After a relatively strong start for Titans, Episode 4 is starting to show a few more cracks in the operation. We interrupt a functional story with a new side story that doesn’t quite land on the same planet we’ve been working with. Optimistically, Episode 4 may just be an innocent stumble along the way to a satisfying story. Pessimistically, the episode might be foreshadowing the slow unraveling of the rest of the season—only the coming weeks will tell.
The episode briefly explores the emotional aftermath of Hank’s dramatic death last episode. Dawn is shockingly composed given the fact that Hank’s death is technically, or at least directly, her fault. This is all used as an excuse for her character to exit the series for the foreseeable future. It’s fully cemented that Titans has no vision to see Hank and Dawn as two separate people, but while it may have been interesting to explore her individual character more, the show never made her a particularly interesting one, to begin with. She and Hank always came across as unneeded filler, and maybe the series is trying to remedy that.
Unfortunately, it seems as though the show decided that the exit of two peripheral and plot-overflowing characters was the perfect time to add another significant character alongside a side plot that overpacks the existing story in the same way. While the Red Hood chronicle continues, Kory a.k.a. Starfire is handed a major arc in the form of her sister, Blackfire. The lazy arc origin does suit the story itself sadly – it’s bland. How the murderous, vengeful, Queen Blackfire managed to find herself completely helpless in a government lab secured by one person is supposedly explained, but it will just never be okay.
The situation makes both sisters and their powers come across as relatively arbitrary and insignificant. This is more a shame considering that Starfire’s character already suffered from that. It begs the question of whether the series is concerned with her being overpowered and is going out of its way at every turn to dampen her. Spending episodes with her blacking out and having visions just felt like a return to her amnesia in the first season. In any event, maybe the dynamic between the two rivals could have dormant potential, but hope for that feels lost on the delivery. At times it could be hard to watch given the dry and empty performances which automatically took you out of any scene.
Turning to our main story, it’s obvious that history repeats itself. While it could be an interesting theme to explore, it still sometimes seems unintentional at this point. Despite overwhelmingly constant reminders throughout the series as a whole that no Titan should go out on their own to confront a villain, Dick decides to once again do exactly that. Instead of being “a better Batman”, he is being as “Batman” as he can be. On one hand, it seems to suit his character—it’s fun to see him act so in control and with so much dark confidence, but the outcome is the same and he inadvertently lets both Jason and Scarecrow loose.
The good news is that having them together should fuel their master plan. However, the bad news is that the master plan doesn’t seem like much of a plan. Sure, we will probably get more elaboration on what the pair are up to down the line, but it’s looking like Scarecrow will more or less reduce Jason to assistant villain without anyone taking the place of head villain. Suffice to say, Titans has more “villain problems” on the horizon. Unless someone can truly climb the criminal ladder and sit on a throne of captivation, it’s going to be underwhelming.
Overall, the fourth episode keeps the Gotham City plot intact, though its potency may be severely threatened by the shift in villain dynamics now that Scarecrow is more in play. The episode tries to spice things up with the Starfire-Blackfire arc, but it is genuinely not compelling nor well-executed. The noticeable housekeeping and streamlining of storylines and characters Titans undertook at the beginning of this season is, unfortunately, looking to be in jeopardy now. Fingers crossed things will reorganize themselves, take a look in the mirror, and be better Batmen.