Titans just finished its fourth and final season on HBO Max. This is definitely the end of an era for the DC TV series, as Titans was the first original series to debut on the now-defunct DC Universe streaming app. Titans is also one of many DC showsNew unified DCU from James Gunn and Peter Safran.
This will likely be the last time we see Brenton Thwaites' Dick Grayson and the rest of the Titans. That doesn't mean these characters won't leave a legacy that will influence the new DCU. There are many lessons to be learned from Titans, both in terms of storytelling successes and failures. These are five of the biggest takeaways from the Titans' four seasons.
warn:This article contains some plot spoilers for Titans: Season 4.
It's okay to be dark
The initial trailer for Titans certainly made a strong first impression, including Thwaites' Robin beating up criminals and yelling "F*** Batman!" This now infamous scene. This scene really set the tone for the series and made it clear that the Titans are a darker, more grown-up version of the iconic team.
Some DC fans seemed to immediately write off the series because of this scene and other storytelling choices (like Starfire's season 1 costume). It's easy to dismiss Titans as an unduly grim and serious take on a franchise full of adventure and optimism. After all, these heroes are the future of the DC Universe, so what good is keeping them in darkness and despair?
But the saving grace of Titans has always been the fact that darkness always serves a greater purpose. The show never pretends that it's a good thing that Dick Grayson suffers from PTSD from his time with Bruce Wayne. Dick's entire character arc in the series revolves around overcoming Robin's trauma and learning to embrace family. This struggle was intensified through his relationship with his two successors, Curran Walters' Jason Todd and Jerry Cugo's Tim Drake. The former is a frustrating look at what happens when Robin truly loses control, while the latter shows the potential to be the best Robin of them all.
Yes, titans can be too opinionated sometimes. But for a show about spoiled exes, estranged refugees and teenage runaways looking for a home together, it makes sense to take a darker, more emotional approach. The series is often at its best when it focuses on the idea that these broken heroes, when united, become more than the sum of their broken parts.
It should also be said that the Titans leave to run the Doom Patrol into the dark section. In some ways, the Doom Patrol is as grim as the Titans. His characters are psychologically disturbed misfits who almost swear every time they open their mouths. However, Doom Patrol offsets this darkness with a quirky sense of humor. More than any other series on HBO Max, this series can give us a taste of what to expect from Gunn's DCU.
The DCU is more than just Batman
One of the most common criticisms of Titans is that the show is too Batman-centric. Looking back over the past four seasons, it's hard to argue with that criticism. Titans usually starts with the Dick Grayson show and then a Teen Titans adaptation. The first two seasons focused on Dick's journey to becoming Nightwing. Season 3 then doubled down by shifting the focus to Gotham City and introducing more major Batman characters like Savannah Welch's Barbara Gordon and Vincent Cartheiser's Scarecrow. Season 4 was the only one where the Bat-Family didn't take center stage in almost every episode.
Not that it's hard to see why DC would take this approach. Batman is by far their biggest franchise. At any given time, even DC's comic book series is extremely dominated by Batman-centric books. Building the series around the Dark Knight's troubled sidekicks made it easier for the Titans to appeal to fans who weren't previously connected to the Teen Titans.
The Batman-centric approach definitely hurt the series.
Still, the Batman-centric approach has definitely done the series a disservice. Many times characters like Teagan Croft's Rachel Roth and Ryan Potter's Beast Boy take second place while Good for Dick and Robbins' colleagues. The show's problems worsened in seasons 2 and 3, when the roster exploded with Donna Troy (Conor Leslie), Hank Hall (Alan Ritchson), Dwayne Granger (Minka Kelly), and Connor Kent (Joshua Alpin). Titans has reached a point where it has too many characters to juggle and doesn't seem interested in juggling them in the first place. Similarly, it was only with a more nuanced, more streamlined approach in Season 4 that Titans really began to find its stride as an ensemble series. Only in these final episodes does Dick Grayson become a team player rather than the show's undisputed star.
Fortunately, there's no need to worry about Gunn's DCU show facing the same problem. Of the projects announced so far, only Batman: The Brave and the Bold appears to focus on the bat family. The new DCU casts a wider net with shows like Lanterns and Paradise Lost. Gunn himself has shown a real knack for making audiences fall in love with previously obscure characters such as Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. Who needs Batman?
don't be afraid to show the league of justice
On the other hand, there's something to be said for a Teen Titans series that isn't afraid to have Batman as its central character. This has always been one of the quirks of the 2003 Teen Titans animated series - the show featured Robin but largely ignored the rest of the Batman family. In fact, the show never explicitly revealed which character wore Robin's suit, so little attention was paid to the secret identities of those characters.
There have been a few times during the four seasons of Titans that it would have been nice to see more of the Justice League. In this regard, the almost complete absence of Superman is easily the biggest offender. While much of Superman's history revolves around his origins and his efforts to see Superman and Lex Luthor as his father, Iron Man has never been more than a background figure. Superman's absence was particularly noticeable in Season 4, which introduced Titus Welliver's Lex Luthor in the first episode.
The same goes for Wonder Woman, a character who never appears despite her frequent appearances as her sidekick, Donna Troy. Even Batman himself was strangely MIA in Season 1. Despite often being referred to as Batman, Batman only appears in a few shots performed by a stuntman, and it wasn't until Season 2 that Titans cast a proper Bruce Wayne in Ian Glenn. .
Superman's absence was particularly noticeable in Season 4, which introduced Titus Welliver's Lex Luthor in the first episode.
All of this seems to stem from the fact that Warner Bros. found the company oddly reluctant to have multiple live-action incarnations of a character coexist. Producer Greg Berlanti even revealed itWelliver's Luthor was only allowed to appear in one episodeIn Season 4. The presence of Superman and Lois seems to mean that the Titans are not allowed to have their own Superman, with Luthor only playing a minor role. The Wonder Woman movie may have blocked any chance of Diana Prince appearing on the show.
Titans isn't the only DC show to suffer from this strange policy. What made Supergirl annoying in the first season was Superman Light. With the various Robins in Titans locked away, the Gotham Knights were forced to settle for a new character in Oscar Morgan's Turner Hayes. Due to 2016's Suicide Squad, Arrow lost access to several key characters.
At least that doesn't seem to be Gunn's vision for the DC brand. Gunn confirmed thisJ. J. Abrams and Ta-Nehisi Coates' Superman movie is still in developmentAnd "it's going to be another global story like the Joker."
All of these decisions seem like completely effortless mistakes by DC and Warner. Why don't they think fans are okay with the idea of multiple versions of a character like Dick Grayson? Why are they making these shows suffer needlessly? Aren't we all familiar with the concept of the multiverse by now? On that note…
The multiverse is a plus
When the DC Universe app first launched, many automatically assumed that shows like the Titans, Doom Patrol, and Swamp Thing would form their own cinematic universes, similar to the CW's Arrowverse. Things got off to a promising start, with an episode of Titans: Season 1 serving as a backdoor pilot for the Doom Patrol.
But since then, DC has never really managed to create any connective tissue between the shows. The final nail in the coffin came from the 2019 CW crossover Crisis On Infinite Earths, which confirmed that the Titans, Doom Patrol, Swamp Thing, and Stargirl took place on different Earths. DC Universe and HBO Max have so far failed to create and create the vast shared universe that makes the Arrowverse shows so rewarding to watch.
To its credit, however, Titans: Season 4 tries to make up for lost time on that front. The episode "Dude, Where's My Gal?" takes the Beastie Boy into the multiverse and features characters from Brec Bassinger's Stargirl to Grant Gustin's Flash for the animated version. I love everyone from Beast Boy to Teen Titans GO! The next episode reunites Gar with the Doom Patrol, finally acknowledging a forgotten relationship between the two series.
These multiverse cameos aren't just fun opportunities to play geek. They make the world of titans feel bigger and richer. They help the show become part of a larger tapestry. It's a shame that Titans, Doom Patrol, and Diva all ended up on track as those shows started making better use of the multiverse and its storytelling potential. Stargirl's cameo in particular shows how much potential there is for larger, more complex crossovers between these shows.
The multiverse may not be a priority for Gunn's DCU, as it appears the focus will be on a universe that spans movies, TV, cartoons, andeven video games.But whether the focus is on one universe or the entire multiverse, the hope is that the DCU shows will relate to each other in a way that Titans and its sister shows never did. Especially with the Arrowverse gone, it's time to build a new cinematic universe of DC characters that the shows and movies can build off of each other in exciting ways.
For more on the future of the Gunn DCU, seeGraphic novels you must read to prepareand find out why Gunn hasAll the right things have been said so far about Superman: Legacy.
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