WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for the sixth episode of Titans, “Jason Todd,” streaming now on DC Universe.
Titans has devoted a significant portion of its season so far constructing Dick Grayson's backstory, relating the deaths of his parents in near-iconic imagery, and exploring his complicated relationship with Bruce Wayne, who took in a young orphan, only to transform him into a child soldier in his war on crime. With this week's episode, "Jason Todd," the DC Universe series provides Dick with a dark glimpse of what he might have, and could still yet, become -- a sociopath who exploits the relatively anonymity of the Robin costume to gleefully mete out violence -- while also introducing an archnemesis who is, basically, his own Joker.
With his disfigurement, Nicolas Zucco may seem to have more in common with Batman foe Two-Face, but that's only a surface reading. But just as, in most tellings, Batman played a role in the creation of The Joker, so too was Robin pivotal in the origin of Zucco as a diabolical killer fueled by revenge.
In "Jason Todd," we learn that Batman's new sidekick (Curran Walters) didn't arrive by accident to rescue Dick Grayson (Brenton Thwaites), but rather was sent to inform him about the murders of former performers of Haly's Circus. One by one, people with connections to Dick's childhood as part of the Flying Graysons have been killed and disfigured with hydrofluoric acid, the same substance used to burn the trapeze ropes used by his parents.
As in the comics, it was mobster Tony Zucco who killed Dick's parents to send a message to circus ringmaster C.C. Haly, an honest businessman who refused to pay protection money. On Titans, when Zucco is finally apprehended, he cuts a deal to inform on the Maroni crime family, which placed him in the sights of not only the mob, but also Robin. In flashback, we see the Boy Wonder attack the prison van transporting Zucco to protective custody, intent on seeking vengeance for the murder of his family. Dick nearly kills Tony with his bare hands, but then hesitates long enough for Maroni thugs to arrive and finish the job for him. When Zucco pleads amid a hail of bullets -- hydrofluoric acid bullets, no less -- for help, Dick flatly replies, "No."