While Titans‘ second season premiere is ostensibly meant to kick off the series’ progression into the future, it feels less like the first episode of a fresh, new arc and more like a series of scenes that were originally intended to be part of the first season’s finale.
To be sure, that was actually the original plan. After TV Line asked showrunner Greg Walker about the season one episode count changing from 12 to 11 he said:
We’re cannibalising some of the stuff from Episode 12 [for the premiere]. We thought it was such a good cliffhanger at the end of 11, and we wanted to go for an even bigger, better Season 2 opener. We had a big idea, and our friends at DC bought it.
“Trigon” doesn’t literally take the Titans into the past, but it has a weird way of making Titans‘ story feel like it’s backsliding at a time when the DC Universe streaming platform needs shows that are propelling it forward. The episode picks up almost immediately where the season one finale, “Dick Grayson,” left off, with Trigon (Seamus Denver) successfully travelling to Earth and beginning his conquest of the planet by trapping all of the Titans in dark, psychic illusions.
If the whole of “Trigon” was dedicated to Rachel/Raven (Teagan Croft) discovering how to thwart her father’s plans, the episode’s stakes would have felt more appropriately heavy given the circumstances. As classic Titans storylines go, Trigon trying to force Raven to be an unwitting pawn in his quest for apocalyptic conquest is pretty routine, but the episode somewhat unceremoniously blows through all of that potential plot detail with a by-the-numbers series of scenes where Rachel manages to wake all of the Titans up from Trigon’s thrall by entering their minds.
It’s not that any of the scenes are exactly bad. In fact, they’re far from it. After the possessed Titans gang up on Garfield Logan/Beast Boy (Ryan Potter), he remerges from the fray later on as a snake, slithering towards Rachel to remind her that none of Trigon’s illusions have any bearing on the goodness that exists within her.
The imagery of a snake shapeshifting into a naked human in order to impart the knowledge that a cruel god doesn’t want someone to know is particularly striking. But the same isn’t quite as true for the glimpses inside the other Titans’ minds that we see in “Trigon.”
You’d think that seeing the unique psychological hells that young superheroes end up being trapped in by a demon would be interesting, but they’re all laid out in such straightforward, matter-of-fact ways, none of them really stand out. Both Robins, Dick Grayson (Brenton Thwaites) and Jason Todd (Curran Walters), still have fears about their anger issues, and Starfire (Anna Diop) and Wonder Girl (Conor Leslie) worry about their willingness to kill out of a sense of justice.
You can sense how the series is setting up characters whose motivations mirror one another to be able to interact in more dynamic ways ” but “Trigon” never quite gets around to hitting the nail on the head, mostly because, again, these bits of character development are all breezed by in order to get to Rachel confronting her father in a scene that doesn’t really feel earned.
Oddly, “Trigon” doesn’t spend all that much time with its titular villain, opting instead to try and begin establishing even more character arcs that are going to be explored this season, and the overall effect is less than stellar.
Iain Glen’s Bruce Wayne shows up much, much earlier than you might imagine and he’s definitely a rather… unique take on the character that’ll throw you for a loop. The episode leaves the Titans all on the verge of breaking into new phases of their lives, which is promising, but the unwieldy way that “Trigon” introduces this next chapter is nothing if not concerning.
When Titans premiered last year, it was a bloody, brutal breath of fresh air that had a solid sense of what kind of show it was trying to be and what directions its characters were going to head in. But as the series’ cast continues to expand, it feels very much like it could run the risk of dropping one of the many balls it’s trying to keep in the air, trip, and end up falling flat.
It’s not a given that that’ll happen, and shows often need a moment to settle into the rhythm of their second seasons ” hopefully, that’s the case here.
With a bit of time, Titans might end up getting steady on its feet again and returning to being one of the better live-action cape shows, but for the time being, it’s definitely showed itself to be a bit more than rusty.