Titans feels like a show that’s just hit its stride. Set months after the events of the second season, the focus this time shifts to Gotham City and with it, a much more driven and interesting direction for the show. It’s been an area briefly explored over the past few seasons but here it’s the focal point for most of the episodes. The story feels much more urgent this time around, with genuine stakes and a gripping story hanging over this one.
The story wastes absolutely no time getting right into the thick of action. Jason has tracked down the Joker and heads off in search of the crazed clown alone. Unfortunately, he bites off more than he chew. Wait, where have we seen this before?
With Jason in serious trouble and with Bruce Wayne off in London for a conference, it falls to Dick Grayson and the other Titans to uproot from San Francisco and head across to the murky depths of Gotham.
Hanging out at Wayne Manor, the group find themselves trying to figure out what happened to Jason. Only, a new masked vigilante arrives on the scene that muddy the waters. Calling himself Red Hood, this hooligan terrorizes Dick and the gang, taking what worked so well with the Deathstroke story in season 2 and blending that in with the best aspects of season 1. No spoilers of course, but suffice to say not everyone survives this conflict.
These stakes are ultimately what make season 3 feel much more urgent than previous endeavours with this show. Gotham is obviously a very dark and dingy place, allowing for the art department to really lean into a much grimier aesthetic. There’s a lot more dark alleyways, foreboding tall skyscrapers and crooked cops on the streets. There’s an aura around Gotham, something that the comics manage to exude so beautifully. Thankfully, that’s translated across to this season too.
Alongside this central story are several other subplots that crop up. With no Raven in sight, the attention instead turns to Kory and her sister Blackstar. The former suffers from nasty visions and flashbacks throughout the first 4 episodes, lashing out against Gar and others at the Manor in wildly erratic outbursts. As the season progresses, Kory’s sister Blackstar becomes a more central figure to this subplot, although her purpose is shrouded in secrecy for now.
Given the intense focus on Gotham, there’s a fascinating dynamic that plays on past ties between characters. With Barbara Gordon the commissioner of Gotham and certain inmates from Arkham Asylum playing a big role in the story here, there’s an awful lot of history to draw on – and the show almost feels like a spiritual successor to Fox’s Gotham at times. The writers have clearly had a lot of fun this year, with several clever inclusions to the story playing on tropes and ideas explored in the previous two seasons.
When the plan for our big bad is revealed in episode 6, it opens up a much more expansive second half to this story, and it’ll be interesting to see how that pans out.
The characters are much more developed this time although there still is some heavy dose of contrivance and plot convenience used in the story. One such example comes in episode 3 where one character makes a litany of mistakes that ultimately leads to a head-scratching poor judgment call. It’s the most egregious example of this and it’s something that’s hampered the show in the past. That’s not to mention some of the tonal inconsistencies, especially in episode 6 where humour starts to seep back into the story after 5 episodes of playing it straight.
Now, it’s worth pointing out that critics were only given the first 6 episodes for review. Given this is a 13 episode season, this review is liable to change – especially after watching the full season. Based on what we’ve seen though, it does seem like Titans has hit its stride.
Titans Season 3 drops on HBO Max weekly from 12th August 2021!
Episodes 1-6 provided for review
Provisional Score - 8/10