REVIEW: Titans, S2E3 – Ghosts

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Titans adds another success to its second season with “Ghosts,” which takes full advantage of the split locations and mysterious backstory hanging over the characters’ heads. After welcoming Original Team Titans back to the fold, Dick (Brenton Thwaites) was forced to confront their fears about reuniting their fists with the dynamic duo of Doctor Light and Deeathstroke. The younger members, on the other hand, turn training sessions into actual fights while figuring out how to deal with their new circumstances. As for Kory (Anna Diop), she flirted with the idea of visiting Tamaran and with her bodyguard – but eventually she realized she had to return home.

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Kory, phone home.

Home as people rather than place is a big underlying theme of Titans as a whole, which might be why “Ghosts” feels like one of the strongest episodes of the show. Though the Tower is an unfamiliar location to the audience, and Donna’s (Conor Leslie) warnings of the past carry a strong sense of foreboding, the scenes are comfortable and settled. These characters belong together, for better or worse, and this episode goes a long way towards proving that. Rachel’s (Teagan Croft) loss of control may have inspired ad hominem attacks from Jason (Curran Walters), but they didn’t drive a real wedge between the younger set. Instead, they inspired Rachel to call Kory for help, because a girl needs her mother figure that’s actually an alien on the run from the homeworld of which she’s queen.

Speaking of Kory, her separate storyline was a highlight of “Ghosts,” and her chemistry with Faddei helped relieve some of the issues with her plot-induced isolation. With the addition of her Tamaranean memories after last season, it made sense that she would be struggling with how to proceed, and having a trusted advisor to bounce her feelings off of kept the decision-making process from feeling repetitive. Despite being something of an info dump for views, Diop and guest star Robbie Jones were a natural fit – and their history with one another made it possible to believe Kory would be torn between her old home and her new one.

The fact that one phone call from Rachel was all it took to end the deliberation was equally believable, as their rapport last season quickly became one of Titans‘ best dynamics. While Rachel awaits Kory’s appearance at the Tower with bated breath, though, the show must contend with the unease that Dawn (Minka Kelly), Hank (Alan Ritchson) and Donna feel there. Unfortunately, they spend more time bemoaning the past than actually explaining it – a task no doubt left to future flashback episodes – but they imbue the present with plenty of foreboding. Details may be scarce, but the general sentiment is clear: Dick will lead his new charges down an old and tragic path if something doesn’t change soon.

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Don’t be like Dad.

That maxim proved true when it came to his interactions with Jason, whose hot-blooded was matched only by Dick’s own. No surprise there, seeing as they were both raised by the same taciturn and violent vigilante. But Dick’s rough treatment of his protege only led to the latter teaming up with Gar (Ryan Potter) to find Deathstroke themselves. While the first generation Titans had a somewhat anticlimactic face-off with Doctor Light (who still hasn’t proven his worth as a villain, in my humble opinion), the boys unwittingly bit off more than they can chew. This left Gar screaming bloody murder while Deathstroke kidnapped Jason or worse, with no proof of his presence but a bloody stain on the ground.

And what of Rose, the young visitor who exacerbated the tensions between Deathstroke and the Titans? Chelsea Zhang is excellent in the role, her sparring against Dick showed them both off to their best advantage, and her fatherly reminiscing with Rachel is bound to bring them closer. But there’s always a but, and in this case it’s everyone’s reactions to her. The older team seemed far too willing to throw her out onto the street and into the mercy of her father, whom she believed to have killed his own son. Not only is this too cruel, it’s also unnecessary, as the audience knows Slade wants to throw them into crisis whether or not they have his daughter. Nevertheless, she provides an outlet for Dick’s leadership skills to grow and creates anticipation for the family reunion in a future Titans episode.

“Ghosts” didn’t have much of Deathstroke, but Esai Morales made every moment of his screentime count. He’s certainly a more formidable villain thus far than his partner-in-crime, and the pacing of the season suggests he’ll wind up a more satisfying one than Trigon.

Titans drops new episodes every Friday on the DC Universe streaming service.