Titans is arguably the most eagerly awaited superhero show of 2018. From the moment its controversial first trailer was released this summer, fans have been chomping at the proverbial bit to watch the first iteration of the Teen Titans in live-action. And now they can.
Warning: The following recap contains spoilers. Proceed with caution!
The first episode of Titans throws us straight into the action, doing a wicked job of establishing this brave and brutal new world in which Dick Grayson is a very damaged Robin, a super-powered amnesiac battles mobsters, and a young girl named Rachel may or may not bring about the apocalypse.
It's the End of the World As We Know It
Despite the trailers focusing on Robin, the true core of the show's first episode appears to be Rachel Roth, whom fans will immediately recognize as the gothic teen Raven. In the comics, Raven is the daughter of a demon and a literal portal to hell. As the first episode establishes very quickly that's also her origin here. Though in the world of Titans that has some seriously dark ramifications.
Rachel is our entry point into the show, and we quickly get a sense of her vast and terrifying power as her loving mother -- a great cameo from Twin Peaks' Sherilyn Fenn -- comforts her after a strange dream about a circus family and a terrible accident. As she leaves the room Rachel implores her to lock the door, and we find the outside plastered with crosses, giving us some insight into the supernatural strength that dwells within.
Titans' dark tone and atmosphere make a lot more sense once we realize that Raven and her potential role in the annihilation of the world are at the center of the narrative. Sadly, Raven's mother is quickly killed by an acolyte of a doomsday cult obsessed with the legend of a young girl who can bring a demon into this earthly realm. But luckily for our heroine her demonic side takes over, incapacitating her attacker and allowing her to escape.
After her premonitions lead her to Detroit, Rachel becomes an apparently easy target for the shady group that's hunting her down. But once again her demonic side comes out to play -- we only ever see it in reflections, be they car windows or puddles, a creepily effective technique that never separates the two sides of the young girl. During one attempted kidnapping, Rachel throws a brick at a cop car, hoping to find safety in the custody of the police. What she actually finds, however, is the beginnings of a new strange kind of family.
Fly, Robin, Fly
One of the things that shocked fans the most about the Titans trailer was its gritty tone, most evident in the violence with which Batman's one-time kid sidekick Robin dispatches his foes. Gone are his bright colors and quips. Instead, we find a Dick Grayson who's working as a tired, bitter police detective in Detroit.
When Dick gets a new partner, another cop jokes that Grayson doesn't work well with others. When the rookie asks why, the cop chuckles and says, "Maybe his last partner got gassed by the Joker." Intent on putting Gotham and its most famous son behind him, Titans' Dick Grayson rarely puts on his mask anymore. But when we first meet him, he's plotting to take down a child predator. When he does, Robin does it brutally, efficiently, and without mercy.
That first brilliantly choreographed fight scene establishes Dick's moral code. He offers a chance for the other crooks to leave because he's only there for one man. While he doesn't mind hurting people, he won't kill them. After Dick has demolished the mob violently and bloodily but not fatally, he looks back momentarily, as if thinking on whether or not to finish the job. That's when he utters the controversial "Fuck Batman" line, and we start to understand just why Dick left Gotham and the man who raised him.
Sadly, that relationship makes it incredibly hard for him to embrace Rachel when she turns up in his interview room begging for help. Recognizing him from her dreams, she tells him fate has brought them together and that she needs him. Jarred by her knowledge of the circus and the tragic death of his parents, Dick leaves and allows another corrupt cop to kidnap her, delivering her to the cult member who's been hunting her down.
Luckily for Rachel and the future Titans, Dick happens to see a patrol car with the sleeping child in it and chases it down. Yet as we quickly discover, Rachel is fully capable of protecting herself. Here's where we start to learn the full capacity of Rachel/Raven's powers and the people who want to harness them. See, the man who's been hunting her was part of the cult who wanted to harness her power and utilize her to invite her father into the mortal world and bring about chaos, destruction, and the end of everything. But he's changed his mind and now sees himself as a savior, here to destroy Rachel and the danger she holds inside. Unfortunately for him, Rachel's self-preservation and portal to hell come into play, and he ends up a bloodless skin sack on the floor of the room just in time for Dick to discover the scene and realize Rachel needs more help than he could've ever imagined.
Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel
Interspersed with all this apocalyptic horror there's a beautiful, enigmatic, and dangerous woman trying to discover just who she is. Anna Diop's Starfire is a stone-cold standout in the pilot and owns every scene she's in. After waking from a car crash with no memories of who she is and nothing but a questionable outfit, an ID with the name "Kory Anders" on it, and an inexplicable love of disco music to help her, Starfire is hunting for answers. Oh, and she herself is being hunted by a large chunk of the Eastern European mob.
After returning to a vastly opulent hotel and finding a bloody man tied up in her closet that she seemingly left there, Kory quickly rediscovers her innate powers. Incredibly strong, she manages to get a name out of one of her assailants, and then it's a night out at the club for Starfire as she pounds more answers out of hapless thugs. Every scene she graces is soundtracked by a classic disco hit; and as she enters the gangland stronghold "I Feel Love" limps through the speakers. The man she finds there is one whom Kori had pretended to love. After she mocks his sad accusations of betrayal, he fires a gun at her, and without hesitation or thought Kory burns him to a crisp. Though she still doesn't understand her powers, she feels no empathy for the man who's tried to kill her three times.
As Kory rifles through the burnt remains on his desk, she finds a photo of the girl she betrayed him for... and of course it's Rachel.
Make sure you watch every last minute of Titans' premiere episode or you'll miss Beast Boy's brief first appearance. It's guaranteed to make Teen Titans diehards very happy.
When Robin promises Rachel they're going somewhere safe, he's hinting at the appearance of a pair of fellow avian superheroes who're the focus of next week's episode -- "Hawk and Dove”.