Saturday, August 14, 2021

REVIEW: 'Titans' - The Titans Make Several Agonizing Choices in the Hopes of Saving One of Their Own in 'Hank & Dove'

HBO Max's Titans - Episode 3.03 "Hank & Dove"

After unearthing an empty grave, the Titans confirm that an old friend is alive - and behind the city's latest emerging threat. Then, when a Titan falls for Red Hood's trap, the team races against the clock to save one of their own.

In 2020, the television industry aired 493 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the next episode of HBO Max's Titans.

"Hank & Dove" was written by Jamie Gorenberg and directed by Millicent Shelton

This show hasn't particularly handled the death of its main characters all that well. Donna Troy's tragic demise was outrageously and unnecessarily bad. The show figured it needed a death at the end of its second season to highlight the severity of the events. It didn't line up well with the resolution needed for the threats from Deathstroke and Cadmus Industries. And so, it was awkwardly tagged on. Meanwhile, Jason's death provided emotion for the third season premiere before essentially being treated as some elaborate mystery that must now define the narrative moving forward. It's clear that he was changed significantly as a character in that moment. He was brought back to life while being dead enough to convince Bruce and the rest of Gotham City. He has made his influence known to the Titans though. He is elaborate and monstrous with the actions he is willing to take against them. This episode is almost completely devoted to a core character dying. That could come across as some grandiose plot development. Hank facing death forces him to confront what his various friendships truly mean and what he wants from his romance with Dawn moving forward. And yes, those moments of clarity do come. The show just matches them with devastation when Hank truly does die. The bomb implanted in his chest and attached to his heart does detonate. Conner doesn't save him in time despite his best efforts. Dick understood that there had to be another way to avoid this tragic outcome. The Titans didn't have to follow Jason's sick and twisted rules. It was all just an elaborate ruse to prove just how much in control he now is as Red Hood. It's a transformation that leaves behind the Jason the team once knew. He can no longer be redeemed. He is a villain who must be put down. Hank was already operating in those absolutes at the top of the episode. He already saw a choice between saving him or Jason. The team couldn't protect both. That seemed irrational to the rest of the team. They didn't have to focus on that extreme. That's what plays out in this episode though. Jason lures Hank into a trap. It's yet another piece of evidence that the Titans continue to make countless mistakes when they decide to enter a situation by themselves. Jason knows this as well. He tells everyone that they must come alone in order to follow through on whatever plans he has for them. It's how he brings Hank to his trap. It's how he conditions Dawn and later Dick into acting how he wants in the epic climax. Dawn fears for Hank's life. She doesn't trust that the team will save him in time. And so, she enacts the plot meant to prove the Titans are villains who can't be trusted in this city. That appears to be Jason's grand goal. The Titans shouldn't be seen as heroes who can bring salvation to Gotham City when Batman couldn't. It's a somewhat simple ambition. A life has been lost in this conflict though. Hank dies because the gun given to Dawn is actually the trigger for the device. Again, that proves that the team can no longer take Jason at his word. He is deceitful and manipulative. The team is one step behind him too. It takes too long for Dick to realize the device came from Wayne Enterprises. The pieces just don't come together fast enough. Hank is gone. That loss should hopefully inspire some meaningful character development for the Titans left behind. It should be seen as absolute too. With Donna, every action is done with the hint that Rachel can possibly bring her back. The show has a willingness to employ those devices. With Hank, that can't be an option. The show has to make that clear. The separation must be distinct. This may allow the show to break free of its patterns. The tension is high. Characters are changing. The nature of conflicts in Gotham City is much more severe than what the Titans have faced elsewhere. That is apparent right away. Of course, it's all done with the obvious intention that so much more is happening as well. And so, it's still frustrating as the show essentially treats the audience as being too foolish to see things clearly alongside the rest of the team. That's not a great position to be in. And yet, confidence can still be built in believing what happens next will be rewarding at the end of the day.