Episode 9 of this season of Titans is extremely baffling. On one hand, it makes no sense at all and feels completely out of place. Combine that with how corny and ridiculous it is this episode should have been a write-off. But yet, like its main characters, it manages to keep itself alive and be one of the most enjoyable rides of the entire series.
The episode finds our main three (dead) characters—Tim Drake, Donna Troy, and Hank Hall—in the black-and-white area of the afterlife where they are supposed to be on a literal train that takes them to the “final place.” Inexplicably, Tim and Donna are on the train at the same time but jump off the train because Tim desperately wants to be alive. Outside of the train, there is an entire rural outskirts-of-a-small-town type of area that generally consists of wooded areas and a road. There, they happen to run into none other than ‘Livin’ On a Prayer’-blasting Hank Hall, who is some sort of purgatory outlaw. There’s plenty more that can be mentioned, but the concept is outright nonsensical and absolutely does not match the universe in which Titans has been placed. The premise comes off as one that could better belong in Doom Patrol. Maybe that’s why it was so much more fun to experience, but in the context of Titans it is downright bewildering, even apart from the extremely contrived and illogical circumstances of absolutely everything that happens in the black-and-white place.
As mentioned, though, the episode is quite the dark horse, and the mini-adventure our three heroes go on throughout the episode was genuinely enjoyable and only partly because of its “so bad it’s good” quality. The three main characters, arguably all very much side characters in the world of the living, had the best chemistry and presence of any characters this season. Hank and Donna easily outdid their previous incantations and newcomer Jay Lycurgo’s Tim was stellar in the limelight this episode. Alan Ritchson’s Hank, alone and sans obligatory Dawn, was the charming and entertaining character he always had the potential to be. Even Conor Leslie’s Donna, who previously always felt flat, had substantially more color (ironically) to her personality and presence and was much more compelling than the character who died last season. The dynamic between the three was solid and the episode brought some humor to the land of death. Donna’s acknowledgment and resentment of dying at a carnival was appreciated dark humor and even a recognition of where at least one creative choice Titans made went wrong.
Out in the colorful regular world, Rachel Roth is living with the Amazonians in Themyscira, wanting to bring Donna back to life. The idea that Rachel was able to simply decide to go to Themyscira and then live and train there as one of them is ridiculous. That aside, the character was both still annoyingly juvenile in blatantly disrespectful of the Amazonian culture at every possible moment, but seemed to have some sort of growth when she was, essentially, put in time out. Hopefully, her time here off-screen will be used as an excuse for her having better control of her powers going forward and make her less of a constant liability to the Titans. She did provide a lovely admission that the Titans never actually did much work when she was with them.
While, as depicted, Donna and Tim seem to be able to simply will themselves back to life, it’s unclear if there is more behind their ability to do so. Hank didn’t make it over the bridge, however, one has to wonder what body he would have woken up as he previously exploded. Hank not returning made the most sense and at least gave some additional finality to that emotional arc, including a sweet reunion with his brother. Bringing any character back to life, especially so soon after their death, cheapens and lowers too many stakes, but Donna’s revival was entirely foreshadowed and Tim was too new and clearly significant to actually be removed from the story.
Donna’s first course of business upon being reanimated after months was, for some completely unknown and likely absurd reason, to rescue Bruce Wayne from suicide by fire. Yes, Bruce has returned to the screen, and apparently, he is still generally deranged. He dramatically finalized a last will and testament and then set his castle on fire with him in it. At this point, the question still remains why Titans has such a Bruce Wayne complex and why we need to keep caring considering we have been told or shown time and time and time and time again that he is terrible.
Episode 9 still deserves a toast—despite being dealt a hand that should never be able to win, it managed to make the most of it. The premise and context of it all made less than zero sense and had no place in the currently established Titans universe, its story devices were lazy and corny, but it entertained like no other. So, here’s to this episode—and the viewer—having some fun.