to be the better man nonetheless, proving Joker’s theory wrong.
Unbeknownst to Joker, Batman has already had his ‘one bad day’, back when his parents were killed, and he didn’t turn into a monster of evil, he became a force for good.
But, according to ‘Dick Grayson’, Batman has had one too many of these bad days. He’s tired of being the better man. He’s watched everyone he’s fought for being felled by Gotham’s criminals, and his self-appointed conscience, Dick, isn’t around to reel him back from these hits. It’s a similar theme in the recent DC comics, where Batman goes on a rampage when Dick Grayson is shot. Batman will do anything to protect his city, but his family – biological or otherwise – comes first. Gotham’s villains thus don’t stand a chance in Titans.
This episode is essentially one long wish-fulfilment dream for Dick Grayson. He’s got the loving wife in Dawn Granger – the only candidate as Dick has no other meaningful romantic relationships in his life (that we know of). He also appears to make zero effort in this relationship – we see Dawn picking the colours, doing the cooking, the nursing their ill child. Dick lies in the pool and goes off to Gotham (after complaining incessantly about it).
Dick’s only real-world responsibilities – Rachel and Gar – are grown up and well-settled, a sign that Dream Dick has accomplished his goal of saving them and setting them on the right path. Even Kory, who is cast as the successful ex in this alternate reality, has no hard feelings towards Dick, and immediately joins his manhunt for Batman when things go bad. So, the people who Dick cares about are all living well.
And everyone Dick’s angry with? Dick didn’t approve of Jason’s methods in the real-world so in this dream, Jason’s life is a living hell and his injuries have stopped him from being Robin. Dick can’t stand Hank Hall (Alan Ritchson), Dawn’s boyfriend in the real-world, so he’s a sycophantic nobody in the dream. Dick is upset with Alfred (we hear an angry Alfred answer the phone way back in episode two), so Alfred’s dead. Dick isn’t sure of how well Gotham City Police Department work so Jim Gordon has to die.
Then there’s Batman. Dick’s entire arc this season has been fuelled by his anger, almost hate, directed towards Batman. In this reality, Batman is the very danger Dick has imagined him to be. He’s a real killer now – Batman kills the Joker in a hospital, then attacks Arkham Asylum killing Riddler, Two-Face, the Ventriloquist, among many others.
This isn’t Dick’s fear – this is his hope. He wants Batman to lose control so it gives Dick the permission to do what he has wanted to since Titans began – kill Batman.
The Trigon Effect
Everything that happens in ‘Dick Grayson’ seems like the wishes of a petulant child, but it is as much fuelled by Trigon as it is by Dick’s innate desires. Notice how Trigon inserts himself into Dick’s dream, as a GCPD Captain, no less. He becomes Dick’s confidante, leads the attack against Wayne Manor, and is the last man standing when Batman takes down the entire SWAT team.
Trigon’s choice of target is also interesting. Whereas viewers expected Trigon to manipulate Gar somehow in the hopes of using him to control Rachel, it turns out Trigon’s target was always Dick Grayson, Rachel’s father figure, and the only one in direct opposition to Trigon. Dick has meant the world to Rachel, even if he hasn’t been very good at helping her.
By bringing Dick down, and showing how even he can be corrupted, Trigon is effectively showing Rachel that everyone around her, no matter how good, can be made into Trigon’s image. This is going to be a very sad lesson for Rachel, but it is surprising that Dick fell for it at all. He should have had the fortitude to do the right thing in the dream world/ alternate reality but a combination of his existing problems with Batman, and Trigon’s slight manipulations throughout, made it impossible for Dick to go down any other path. It certainly sets up an interesting, if disturbing, future for next season.
The Titans episodes haven’t had post-credits scenes thus far, but the finale does have an important scene that viewers won’t want to miss. In a lab that seems to have malfunctioned, a very well-built man stalks about, the symbol of the house of El plastered on his arm. He then heads into a room that holds a cage with a dog in it. The man frees the dog, whose eyes glow red.
For fans of the DC comics, this scene is particularly exciting. This man is most likely a clone of Superman, who will eventually be Superboy, aka Conner Kent/ Kon-El. In the comics, Connor was a member of Titans for a brief period. The dog is also of importance – he is most likely Krypto, the Super-dog.
The final scene portends the Titans team expanding beyond its current four members, which would be great. The Titans team has been ever-growing and changing in the comics and new faces can only make it more enjoyable for viewers. I foresee Donna Troy also becoming an integral part of the team next season (in the current Titans comics run, Donna is the leader), alongside Hawk and Dove.
By putting the focus on Dick and his love-hate relationship with Bruce Wayne/ Batman, not to mention Gotham City, viewers of the show finally get to see what Gotham’s caped crusaders were up against for so many years, and just how bad things can get when they lift their foot off the gas. More than anything else, Dick has been in a will-he-won’t-he relationship with his mentor, Bruce/ Batman, and in the finale he gets to confront his feelings and the darkness he’s been struggling with. Of course, the way things end for Dick aren’t what one imagines for heroes, but as Dick says, it certainly feels good to finally let loose.
The conclusionary episode didn’t pan out as expected, but it brought one of the central characters of Titans full circle. Dick Grayson is undoubtedly the reason why Titans even exists, and though his characterisation has been patchy, at best, throughout this season, the last episode finally gives Dick some of the closure he has been seeking.
I do see more Trigon hijinks happening but hopefully, during the next season, Rachel, Kory, Donna and Gar will find a way to bring Dick back and together they can take down Trigon, and move onto the next villain.