TAS Reviews: Titans S01E01
Ever since the critical and commercial success of Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy, we've seen an influx of adaptations of beloved properties that imitate the darker tone of those movies, but without the storytelling sensibilities, substance and restraint that made those movies work and with a vital misunderstanding of why that tone was so befitting of the Batman property, and the story Nolan was trying to tell.
Which is what Titans, based on the marketing, appeared to be. Especially when you have Robin saying "Fuck Batman." Once again, Titans was shaping up to be another property that apes The Dark Knight's grittier approach to a beloved property, but would instead come across as juvenile and lacking in anything of substance. Time will tell whether or not Titans will shape into anything of substance, but based on this pilot, we're off to a good start!
A good pilot should, most importantly, satisfy me with a compelling set up and characters, all the while leaving me curious of where the characters and story will be heading next. The first episode of Titans is a success because, in spite of it's flaws, it accomplishes those two important aspects. The show moves at a solid pace, and I don't feel as if we're slogging through the boring set-up to get to the more interesting ones.
This is, in most part, due to the shows focus on character. Characters, above all things, are what determine whether or not invest time in a series, and Titans lays the groundwork with a couple of interesting characters, each of them having their individual storylines that intertwine. The MVP for me, is easily Starfire (shocker, right?!) There's something so riveting about Anna Diop's performance, and she does a great job carrying the audience throughout the mindset of her character and the emotions she is experiencing (I won't spoil it for those who haven't seen it).
Surprisingly, and here's where I disagree with critics, I loved Raven in this episode, and I found her storyline almost as riveting as Starfire. Sure, there's a gap in talent between Teagen Croft and the rest of the cast, but I'm sure that will come with age and experience, and I thought she did a solid job. Brenton Thwaites also gives a great portrayal of Robin, and I thought he did a praiseworthy job portraying the duality of the character in and outside of the mask.
I also really liked what we saw of Beast Boy, but I can't say much about him, and you'll understand why, when and if you've seen the episode. What makes these characters and storylines interesting thematically is that they're all lost in one way or another, which in my opinion, makes for the most compelling type of storytelling. I look forward to seeing these actors grow even more comfortable into these roles, and make them their own.
From a technical aspect, there are some rough effects, but for the most part, nothing distracting. The character designs, in my opinion, are solid and befitting of the tone established and the story being told. The show has good production values, and some great shots throughout, but if you struggle with the darker visual aesthetic of DC properties, you probably won't like this either, but I personally really dug it and thought it worked!
It isn't a perfect pilot, and there are some concerns to be had. First off, Robin is incredibly violent in this show, and Batman is alluded to as being even more extreme. In fact, even as someone who doesn't hold comic accuracy in high esteem and is open to different interpretation, I thought the violence was excessive and discomforting at times, but I'll reserve judgement for later episodes to decide whether this level of violence is justified, or indulgent. There are some pacing issues here and there, and the editing can be rough at times, but overall, this isn't a major issue, as the episode maintains it's laser-focus on character and plot progression.
Overall, I really loved this premiere. Is it perfect? No. But it gave me everything I could expect from a great premiere: interesting, well-acted characters I want to spend more time with, an intriguing set-up, good production values, and potential for improvement and a great series to emerge out of it. I'll definitely be tuning into the second episode, and I recommend that others check it out, even if you weren't moved by the trailer.