Strap in for a ride inside Dick Grayson’s mind! The Titans season finale is a dark look at a world where Batman has lost his greatest asset – his moral code.
The season finale of DC Universe’s Titans is a disorientating experience, but an insightful faux-adaptation of critically-acclaimed Batman story, The Killing Joke. Dick Grayson is the central focus of this episode, but he isn’t where he is supposed to be. In episode 10, Dick had run into a shield created by Trigon (Seamus Deaver) and now he is living a very different life.
We start off with Dick Grayson (Brenton Thwaites) sunning himself in a California pool when his son, Johnny, jumps in to play. The two of them chase each other around the house before ending up in the nursery where a heavily pregnant Dawn Granger (Minka Kelly) is in the midst of choosing wall colors for their second child. The family is idyllic, happy and it’s great to see Dawn so relaxed and funny.Titans — Ep. 111 — “Dick Grayson” — Photo Credit: Christos Kalohordis / 2018 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved
Their little family time is interrupted by a call from Rachel Roth (Teagan Croft) and Gar Logan (Ryan Potter) who update Dick about their college experience and discuss when they can come over. The kids have grown up into two well-adjusted human beings. I love Rachel’s hair, which matches her original comic book counterpart’s style from the 80s. Dick looking fondly at his other kids is also a sweet moment.
Is this all a dream, or something worse, because it seems like wherever Johnny’s stuffed tiger (a gift from Gar) goes, trouble follows.
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Johnny spots someone coming up the driveway and when Dick goes outside to look, it’s Jason Todd (Curran Walters), now bound to a wheelchair after a standard operation went sideways because the Riddler now uses guns. The two Robins haven’t met in five years and a lot has changed since then, Jason explains.
Gotham City has gone from bad to worse and it’s taken Batman with it. Bruce’s trusted butler and father figure Alfred Pennyworth has died, and the Joker kept Commissioner Gordon captive for a week before finally killing him. Following Jason’s injury, Batman has snapped. ‘He’s going to kill the Joker’, Jason declares.
Dick argues that Bruce Wayne wouldn’t do that because ‘he has a code’. But Jason seems to know better. The only way to change Bruce’s mind is if Dick talks to him because he’s ‘the real Robin’, and probably the only person Bruce has ever cared about aside from his parents. That’s what Jason’s always felt and something Barbara (Gordon/ Batgirl, who has gone missing) and even Superman have reiterated. If this is a dream, then Dick has an inflated sense of ego when it comes to his relationship with Bruce.
Dick complains to Dawn about Jason’s theory that he’s the only one who can save Bruce. Bruce isn’t his responsibility and Dick doesn’t want to return to Gotham. At this point, we see another glimmer around Johnny, who tells Dick to take his tiger to Gotham for protection. This seals the deal and Dick is on the plane to Gotham.
We have only glimpsed Gotham in Titans, but it is somehow even worse than we imagined. Lawlessness and depravity run amok on the streets – the Arrowverse version doesn’t hold a candle to this nightmare. Dick gets a room at a dank hotel and almost immediately has to call the police to investigate a domestic violence dispute.
Dick then overhears the cops’ radio about a murder and goes to investigate. It’s the Joker – his head smashed through a car windshield. Dick is disappointed that Bruce went ahead with the murder, but then again, the real Dick has always seen Bruce as a killer, unlike this dream-version. Just as Dick is about to leave, he is stopped by a GCPD captain, Frank Finney, who is none other than Trigon himself.
Trigon’s handiwork comes into effect once again as the Joker suddenly comes alive. He’s badly injured, but not dead yet, meaning Dick’s work isn’t done. Why does Trigon want him to stay in Gotham?
Dick returns to Wayne Manor, but can’t find Bruce. When he tries to enter the Bat-Cave by playing certain piano keys (an obvious homage to Batman Begins) the entryway doesn’t open. Dick unleashes an impassioned plea reminding Bruce of what Dick meant to him, but Bruce doesn’t emerge. He sits behind a screen in the cave, watching his one-time ward leave disheartened.
To continue the investigation, Dick goes to the hospital the Joker is at. The showrunners have done everything in their power to conceal the Joker’s face and it’s commendable that they’re able to pull it off. Kory Anders (Anna Diop) appears to tell Dick that she is investigating the death of the Commissioner and the attack on the Joker. She’s a federal agent now and her iconic orange hair is gone, but Kory is still wearing purple tops to match her comic book costume.Titans — Ep. 111 — “Dick Grayson” — Photo Credit: Christos Kalohordis / 2018 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved
Batman attacks the hospital and finishes the job; the Joker is dead. And he’s only just beginning. Kory calls Dick to Arkham Asylum where Batman has massacred the inmates, as well as the guards and nurses. We glimpse the dead Riddler’s tattooed arm, the Ventriloquist and his puppet, Scarface, as well as Two-Face, still holding his coin. This is the last straw for Dick.
He reveals Batman’s true identity to Captain Finney/ Trigon and leads the operation on Wayne Manor. While Dick is on comms, the SWAT Team are massacred by Batman. We don’t see Bruce’s face, but the suit looks amazing. Kory follows and is also incapacitated by a cold gun. Realizing he’s the only hope for the operation’s success, Dick blows up Wayne Manor and runs in to check for survivors. There are none, barring Batman who is trapped under debris. Outraged, Dick turns on his mentor.
‘You killed her. This is what you’ve always wanted; wanted me to get into the darkness. To become you. Well, f*** you, Bruce. You win.’
Dick crushes Batman’s neck and we see him return to reality, except he has been corrupted by Trigon’s demonic spells. Rachel tries to snap him out of it, but it doesn’t work. Trigon tells her that he offered Dick several paths but Dick chose to embrace his darkness. Of course, Trigon omits to reveal to his daughter that he manipulated every circumstance in Dick’s vision to force him towards that darkness.
Trigon and Angela (Rachel Nichols) explain to Rachel that with Trigon’s help, Dick has removed a huge burden from his shoulders and is now part of the family. ‘It’s so good to be home,’ Dick tells Rachel.
Episode 11 doesn’t feel much like a season finale – it would have worked better as a midseason interval because so many plot threads are still hanging loose. Not to mention how little we see of the rest of the Titans in this episode. I liked the overt nod to the ‘One Bad Day’ theme from The Killing Joke, and how the creators leveraged the mirror universe formula to explore Dick’s characterization.
Given how poorly Titans began, the showrunners really pulled up their socks and have given fans an exciting, though dark, new superhero show. I would love to see how the next season pans out but it’s going to be a long wait till then.
“Dick Grayson” also features a post-credits scene setting up an exciting new arc for season two. Featured is Superboy, presumably breaking out of the lab he was cloned in. However, he doesn’t leave alone. Before exiting, he also breaks out Krypto the Superdog from a Kryptonite-laced crate to join him. Anyone else already eager to see what this new super pairing will bring to Titans next season?