Blackfire Finally Comes To Titans On HBO Max, While Red Hood Meets Scarecrow
The premiere episodes of Titans season 3 were intense and more than a little heartbreaking. In the latest episode, the focus shifts a little to Anna Diop’s Starfire and her problems since the premiere. As we all expected, this led her and the Titans to her sister Blackfire, who arrived on Earth at the end of last season. Blackfire is a famous Teen Titans villain, but interestingly when she is reunited with her sister, she’s already beaten. Damaris Lewis plays Blackfire, and she truly captures the indifferent poise of a despotic alien ruler. Yet, she is able to imbue the character with a vulnerability that allows even the most well-versed comics reader want to trust her.
Meanwhile, Vincent Kartheiser’s Jonathan Crane and Brendon Thwaites’ Dick Grayson get to spend a little bonding time together. The tension at play in this story comes from many directions. The most interesting one is that we get another look at how the institutions in this world deal with costumed madmen running around kicking each other’s asses. There is a little of this in the Blackfire storyline, too, showing how those in power view the Titans. Essentially, our heroes get to do whatever they want without real-world consequences. In a way, it also reinforces the shock of the loss of Hank Hall, because the Titans are untouchable by any mere mortal.
The episode is shocking in a lot of ways, highlighting how different Titans’ Red Hood story is from others. Also, this episode serves to put distance between the Titans again. Dick is of handling Red Hood alone, while Starfire splits off (with an unwilling Beast Boy) to find her sister. And we’ve still seen nary a sign of Teagan Croft’s Raven.
Episode spoilers to follow.
Kory and Gar Bring Blackfire to the Titans, but From Where?
Image via Warner Bros. Television
Over the first 2 Titans episodes this season, there were moments where Starfire would lose control of herself. Everybody’s best friend Gar, Ryan Potter, is seemingly captured by the out-of-control Starfire and locked in her trunk. They end up at some presumably military facility designed to hold one prisoner: Blackfire. While I was fine with it, some folks could be annoyed by this detail. The man minding this facility is both a fan of Starfire and the Titans, and also doesn’t seem to pressed about them springing Blackfire. It’s arguably too convenient, and seemingly done only to give Blackfire the appearance of a victim.
Would it have been entertaining if Blackfire showed up and started some shit with Titans immediately? Yes. They’re down two members and grieving. She could have wrecked Wayne Manor and really made things devastating for our heroes. Instead, we see Starfire freeing her from imprisonment and her seemingly being welcomed into the Titans fold. Again, Lewis’ performance as Blackfire is what helps sell this idea, almost enough for us to forget that a sudden, but inevitable betrayal is sure to come.
Though, I can imagine that Blackfire might not break bad this season, maybe even fighting alongside the Titans. Like with Curran Walters’ Jason Todd, the show may want us to love her before she tries to kill everyone. These Titans especially are a group of misfits, outcasts, and screw-ups. It makes sense that they’d try to recruit Blackfire before trying to fight her. We may get into the mystery of who was after Blackfire, and if their alien interest extends to Starfire or Joshua Orpin’s Connor Kent. But it feels less like a mystery we should care about and more like a part of the picture that just didn’t get filled in.
Red Hood and Nightwing Showdown Over the Scarecrow
Image via HBO Max
Of course, if there is any comic book-story divergence that will most annoy people on this episode of Titans, it’s not Blackfire. In the comics, Jason Todd was killed by the Joker. He was raised by “hypertime” and Ra’s al Ghul restored him via the Lazarus Pit. Talia, daughter of Ra’s, eventually frees Jason, unleashing him on the world, specifically Gotham. In this episode, it’s revealed that he’s been working with Scarecrow. Dick figures it out (maybe even before the audience does), and he takes him to a cabin Bruce Wayne used for very sadistic training.
The other thing that might annoy some people is Dick’s story about his training at the cabin. Bruce Wayne took a child to the woods, released him alone, and the kid ended up forced to decapitate a wolf. Live-action Batmen have done a lot of cruel things, but Iain Glen’s version of Bruce Wayne might just be the worst Batman. There’s a cruelty there, to say nothing of a risk to Dick’s life that seems to contradict Bruce’s reaction to Jason’s death. Though, we can suppose that Dick was never too far out of his sight, I suppose. Still, if that’s true, it’s messed up that he let him kill the wolf. (And who knows, maybe Dick was just gaslighting Crane?) Either way, we understand that there is a darkness in Dick that mirrors what we’re seeing in Jason.
The fight between the two “brothers” was a lot of fun. For me, the Foley work really enhanced the fight. The sounds of Nightwing’s escrima sticks and Red Hood’s guns hitting him made the scene pop for me. Walters’ performance also really captured the Red Hood banter he’s known for in the comics. But then, there’s Barbara.
Blackfire and Barbara Gordon Highlight Two Kinds of Authority In the Titans Universe
Image via HBO Max
In the Crisis On Infinite Earths event, the Titans world was designated as Earth-9. On this Earth, they’ve got all the biggies in the Justice League. This is a world very familiar with the antics of superheroes and their opponents. So, despite the events of last season, it seems as if the Titans have essentially free reign to fight crime wherever and however they want. So, when Starfire enters this military facility meant to house alien prisoners, she’s welcomed with exuberance. There is the practical reality that this facility doctor couldn’t “take” her. But, he seems to genuinely be a fan. When Starfire decides to free Blackfire to let her and the rest of the Titans handle the problem, he barely protests.
Meanwhile, Barbara Gordon represents the institutional authority in Gotham City. Naturally, her history with Dick makes them natural allies. Yet, Dick makes his play unilaterally without informing her, putting her in an unwinnable situation. That her sniper ends up shooting Dick as well as (instead of?) the Red Hood is fitting. I suspect that going forward, he and Barbara will not work so well together. If she decides to cut him off, it could be a problem for all the Titans. Though, I suspect any divergence there will be short-lived at best. We’ve got a love triangle between Dick, Kory, and Barbara to set up after all.
Still, with Bruce Wayne’s resources and their relative carte blanche, the Titans are in a good position all things considered. If Blackfire joins the team and then breaks bad, it could sully their name and reputation in a way that might make things more difficult going forward.
Titans debus on HBO Max on Thursdays.
What did you think of Titans version of Blackfire and the Red Hood story? Is the shift to Jonathan Crane as the Red Hood ringleader good or should it be Ra’s? Also, what do you think about the whole “kill a wolf” lesson? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Featured image via HBO Max
Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.