Titans season 1 episode 6, “Jason Todd”, started streaming on 16 November 2018.
The fact is, “Jason Todd” is more about Dick Grayson than it is about Jason Todd.
It is a look into his past, a question about his current state, and a peel back at his psyche. It took us to key moments in his life and ended with Dick with a good amount of soul-searching to do.
But to do so in the way it did, it needed a counterpoint. It needed Jason Todd.
Curran Walters was absolutely delightful in the role. He was lively in Jason’s youthfulness and unapologetic with his physicality. His line delivery was terrific. Chatty and enthusiastic, he cut a contrasting figure to Brenton Thwaites’ solemn Dick Grayson. His performance, coupled with the framing of scenes to juxtapose and/or parallel them (the shot of them holding their suitcases in the elevator stands out in particular), subtly revealed the similarities and differences between the two Robins without always spelling it out. English teachers always say “show, don’t tell”. Walters put on a show indeed.
What a way to make a live action debut. For Jason’s comic book history, my fellow writer Magan Yusuf wrote a great profile article.
The ghost of Grayson past
Short version: Dick is really recognisable as Robin. Pretty much everyone of note figured out who he was.
The giveaway: any mention of parents or Haley’s circus.
Dick reluctantly keeps the younger Robin around when Jason produces images sent to Gotham PD. A serial killer is targeting former circus performers. The killer apparently knows Dick’s identity, thinking he is still Robin, and is taunting him into making an appearance. Dick and Jason travel to Wisconsin to find Clayton Williams, the last member of the circus.
Back in the day, Dick saw Clayton as a third parent and wanted to live with him after his parents’ deaths. However, Clayton felt Bruce had better resources.
Living with Bruce Wayne is going to change your life, forever.
Clay now works as a bouncer at a speakeasy. Clay is proud to learn that Dick became a detective, and Dick, for a moment, looks almost happy catching up with his old friend. Unfortunately, the two are soon separated and the serial killer takes Clay.
The killer reveals himself to Dick as Nick Zuko, son of Tony Zuko. Tony was responsible for the death of Dick’s parents, burning through the trapeze ropes with acid. He was arrested, but offered a deal – information on the larger Maroni crime family he operated within in exchange for release from prison. Dick, then a newly minted cop, openly ranted about how Zuko deserved to die, which Nick witnessed.
Dick later attacked the transport van as Robin to beat Tony up. The action staging in that scene was slow, sluggish and brash, showing Robin’s relative inexperience at the time. Dick stood by and watched the man be pelted by acid bullets. He relished in Zuko’s death at the time, and that scares him now.
Nick figured from the incident that Robin was Dick Grayson. After that event, the Maronis killed Nick’s family. Nick survived, but with half his face melted off. He now seeks revenge against Dick, by killing the other circus performers and torturing Clay with acid.
The ghost of Robin past
While the sentiment is obviously not shared, Jason is beyond excited to meet Dick. Dick immediately struggled with the idea that Batman replaced him almost immediately, that Jason is perfectly fine with some of Batman’s actions – putting trackers in them, for instance – and being Robin, that he no longer has access to Bruce’s safehouse/condos, and so on. It’s a typical straightlaced older child trying to grapple with how their younger sibling gets away with everything.
Throughout the hour, Dick repeatedly warns Jason away from being Robin. When Jason, against Dick’s wishes, steps in during the final confrontation with Nick Zuko, he ends up turning the tide. The two Robins take turns helping each other while taking on Zuko. It seems as though they may have reached a consensus. Then cops show up and Jason starts beating them to death.
There is a layer of darkness underneath Jason’s upbeat attitude that was hinted at from the start, like when he casually notes that Batman uses Robin’s “ridiculous colors” to draw fire away from him. And also his opinion that “there are two kinds (of cops) – useless and dirty.” That must hurt for Dick to hear. However, only when he finds Jason killing and swearing at cops, does he realise that Jason is already as brutal as – maybe even more so than – Dick fears to become.
Dick believes Jason’s behaviour is the result of Batman’s doing, but Jason claims it as his own actions.
“Coming from the guy screaming ‘No I’m not Robin, I don’t wanna be Robin’ standing there in a f**king Robin suit carrying that case all over the country.”
“You know the difference between us?” Jason tells Dick. “I know who I am. I kick ass with Batman and I like it. But who the f**k are you?”
That leaves Dick with a lot of doubt. Does he want to be Robin? Is he projecting onto Batman/Bruce? Is the darkness within him all his own doing?
Other notable moments:
- Kory changed into an AMAZING shiny pink jumpsuit this week, complete with metallic orange eyeshadow and metallic green lipstick. A metallic dream, that is.
- Rachel and Gar obeying Kory when they got excited meeting Jason and she told them to “Quiet. Sit.”
- Gar to Jason: *whispers* Can I be Robin?
- “Does Bruce know?” “Know what?” “That you work with Batman.” – Clayton and Dick
At the end, Dr Adamson (who apparently was just knocked out and is not dead yet) tells Kory he will talk only to Rachel.
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(featured image: DC Universe)