Three episodes in and Titans has highlighted only the worst aspects of Dick Grayson’s personality. Something’s got to change.
DC Universe’s Titans is one of the rare live-action outings for fan-favourite DC Comics character Dick Grayson. We have seen Grayson in various animated DC films, in the live-action Batman television series with Burt Ward as the Boy Wonder, and in Batman Forever and the disastrous Batman and Robin, where he was played by Chris O’Donnell. But that’s about it.
In Titans, Grayson is played by Brenton Thwaites, who has a gritty take on the character. This should have been the first giant red flag, as Grayson is generally known for his lighter tone and personality in the comics.
Sadly, Titans’ idea of ‘gritty’ seems to be equivalent to highlighting what a massive jerk Grayson is. In the comics, he has had a fair few such moments, but the show has yet to reveal even one redeeming characteristic for the character.
Where has the show been going wrong with Grayson’s character? And can anything be done to fix it? Spoilers ahead.
The Kids Are Not All Right
The first few episodes of this season have seen Grayson focusing on keeping Rachel Roth (Teagan Croft) safe. Or so the showrunners would like us to think.
In actuality, Grayson left a distraught Rachel in a police interrogation room after she told him that her mother was murdered. This then led to Rachel being kidnapped by cultists because Grayson didn’t send anyone to keep an eye on her, or you know, stick around himself. Grayson’s efforts to rescue her were also laughable and he might as well not have been present because Rachel had to save herself.
When Grayson finally takes Rachel with him, he proceeds to promise never to leave her and then takes her to his friends in Washington DC who he hasn’t seen for four years. Why does he take her there? To leave her with them. So, he’s negligent and a liar. Great going, Titans.
Unsurprisingly, Rachel distrusts Grayson so much that she is more than happy to go off with a complete stranger, Kory Anders, aka Starfire (Anna Diop), than contact Grayson in episode three of Titans. When he eventually does find her, Grayson makes a scene, forcefully insisting Rachel leave with him even when she refuses. Because the best way to get someone to go anywhere with you is by yelling at them.
By the end of the third episode, when Rachel is asking for a few moments to herself in the chapel, Grayson leaves her (again!) to go after Starfire who has stolen his car. And guess what happens? Rachel is kidnapped (again!) and locked away. Then all hell breaks loose because Dick Grayson wanted to save his car instead of protecting the kid.
When Grayson finally accompanies Rachel to the only place she feels safe – a religious home where she spent some years as a child – she tells him about her fears and how she is afraid she will lose everyone around her. So, Grayson takes the opportunity to give her a pep talk, or rather the exact opposite. He reinforces every single one of her fears in what is probably the world’s worst written scene. Way to make a child feel better, Grayson!
Worse, Grayson tries to draw a parallel between what Rachel is feeling and how he felt as a child when he lost his parents. The problem is that the two experiences aren’t equivalent. Yes, Grayson’s parents were murdered before his eyes, like Rachel’s mother and only parent was, but that’s where the similarity ends. Rachel has been hunted, captured and been on the brink of death ever since her mother died, of no fault of her own. She is also desperately battling a dark power within her that she doesn’t understand, which is conveniently being ignored by everyone around her.
Grayson, on the other hand, was taken in by billionaire Bruce Wayne almost immediately after the death of his parents, given a luxurious home, and access to everything he ever wanted, all shown to the audience through flashbacks.
Wayne also gave Grayson the opportunity to train so as to get over his fear, to become Robin to protect himself – an opportunity Grayson has not bothered to extend to Rachel. He has the resources, even if he isn’t on speaking terms with Wayne, to make life a bit better for Rachel. He chooses not to because he is so wrapped up in himself.
The Dick Grayson we see in the comics is self-less to a fault, which makes this departure particularly startling. Why make one of the kindest comic book characters into a self-obsessed ignoramus?
Two Sides of the Same Coin
In the comics, Grayson has had moments of being a complete jerk, especially in his relationships with women. The DC: Rebirth reboot has put the kibosh on most of it, except for the bit about women for some reason. But he is pretty much a well-rounded good guy right now. Even after getting shot, Grayson is trying to be good, even if he isn’t the hero he used to be.
My biggest issue with the Grayson characterisation on Titans is that it is incredibly one-sided. He’s all jerk, and no hero. We have seen Robin in a few fight scenes till now, one in a flashback where he was helping his friends but wasn’t wanted, and a couple in present time, one of which was in the first episode where he brutalises a whole gang of men, even though his target is a paedophile who was hurting his own daughter.
We understand the sentiment but is this the best way to handle the situation? Grayson is a detective in Titans – he should be able to use the law to get the justice the victims need. Robin makes such a mess that the entire Detroit PD thinks he’s a lunatic. Even the Mayor wants Robin to leave the city. Grayson’s actions as Robin aren’t helping anybody. I thought the whole point of Batman was about seeking justice, not vengeance?
Clearly the Dick Grayson of Titans is an angry, damaged man. We do not yet know why, except that he is angry with Batman, upset at his lot in life, and overly violent.
But surely there is more to him than that? He cares enough about Rachel to want to keep her safe, so there are good intentions simmering underneath, they just aren’t being allowed to come to the surface. Unfortunately, this approach to the character makes him feel stilted, at best. At worst, Grayson comes off as badly researched and written.
Will We Get a Better Grayson?
On the positive side, there are still nine episodes left in the season, which is plenty of time to develop Grayson’s personality so he seems less obnoxious. There are numerous changes that we could see in the coming episodes that would make Grayson the hero we know him to be.
For one, Grayson should finally be made to take responsibility for Rachel, especially after the events of the third episode. No leaving her with other people or making promises he won’t keep. Stick to a plan to protect and train her and go through with it.
Let Grayson be a better team player, and leader. Grayson has been a bit of a lone wolf till now, but once the Titans come together, we should see him take on the role of leader, which will give him more focus. It might also give him reason to cut down on the violence. Don’t want to set a bad example, do we?
Oh, and let him be sad. Let him mourn his dead partner, Amy Rohrbach, who was killed by assassins looking for him. What we see in the episode is Grayson not reacting at all! The same with his reaction to Dawn, aka Dove (Minka Kelly), being at death’s door. The woman he once loved fell off a freaking roof; a few tears wouldn’t be misplaced. Being sad isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s human, as is Dick Grayson!