After watching Episode 8 of Titans — titled “Donna Troy” — I can only ask myself one question. Where has this quality been all season? Why have we been flip-flopping between “plot episodes” and “character episodes” when, as made clear by this week’s episode, an effective combination of the two could be so easily accomplished?
After some much needed recouping from the hell that was the Asylum, the team has to move on from squatting in Batman’s safehouse. Dick is feeling a little lost at this point, so he decides to head off on his own for a little while, with the rest of the group migrating to a house that may or may not belong to Rachel’s birth-mother. From there, the story is divided between two paths — one in which Dick pals around with Donna Troy and one in which everyone else is stuck on a train for the majority of the episode.
Character-building is the best it has been all season with everyone getting something concrete and interesting added to their identities. Even though Gar gets the short-stick again, the subtle nuance in his body-language and mood is a prime example of the old adage, “Show don’t tell.” It’s executed so effortlessly that, again, it’s a shame it’s so underutilized. Rachel’s development is a tad stagnant, but it’s exploring what seems like an earnest relationship between her and her birth-mother. This will most likely end badly for Rachel, but the show is investing time into that relationship to make that eventual turn much more effective — you know, how you should generally build character dynamics.
Conor Leslie as Donna Troy is great, and her friendship/ confidante-role with Dick is something new for the brooding hero. The main issue with Dick’s character so far is that it’s pretty one-note; beyond being angry or sad, we haven’t seen Dick really be a person. Donna helps show how much of a character Dick can actually be. He’s inquisitive, he’s vulnerable, and — gasp — funny. There’s a throw-away gag about a well-known Batman villain that not only had me chuckling but also further illustrated Dick’s inability to just live life. He’s constantly in “vigilante-mode” due to Bruce’s own obsession, and this kind of multipurpose story-telling is littered throughout the episode. It’s simply a breath of fresh air.
This leads into Kory’s portion of the episode, and on it’s own, it’s a fine internal character struggle. I derided her treatment in the last episode as serving no purpose, and I’ll be the first to admit that some patience would have benefited my viewing (though the show has mustered very little goodwill in that department). We do see that Kory has by no means escaped her torture unscathed, with the experiments sort of unlocking PTSD-laden memories from her past. Kory struggles with these new, painful memories that exacerbate her worst tendencies — paranoia and violence — and that makes sense. It’s when her seemingly unrelated narrative coalesces with Dick’s that everything really clicks. It’s bit of a deus ex machina, but it ultimately serves the a purpose and is, frankly, fun.
Episode 8 is, so far, the best Titans episode to date. It expertly weaves plots, character motivations, and relationships that would normally all be relegated to separate episodes. It’s exactly what a show about a team should be — all of our heroes being connected even when they’re apart. It’s a little late in the game to say this will be the turn-around for the show as a whole, but it’s a shining example of what Season 2 can aspire to be.
Titans is released every Friday only on DCUniverse!