As a child of the seventies and early eighties, the Teen Titans cartoon is not something that I am familiar with. I had heard of it but never watched it. A quick Google and Wiki peruse of the Teen Titans, shows a history of the characters going back to the mid-sixties.
Led by the Dick Grayson incarnation of Robin, the Titans are made up of various teenage superheroes. As a person who was never a massive fan of DC comics – I collected X-Men, Daredevil, Spiderman, and Elektra, with the only DC exception being the Frank Miller run of Dark Knight. My knowledge of their comic properties is patchy at best.
With Marvel taking over the film world, one could be forgiven for thinking that their comic characters were always the best known or most prominent. Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman would probably have something to say about that.
Because of the enduring nature of some of the DC characters and their longevity, they were very rarely viewed as teenagers. All three of DC’s biggest characters had either a sidekick, Robin and Wonder Girl, or a mini ‘me’, Super Boy. Marvel, on the other hand, tended to have younger more youth appealing characters; X-Men began as teenagers as did Spiderman.
Netflix’s Titans explores the younger characters of DC. Where Marvel dominates the multiplexes and blockbusters, DC are the kings of the small screen. Where Marvel has Kevin Feige, DC have Greg Berlanti.
Berlanti is the producer behind Arrow, Supergirl, The Flash, Legends Of Tomorrow, Black Lightning as well as many other non-superhero shows. He is also the producer behind Titans. Seeing his name lets one know that the show is in good hands.
Following the format of most series on the streaming platform, Titans eleven episode, season one series, dropped in its entirety in January. The opening episode introduces us to Dick Grayson/Robin (Brenton Thwaites) who has left Gotham City and the shadow of Batman and moved to Detroit, Michigan and become a police detective.
Years of being a masked vigilante have, however, left a mark on Grayson and he is a brooding, cynical presence, still given to dressing as Robin and dishing out a more direct type of justice. His presence in the city is not appreciated by the police department.
Elsewhere, Reagan Roth (Teagan Croft) is being pursued by unknown parties, whilst simultaneously battling an internal struggle against a dark power that dwells within her. The people after her, seem determined to get her regardless of the cost to themselves or others around her. After the woman she thinks is her mother is killed in front of her, Roth kills the killer and ends up in police custody. There she meets Grayson.
Kory Anders (Anna Diop) wakes up in a crashed car next to a dead man, on an empty road in Austria with no recollection as to how she got there or who she is. She is dressed like a lady of the night. She is being pursued by Russian mobsters. In her quest to discover who she is, she finds that she is a being of considerable, deadly, power. She also believes that she has a mission to protect Roth.
The show is constructed around the Titans being a core group of four members, going by the pictorial media, and the fourth member of the team, Garfield Logan (Ryan Potter) a shapeshifter who can become a green striped tiger, is not introduced to proceedings properly until episode four. He is seen briefly at the end of episode one, stealing a DVD.
Titans is a strong show that builds slowly and gets better as it goes along. Strangely, the weakest episode is the opening one. It is not bad by any means, but there are some elements that irritate and make little sense.
There is also a worrying aspect of ‘save-the-cheerleader-save-the-world’ whiff about it. We know how that ended! Thankfully, this does not prove to be the case with this show. What saves it is the compelling characters, especially Kory and, surprisingly, the level of violence.
This version of Titans could not have aired on the CW. As violent as Arrow was in the first season, Titans takes it to another level. It is not only that it has graphically depicted violence. It is also the grey area in which the violence occurs.
The Punisher, another excellent series on Netflix, is an inherently violent show, with gunplay and knives, not to mention the bludgeonings routinely handed out by the titular lead, it is a show of relentless violence. What makes Titans violence different is that so many of the deaths, very gruesome deaths, happen to characters who seem wholly undeserving of such treatment.
It is an aspect of the show that is unexpected, a little disconcerting, but welcome in that it forces one to consider the effects of brute force as a method of meting out justice and even the entertainment value of killing.
The acting is universally excellent and the story strong enough, even if it is the usual prevention of the end of the world trope, to keep one engaged. Thankfully, not being a Marvel show, it is not about to be pulled from Netflix and has already got a green light for the second season. I for one am looking forward to the continuing adventures of the Titans. Definitely worth watching.