REVIEW: Titans, S1E11 – Dick Grayson

As an exploration of who Dick Grayson (Brenton Thwaites) is – or at least who he thinks he is – the first of season of Titans, especially its eponymous finale, should be considered a success. There are more than enough episodes which dove into his backstory and his never-ending grudge against Batman. But as a complete (or even near-complete) story about the battle against Trigon and the race to save Rachel’s (Teagan Croft) soul, there wasn’t much there.

Quick, someone call Hank!

“Dick Grayson” welcomed the audience into Dick’s Trigon-inspired dreamworld without any preamble, the only hint of foul play being the flickering of the screen at certain intervals that were not explained in the episode itself. If you paid attention, you noticed that the carefully constructed ‘reality’ would break every time Dick needed a little push to either go to Gotham or stay hot on Bruce’s trail. And why was it so important that he do those things inside of his head? Because, for all of his protests, Batman remained his moral center and the final barrier between Robin and the so-called Darkness that threatened to consume him.

If you go by the scenario in his head, another factor representing the “perfect life” that he could have had if not for the blood thirst engendered in him by Bruce was Dawn (Minka Kelly) and their imaginary family. Despite several episodes focusing on her past with Hank as well as their connection to Robin, it’s still unclear what brought her and Dick together or what broke them up. Therefore, her inclusion in this episode struck a discordant chord, especially given that it was not a world where he didn’t know the other Titans. Rather, it was a canon-divergent fanfiction that took place five years after last week’s episode, with Dick inexplicably marrying Dawn and sending Rachel off to college with Gar (Ryan Potter) while Kory (Anna Diop) joined the FBI.

Speaking of Kory, I hope no one minds my bitterness when I point out that Dawn probably got at least as much screen time in Dick’s internal struggle as Kory got in the episode named after her. The imbalance doesn’t do the final episode any favors, especially considering the Titans who aren’t Dick probably get a combined total of five minutes in their own finale. The other supporting cast members either only appear to give exposition in Jason’s case, or to propel the unnecessary Kory/Dick/Dawn/Hank love square in Hank’s – and then there’s Donna who apparently had no place in Grayson’s psyche. Instead of a group team-up to save Rachel from Trigon, gathering together the allies they made along the way, we were treated to 40 minutes of Dick preparing to battle Batman. And even then, there was no Bruce inside the Batman suit to meet or sympathize with – he was nothing more than a manifestation of Dick’s own self-doubt. Perhaps that’s what he’s been all season, but then it’s all the more unnecessary to invest an entire finale episode on waiting to find out whether Dick will defeat his own darkness or give into it.

Follow the light and show us other characters.

Not that his inner demons aren’t a worthy storyline to explore, but giving the audience a heads up would help. “Dick Grayson” felt like a more egregious repetition of Titans‘ previous choice to devote an episode to Hank and Dawn’s burgeoning love after a cliffhanger promising the showdown between Kory and Rachel. Not to mention that in retrospect, said flashback episode seems even more useless because neither character (nor Jason, whom they were planning to contact at the end of it) materialized in real time afterwards. Similarly, last week’s episode ended with the Titans and Donna outside of Trigon’s haunted home – and then proceeded to spend the finale on an unspoken battle for Dick’s soul which could easily have taken up four minutes instead of forty.

There were some fun Easter Eggs throughout Dick Grayson – such as an appearance by the Joker’s lifeless body, a mention of Barbara Gordon’s existence, and a post-credits scene that hints at the arrival of a certain super-powered boy and his dog – but they couldn’t make up for the lack of cohesive plot for the actual Titans at hand. Not even the strength of Dick’s attachment to his fellow team members played a role in him breaking free of his nightmare, mostly because he never had any awareness that he was living one. At least an argument could be made that his love for Kory, an incredibly interesting relationship that has tragically developed offscreen for the most part, was his breaking point. But it was the point that allowed him to finally go ahead and kill “Bruce,” which means very little when the audience has never met Bruce and the events are all taking place in Dick’s head.

Bruce’s fictional murder led to Dick’s emergence as one of Trigon’s claimed souls, which broke Rachel’s heart and ended the season in real time. It may have been a shocking moment for some, but it fell flat in the wake of an entire planet (not to mention the planets that would come after Earth) hanging in the balance. Hopefully the second season will allow for more forward movement of the plot and spread the love among all four of its protagonists, now that Dick has had more than his share of rage and reflection.