Titans’ Dick Grayson has come a long way from beating up goons in rainy alleyways and snarling “fuck Batman” at anybody who cared to listen. These days, he’s posted up in San Francisco, mentoring a bunch of young superpowered teens, reforming the Titans, and becoming the kind of mentor that Bruce Wayne always tried to be to his vigilante family.
Though it’s only been a season, Titans’ Dick Grayson has matured significantly and passed on the Robin mantle to his hotheaded successor, whose impulsiveness almost got them both killed in a recent episode.
But despite the fact that Dick’s been through so much and Titans has clearly made room for him to make his fateful transformation into Nightwing, the series has been taking a curiously long time to get there — long compared to the way Aqualad and Superboy’s plots went by in a flash.
When I spoke to actor Brenton Thwaites recently by phone, he admitted that he, too, had been more than eager to see Dick evolve beyond being Batman’s surly former protégé who’s simply left Gotham after butting heads with his partner. But Thwaites also explained that it was important to Titans’ creative team that Nightwing’s introduction came by way of a story that made the Boy Wonder earn it.
Gizmodo: So much of season one was focused on Dick dealing with his anger issues and the resentment he felt toward Bruce, but we’ve seen a lot of that seemingly fade away this season. How do you think Bruce and Dick see and feel about one another at this point?
Brenton Thwaites: It’s a big question mark at the front of season two because of the amount of time they’ve spent apart. I think they left on bad terms, or should I say Dick left on bad terms, and needed to get away and discover who he is away being Batman’s protégé. In that time apart he realised that some of the things that Bruce was teaching him were not right, didn’t feel right. they weren’t along the lines of who he wants to be as a superhero.
Returning to Bruce and kind of sitting down and having tea with him and words with him, it was nice to see him confront some of his issues and talk to Bruce about some of the things that he was going up against and what he was angry about. We hide our emotions and our feelings so often, and we see that in season one — Dick really struggling with getting out this anger and frustration and having conflicts with his self-discovery.
Returning to Wayne Manor and talking about some of these things with Bruce was almost the end of the season arc as opposed to the beginning of one, because it left him feeling like he’s overcome something and is ready to start becoming a new kind of leader for the Titans.
Gizmodo: At the same time that Dick’s becoming the person the Titans all look to for leadership, Deathstroke being back immediately pushes Dick into this defensive stance. What is it that terrifies Dick about Deathstroke in this story?
Thwaites: I think the unknown is what terrifies Dick the most in general. Dick is a very methodical personal and likes to plan and plot things out before he’s springing into action, as opposed to someone like Hawk, who’s quite reckless and just wants to run toward the problem or danger.
What terrifies Dick with Deathstroke is that Deathstroke is chaotic and irreverent and has a completely different method of approach and tactics to fighting and to life, and he beats Dick at his own game. Dick sees a little bit of himself in Deathstroke. Part of Dick’s ability to plan is his ability to understand where his opponent’s coming from and what he’s fighting for. But here, that empathy for Deathstroke kind of scares him a little.
Gizmodo: You spoke a little bit earlier about Dick figuring out what kind of leader he wants to be. But at the same time that he’s taking on a point position for the younger Titans, the older members on the team have made it kind of obvious that they aren’t exactly interested in following Dick back into the hero game, you know? How does it make Dick feel to have these two halves of the team that see him as their leader and those who are trying to pull away from the team altogether?
Thwaites: Well, I think it’s mixed emotions. You know he brings Hawk and Dove back as, not a quick fix to a problem, but a necessity to fight a character that’s become quite dangerous and chaotic. Originally bringing them back, they’re all facing nostalgia for the past. They’re facing loss and sadness and Dick is bringing up all those emotions again. He’s brought them out of whatever lives that they’ve developed themselves that are clearly showing them trying to move on.
All the characters have their own lives, their own existence where they’re not fighting crime. They’re doing their own thing, and Dick asks them to come back in and return to what we all decided was gonna be finished and over. As the series progresses you learn the reasons why, you know, that space — the Titans Tower — is quite dark and has a shadow surrounding it. You also realise how much the other characters enjoy and love each other and were born for this kind of world. Everyone is free to leave at any time and they don’t, they stick around and start building this family.
Gizmodo: I think a lot of people were expecting to see Dick shift into his Nightwing persona way faster, especially with Jason on the team, but the series has really been taking its time. Everyone’s seen the set photos and knows the new suit’s coming, but beyond Dick getting a new look, how is Titans going to shift gears once Dick starts embracing this new identity for him?
Thwaites: Well, I think Dick transforms at a point in the story when he really needs to. He bit off more than he can chew with asking people to follow his lead and what follows is him coming to terms with the truth of the mistakes that he’s made — current and the past. Once he comes out with an understanding of how he really is and who he really is, the Titans are unforgiving. And what happens from there is a journey of self discovery which we all know leads to Nightwing finally. But it happens from a point of rock bottom.
The writers really wanted this plotline to tell a story about an emotional transformation that would lead to Dick needing to become Nightwing. I’m the same as the fans, I wanted to jump into this suit way last season, but I ultimately agreed with dragging this story out. Because when this happens, we as an audience see that it’s the last straw. There’s no other option, and I think the Titans see that as well. When he transforms and becomes someone else, that’s what brings the family back together.
Titans is now streaming on DC Universe in the U.S. and season two will be coming to Netflix Australia at some point in the future.