Titans s2e4, “Aqualad”, started streaming on DC Universe on 27 September 2019.
Apparently, everyone saw this coming from a mile away. Somehow I didn’t.
I thought this episode would be a flashback to the first time Titans 1.0 fought Deathstroke. It’s not really, and I’m not sure that is good or bad. It predates their fight with Deathstroke. It’s the backstory to the backstory.
Last season, Titans had a lot of setting-up, which ended with the compressed ending and finale booted over to season 2. I can close an eye to that, since it was the first season, but it’s season 2 now. Let’s get the ball rolling.
Once Upon a Time in San Francisco
Slade Wilson, effective, lethal assassin, enters town for his newest assignment. Presumably he’s sent to kill the Titans – or one specific Titans at least. It also gives him the chance to visit his estranged wife and son – meaning watch them wistfully from afar. His wife is paranoid of she and Jericho being watched though, for unsaid reasons.
Back then, Titans 1.0 were younger, happier people. Dick is cocky, Dawn is carefree, Hank is surprisingly boisterous given that the previous two are currently a pair, and Donna is that socially awkward just post-teen young adult. Oh, and Garth aka Aqualad just turned 22 (90 in fish years, supposedly), which the team celebrate. Brenton Thwaites (Dick) and Conor Leslie (Donna) were particularly enjoyable as their young characters.
Garth and Donna are childhood friends. Garth has been crushing on her since they were 12. Donna keeps refusing his advances though she might return his feelings. Her time with the Titans is limited – she must eventually return to Themyscira, so practically, relationships are ultimately meaningless to pursue.
An illuminating encounter
Dr Light, 5 years younger, gets the Titans’ attention when he steals his former rival geek’s nuclear laser activator. “It’s time to make a withdrawal,” he tells his goons before robbing a bank. Why does he, a powered-up guy, need goons? At least corny villain lines were a thing.
While the team investigates, Garth asks Dick for dating advice because, priorities. Dick says just wait and let Donna come to terms on her own. We also learn that Dawn and Hank “crashed and burned” some time prior and Dick happened to be there to fill the void. Dick seems perfectly fine being a rebound, and Hank is surprisingly cool with it all – at least from his generally raucous behaviour around the team.
Speaking of, Dick and Dawn spend some time being gross together, in which Dawn tells him to be himself and “Don’t be Batman.”
Meanwhile, Donna seeks out her sorta guardian, an Amazonian named Jillian. Their conversation reveals Donna was given another 6 months to spend with the Titans, but Donna decides to return to Themyscira ASAP – in a way running from her feelings for Garth. She waits until the day she’s about to leave to tell Dick, lying that Jillian is making her leave. Dick advises her to tell Garth, but she doesn’t.
In the ensuing battle with Light, Garth has a valiant solo moment. Not quite a holy-shit-you-could-have-died-and-I-didn’t-tell-you-how-I-feel, but enough for Donna to finally kiss him in the tower after. She sleeps with him before leaving, and leaves Dick to deliver the hard news to Garth.
Tragic encounter – check
Garth chases Donna down and confronts her on the airstrip. As he leaves, Donna runs after him, seemingly deciding to stay afterall. That’s when Deathstroke shot Garth. Or was he aiming for Donna? He fires again – but Jillian thwarts the bullet with a shuriken.
Donna decides to stay and seek vengeance against Deathstroke. She feels guilty as Garth was at the airstrip because of her.
Dick eventually identifies the assailant as Slade Wilson. That’s when he hear Dawn tell Dick to “be Batman” – in the sense of be a cold, punishment-doling fighter.
One week later, Jericho and Dick meet at a record store as they fanboy over old records. Or were they? That last shot of Dick’s expression shifting to serious suggests he has an ulterior motive that isn’t the best for Jericho.
So…Dick manipulated Joey to get to Slade and it resulted in Slade having to or accidentally killing his own son, which caused his hatred of the Titans? That seems the prevailing theory. It does feel like we need a part 2 to this flashback which I’m not sure the show has time for. We are a third into the season and need to progress with the present day plot.
Also, I guess this means that Jericho really is dead in present day (contrary to my hoping in last week’s article). That’s a shame because I really enjoyed watching Chella Man and I’d hate if this is Jericho’s only season.
Some fun notes:
- The action sequences of Titans 1.0 were slower and klunkier, showing their relative inexperience to the slicker, more vicious fighters they presently are
- Dick’s singing is apparently famous, or infamous. I’ll need more information about this down the line. A musical episode maybe.
- “Indie rock group of vigilante friends” – more reasons for a musical episode, and a winning line in itself.
- The scene where Dick silently sees Donna off was so telling. His best friend was leaving and he couldn’t say goodbye – for her sake.