*THIS IS A SPOILER-FREE REVIEW OF THE FIRST 6 EPISODES OF TITANS SEASON 3*
While watching the first few episodes of the new season of Titans, I began to experience something strange. For the first time, the show as making me care about not only my favorite characters, but all of the characters, as well as the main storyline. Titans has always been a bit more style over substance, with a few nuance performances sprinkled over a season full of splashy violence and action sequences. However, this season feels different. The show finally seems to be getting the handle of having a solid balance between core character development, storyline progression, and intricate fight scenes. Life trauma and the baggage that comes with being a superhero are heavy themes that permeate throughout the season.
Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of the upcoming third season of Titans.
First off, there is a significant increase in the production value of Titans‘ season three. The move from the now-defunct DC Universe to HBO Max has helped the show achieve a level of quality that it hadn’t quite been able to reach the first couple of seasons. Costumes, makeup, special effects, and set pieces are all top notch this time around. Characters such as Starfire and Beast Boy, who rely heavily on special effects, have benefited greatly from the upgrade (Starfire’s new costume looks amazing).
This season finally shows the Titans acting like a real superhero team. Members of the team remained splintered for most of the first two seasons, only coming together in the final Big Bad fight at the end. However, in the series premiere, we see that the team has finally learned how to work together, at times even combining their skills to take down a bad guy. This is the Titans teamwork we’ve been waiting for.
Savannah Welch plays Barbara Gordon in a way we haven’t really seen the character portrayed in live-action, which is both unexpected and refreshing. Unlike her predecessors, Yvonne Craig in the original Batman series and Dina Meyer in the short-lived Birds of Prey on The WB, Welch’s Barbara has not been able to hold on to her optimism. After all, this is the Barbara who was paralyzed following a run-in with the Joker and we do get a little bit of backstory on why she has become so closed-off. She has, however, become a respectable replacement for her father as the Commissioner of the Gotham City Police Department. Overall, Welch has been a fantastic addition to the series.
Additionally, characters who had previously been overlooked when it came to storylines and screen time, are finally getting their due spotlight. Particularly Anna Diop’s Starfire, who has a rather interesting story arc going for much of the season. It’s nice to finally see Diop’s considerable acting prowess on display, along with her obvious drop-dead gorgeousness.
As for the cons; as with most shows that carry a heavy ensemble cast, there’s not enough screen time for everyone. This seems to be an ongoing issue with the series, with some characters appearing in every episode, whether they are actually part of the main story or not, and others only popping up every few episodes. A few characters aren’t even shown in the first five episodes, and their presence is definitely, and noticeably, missed.
Another issue that seems to be plaguing the show is it’s pacing. The first three episodes are probably some of the best of the entire show, but that momentum is lost whenever one-off episodes or ones that are made up primarily of flashbacks are clumsily inserted. No doubt, they’re all important to the storyline, but the show would benefit greatly from a bit more of a cohesive storytelling process.
There is an awful lot of Batman lore interwoven with the majority of the season. We already knew that Scarecrow, Barbara Gordon, and Black Hood would be playing big parts of the new season, but it goes so much more beyond that. At times, it can feel like the Titans are guest-stars in Gotham and it’s really The Batman and NIghtwing Show. Keep in mind, it doesn’t feel forced at all, but it just feels like a lot.
This last point is just from a personal perspective. I was never a big fan of the Red Hood character, and am therefore unfamiliar with his exact origin story in the comic books. However, there are a lot of things that don’t add up about the character in the first handful of episodes. Perhaps it will all be explained later, but as of episode six, his storyline is the least interesting to me.
Final Grade (based on the 1st six episodes alone): B+
The first three episodes of season 3 of Titans drops on HBO Max on Thursday, August 12th.