Titans episode “Hank and Dawn” started streaming on 7 December, 2018.
Warning: this review mentions mature and sensitive topics. Reader caution is advised.
Dear Titans, I am very invested in your characters, but one can only make so many bird references.
At this rate, however, I won’t be stopping any time soon.
I must say, this episode was inserted at an odd place. It was a sharp and sudden detour after last week’s cliffhanger. Plus, we were finally making headway on Starfire’s story, it was almost as if someone accidentally sat on the remote and changed the channel. It makes me wonder if some episodes had been swapped around.
That said, the storytelling in “Hank and Dawn” was fantastic. The way things were revealed, layer by layer, made the hour compelling. The cinematography cleverly paralleled that in “Hawk and Dove”. Alan Ritchson had much more to do this week, and he delivered. At the end, the episode managed to link back to our main plot, and all the odd things finally made sense.
Hank and Don
At the hospital, an inebriated Hank steals some meds before passing out at Dawn’s bedside. He starts dreaming of his past.
Hank grew up with his younger half-brother, Donny. They attended an upper-class grade school thanks to Hank’s football scholarship. One day, Hank was forced to be mean to Donny, and while it is obvious he does it to protect Donny from the football coach, it is the later revelation of what exactly he was shielding Donny from that stuns the viewer.
Years later, Hank is playing college football and winds up with a concussion. He and Donny disagree with how to handle it and end up starting a fight in a library, for which they are expelled. When Hank laments not having football as an outlet for his anger, Donny suggests vigilantism. Their neighbourhood is overrun by sexual predators, and the system fails to put them away. This seems like an arbitrary target at first; only later do we realise how close it strikes to the young men’s hearts.
Hank takes the name “Hawk” from his former grades school team, which makes Donny “Dove”. They record their missions on an old videocam, and despite the shinjinks, eventually take down a pornography ring.
A new Dawn
Hank gets over-excited seeing himself and Donny headlining a newspaper, he bumps into Dawn Granger as she leaves high tea with her mother. Almost right after they meet, a truck slams into the sidewalk, killing Donny, and Dawn’s mother.
Hank and Dawn meet again through a tragedy support group. Their initial conversations are a little rough, but eventually they grow closer.
When Hank finally invites Dawn to his place, she finds his and Donny’s old costumes and videos. Hank opens up to Dawn about the coach taking advantage of him, and confesses he couldn’t bring himself to face the man even when he became Hawk. Dawn sneaks out later that night to track down and confront the coach, but Hank finds her trail. They discover the coach is a rampant pedophile, and beat him up together.
Afterwards, Dawn consoles Hank and the two end up in his bed. However, Dawn resists starting a relationship. As she climbs out of bed, she sees a vision of Rachel yelling for help in Hank’s helmet. Rachel had oddly been appearing in mirrors and reflections throughout Hank and Dawn’s memories. In that moment, Dawn realises she is in a dream/memory and wakes up in the hospital. Rachel had somehow been reaching out to them.
Dawn wakes Hank and tells him they need to find Jason Todd.
“Hank and Dawn” was so good that by the end of it, I forgot how it was interrupting the main plot. I was immediately taken by Elliot Knight as Don Hall. Also, this show is incredibly detailed – from Don wearing the Superman T-shirt we’ve seen on Dawn, to Hank’s pills from the hospital appearing in the dream/memory. No scene makes the cut without reason.
It is rare media in any form ever dives into the emotions of a male character so deeply, or acknowledge that men face such issues too, so major props for how Titans has developed Hank’s character.
One wonders where Dick Grayson comes into Hank and Dawn’s story.
Uh, Hawk and Dove and Jason Todd?! Sign me up. With Donna, still with the rest of the team, it seems the show is setting up an extended team showing things down in the finale.
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(featured image: DC Universe)