Even though DC Universe’s Titans stars a magical harbinger of the apocalypse and an amnesiac woman who can shoot solar flares from her fingertips, the show’s somehow managed to come across as pretty “street level,” all things considered.
But with the latest episode in the series, “Donna Troy”, Titans gets very clear about just how larger-than-life its world really is.
Even though it’s seemed as if Dick, Rachel, Gar, and Kory were finally going to realise that they’re better off sticking together as a team while they keep dodging the people on the hunt for them, “Donna Troy” opens up with Dick deciding to part ways with his new friends yet again in order to do some soul searching.
Obvious as it is to the rest of them that they’re all becoming emotionally connected, Dick isn’t quite there yet and needs to be with one of the few people in the world he still considers his true family — and, with Batman in his past, that boils the list down to Donna Troy.
Much in the same way that Fox’s The Gifted uses its core characters to illustrate things about more A-list X-Men mutants while not actually having said mutants appear on screen, Titans uses Dick and Donna to build out the larger world of superheroes that Titans exists within.
In a flashback to their younger days as sidekicks, we see that, in their downtime, Dick and Donna were like a brother and sister to one another, trading stories about their respective adventures with Batman and Wonder Woman.
Though the Justice League is very much a major part of their lives, the kids also have a world unto themselves that their mentors aren’t wholly privy too. Long before his present-day struggles with anger and violence, it’s Donna who’s able to see Dick battling against his inner darkness. And perhaps because of her training under Diana, Donna’s confident that it’s something Dick can ultimately overcome.
By the time she’s become an adult, Donna, like Dick, has taken something of a break from the superhero life in favour of becoming a photographer and undercover investigator. Catching up with her brings a certain degree of comfort to Dick, but at the same time, seeing the way she’s managed to adjust her life to have a healthy balance between “normality” and superheroism is something that, while never verbalized, obviously shakes him.
While Dick and Donna are off attending photo exhibitions and foiling international animal smuggling rings (the bear on set was real, according to actress Conor Leslie), the rest of the Titans spend their time getting to know one another more while making a run for the home of Rachel’s mother Angela (Rachel Nichols), where they might be safe.
Given everything that Rachel’s been through in the past few weeks—watching the woman she believed to be her mother murdered, being kidnapped by nuns — finally having the chance to meet her birth mother is bittersweet. She knows that Angela holds the answers to so many of the questions she has about her powers and who she is, but she also understands that those answers are likely to carry consequences with them that she’s not ready to handle.
While Angela is trying her best to bond with her daughter, Kory and Gar pass their time just being near each another and reflecting on their own unique predicaments.
As much light and positive energy as Gar’s brought to the group, his recent murder of a man while in tiger form (to be clear: he ate that man) has left him deeply concerned about the way that the others see him—Rachel in particular.
Despite being an amnesiac and the most unfamiliar with her surroundings, there’s a steadfastness to Kory that makes it easy for her to assure Gar that there’s nothing he could really do to scare any of them, especially considering the circumstances they’ve each found themselves in. But that certainty and levelheadedness is something that Kory’s unable to apply inward.
Though “Donna Troy” pulls the Titans apart again, it does emphasise how reliant they are on each another to keep their momentum moving forward. Dick didn’t come to Donna looking for answers about the strange glyphs covering Kory’s storage unit, and yet it’s she who’s able to explain to him that Kory was sent on a mission to find, and potentially kill, Rachel (Donna is also the one to actually learn of her “Starfire” codename).
Similarly, Rachel’s newfound ability to heal people gives her the idea to attempt to “heal” Kory’s mind in an attempt to restore her memories which…works. Kinda, sorta?
With all of the twists and turns Titans has taken thus far into the series, “Donna Troy” feels a lot like a victory lap in the way that it introduces a major character who has the potential to bring a new kind of energy to the team. A quartet of heroes with as varied a power set as the show’s four original Titans was something of an odd idea, but Donna’s presence might be just what they need to balance things out and be even more prepared for the still-looming threats they’re soon to face.