If the world were a better place, Titans’ second season finale would have been an excellent culmination to a heartfelt story that made you care about its characters and the journeys we’ve seen them embark upon. But the world kind of sucks and Titans’ most recent episode is an absolute mess.
Unlike the writers responsible for this episode, Mercy Graves has always had a solid plan in mind as to what she can do to ensure her professional future. The season two finale, “Nightwing,” opens with a rather expected but nonetheless interesting depiction of Graves in action as she’s offering up a now brainwashed Conner Kent as Cadmus’ latest and greatest weapon that can be bought for a price. Each of the bidders immediately understands just how valuable an asset Conner would be to their respective nations, but because Mercy’s always been something of a drama queen, she takes things a step further by arranging a demonstration to convince everyone that Conner’s worth the money.
Mercy’s plan is to unleash a similarly brainwashed Gar into a crowd of unsuspecting people hanging out at a carnival (that looks an awful lot like the same carnival from Shazam’s final act)—but before we get to that, the episode strangely spends an inordinate amount of time wrapping up Titans’ Deathstroke-focused plotline in the most anticlimactic of ways.
As all of the Titans are beelining their way to the carnival in question, they’re intercepted by Deathstroke, still hellbent on murdering all of the heroes simply because they’ve chosen to hang out with one another. As foreshadowing for the series’ third season, in which she’ll face off against her sister, Kory’s inconveniently de-powered at a time when she needs her abilities most. When Deathstroke crashes into the episode guns a-blazing, he has no trouble wounding Kory, which alarms the Titans because up until this point, she’d essentially been one of the team’s heaviest and most invulnerable hitters. But in yet another out-of-the-blue twist, Rachel steps in to use her powers (that now heal people) to patch Kory up, which is helpful, but doesn’t solve the squad’s most pressing issue—the man with the gun.
Even though a half-Amazon and a demon witch should be able to take a super-soldier on with relative ease, the episode is largely about Nightwing, and so at a dire moment, Dick drops from the sky to announce he’s ready to take the assassin on. Were it not for the past few episodes where Titans mistakenly assumed that Dick’s pity party was interesting, seeing him in the Nightwing getup and wielding electrified batons might have actually been exciting. But the reveal somehow manages to feel both rushed and overdue, and most importantly, anticlimactic.
This entire season of Titans has been a story about how the heroes, who are one another’s chosen family, are stronger when they’re working together, and Nightwing’s battle against Deathstroke in the finale is meant to be a sort of encapsulation of that idea. Just as it seems as if Deathstroke’s gaining the upper hand will lead to his victory, Rose (in her ridiculously cool Ravager costume) sidles up to inform her father that she’s playing for the good guys and has no qualms about stabbing him through the chest.
Dick and Rose defeating Deathstroke gives Jericho the chance to finally escape his father’s mind and jump into his sister’s. It makes for an interesting idea, but because so much of this episode feels slapped together at the last minute, you don’t exactly get the sense that Titans will do anything particularly compelling with the Wilson siblings’ fate. Within the first act of this episode, Deathstroke’s more or less disposed of and the focus turns to Gar—who’s only managed to transform into a tiger for this entire series—and Conner who are still being manipulated by Cadmus. One would think that a half-Kryptonian fighting a green tiger would be interesting to watch, but the episode somehow manages to make the entire affair feel drab. Gar pounces, as tigers do, and Conner punches the hell out of him, because he’s Superboy and that’s basically all he does in this series.
Cadmus then sends the two boys out into the field (the aforementioned carnival) as a demonstration for the bidders. Gar is pitted against Rachel and Conner against…the rest of the Titans. It’s all meant to come across as significant but again, falls flat. Conner exhibits an uncanny degree of self-control as he beats the hell out of his friends; this is just an exhibition after all, and those bidding for him are already more than game to pay up after seeing him singlehandedly take down an entire team of superheroes. But Mercy’s auction is interrupted by a very trollish Bruce Wayne who interrupts her livestream with a barrage of laughing emoji. The interruption gives Dick the perfect opportunity to hit Conner with a light grenade that leaves him stunned and frees Rachel (who’s already undone Cadmus’s reprogramming on Gar) giving her the chance to link Dick to Conner psychically.
What’s weird about all of this is that while it would make sense for an episode of Teen Titans, it doesn’t make much sense for Titans. Up until a few episodes ago, Rachel could barely control her powers enough to lift people, let alone reach into their minds. In Conner’s head, Dick is able to connect with the young hero and expose him to the light that exists inside him. Once he’s free of Mercy’s control, he and the other Titans quickly dispose of the Lexcorp villain. For some reason, the entire crowd of civilians then chooses to…applaud what they’ve just witnessed. But then the episode takes yet another strange turn by suddenly killing off Donna, who dies saving a couple of people from a falling metal construct. She easily could have moved to the side the same way literally everyone else in the crowd did, but instead, Donna catches the metal pole, absorbs all of the electricity pouring out of it, and then just bites it. You’d think a half-Amazon would be able to withstand that kind of physical trauma, but apparently that’s not the case, and the Titans end up having to send their teammate back to Themyscira in a coffin.
The episode shifts tones yet again in its closing moments as Rachel takes off with the Amazons to study in Themyscira, Hawk and Dove have a heart to heart conversation about their lives (again), and the rest of the team still living in America gets together to celebrate Donna’s life. Interestingly, Bruce Wayne shows up to the function and reveals that he wasn’t actually the person responsible for bringing the Titans back together via the strange messages that led them all to the diner that day. When a call comes in about a disturbance downtown, Dawn’s the first to get up and let the rest of the team know that she’s still very much in the hero game, and as the episode closes, all of the Titans march together as a unit as they plan to save the day once again.
Technically speaking, “Nightwing” ends with a mid-credits sequence in which Blackfire possesses a woman on Earth, suggesting that next season will focus on the two Tamaranians duking it out. That’d be an exciting prospect were it not for the clumsy way Titans handled Kory this season and the lacklustre way the series wrapped things up this time around. One can only hope that when Titans returns to DC Universe in the fall of 2020, the writers will have settled on a definitive voice for the season that can tell these characters’ stories in a riveting way. But given the fact that the series’ finales have landed with a thud two times in a row, it’s difficult to imagine that season three will be much of an improvement.