Titans: What the Hell Is Wrong With Jason Todd, Anyway?

WARNING: The following contains spoilers for the Titans Season 2 episode "Bruce Wayne," streaming now on DC Universe.

After antagonizing Deathstroke and Doctor Light (RIP), defiantly enduring physical abuse, and then greeting his rescue from certain death by asking Conner Kent with, "Who the fuck are you?," the Jason Todd we meet in this week's episode of Titans is starkly out of character. Alternating between withdrawn and emotionally fragile, he fights back tears when he's accused by his teammates of subtly tormenting them with painful reminders of their pasts. We might chalk up his behavior to post-traumatic stress, but what if it's something else, something more?

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Aside from the overarching thread of what role Dick Grayson (Brenton Thwaites) played in the death of Slade Wilson's son Jericho (Chella Man), the primary mysteries of the latest episode, "Bruce Wayne," are why someone is pulling cruel "pranks," for lack of a better word, on the Titans -- drawing crosses all over Rachel's room, leaving out the brand of orange soda that Donna and Garth enjoyed, and so on -- and who is spying on the team for Deathstroke. The convenient, even logical, answer to both would be Jason (Curran Walters), considering his odd behavior. However, it may not be that simple.

The Eyes of Jason Todd

The episode opens with Jason's nightmarish vision of his fall after Deathstroke detonated the suspended scaffold. Except, Jason isn't asleep; he's instead staring out the window of his bedroom, which becomes sort of a recurring motif in "Bruce Wayne." There are two other observations of potential note: This isn't a strict re-creation of events; he's not plummeting from the side of a building, he's walled in, and plunging within a box. One might even say a prison. The other is Jason's eyes, which initially seem merely to reflect the lights from the building(s). But they become a repeated focus of the episode as he stares out the window; sometimes we see flashes of light, mimicking his body passing the floors of the building, but one time, we don't.

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That may very well be a hamfisted way for Titans to visualize PTSD -- after all, the series isn't exactly subtle. But why the focus on Jason's eyes? The more traditional, and logical, way to depict this struggle would be for Jason to be tormented by nightmares. Instead, he's wide awake, if not always aware of what's going on around him. And the eyes may hold the key.

We'd theorized earlier that Jericho may not actually be dead in the present, but instead used his power, which enables him to possess the body of anyone with whom he makes eye contact, to escape his fate. (In the comics, he transferred his consciousness into the body of his father, where it lay dormant for years after his apparent death.) Traditionally, when Jericho activates his power, his eyes turn black and chartreuse, an effect that's seemingly mimicked on Titans by the light in Jason's own eyes.

Is it possible that Jericho does, indeed, live on the series, and somehow took possession of Jason? It would explain the Boy Wonder's unusual behavior since returning to Titans Tower, as well as the episode's fixation with his eyes. The opening scene may very well be symbolic of the imprisonment of Jason's psyche within his own mind and body. He's warring with Jericho for control, but unaware of what's happening, which accounts for his emotional withdrawal, and even his move toward suicide.

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Of course, we're left with the questions of when the possession might have taken place (most likely during Jason's capture by Deathstroke, which would suggest Jericho has been lurking within his father for five years), and whether we should search for subtext in Jason's sensual dance with Rose Wilson (Chelsea Zhang), Jericho's sister. OK, let's not dwell on the latter.

The Eyes of Tara Markov

Arguably the biggest revelation in the episode is that, in the words of "Bruce Wayne" (that is, Dick's guilty conscience, manifesting as his mentor), "Seems like one way or another, the monster has been inside the Tower all along." Slade leads Dick to photos capturing the Titans, both old and new, in candid, intimate moments in their headquarters: Hank, Donna and Dawn eating, Jason and Rose dancing, etc. These aren't images taken with a telephoto lens, or swiped from the Tower's security system. These were captured by one of the young heroes.

It's evocative of 1984's Tales of the Teen Titans #42, "The Eyes of Tara Markov," the first chapter of the seminal "Judas Contract" storyline.  The issue is told from the perspective of Tara Markov, better known as Terra, the troubled girl who's befriended by the Titans as part of Deathstroke's plan to bring down the team from within. Although we were already clued into her betrayal, here we learn that she had taken photos of her unsuspecting teammates in unguarded moments using a special contact lens camera: Donna Troy with her fiance, Dick Grayson entering his apartment building, Cyborg training, and so on. (Previously, she recorded video of the heroes in action.) Sound familiar?

When Esai Morales was cast in Season 2 as Deathstroke, followed by Zhang as his daughter Rose, some speculated she might take the place of Terra in Titans' take on "The Judas Contract." However, the series quickly made the heroes aware of her identity, and she even lost an eye to her father, which seems a step too far in trying to maintain a charade. That means the photos, quaintly printed on actual paper, had to be taken by someone else.

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Jason is prominently featured in at least three of the images, so that rules him out. Dick isn't seen at all, but it wouldn't make any sense for him to be the culprit. But there's someone else absent: Garfield Logan.

Seen only briefly in "Bruce Wayne" -- he lets Dr. Eve Watson into the Tower -- Gar (Ryan Potter) has had little to do since he ventured with Jason into the sewers in the third episode of the season. That's due in part to the way the storytelling has unfolded (Episode 4 was a flashback, and Episode 6 focused on Conner's journey), but also, no doubt, because there are eight heroes for the writers to deal with, not even counting Garth, Conner for the Bruce Wayne in Dick's head. But it also has freed him up to skulk around Titans Tower.

Ironically, perhaps, Rachel (Teagan Croft) accused Gar of spying on her in Episode 5; he's later the one who, from the monitor room, eavesdrops on the original Titans, which results in Rose attempting to escape the Tower. That's hardly evidence that Gar has been surveilling the team for Deathstroke, but it hardly helps his case. After all, it's difficult to overlook his glaring absence from those photos.

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But if we're to accept the possibility that Gar is the spy, and even the one responsible for leaving the alcohol in Hank's room, or moving the photo of their dead friend into the kitchen, we have to ask why, and when, it happened. (As an aside, let's accept that, of all the Titans, Gar would be fully aware of the effect crosses scrawled on Rachel's bedroom walls would have on her.)

Gar was alone in the sewer tunnels at the end of Episode 3, when he discovered Jason's abduction, so there's a chance that, before he reported back to his teammates, he was approached by Deathstroke with an offer: Robin's safety (well, more or less), in exchange for his services as a spy. Now, that doesn't seem likely, particularly if we consider "Bruce Wayne's" phrasing: "... the monster has been inside the Tower all along" (emphasis added). Not to place too much stock in a figment of Dick's imagination, but the implication is that Deathstroke was there from the beginning, presumably from when the Titans were re-formed.

It was Jason's ill-advised appearance on the television news, following the battle with Trigon, that tipped off a "retired" Slade Wilson that the Titans were back in business. But there's certainly a suggestion that he had kept tabs on the original members, with whom he has a history. After all, he knew exactly where to find Hank (Alan Ritchson) and Dawn (Minka Kelly), retired to a ranch, and even that Dick had returned to San Francisco. What's to say he, or one of his operatives, hadn't been monitoring them for years? That's certainly a better explanation than pure coincidence why Dick and Rachel crossed paths with Gar in the middle of Ohio: Deathstroke put him in their path.

That may be jumping to conclusions, but it would answer some nagging questions, while turning "The Judas Contract" on its head.

Streaming now on DC Universe, Titans Season 2 stars Brenton Thwaites as Dick Grayson, Anna Diop as Kory Anders, Teagan Croft as Rachel Roth, Ryan Potter as Garfield Logan, Curran Walters as Jason Todd and Conor Leslie as Donna Troy, with Minka Kelly as Dawn Granger, Alan Ritchson as Hank Hall, Joshua Orpin as Superboy, Chelsea Zhang as Rose Wilson, Chella Man as Jericho, Drew Van Acker as Aqualad, Esai Morales as Deathstroke and Iain Glen as Bruce Wayne.

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