The difficult thing about Titans is that for every few lacklustre episodes that give you the impression that the writers are just kind of making things up as they go along, there are other episodes that genuinely feel like fascinating explorations of some of DC’s most iconic heroes. “Faux-Hawk” is one of Titans’ stronger episodes, but it comes at a time when the series as a whole has felt largely aimless.
It’s always felt as if Titans’ story about Deathstroke coming to destroy Dick Grayson wasn’t quite over, because despite trying to kill one another on multiple occasions, the mortal enemies had yet to have a moment where it seemed as if they were truly finished with one another. The latest episode emphasises the obvious and illustrates that this season’s arc about the deadly assassin getting his revenge was far from over even though this season of Titans is nearly through.
Though Jericho’s long since been “dead” to most of the world, “Faux-Hawk” is all about how the young metahuman is very much alive, albeit trapped in his father’s mind following his last-ditch effort to save his life in a moment of panic. Despite being a world-class arsehole, Deathstroke was genuinely distraught and panicked in the moment he stabbed Jericho through the chest with a sword.
The episode opens by revisiting the moment of Jericho’s death and we see that in actuality, just as the boy was about to die, he jumped into his father’s body. Because of Slade’s mental fortitude (or perhaps because of their biological connection), the assassin was uniquely suited to compartmentalise his son’s consciousness within himself, which brought the two of them closer together and farther apart at the same time.
For years at this point, Jericho’s been trapped, essentially in the white-hot room of Deathstroke’s imagination—and much to Deathstroke’s dismay, his son absolutely hates him, which makes sense considering Jericho wouldn’t be there were it not for his father’s propensity for murdering people. Deathstroke doesn’t exactly like the fact that Jericho loathes him so much, but what’s truly concerning to him is the reality that slowly but surely, the boy’s gaining the ability to exercise a certain degree of control over their now-shared physical body.
When Jericho concentrates, he’s able to force Slade to do things he doesn’t want to, like walking full-on into traffic, and Slade knows that before long, his son is definitely going to murder him. But for the time being, Deathstroke’s generally content to bask in what he believes to be his triumph over the Titans, who remain generally scattered to the wind and unsure of how to pull themselves together.
Rose might not yet technically consider herself a Titan, but she certainly flirts with the idea, and the episode delves into moments in her past that make you understand why. Long before she was an assassin like her father, she was just a relatively normal teenage girl looking forward to her prom and other typical high school-related moments of significance. In another universe, Rose might have gone through her life completely unaware of her father’s history and what happened to him in the military, but here, the teen is clued into the reality of her father’s life because of the superhuman things she can do.
Unlike Jericho, Rose didn’t grow up knowing her father, but like her brother, she inherited metahuman abilities from him that make her unlike anyone else she knows. In a flashback, Rose’s mother doesn’t want her daughter to get mixed up in the wildness of her father’s line of work, but there’s little she can do to stop her from seeking Slade out. While Deathstroke’s cold towards her initially, he soon realises she could be an invaluable asset in his quest to destroy Dick and the Titans, and so he preys on her emotions to recruit her into his cause, turning her into the lethal killing machine we’ve come to know in the present.
But present-day Rose has become a different person over the course of the past few episodes as a result of being so close to Jason. Jason wants nothing to do with the Titans, but Rose understands that all of the pain they’ve been going through is a direct result of her father’s (and by extension her) actions, and the moment she sees an opportunity to do the right thing and help them out with their difficulties, she jumps at it. By contrast, Jason’s wholly uninterested in being party to anything Titans-related, which actually makes him a lot more like Dick than either of them would ever care to admit.
Freshly escaped from prison, Dick spends much of this episode more or less running errands. After making a brief visit to Jericho’s mother who confirms his suspicions about the boy being alive but trapped in his father’s head, he accepts the reality that he’s going to have to face off against Deathstroke again. But because Dick—a noted drama queen—burned his old Robin suit in a fit of rage, he makes his way toward the man who’s been building vigilante costumes for Batman for years...who just so happens to be working on a new getup at the Dark Knight’s behest.
The man’s none too pleased with the fact that Dick destroyed some of his finest work, but it takes barely any convincing for him to take the hero into his hidden laboratory and unveil the outfit that’s eventually going to transform Dick into Nightwing. Even though Titans has been dragging its heels regarding Dick’s shift into his new identity, “Faux-Hawk” makes you appreciate the larger journey he’s been on over the course of the season and understand why his transition into Nightwing will be one that leaves him a changed man.
On the whole, “Faux-Hawk” feels like a significant tonal shift back for Titans, mainly because it spends just the right amount of time making nearly everyone seem as if they have an important part to play in the coming season finale. Kory and Rachel don’t exactly have much to do here, but the time they spend together is interesting if only for the way it demonstrates what kind of dynamic Titans’ take on Raven and Starfire would have if the show would just bring everyone back together and give them a chance to hang out.
Even Hawk, who’s consistently been one of Titans’ less interesting characters steps into the spotlight in a way that makes his contributions to the show feel much more substantive than they ever have in the past. It makes all the sense in the world that out of all the Titans, Hawk would be the one to end up drunkenly fighting in costumed cage matches. But by giving us a glimpse of other masked vigilantes (even if they’re just dressing up for caped Fight Club), the episode adds texture to Titans’ larger world that exists beyond the lives of its central characters.
And yet, by the episode’s closing moments, we’re left with two dangling plot lines when it feels as if there should only be one. Dick’s obviously going to have some sort of showdown with Deathstroke, but there’s still the matter of Garfield and Conner being held by Cadmus, who have weaponised both of the boys and intend to unleash them unto the world.
Given the show’s history of cramming way too much into its episodes, it’s likely that both plot lines will end up being addressed in the season finale (or even the season three premiere...), but it’s more than likely that the resolutions will fall short of being satisfying.