REVIEW: Titans, S1E7 – Asylum

Titans set up the potential of an exploration into each of its characters innermost fears, but “Asylum” falls short of the mark. Instead the episode gives us another peek into Dick’s (Brenton Thwaites) well-traversed psyche and further demonstrates the extent of Rachel’s (Teagan Croft) powers while leaving Kory (Anna Diop) and Gar (Ryan Potter) to be tortured mostly offscreen.

Save my son!

The “Asylum” in question is the place where the still-mysterious Organization was holding Rachel’s birth mother, Angela, whose existence the tied up Dr. Adamson revealed after a particularly gruesome scene in which he forced Rachel to heal the gaping slash in his throat. This led to an immediate division in the ranks, as Rachel wanted to barge in and rescue her mother while the other three wanted to hold back. Dick and Kory’s refusals were obvious, as the designated parents of this found family, but Gar’s rejection felt like a personal betrayal to her. Which is why it was a good thing that he was only doing what his time under Dr. Caulder’s thumb taught him: “If you agree with people, they tend to leave you alone.” That sentiment was both endearing on his part and terribly sad, giving us a better look at his emotional scars than the rest of the episode did.

While the kids are off on their little adventure – swiping Kory’s Uber account to travel in style, no less – the adults were planning their own asylum visit anyway. Perhaps if all four of them had gone together, they wouldn’t have all been zapped unconscious nearly the second they entered the premises. But alas, this is where Titans delved into a torture chambers for three-fourths of its protagonists. The hour was shrouded in darkness, mostly because of the content, but also because it was physically impossible to see what was happening onscreen. While I understand the metaphorical value, I would have happily traded a bit of ambience for the ability to distinguish which character was being beaten when.

Don’t make lil’ Dick angry.

As for the individual trials, doctors dosed Dick with a drug that inspired hallucinations of the darkest parts of himself. He put up a good fight, but it was a good thing he succumbed eventually because it gave us one of the more visually interesting sequences of the hour given that it seemed to take place in the Batcave. In his dream, a younger Dick nearly beat him to death for ruining their chance to be Robin. It was easy to guess that deep inside Dick blamed only himself for “becoming a monster,” but to actually see him scream that it was his fault and not Bruce’s or anyone else’s was rather remarkable. As difficult as it was to witness, using the same method on Kory and Gary would have yielded a wealth of riches – especially since Kory doesn’t even know who she is yet. But alas, it was not to be. Kory’s torture commenced when she was trapped in a room with no sunlight, depleting her powers just in time to suffocate her with gas. Once she was unconscious and laid on a surgical table, more doctors began performing experiments – possibly even amputations – to see how easily she could regenerate. Poor Gar was electrocuted in a cage like an animal.

Rachel, meanwhile, merely woke up to find Dr. Adamson brewing tea. He referred to the Titans’ predicament as an “evaluation” to prove whether or not they would be useful, suggesting that all she had to do to save them was call to her father and reunite with him. Instead, she unleashed the darkness and took back his life in yet another twisted display of her powers – but it wasn’t Rachel’s violence that surprised anyone. The real shocker came when she rescued Gar and he proceeded to devour a guard who attacked her. Considering he had never even bitten anyone in tiger form as of a few days ago, his horror upon transforming back was heartbreaking and completely understandable.

That rescue was probably the most exciting one on this week’s Titans, seeing as one pep talk from Rachel woke Dick right up and let him walk out. It was a nice reminder of their deep bond, but it left the rest of “Asylum” feeling like empty padding. Kory must have undergone all manner of atrocities offscreen, but the rest of the team walked in and rescued her just fine as well. It was similarly all too easy for Rachel to come upon her mother, but we will have to wait and see what comes of her rescue.

“Asylum” ended with a cleansing fire, as Kory used her powers to ignite a spark that burned the whole place down and Dick left his Robin suit to perish in the flames. The symbolic rebirth is powerful, but not impressive enough to be worth the price of an entire Titans episode.

Titans drops every Friday on the DC Universe streaming service.