Thursday, September 23, 2021

REVIEW: 'Titans' - Rachel Seeks Balance in Her Life While Tim Must Embrace His Inner Hero in Order to Survive in 'Souls'

HBO Max's Titans - Episode 3.09 "Souls"

After waking up on a mysterious train, Tim Drake teams with two familiar heroes to locate an elusive bridge back to the land of the living. Meanwhile, Rachel grapples with her own powers in a desperate attempt to resurrect Donna.

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.

"Souls" was written by Richard Hatem and directed by Boris Mojsovski

Donna wasn't a fan of her death either. She died at a carnival. She was still a hero. She still saved lives. It just wasn't the kind of super heroic death that she had always thought was inevitable when she chose this life. That isn't the end of her story though. The show never insinuated that it was. It immediately offered the idea that she could be brought back somehow. And yet, the show hasn't exactly featured Donna or Rachel prominently this season. They were off on their own adventure. Meanwhile, the primary source of action for the Titans was in Gotham. That's where the true agency was. Only now does Donna's story come back into focus. It's because she has a personal connection to what has just happened in Gotham. Sure, it's annoying how she has been dead longer than any of the other characters seen in the afterlife but she isn't the one explaining to them how this reality works. That responsibility falls onto Hank. It's nice to see him again too. He gets more time to be seen as a hero. That's rewarding for the character. But this episode only further extends the show's unique understanding and connection to death. It should never be seen as the ultimate end for any character who befalls that fate. They can be revived. That's true for Donna. It's also true for Tim Drake. He was killed by Crane. He wakes up on the train carrying him to his next destination. That fate arrives for him quickly. That stands in sharp context to Donna, who is still on the train despite how much time has already passed. Tim freaks out and Donna feels compelled to help save him. This journey has the potential to change her. She cheats death. She gets to walk in limbo amongst those whose souls cannot return despite the unfinished business they believe they had on Earth. And now, she gets to be a hero again. Of course, the narrative wants to make it overwhelmingly clear that she was a hero in life, a hero in death and a hero upon resurrection. That defines every aspect of her life. She can't run away from it. That doesn't mean she is never afraid. She is terrified about what the future holds. She also has acceptance in a way Hank and Tim do not. She follows them on this journey because they need her help in order to hopefully succeed. And yet, Donna and Tim are the ones who return. Hank doesn't make it across the bridge. His fate is different. That makes it more understandable for why he was positioned as the one explaining the rules of this limbo. He has more experience in it. That's his ultimate fate as well. He is destined to protect the lost souls against the ghouls alongside Donnie. The brothers are reunited. That is a form of happiness that should be celebrated as well. He tragically can't be with Dawn. She still mourns him. And yet, he has purpose elsewhere. That's a fitting conclusion if his story truly ends here. It probably will. It at least offers more clarity than how the show typically teases the end for its characters. Donna and Tim aren't the first to cheat death. It was simply an easier journey for Jason. He didn't have to do anything. The Amazons aren't responsible for Donna either. They can neither corrupt or aid this process. It's entirely Donna's burden to carry. Of course, she doesn't return to her body. Instead, she is magically whisked away to save Bruce when he needs it the most. She was reborn amongst the fire that he has set to end his own life. It's very melodramatic. It was also the inevitable twist once the hour chose to open with Bruce updating his will. He was preparing for the end. That's not his fate. Donna saves him. Meanwhile, Rachel finds balance elsewhere. She was solely focused on saving Donna. That's not all that she should have learned from her time on Themyscira. The details of her journey are a bit more vague. She hasn't been entirely necessary for the dramatic tension of this season. And yet, she has returned as well. Her story will become a priority once more. It needs more dimension and definition. She complains about the constant training. That may make her more skilled once she returns to the Titans. That doesn't make her a person with more clarity over who she is and what she needs. She will be tested along this path as well. But she has hope as she discovers that the miracle has occurred with Donna. It simply doesn't happen how she or the others planned for. Those expectations are meant to be thrown out the window. That's what allows things to be more satisfying. This episode finally provides some resolution to an expectation the show set long ago. Donna and Rachel will present as unique complications in a story they have been far removed from this year. That's what makes them potentially exciting though. Tim is also expected to carry that same thematic weight. And yes, this episode does more than the previous ones to explain why he needs to be a part of this team. He's young and hasn't lived. His life can't tragically be cut short yet. That was a distinct possibility. He defies the odds. That makes him special in a way that should be noticed and respected.