It’s fair to say that DC Universe’s Titans comes with a lot of baggage. It’s the streaming service’s first truly exclusive content – meaning its success or failure will likely shape the production of most, if not all, of the in-house projects down the line – and it’s safe to assume that the show is shouldering much of the responsibility of proving the viability of a “DC-only” streaming service. As if that weren’t enough, the show’s trailer didn’t exactly create the best kind of buzz for itself.
With all of this in mind, I sat down to watch Episode 1 of Titans with a certain amount of trepidation, and while the premier certainly stumbles in places, the outcome is less of a “train-wreck” and more of a “fender-bender”.
Overall, this is pretty standard-fare for a pilot episode – we’re introduced to most of our main players, there’s a focal problem that is solved by the end of the episode, and hints to a larger plot are bread-crumbed throughout. In terms of this basic structure, it mostly works. By the end, the prevailing question of the episode is, “What’s going to happen next?”
There’s some good world-building going on here, as the show is distinctly its own thing that has its own history, but there are enough nods and allusions to familiar faces and names to keep a casual DC fan grounded. As derided as this version of Dick Grayson was upon the reveal of the infamous trailer, he is fairly different from the version most are familiar with – which in the very least is something that will stay interesting for a few episodes. This version of Starfire, or Kory Anders, is also intriguing, as she may or may not enjoy burning people alive – it’s unclear. Raven is probably the weakest link in terms of being different since that difference is she’s just really young, but it’s still something.
There are definite problems with the structure, however, with the jumping between Dick Grayson’s Detroit and Kory Anders’ Austria being the most jarring transitions. Proceedings feel quite disjointed and unrefined, almost as if we’re seeing the results of filming a second draft of the script, rather than the fourth and final one. This can also be attributed to the idea of “too many cooks”. Geoff Johns is undoubtedly a great name to have behind the show, and Akiva Goldsman (A Beautiful Mind, Cinderella Man) and Greg Berlanti (Riverdale, Arrow) bring in their own virtues; however, there’s no consistency between the three writers and this ends up detracting from the final product.
Consistency, as it stands, is the largest hurdle the episode struggles to overcome unsuccessfully. Along with the slap-dash writing, a clear tone is never truly established. From an angst-fueled Robin severely injuring a group of drug-dealers and dropping F-bombs to an upbeat rock song being played over Raven undergoing what can only be described as emotional turmoil, the episode can’t seem to figure out how it wants the viewer to feel. Is this playing the edgy, “grim-dark” approach straight, or is this a façade for something coyer? Maybe this was intentional and later episodes will make that more apparent, but it doesn’t work in an isolated setting.
The less said about the CG the better – it’s quite bad throughout the episode, with the worst of it being the “stinger” (if you can even call it that) for the next episode, which doesn’t bode well for the series’ CG as a whole since it’s Beast Boy and changing form is kind of his whole deal.
The acting is also pretty hit-or-miss, with the best of the cast being merely palatable and the worst of them being “oh-God-please-stop”. Much of the latter belongs to Teagan Croft’s portrayal as Raven, which is an unfortunate starting point for the character that appears to be at center of the season’s conflict. It remains to be seen as to whether or not this is just another consequence of the sub-par script.
Indeed, time will tell whether or not the problems present within the first episode are just growing pains or things that will define the series as a whole. There are definitely some dents in this ride that need to be hammered out, but I feel like the guts are strong enough to keep most engaged until the show finds its footing a few episodes from now.
Titans is released every Friday only on DCUniverse!