Titans episode six did not hold back in showing how power corrupts even the best of heroes. We look at how the episode broke away from heroic tropes.
At the end of Titans episode five, the second Robin, Jason Todd (Curran Walters), made a grand entrance, taking down a whole squadron of armed villains to save his predecessor, the first Robin, Dick Grayson (Brenton Thwaites).
The follow-up episode, aptly titled ‘Jason Todd’, displays the young hero’s skills, but also delves into the Robins’ pasts, their relationships with Batman, and the responsibility that comes with donning the mantle of a superhero. It doesn’t exactly go the way we imagined.
Not So Irreplaceable
The episode spends a great deal of time establishing how much young Dick Grayson didn’t want to live with Bruce Wayne. Dick and Bruce’s relationship throughout the show has been nothing short of tetchy, though we really only know Dick’s side of things because Bruce Wayne can’t appear on Titans because of DCEU… I mean, legal reasons.
Dick actually takes a shine to Jason, which is a surprise considering how useless he’s been in the human interaction department thus far. Dick even fist-bumps Jason; it took four episodes for him to give fellow orphan Rachel Roth (Teagan Croft) a hug! This is progress we did not expect from him. Of course, that probably has more to do with the fact the Jason spent half his time fawning all over Dick. I swear, the dude is going to have a swollen head at this rate!
However, when Jason reveals how long he’s been with Bruce – a year – Dick’s attitude does an about-turn. Dick has only been away for a year, so he must have been replaced almost immediately. Plus, unlike Dick, who was taken in by Bruce after the murder of his parents, Jason was discovered because he was… stealing the batmobile’s hubcaps. That’s not the kind of brave act one would look for in a Robin. If Dick was hoping that Bruce thought he was special, well, apparently not – Bruce will take in any teenager who he can turn into his weapon.
Not only has Dick been replaced by a, according to Kory, “younger, faster, smarter” model, but Jason also gets to enjoy certain privileges not afforded to Dick.
For instance, Jason brags about his new suit and how it has reinforced fibres that are much more protective than the Kevlar used in Dick’s Robin suit. What is Dick meant to think? That his life was more expendable than Jason’s? Or that Bruce the gazillionaire couldn’t be bothered to give his former partner the best tech, but now wants to splurge on his new companion?
There’s also the tracker which Bruce apparently implants in all his Robins. Except Dick has no memory of getting said tracker, wheareas Jason is loud and proud about his. Can we assume that Bruce somehow embedded it in Dick’s arm without telling Dick, then decided to be candid about it with Jason? Bruce has some issues, you guys.
When Dick is looking for a place to interrogate a suspect, Jason suggests one of Bruce’s safe-houses. The safe-house can only be accessed by retinal scan and guess whose scan doesn’t work? Dick’s, of course. Jason manages to get in easily. “I guess he must’ve changed the locks,” observes Jason. Ya think?
Let us not even start on the batmobile. In a scene that has already been shared repeatedly on social media, Jason let’s slip that part of his Robin duties includes driving the batmobile. Dick’s look of consternation at Jason’s statement is nothing short of hilarious. But it is also another sign that Bruce is affording special privileges to Jason that Dick could never have imagined. Poor Dick really has been traded in for a younger model!
Was it just me or did it feel like the writers of this episode included some blatant innuendo about the relationship between Batman and Robin?
The way Dick asks how long Jason and Bruce have been “together” – Jason’s choice of word, not mine – to the subtler sub-text of Dick being “replaced” by a younger Robin, the dialogue in this episode seems more attuned to that of a spurned first wife upset about a younger second one taking their place.
This isn’t the first time Titans has alluded to there being more to Dick and Bruce’s relationship in this universe. I’m not sure if the writers are merely sending up the odd premise of an adult man bringing a teenager into his home just because he can, or whether this is actually heading somewhere. Let’s face it, in the real world, we would all be suspicious of Bruce Wayne and his litany of young foster kids. Whether the show is trying to comment on this is still a mystery.
Dick has been cagey about his reasons for leaving Bruce, and Gotham, but a simple falling-out this is definitely not. What did Bruce do for Dick to so vehemently turn against the man he spent so many years with? Was it only Batman’s propensity for violence? Because Dick is no stranger to it.
As we see in this episode, Dick willfully allows the murderer of his parents, Tony Zucco, to be assassinated right in front of him. This directly leads to Zucco’s family being killed in awful ways, which in turn, drives the sole survivor of the Zucco family, Tony’s son, to kill everyone Dick knew in Haly’s Circus. Batman may do terrible things, Dick, but you’re no saint either.
Additionally, we do get an inkling that Jason is more informed a Robin than Dick ever was. Jason seems to accept that the role of Robin is to draw the villains’ fire so Batman can make a menacing entrance, but this is obviously news to Dick. He has not once mentioned this aspect of being Robin. Does he just not know that this was Batman’s intention for his side-kicks? Or does this Dick Grayson believe, like so many other versions of him, that he was equal partners with the big bad Bat? Because Jason’s right, Dick. Why else would you be out there in a bright red suit?
I feel this theory is further solidified by Dick’s insistence that he is a weapon, nothing less. And when he repeatedly tries to dissuade Jason from continuing as Robin, he insists it is because Bruce only wants to weaponize Jason. He is either delusional or in denial.
Dick’s advice to Jason is coming from a good place – he is genuinely concerned about what will happen to the boy – but he ends up sounding like the mean ex-wife. Or, to be more charitable, the selfish older brother who doesn’t want his younger siblings playing with his toys. It really would help if Titans opened up about what the problem between Dick and Bruce is. We’ve been doing this dance for six episodes now, and the sub-text makes it weird.
We Need to Talk About Jason
This episode is called ‘Jason Todd’ and I’ve barely even spoken about him. Curran Walters’ Jason Todd is surprisingly accurate to his comic counterpart. He is smart, but not too smart, loves being Robin, loves fancy toys, likes getting into trouble, ragging on Dick, being irreverent, being flippant about his troubled childhood, and lack of parents. Oh, and he is most likely to get himself killed by crowbar. Okay, that last bit doesn’t come through in this episode, but we all know the story.
The Jason Todd we see for most of the episode is little more than an impertinent and willful teenager, angry with the police and breaking into bars he’s not allowed in. But there are little hints as to his dark personality throughout.
I had to re-watch the episode to realise that there were breadcrumbs to Jason’s violent tendencies and dislike of authority from the get-go. When Jason gives Dick photographs of the Haly’s Circus victims, Dick asks him to go to the Gotham police. Jason spits back that Gotham PD is full of corrupt or useless cops. This isn’t something Bruce thinks; this is all Jason.
When he sneaks into the bar where Dick is meeting a potential victim, it initially looks like Jason means to cause some mischief, maybe catch a lady’s eye or two. But, he steals a guy’s drink and it takes him no time at all to rile up the man enough to start a fight. Only an explosion outside and Dick’s intervention stops Jason from hurting the unfortunate patron.
Thus, it really is no surprise that, when the day is rescued and Dick is consoling his friend, Jason takes some time off to beat the ever-loving crap out of several unsuspecting police officers. Let us not forget that these officers were merely checking out the area because of suspicious activity. So, Jason severely injures a group of cops just doing their jobs. Why? Because the cops in Gotham get after him every night and he wants to do the same. But these aren’t Gotham police, Jason, put your fists away.
In the DC comics, Jason Todd is murdered by the Joker and is later resurrected, at which point he dons the mantle of Red Hood and seeks bloody vengeance on Batman for not avenging him. It has taken a long time for Jason to let go of his murderous ways, but Titans is going back to the beginning by giving fans an inkling of the darker side to Jason.
Where to From Here?
By the end of the episode, Dick has sent Jason packing back to Gotham. But the question is, will Jason tell Bruce about his violent outburst? In the comics, Bruce constantly struggles to reign in Jason’s violent tendencies, and his Titans counterpart will have his hands full with the angry young man he has unleashed on Gotham and the world.
Jason’s actions have obviously had some impact on Dick, however. Last we saw of Dick, he was telling Kory Anders (Anna Diop) that he would no longer be Robin. Throughout this season, Dick has had his trusty Robin case with him, carrying it everywhere he goes, as Jason mockingly reminds him. For a man who has been telling everyone he isn’t Robin, he has donned the suit whenever the occasion called for it. Will he really be able to give up this crucial part of his identity because his successor turned out to embody everything Dick is afraid of?
Or will Dick move on to something else? A callsign that is lighter, full of hope and positivity? Are we likely to see Dick become Nightwing by the end of this season so he can finally close the chapter on Robin? I think this is the direction Titans is headed for and I am quite excited by it.
I loved where ‘Jason Todd’ leaves Titans although I have to lament the end of Robin. After a really long time, fans were given a Robin that seemed as energetic and athletic as in the comic books, with a costume that had no Robin-nipples (Robinipples?). Brenton Thwaites looked great in the costume, and seemed to move with ease. Plus, the action scenes have got better with each episode. The fluency of choreography in this episode was a sight to behold.
I do hope we get to see more of Jason Todd. He doesn’t quite fit into the Titans universe – he’s pretty much an outlier to the Titans even in the comics – but his appearance was a refreshing change of pace for the show. It is hard to tell with this show, but I get the feeling we haven’t seen the last of Jason Todd.