Titans season 3 review: Too much Batman for a show with no Batman

It’s informing that the HBO Max series Titans starts its 3rd season with a truncated variation of among the most well-known Batman stories ever informed. The best episode, “Barbara Gordon,” starts with a hilariously short variation of A Death in the Household, Jim Starlin and Jim Aparo’s comic including the Joker’s murder of Jason Todd, the 2nd Robin. In the Titans episode, Bruce Wayne is on a flight and not able to assist Jason, who pursues the Joker alone, in spite of Bruce’s cautions. And he gets bludgeoned to death by the Joker, who is revealed from up until now away that it may also be any random criminal with a crowbar. Jason (Curran Walters) heads out like a chump.

This might well be a point meant by Titans’ authors — heroes turning away from the impulse to turn inward and go it alone has actually been a significant series style from the dive — however all of it decreases too rapidly for audiences to feel highly about it, mainly due to the fact that Titans nearly instantly releases into another well-known Batman story. It’s worth keeping in mind that while Bruce Wayne sometimes appears — similar to in Titans season 2 — there is no Batman in this story. This is the “fuck Batman” program, keep in mind?

Titans has actually constantly been a little too in love with the Batman side of its Batman-free story. While it’s technically an ensemble drama about the past and present lineup of a teen superhero group coming together, the program absolutely has a primary character, and it’s Penis Grayson, the very first Robin (Brenton Thwaites). Now running as Nightwing, he’s leading the Titans, which now consist of Starfire (Anna Diop), Gar Logan (Ryan Potter), and Connor/Superboy (Joshua Orpin). Nevertheless, prior to the series can dive into what the group resembles now, Jason’s death calls Penis from the Titans’ house city of San Francisco back to his old Gotham City haunts, and the Titans ultimately follow.

The spine of Titans season 3 is an adaptation of Under the Hood, the 2004-2006 Batman story by Judd Winick, Doug Mahnke, and others who resurrected Jason Todd after his 1988 death as the villainous Red Hood, out for revenge. The Titans take on it holds few surprises for anyone with a passing familiarity with the source material or one of its other adaptations, like the 2015 video game Batman: Arkham Knight. Titans doesn’t stray very far from the story’s major beats, at least not in the first six episodes made available to critics. That isn’t even that big of a problem; the show’s second season similarly spun out a version of Marv Wolfman and George Perez’s classic The Judas Contract story from The New Teen Titans, which wasn’t terribly subversive, but was still exciting to watch. The Judas Contract, however, wasn’t a story about Batman. It was about the Teen Titans.

This might make it sound like Titans ignores its non-Bat-related cast more than it does. And, well — they aren’t absent. Kory eventually gets a subplot picking up a thread from the last season, where her maybe-evil sister arrives on Earth looking for her. While it takes a while for them to show up, Hawk and Dove (Alan Ritchson and Minka Kelly) return, and the show’s longest-running non-Penis character arc returns with them. Unfortunately, that’s kind of it for the season’s very first half. Continuing a trend from the last season, the writers often forget Connor and Gar (their powers are expensive to depict, after all), which hurts all the more, since they’re frequently the program’s only reliable source of levity.

Brenton Thwaites as Robin in Titans season 3, holding up a glowing baton in a warning gesture

Photo: Ben Mark Holzberg / HBO Max

It is downright bizarre to see Titans so thoroughly move away from what made it work so well in its previous seasons, which was the tricky tonal balance between dark and violent superhero drama, and fun teen angst. Titans still comes with a harder edge and better action than the average CW superhero soap, but it’s risking its heart and wit with a story that clearly favors a small portion of its cast. There’s little room for enjoyable or playful twists, like the season 1 arc where Rachel Roth (Teagan Croft) took Titans down a horror-fueled road with her strange supernatural powers. (So far this season, she’s missing entirely.) Or season 2’s Big-style goofiness of a fully-grown Superboy learning about the world for the first time, because he’s only known the inside of a lab.

Instead, the current iteration of Titans is steeped in the dark, agonized world of the person it initially wanted to get away from: fucking Batman.

The first three episodes of Titans season 3 are now streaming on HBO Max. Brand-new episodes premiere on Fridays.

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.