WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for the Titans Season 1 episode "Asylum," streaming now on DC Universe.
Dick Grayson's estrangement from Batman, and his ultimate rejection of the Robin identity, was a long-running subplot of the 1980 DC comics series The New Teen Titans, culminating in him hanging up the costume in Issue 39, before returning to action with a new alter ego. DC Universe's Titans has accelerated that arc considerably, but the result appears to be the same, laying the groundwork for the debut of Nightwing.
The live-action series has signaled that from the start, of course, introducing Brenton Thwaites as a troubled Dick Grayson in self-imposed exile, out of costume, and out of contact with his mentor, for more than a year, fearing that he was becoming as bloodthirsty as Batman. Rescued as a young orphan by Bruce Wayne, only to be trained as a child soldier in the Dark Knight's vigilante crusade, Dick was ready to escape that life -- at least until he crossed paths with another young orphan, Rachel Roth, who desperately needed his protection. Aware of the bitter irony, Dick nevertheless sought to hone Rachel (Teagan Croft) and Garfield Logan (Ryan Potter) into weapons, if only so they can defend themselves against the mysterious forces pursuing the girl.
In last week's episode, "Jason Todd," Dick met his replacement, "Robin 2.0" (Curran Walters), who, like him, was taken under Batman's wing and transformed into a vigilante. But unlike Dick, who perhaps was always conflicted about his role as Robin, Jason relishes the costumed identity and the freedom that comes with the mask; anonymity allows him to mete out violence free of consequence. For Jason Todd, there's simply no downside to being Batman's sidekick, even if his primary role is to serve as a brightly colored target. When Kory asked at the end of the episode how many Robins should she expect to return to the safe house in Chicago, Dick replied "None," seemingly signaling that we'd seen the last of him in the red-and-yellow costume. That was mostly a correct assessment.
In "Asylum," the captive Dr. Adamson sets a trap for Rachel by letting it be known that her birth mother is being held in a facility operated by the mysterious Organization. Naturally, she and Gar walk right into it, quickly followed by Dick and Kory (Anna Diop). There, Dick is pumped full of the same drug previously used to "break" the Nuclear Family's Stepdad. Only Dick doesn't break -- at least not completely -- presumably because of his training under Bruce Wayne. Instead, like a scene from the 1990s sci-fi thriller Flatliners, he's confronted by his younger self, who delivers multiple beatdowns and blames Dick for everything that's happened. "I hate you," says the boy. "I hate what you did to me."
That's the very definition of self-loathing.
"Robin was the answer," the kid says. "Robin was going to fix everything. But you ruined it! You blame Zucco. You blame Bruce. No. No, it was you! You made him into a monster!"
When Rachel, her mother and Gar reach Dick, he's strapped to a chair and nearly comatose. But he's drawn back to reality by Rachel's pleas, and helps them to free Kory and escape the asylum. Along the way, he tells Kory to use her powers to ignite the leaking gas lines, and destroy the facility and everyone in it. "It all has to end," he says.
Safe outside the burning building with the others, Dick stares at the burning remnants of his Robin costume, which is a nice visual, but also a potential plot hole. Dick was depicted in costume as he attempted to escape on his own, and when he was confronted by his younger self, but that was all a hallucination caused by the drugs. He was strapped to the chair, in his civilian clothes, the entire time. So, perhaps the burning costume remnant, and what looks to be the domino mask he was holding, are hallucinatory, too, residual effects of whatever substance is still coursing through his veins.
Whether real or a delusion, the burning costume is obviously a powerful symbol that Dick Grayson is ready to turn the page, which means it's only a matter of time before he takes up another costumed identity.
Now streaming on DC Universe, Titans stars Brenton Thwaites as Robin, Anna Diop as Starfire, Teagan Croft as Raven and Ryan Potter as Beast Boy.