Over the course of the season, and particularly with the past few episodes, Titans has dug a hole for itself with many of its questionable (if not cringe) character and plot decisions. The penultimate episode of Season 3 carries on much of this legacy—the rough parts of the episode are very rough—but somehow Tim Drake and Donna Troy are still hanging on as a glimmer of hope for the show. By the end, though, we still aren’t put on an obvious path to a finale.
For much of Titans‘ third season, there hasn’t been much to add to the Crane and Jason villain arc. Both of their motivations—and often personalities—change dramatically each episode. In “Prodigal,” Crane has started speaking in poems with his focus on destroying Gotham and killing everyone in it. In the last episode, we were still working with the “Gotham’s savior” version of Crane. But perhaps cutting up the pizza guy can change a person. Shockingly, Jason soon realizes that he does not want to help Crane, perhaps for the final time given the swiftly approaching end to the season.
Last episode ended with Dick presumably dying at the hands of random Gotham citizens, and Rachel and Gar confirm that. What follows is absolutely bonkers. Through watching it all happen along with Rachel’s later description, we come to find out that the bats that have been following Gar around for quite a few episodes did so because they knew that Gar loved Dick. After discovering Dick’s body, the bats swarm Gar who then inadvertently changes into a bat and leads the bat swarm to lift and carry Dick’s body to the Lazarus Pit. Congratulations to Gar for being given the green light by the series to actually change into an animal, but the rest of that is rough.
The episode hits again on the fear theme—Gar confesses that fear is what unlocks his ability to change. At this point, it feels like this is an after-the-fact excuse as to why Gar essentially does nothing in the series. But Dick also has to work through fear in the Lazarus Pit. There, he encounters a nightmare Crane who tells him that he let his father down and that he also hates Jason and wants him dead. After miming the Joker and beating Jason to death in the Pit fever dream, Dick realizes that he does not actually want to do that, which is a huge revelation and personal breakthrough.
He then sees and talks to his late father, and his father telling Dick that he loves him really does the trick—Dick then sees a young girl who calls him her dad. It’s not clear if this is supposed to be a sort of vision of the future or a manifestation of hope and love. Either way, we don’t learn that the girl’s name is Mar’i or anything crazy, but it seems implied that Kory could be the girl’s mother. Lastly, Dick has a very strangely shot and edited conversation with Crane again in his dream, which mostly consists of close, straight-on shots of both of their faces. With terrible editing, Dick goes to punch Crane and simultaneously in the real world punches through the Lazarus Pit to revive from the dead. While there were some decent elements of Dick’s psyche involved in this whole sequence, it’s a letdown that his dramatic fight to live ultimately prevailed because he just wanted to punch Crane of all people.
Blackfire reunites with Conner thanks to a little help from Krypto. She’s still a hard character to really embrace, but giving her the “fire” actually makes her a bit more enjoyable. Her dominating and confident personality type is complimented by her being more powerful, and it seems like she was immediately given better visual effects and better mastery of the power than Kory ever had. Blackfire convinces Conner that the two should be some sort of super duo. Conner doesn’t take too much persuading after Dick’s betrayal, so we get a couple of “Fuck the Titans” quotes and Conner is now the rebellious type.
Kory and Blackfire have a solid moment of sisterly love after Kory explains to Blackfire what their parents did to them as kids. Blackfire is ready to return to Tamaran alone to face her destiny as queen. Conner, newly minted as a bad boy, gets the last laugh of the episode as he psychotically blows up Blackfire’s ship because he is mad she would be leaving him. Honestly, it’s a fun last shot of the episode because Conner’s evil Luthor-side appearance was a surprise in the moment and gave Superboy some (immature) edge.
Tim and Donna’s side plot with the Drake family ends up being a mild letdown because instead of holding their ground and revolting against the corrupt GCPD, they end up choosing to escape instead. Still, the dynamic between Tim and Donna is the strongest element the show has going for it currently. Tim is gearing up to try and be a superhero-type, but Donna’s big sister energy very clearly tells him it’s a terrible idea and that he wouldn’t be able to cut it. Tim, though, does not doubt that he needs to fight and that he at least has to try. His holding his moral and personal ground against Wonder Girl is a solid way to give his resolve credibility. He may also have the benefit going forward as a hero that his mentor happened to be one the most reasonable and well-qualified around.
Finally, Jason and Dick—both Lazarus Pit alumni—come together in an agreement to take down Crane. Considering the intended storyline of the season, this should not have felt as hollow as it did. It is too easy, and there is no appreciation for what the characters have been through or what they have done to each other. Any character build-up or side arcs are easily forgotten, and apparently, there are generally no consequences of anyone’s actions. They all simply come back together no questions asked when the plot needs them to. All of the in-between moments are pretty much confirmed to be filler.
Episode 12 took some interesting liberties with how it moved the plot forward. While the theme of fear has been around for some time, we are now getting some hints of “love conquers fear” — which isn’t exactly where this seemed to be going. Overall, though, this episode felt at least somewhat better than the last few. Perhaps that’s because it did decide to drive itself into a corner where it has no choice but to pick (at least the end of) a plot. It still does not feel like a finale has really been set up, which is probably not a good sign.