Episode 7 of Titans — or “Asylum” — is a strange product. Along with “Together”, it’s probably a pretty good representation of what the show will be if it ever decides to actually be a show about the Titans, rather than a show about Dick Grayson. Yet it’s also more evidence for how truly thin the show’s plot is, despite it having so much potential.
The episode starts off on the right foot. We get a bit of insight from Adamson concerning what he and his group want with Rachel, as well as the knowledge that her mother (original, not adoptive) is alive and being held captive in a secret facility. Following this, mistakes are made, and the quartet find themselves captured and subjected to various types of torture.
This is where the episode starts to devolve. Kory and Gar are once again shortchanged in favor of a larger focus being placed on how these events affect Rachel and Dick, the prior of which at least makes sense in the context of the episode. We’re starting to see glimpses of what a confident Raven looks like and how her powers can be more than just a cloud of evil smoke. The methodical evolving of her character into a quietly terrifying force of nature is truly gripping and probably the high-point of the episode, if only because Gar’s development didn’t have the proper foundation leading into it. In fact, Episode 7 is a true testament to just how much Beast Boy has been neglected by the writers, squandering a truly devastating character arc for him in the process. The result of his torture is tragic and will likely last past the end of the first season, but the gravity of this is at odds with how little attention is paid towards it.
It’s still better than Kory being merely relegated to the body-horror portion of the proceedings. She gains nothing from the pain she endures, except for possibly the knowledge that she can heal quickly; but this isn’t “character development”, it’s “power development”. In reality, she’s just laying on a table for the majority of the episode. It’s like if Eli Roth did a “made-for-TV” movie; there’s no ultimate rhyme or reason for this character to suffer the way she does. That’s not a larger point being made either — like “sometimes there is no reason” — because everyone else has some sort of an attempt at character development accompanying their imprisonment. Even if Dick’s is the same thing they’ve been telling us for what seems like A THOUSAND EPISODES, there is still an objective at play.
And while all of this results in a neat climax, it kind of feels like any of the build we had for the show’s antagonist — what little there was — was just tossed aside. This seems like a definitive end to a story arc, which is incredibly confusing and unsatisfying. The show needed to have started really hammering us with a true villain two weeks ago, and instead, it looks like we’ll be starting from square one next week. I am legitimately stumped as to how we’re expected to have any sort of investment in a singular villain going forward. Why even bother at this point? If the show is really supposed to be what I felt like last week’s episode was (“Monster-of-the-Week”), then it should just lean into that. Don’t attempt this quasi-vacuum experiment in which the larger narrative only matters occasionally because, the fact of the matter is, the season isn’t long enough to do that.
Titans has so much potential, and every episode offers passing moments of that potential being realized. Which makes it so frustrating when the show continues to waste it so wantonly. This feels like such an easy fix, but it’s so ingrained at this point that it would take drastic measures to properly course-correct. For crying out loud, Dick Grayson is the main character of ANOTHER EPISODE next week! This show is called Titans, right?
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