The man of the hour is Aqualad! Drew Van Acker makes his Titans debut as the Atlantean hero, but the spotlight is on Donna Troy.
Jason Todd was captured by Deathstroke and Dr. Light in the previous episode of Titans. Unlike the rest of the team, Jason underestimated just how shrewd and brutal Slade Wilson could be. He’s had the Titans quaking in their boots ever since he resurfaced this season of the show, and in episode four we find out why.
The Terror of Deathstroke
Five years ago, Slade was a silent killing machine – his accurate aim got him plenty of business. No one was free of his reign, be it cops, lawyers or fellow criminals. After a particularly menacing killing spree, Slade is offered a new gig in San Francisco by Wintergreen (played by Demore Barnes). We don’t know what his mission is, but wow, does Esai Morales bring that quiet menace we love and hate about Slade, or what?
On his way to San Francisco, Slade stops to observe an apartment. It belongs to Adeline and Joey Wilson (Chella Man). The uninitiated won’t understand the significance of these characters, but they are his estranged wife and son. Joey is a loving son who cooks comfort food for his mother, but Adeline is always on edge, looking over her shoulder for something, or someone. She’s right to be worried, Slade is scary!
Say Hello to Aqualad
We remain in the past with the original team Titans that consisted of Wonder-Girl, Hawk, Dove and Robin, and new entrant Aqualad (Drew Van Acker) who is just getting his feet – and everyone else’s – wet with his Atlantean powers.
While celebrating Garth’s birthday at Titans Tower, we see how different the characters were before. Dick and Dawn are openly happy in their relationship, while Hank is obnoxious. It’s obvious that Garth is smitten with Donna, but Donna is not interested in pursuing a relationship. She has other things to deal with – her impending return to Themyscira. Garth and Donna knew each other when they were younger (probably on Teen Titans?), but Donna feels they’ve outgrown their chemistry.
The team’s revelry is interrupted by an attack by Dr. Light on a bank. Five years ago, Dr. Light was an unknown supervillain, but now he’s on the Titans’ radar. While scanning CCTV footage, it becomes evident that Donna and Garth still have strong feelings for each other, but Donna is insistent on keeping them at bay because of her duties as an Amazon. Or, is there something else that’s bothering Donna? The Amazons and Atlanteans have always been uneasy allies in comics, and many alternate Earths have suffered because the two races ended up warring over their differing principles. Perhaps that’s what’s holding Donna back.
Donna pre-pones her return to Themyscira, telling Dick that she’s been called away. But first, the team needs to handle Dr. Light, who has just got his hands on a laser that can harness the power of nuclear weapons.
I love how the show pays homage to all our favorite (and not-so-favorite) ‘90s Batman films with a montage of the Titans getting into their superhero suits. It’s utterly cheesy but very nostalgic all the same. If the montage was silly, then the following fight scene is epic. We see the Titans work perfectly as a team, supporting each other and backing Robin’s play. They’re like a well-oiled machine that successfully takes out Dr. Light. And Garth, he’s the hero of the day!
Once they return to Titans Tower, Donna finally gives in to her feelings for Garth. She’s off to Themyscira in a few hours, might as well have some fun before she goes, right? Except, Donna leaves without saying goodbye to Garth.
Instead, she and Dick share a long, wistful look before Donna leaves, and it’s so full of emotion and history. You can tell that these two have been close friends and confidants for years and bidding farewell is harder than their emotions will allow. But now Dick has the horrible task of telling Garth that he’s not going to see Donna again.
While Donna gets ready to take off, Garth arrives at the airfield to convince her to change her mind. Donna believes her destiny as an Amazon Warrior is separate from her love for Garth, but he refuses to agree. Garth’s been in love with her since he was 12, and when he declares this to Donna, she chooses him.
Just as they part from their embrace, a shot rings out and Garth takes a bullet to the chest. So, this was Deathstroke’s mission, but was Garth his target? Garth lays dead on the tarmac, while Donna is paralyzed and horror-struck. Garth’s death convinces Donna to remain with the team – a nice little subversion of the fridging trope which has seen many female characters killed off for the sake of advancing male character arcs.
Dick uses the Bat-computer to scan the area and identifies the killer. The team comes together with the intent to take Deathstroke down. They’re certainly full of bravado, but what happens that terrifies the Titans to their core? We will find out over the course of the season.
A week later, we see Joey, who goes by Jericho, checking out the vinyls at a record store. Dick appears, his usual disarmingly friendly self, chatting with Jericho about music. They don’t know each other, so what’s the deal? This is Dick trying to scope out Deathstroke’s weaknesses, starting with his son. It’s Dick’s time to ‘be Batman’, but how dark a path did Dick and the Titans go on to exact their revenge on Deathstroke? Did they really use Jericho as leverage, and were they possibly involved in his death? So many questions to keep us coming back for more.