WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for the Titans series premiere, “Titans,” streaming now on DC Universe.
Despite the collective eye roll triggered by the first trailer for Titans, it turns out Robin was right. Fuck Batman.
The evidence is right there in the premiere of DC Universe’s live-action series, which introduces Brenton Thwaites as Dick Grayson, who’s so determined to put distance between himself and his mentor that he’s pulled up stakes and moved to Detroit, where he attempts to start over as a police detective. He’s resisted donning his costume for more than a year, leading Gotham cops to speculate Robin is dead.
The reason behind the drastic changes by the one-time Boy Wonder become clear when Detective Grayson, who has a reputation as “an asshole” and shuts out his new partner Amy Rohrbach (Lindsey Gort), finally drops his guard to confide, “I guess we had different ideas about the job.” Although Amy thinks he’s referring to his former partner on the Gotham City Police Department, it’s obvious Dick is discussing Batman. Dismissing the notion that he was crooked, like so many on the GCPD, Dick continues, “He was a hero to a lot of people, including me — a stop-at-nothing guy who solved everything with his fists. I admired him at first; what he did, what he was trying to do. But eventually, I had to walk away. […] Because I was becoming too much like him.”
In an interview ahead of the series premiere, Thwaites confirmed the Dark Knight of the Titans universe is a killer, which led Robin to break up the Dynamic Duo. The irony, of course, is that even while seeking to escape Batman’s shadow, Dick Grayson struggles with the rage within himself. We see in the alley fight scene, previewed in the first trailer, that Robin’s tactics are brutal; he breaks bones, slices flesh (and maybe arteries), and disfigures at least one face, but he doesn’t kill in pursuit of his goal — at least not yet. Even after all of those years beneath Batman’s wing, he’s not lost to that darkness. That’s probably cold comfort to viewers who bemoan Titans as a gloomy reflection of Zack Snyder’s bleak DC Extended Universe, but still, there’s the suggestion that, in his effort to save young Rachel Roth (Teagan Croft), Dick Grayson my also save himself.
Although the tone is drastically, and undeniably, different, the split between Robin and Batman echoes a long-running thread in DC’s 1980 New Teen Titans, in which Dick sought to prove himself and forge his own identity, before ultimately hanging up the costume he’d worn since age 8 (he later returned to superhero duty as Nightwing). Of course, that being an ’80s mainstream comics series, the fissure began over Dick’s decision to drop out of college, and not Bruce Wayne’s homicidal tendencies.
The inner turmoil, about savagery, not schooling, plays out across much of the Titans premiere, first as Robin attempts to limit the violence offering the criminals an out — they could have left the drugs, the guns and the child abuser, and walked away — and then, in the aftermath, as he experiences a Lady Macbeth moment, and washes blood off the emblem on his costume. The latter is a bit heavy-handed, sure, particularly when paired with music (on vinyl, no less!) with all the pep of a dirge. Yet, it adds crucial context.
That one line of dialogue from the first trailer was so soundly mocked that it dominated much of the early discussion of Titans, and undoubtedly jaundiced the popular view of the series as “X-treme,” with an X. But that doesn’t negate the apparent fact that Robin was right to leave Gotham and his murderous mentor, and he was right to declare “Fuck Batman.” Because, yeah, fuck that guy.
Now streaming on DC Universe, Titans stars Brenton Thwaites as Robin, Anna Diop as Starfire, Teagan Croft as Raven, Ryan Potter as Beast Boy, Alan Ritchson as Hawk, Minka Kelly as Dove, and Lindsey Gort as Amy Rohrbach. A new episode debuts each Friday.
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