[This review contains some minor SPOILERS!]
There is a wonderful superhero show at the heart of Titans‘ second episode. Unfortunately, it is immediately ruined by the introduction of the plot and characters from last week’s episode. Taken as a whole, “Hawk and Dove” feels like a crossover event on The CW that went horribly wrong.
The first segment of this episode looks like what I expected Titans to be – gritty but still recognizable as a superhero show. The costumes that Alan Ritchson and Minka Kelly wear as Hawk and Dove are phenomenal and there’s a reason why the comic book fandom saw these suits, got excited and then got increasingly frantic when the first pictures of Starfire and Raven made them look like they had just walked out of Electrique Boutique and Hot Topic respectively.
What really sells the characters, however, is the actor’s performances. Alan Ritchson absolutely nails Hank Hall as the kind of swaggering bravo who will grin through a bloody mouth and taunt the thugs that have him chained-up. Yet we see some hidden depths to the character when we discover he remembers his three-and-a-half-year anniversary without prompting and secretly built a coop full of doves on the roof of his apartment building as an anniversary present.
Minka Kelly is similarly enrapturing as Dawn “Dove” Granger. She has an intense presence, in and out of her costume, and she immediately grabs the viewer’s sympathy even as we learn that she’s not entirely happy in her relationship with Hank but isn’t saying anything because of her fear that their focus on the future they are building together is the only thing keeping him together in the face of some serious medical issues. Those issues and how they inform the interaction between Hank and Dawn are fascinating and precisely the kind of mature storytelling I’d hoped this series would feature.
Unfortunately, all that is thrown to the side when Dick Grayson arrives with Rachel Roth and the focus shifts back to the strange forces inside Rachel and the very bad people who want her. These include a family of professional killers who play at being a normal suburban family and play Monopoly at the breakfast table, who seem to have been imported from an upcoming season of American Horror Story. As in last week’s episode, the ultimate effect is to make it seem as if several different shows have been thrown into a blender but failed to break down into an digestible mix.
Few of these segments are actually bad and there’s a fair amount of humor this time around to offset the horror and dark action elements. My favorite involves a running gag involving Game of Thrones which culminates in a lampshade hanging on the resemblance between Minka Kelly’s Dawn and Emilia Clarke’s Daenerys. Unfortunately, the action sequences toward the end contain more of the gratuitous ultra-violence seen in the first trailer, which has no purpose other than showing that the show has an M-rating.
Frankly, I wish that Titans would show its maturity with more scenes like what we see in the first segment and that we’d get more fun fight-scenes like the flashback set to Kim Wilde’s “Kids In America.” Alas, I’m afraid we’re in for more grimness and grit rather than the kind of fun I usually associate with the Titans name. As it is, the show is still worth watching, but I fear it may soon be verging into “so bad it’s funny” territory.