No matter how much praise critics heap on subscription shows like Daredevil, there are still those who don’t want to see such dark interpretations of their heroes. Why can’t we have a superhero show that’s brooding and violent, while also being fun and kinda campy? Well, thanks to DC Universe, we finally get that show; it’s called Titans, and it’s the bloody, over-the-top comic book adaptation that we’ve long been craving.
Not that I don’t love a goofy show like Legends of Tomorrow, because I most definitely do. And I’m a massive fan of the gritty, R-rated style of Daredevil and The Punisher. But there’s something oddly satisfying about Titans that puts it in its own class of comic book television, and I can’t get enough of it.
The series follows Dick Grayson (Brenton Thwaites), who became a police detective in Detroit after leaving his life as Batman’s sidekick, Robin. He eventually crosses paths with Raven (Teagan Croft), a runaway teenager with a dark and hidden past, Kory Anders (Anna Diop), a woman with incredible powers but no recollection of her identity, and Gar (Ryan Potter), a shape-shifting boy who’s pretty into video games. The lives of these four gifted souls end up intertwining in ways none of them can explain, and they go on to form the Titans.
Over the course of the first trio of episodes, three of the four main characters (Beast Boy isn’t really around much yet) are surrounded by a complex and interesting mystery, something that past adaptations of the Titans has sorely missed. For Dick, it’s all about his falling-out with Bruce Wayne, a figure that looms large over this show like a rich and well-dressed Jaws. For Raven, it’s the origin of her powers, and the dark entity that they are tied to. This storyline gets an even bigger boost on the show because it helps introduce the fantastically creepy Nuclear Family.
The best mystery however, and the biggest surprise win of the series, belongs to Starfire. There was a lot of talk of her odd costume choices ahead of the premiere, but it completely works the moment she appears on the screen. Comic readers know Starfire as an alien that’s new to Earth, completely innocent and oblivious to the ways of our world. This version of the character is a bit different, but provides the same basic premise. When we meet her, Starfire is waking up from a nasty car accident, with no idea of how she got there or who she is. All we know is that she has some next-level intelligence, and a power that even she can’t comprehend.
This fish-out-of-water storyline is my highlight of the first three episodes, and the sole reason it works so well is Anna Diop’s fantastic performance. She conveys so much wonder and intrigue with her subtle and genuine expressions, but there is a consistent fierceness and tenacity that is always lurking just beneath the surface. It’s also worth noting that some of the biggest laughs of the series so far have also come from Diop, who’s quickly proving herself a force with which to be reckoned.
While Diop is the standout for me, the rest of the cast is still talented, and incredibly fun to watch. This also includes Alan Ritchson and Minka Kelly as Hawk and Dove, who could not have been more perfectly cast. All of the characters on this show work, especially when they’re on screen together.
There are certainly things in Titans that won’t work for everyone. The show can be a bit a cheesy at times, and you might wonder if it’s taking itself to seriously. There are also just a few kinks in the scripts — slight pacing issues and a couple of lines that fall completely flat — but they are few and far between. For every moment that I thought about groaning, there are at least seven at which I laughed, cheered, or silently pumped my fist.
At its core, Titans truly is a comic book come to life. It’s action-packed and exciting, funny from time to time, and most importantly, it has an engaging story that keeps you longing for that next issue.