WARNING: The following contains spoilers for the Titans Season 2 episode "Rose," streaming now on DC Universe.
DC Universe's Titans went a long way in its trailers, and in the Season 2 premiere, to set up Deathstroke as the new, primary antagonist, only to subvert expectations in the second episode. Oh, sure, there's a classic comic book villain gunning for Dick Grayson, Hank Hall and Dawn Granger, but it's not not Slade Wilson (at least not directly). It's Doctor Light, but he's hardly the minor nuisance longtime fans may remember from The New Teen Titans. He's a cold-blooded murderer with a vendetta against the young heroes.
Introduced in 1962, Doctor Light was originally an early enemy of the Justice League of America. However, after multiple defeats by those heroes, he turned his attention in 1976 to the Teen Titans, then comprised of Robin, Wonder Girl, Kid Flash and Speedy, but was beaten. When he returned four years later, in The New Teen Titans #3, the light-manipulating villain brought with him the newly assembled Fearsome Five, but was no more successful. Nevertheless, he remained a persistent, if somewhat-bumbling, foe for the new incarnation of the team.
Played by Michael Mosley (Pan Am, Sirens), Arthur Light is freed from San Quentin State Prison early in this week's episode, "Rose," by an unseen ally, who leaves only a bloody trail of dead, or dying, guards behind. Doctor Light immediately draws power from an overhead light, and uses the energy to swiftly, but evidently painfully, finish off an injured guard who pulls himself across the floor, begging for his life. "Good," Light says. "I thought the fun was over."
However, the "fun" doesn't end there. Light soon makes his way from San Quentin, just north of San Francisco, to Wyoming, where Hank (Alan Ritchson) and Dawn (Minka Kelly) have settled on a ranch, where Hank devotes his time to horses, and helping a young addict named Ellis. Although Doctor Light isn't actually seen there, he leaves an unmistakable calling card for Hawk and Dove: Ellis knocks on the door one night, light emitting from his mouth; effectively transformed into a human bomb, he falls to the floor, his body unable to contain the energy. Luckily, Hank realizes what's happening, and pulls Dawn from the house before Ellis explodes.
Hank immediately calls Dick Grayson (Brenton Thwaites), and assures him it was indeed the work of Doctor Light. "Just saw a kid burn up from the inside out," he says. "I'm pretty sure it was him." While Dick acknowledges "this is bad" ("No shit," Hank retorts), the warning apparently isn't enough to lead him to take precautions. Instead, he drives to the bus station with Rose (Chelsea Zhang), the young fugitive pursued by the police, and possibly others), yet doesn't check the back seat. As Rose is about to step out of the Jeep, a light begins to radiate from behind them, with, by now, predictable results. Presumably there wasn't a body in the back seat, which means Doctor Light can make bombs out of inanimate objects as well.
The Doctor Light of Titans is clearly a formidable foe, and has been from the start, judging from the exchange between Dick and Hank. In The New Teen Titans comic series, he was frequently treated as the butt of jokes (he was mocked in his first appearance there for having been defeated by The Atom). However, Light's history was retconned in Identity Crisis, the controversial 2004 miniseries, in which it was revealed he was a serial rapist who attacked Sue Dibny, the wife of Justice League member Elongated Man, aboard the team's satellite headquarters. To ensure he would no longer pose a threat to their loved ones, the heroes decide that Zatanna should use her magic to alter his mind. Instead, however, she inadvertently gives Light a partial lobotomy, which is used to explain why he was later a punchline for the Teen Titans.
There's no question that Doctor Light on Titans is deadly and merciless, with no qualms about harming innocents to get what he wants. However, there is a question regarding who he's working with, or for.
"Rose" also introduces Hanneke Talbot as Shimmer, a super-powered criminal who, in the comics, was a member of the Fearsome Five, a team of villains founded by Doctor Light. Sought for an unknown reason by Kory (Anna Diop) and Donna Troy (Conor Leslie), Shimmer is purportedly willing to do anything for money, including murder, it seems highly unlikely that she freed Light from San Quentin, killed countless guards, and then high-tailed it to Chicago.
Judging from the bloodbath alone, the likely candidate is Deathstroke (Esai Morales), who has his own vendetta against the Titans. The question is whether Light is one of the "inquiries" mentioned in the season premiere by Slade's associate Wintergreen (Demore Barnes), or whether the assassin enlisted the supervillain to distract the young heroes while zeroes in on his true target, whoever, or whatever, that may be. The latter might explain how Light, from behind bars, learned that Dick was back in San Francisco (and driving Donna's Jeep), and that Hank and Dawn had moved to Wyoming from Washington, D.C.
But we're also left to wonder whether Slade is aware his daughter Rose is with the Titans, and that Doctor Light nearly killed her. That's information that could bring Light's crusade, to say nothing of his life, to an abrupt end.
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.