The third season of the now-HBO Max original Titans promises to be the best season yet, easily leaving the first two in the rearview mirror. It does not fail to recognize what it did well in previous seasons and not only amplifies it but uses it more purposefully. The result is a much more cohesive and engaging plotline that evenhandedly threads itself out across the season. This approach is in stark contrast to the patchwork of character introductions and scattered stories that weighed down the previous seasons. Sadly, it still suffers slow and even tedious points, but ultimately is a vast improvement on the series’ ability to tell a story.
The series is noticeably lighter in tone this time around. Titans has by no means become “light”, but much of the overly dark visuals and broody, dejected tone have been pulled back some. With that, the severity of violence, the amount of blood and gore the series puts forth is significantly lower. While there may be some loss in terms of how gritty the HBO Max series could be, it also feels like there is more space now for the show to deliver a story and explore its characters.
One of the biggest strengths of the season is highlighted in the very first scenes of the first episode. Titans, for the first time, has really established that the Titans are, in fact, a team. While they took time to call themselves a team and a family in the last season, it never felt particularly believable until now. The series is starting to truly take advantage of the groundwork it laid for itself. While the series still does what DC often does well by opening the series up to a wide and versatile survey of DC characters and storylines, this season feels like it is building upwards for the first time rather than outwards.
Instead of endlessly adding new elements into the show just to leave others to wilt, Titans finally takes existing elements and uses them to their higher potential while more subtly and tactfully adding in new pieces. There are certain themes and characters that were simply dull in the past but are redesigned into powerful and emotional moments in Season 3 that make the show great at times.
Where Titans truly shined in the past is its portrayal of its leading character, Dick Grayson. Brenton Thwaites’ Grayson, newly minted as Nightwing, continues to steal the spotlight. The series doubles down on the character to the point that the show could, at times, arguably be titled Nightwing without being misleading. This direction can come at the obvious expense of other characters’ development, but it also genuinely aids the organization, consistency, and quality of the season. Where some characters are afforded more limited attention, it is often deliberate and of higher quality than in previous seasons.
Rather than portraying itself as a typical superhero action show, the latest season often operates under the guise of a detective thriller. This does, unfortunately, lead to a deficiency of action, particularly of those characters whose powers are dependent on visual effects. To be fair, where the action is highlighted – particularly hand-to-hand combat – it is well executed and enjoyable to watch. There’s just not enough of it.
At the end of the day, Titans retains plenty of its flaws going into its sophomore season. Still, it does stand out, though, by being noticeably and significantly better. It seems like the creators meaningfully took stock in what the series was doing well and what it was not, and tailored this season specifically to address that. Because of that, it can feel like a different show than what it has been, but the result is a much more compelling and enjoyable Titans.