Titans has always had a fair amount of difficulty closing out plot lines in satisfying ways. The latest episode, “Atonement,” sadly makes it very obvious that the writer’s room ran out of ideas for how to handle Deathstroke coming back onto the scene to ruin Dick Grayson’s life.
In an attempt to finally clear the air and clue everyone in on the truth about what happened to Jericho, Dick gathers the Titans and relays what we learned last week: that Jericho ultimately sacrificed himself in order to stop Deathstroke from killing Dick. Learning the truth devastates essentially everyone on the team who’d previously been led to believe that Dick stumbled upon Jericho’s dead body, but rather than confronting Dick about his deception, everyone just...leaves the tower. As messed up as Dick’s willingness to lie to his friends is, the team breaking up in this context feels somewhat hollow, like Titans is retreading old ground.
After Dawn, Hank, Rachel, and Donna all leave the Tower “for good,” and Kory runs off to handle some alien family drama, Gar’s left to tend to the still-comatose Superboy in a montage of scenes showing off how attentive Gar can be. While it’s great to finally see Titans giving Gar something to do, “Atonement” illustrates how absent he’s generally been from the show and how unlikely it is that he’s going to get much more in the way of character development this season. The same feels somewhat less true of Kory, who’s shocked to discover that her former flame Faddei managed to escape from her ship and now believes that it’s in the would-be queen’s best interest to avoid Tamaran at all costs.
In Kory’s absence from her homeworld, her sister Blackfire has made a move for the throne, eliminating the rest of the royal family in the process. As Faddei informs Kory of the threat her sister poses, she reasons that it might still be worth taking her on and restoring some sense of peace on Tamaran. But the more time Kory spends with Faddei, she begins to realize that he isn’t exactly the same person she left behind a few episodes back. Something is off about him and it isn’t long until Kory figures out that her old friend is actually being remotely controlled by Blackfire, who knew that her ruse would end with Faddei’s death.
As interesting as Kory’s drama sounds in theory, it doesn’t seem possible that the show is ever actually going to follow up on its Tamaranian subplot. There just isn’t enough time left this season with everything else happening. Titans could try to hurry things up and cram a lot of story into the season’s remaining episodes, but doing so would likely end up making Kory and Blackfire’s showdown feel somewhat shortchanged.
While Kory’s dealing with her sister, the rest of the Titans are just...kind of in the wind, if we’re being honest. Donna and Rachel are off somewhere in San Francisco, where Rachel just wanders off apropos of nothing. In a desperate attempt to finally put the hero game behind them, Hank and Dawn run off to do some surprisingly campy karaoke, but it isn’t long before the two of them are having that same old conversation about how they’re both addicted to violence and are kind of toxic for one another. Again, because we’ve been here before the moment just feels hollow and pointless. You know it’s only a matter of time before they’ve made up and put those ridiculous costumes on again.
“Atonement” isn’t a complete wash, though. Eventually, a very naked Conner wakes up and gets right down to the important business of becoming friends with Gar, learning about what the Titans do, and becoming familiar with the outside world. With enough time and care, it’s more than possible that Conner could become a productive member of society and a respectable superhero, but the story makes clear that the boy still has a lot to learn about the nature of his powers and how not to draw so much dangerous attention to himself. When Conner loses control while attempting to help someone being arrested by the police, his fighting instinct kicks in and he very quickly starts straight-up murdering cops...which obviously isn’t in his best interest!
In the episode’s closing moments, Dick attempts to actually atone for his sins by reaching out to Jericho’s mother, who reveals that Deathstroke is currently staying with her because he’s finally gotten what he wanted. Breaking the Titans up, the villain explains, was always his ultimate plan because he understood how much losing his chosen family would hurt Dick. As villainous plans go, orchestrating the Titans’ breakup feels rather meh in the grand scheme of things because it doesn’t seem at all final. As Dick heads to an airport to buy a one-way plane ticket, you know he’s not actually running off or going to desert the Titans. That kind of obvious predictability is working against Titans’ favor, and if this is how the rest of the season is going to be, it’s going to be a slog to get through.
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