Titans episode 7, “Asylum”, started streaming on 23 November 2018.
I’m not sure where to start on “Asylum”. I can’t find the right words to describe it. Not saying it wasn’t good, because it still was. But it was not the same gripping, dark yet exciting, edge-of-your-seat Titans we’ve been served to date.
The best analogy I can come up with is that of a freeway – it’s more about the side-exits it links up than the actual start and end. For “Asylum”, the notable exits were:
- Rachel and Dick accepting their dark sides
- Gar meeting his dark side.
In fact, the scene where Rachel finally met her birth mother, which would have seemed the crux based on the the episode synopsis, was rather anti-climatic. Then again, Rachel has no emotional connection to this woman. She was raised by someone else. There wasn’t much to feel.
Those familiar with Raven’s comic book background might have been a tad confused as to why her mother/guardian was “Melissa” Roth. It’s clear now: Rachel’s mother really is Angela – but Rachel took the Roth name from the woman who raised her. It’s a nifty little trick to keep viewers on our toes.
Adamson fesses that Rachel’s birth mother, Angela Azarath (that last name has got to raise some eyebrows), is still alive, held in a psychiatric facility. He also insists that Rachel will “heal/purify the world”. To prove his point, he slices his neck to trigger Rachel’s healing powers.
Rachel and Gar impulsively sneak away to find Angela before Dick and Kory can recon and come up with a solid plan. Gar had a plan to get there – swipe Dick’s phone and use his Uber account to book a fancy transport – but not how to get in. The two are caught while skirting around the perimeter. Dick and Kory don’t fare much better. They make it into the ground through underground tunnels, but are soon confronted by the female doctor who works for Adamson. She threatens a knocked-out Gar to coerce Dick and Kory into surrendering.
Facing the dark
The doctor and handlers sedate Dick with hallucinogens, experiment on Kory, and continuously taser Gar. The drugs bring out the deepest, darkest parts of Dick. He hallucinates himself in the Robin suit. His younger self appears, telling him he hates present Dick, and that Dick only has himself to blame for all he has become, instead of pushing it onto Bruce or Zuko or other villains. The vision of his younger self proceeds to beat Dick up, brutally.
Meanwhile, Adamson threatens Angela and the Titans to coerce Rachel into summoning her father. Instead, Demon Rachel takes over and undoes her healing on Adamson, letting him bleed to death. Rachel then uses his key card to enter Angela’s ward. The woman initially doesn’t believe Rachel is her daughter, until Rachel reveals the raven-shaped birthmark on her back.
For how dramatic this episode was set up to be, the way the Titans find each other one by one by simply walking into each other’s holding rooms was quite out of tune. But the show almost compensated for the lack of action with strong, character-driven moments.
First off, Gar. Rachel unlocks his cage without a hitch. Of course, things don’t go that smoothly. Gar’s handler catches as they are about to leave and attacks. Gar fights back in tiger form, dragging the man into the cage and mauling him. After, he shifts back to find blood and flesh in his mouth. And here’s the best moment of the episode: sweet, innocent Garfield, who previously had never bitten anyone in his life, staring at himself in shame and horror, wondering what he had done.
It has to end
They find Dick next, outwardly in a trance. Rachel breaks through to him by reminding him of his inner strength and his promise not to leave her. He needs help getting on his feet, but they get out of his cell without trouble. Two down, one more to go.
The team get to Kory just as the doctor is about to chop of her finger to see how far her healing powers go. Dick takes down the staff while Gar and Rachel remove Kory’s bindings, electrodes and tubes. By the way, Gar knows his way around medical stuff. It’s a subtle reflection of his time living with researchers – his parents, and Dr Caulder.
The team are almost out of the tunnels when a horde of armed guards file in. Dick, though still somewhat shaken and haggard, gives in to his dark side and single-handedly fights through the guards with a broken pipe. That’s moment number 2 of the hour for you.
Dick gets the rest of the team out before telling Kory to burn the place down. Outside, the Titans watch the building burn. It should be cathartic, should be closure, but it doesn’t feel that way. Their fears and demons won’t remain in the ashes, but will continue to follow them.
Dick also burns his Robin suit and mask. There’s something significant about this, a turning point. Does this mean Nightwing is coming?
But before that – it appears next week Dick will disband the team and head off on his own again. When he was just reminded of his promise. What happened to not leaving, huh Dick?
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(featured image: DC Universe)