Thursday, August 26, 2021

REVIEW: 'Titans' - Jason's Desperation to Rid His Life of Fear Sends Him to a Devious and Manipulative Partner in 'Lazarus'

HBO Max's Titans - Episode 3.05 "Lazarus"

In the aftermath of his fight with Nightwing, antiheroes Red Hood and Jonathan Crane reteam for the first phase of their fearsome plan. Then, through a series of flashbacks, Red Hood's origins are revealed.

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.

"Lazarus" was written by Bryan Edward Hill and directed by Boris Mojsovski

This episode sets out to explain how Jason and Jonathan Crane came together to create the villainous circumstances that now threaten Gotham City. This season has positioned a dramatic transformation of Jason. He has become Red Hood. He is a villain who has killed. The Titans have fractured as a result of Hank's death. The show itself doesn't want to present Jason as irredeemable though. His methods and motivations have simply been twisted by one of the infamous villains of Gotham City. Scarecrow once terrorized this city as he weaponized fear. That gas tormented anyone who came in contact with it. Jason sought out that experience. He was intrigued by this seemingly quick solution to manipulate one's emotions. He seeks a different purpose from Crane. It's one that still sets the stage for Jason's tragic downfall. He believes being strong as Robin is the only way to gain Bruce's approval and respect. In reality, Bruce has seen just how tortured Jason has become as a result of this vigilante justice. He doesn't want to make the same mistakes he did with Dick. The first Robin has emerged on the other side of this fraught relationship. Dick serves as Nightwing, who is capable of leading the Titans to great success. Jason rebelled against that team. He craves being Robin. However, he is also terrified of the fear. He is haunted by nightmares that take him back to the fear he felt by Deathstroke. That villain didn't kill him. Jason came very close though. The Titans saved him. He still lashed out against them. They are all coping with tragedy. Donna's death has hit all of them hard. Bruce can see the pain Jason is in. He tries his best to provide support. He knows a therapist who can navigate all of these complicated issues. He trusts Dr. Leslie Thompkins. She too has her own past with Scarecrow. That feeds into this curiosity that Jason has. However, he does the work necessary to make therapy a success. Leslie is proud of him. She wants him to feel confident and secure with whatever choice he makes about his life moving forward. He doesn't have to live according to the limitations he puts on himself because he feels that's what Bruce needs. Batman is aware of just how corrupt and corrosive Gotham City can be. He sought out partners to help mitigate the damage. He trusts his colleagues. He cares about Robin as a son. That relationship is incredibly personal. It's manipulative as well. Bruce wants to do right by Jason. He may only push him away because he can't articulate the necessity of Jason stepping away from his role as Robin. Jason only sees that as a betrayal from everyone in his world. Once that occurs, it's easy for him to see Crane as his only remaining hope. This madman can give him the formula for removing fear from his life. That emotion is necessary to do his job. Removing it creates a new entity all together. It's one that is reckless when going after the Joker. It ends in death. That's not the end of Crane's manipulation though. He has found his way out of Arkham and into the minds of the heroes who profess themselves as guardians of Gotham City. He directs Jason as Red Hood. He controls him. A fine distinction has always existed between who Jason was and who Red Hood has become. The two haven't always lined up in a linear and understandable way. Even this episode features shades of the old Jason in the aftermath of his confrontations with the Titans. He can't reckon with the weight of his actions. Crane continually drugs him. He feeds the addiction. He creates a villain. One who believes some kind of perverted justice is waiting at the end of this journey. That's possibly indicated through his new relationship with Molly. That dynamic is mostly just introduced here and even goes a long period of time before really developing into something real. That may represent a path back to humanity for Jason. His dynamics with the Titans are more nuanced and pronounced though. Those heroes have landed in Gotham City and have already felt the darkness of this place. It may offer no hope whatsoever. Dick is trying to be a better protector. He wants to step up in ways Bruce could not. Of course, he doesn't know the full story either. He has impossibly put many of the pieces together. That showcases a willingness for the show to move quickly through this plot. That's promising. The emotional depth is absolutely present in this episode and promises to be even more rewarding in the future. Consequences still have to come from all of this as well. Jason wanted an easy solution to his pain. That just wasn't possible and ultimately led to more death - including the loss of his own soul along the way.