Lazarus Shows New Side Of Jason Todd And Red Hood For Best Titans Episode
The latest episode of Titans on HBO Max, titled Lazarus, is my pick for the best episode thus far. Just like Star Trek: Discovery, it seems that Titans finally hit its stride in season 3, though some fans may still be disappointed that this is a Bat-family series. Case-in-point, during Lazarus, no current members of the Titans appear. Rather, this episode is entirely focused on Curran Walters’ Jason Todd, and his transformation into the Red Hood. In fact, Lazarus adds some layers and details to this origin story that continue to make it my favorite version of it thus far.
As any critic should do, I want to fully admit my biases here. I am old enough that Jason Todd was my Robin. I had his first issue and read all the way through to when I risked my parents wrath to vote for him to live. His eventual return as the Red Hood was not my favorite, though I appreciate how great the story and concept is. I just felt precious about Jason, and that’s one of the reason I’ve enjoyed Titans since it debuted. The addition of Jason Todd, and Curran Walters’ performance choices, are very different from the comics. But it still feels like the Jason I remember. He was a “bad” kid, and that was part of the reason I liked him.
The events of the past two episodes, Hank & Dove and Blackfire, have really pushed this Jason to a point-of-no-return that even the comics never dared. He killed a hero, one of his friends and allies. Yet, in Lazarus, we get to see Jason Todd become the Red Hood from a much different perspective. Enough to redeem him in the eyes of the audience, if not the Titans.
Spoilers to follow.
The Lazarus Episode Leaves Little Doubt That Titans Is a Story All About Batman
Image by Ben Mark Holzberg via HBO Max
There was controversy around Masters of the Universe: Revelation, because outrage grifters convinced the audience that the story was not about He-Man. Even though the character is absent for large chunks of episodes, the series is about him. Or, more accurately, it is about how this figure affected the people in his lives. Especially, those who felt betrayed by him. Titans has been all about how Bruce Wayne has traumatized his children: Jason and Brendon Thwaites’ Dick Grayson. So, even though this episode’s plot covers how Jason Todd became the Red Hood, it’s all about Bruce.
However, in Lazarus, we see a new side of Bruce Wayne, at least new for a Titans episode. Since the season 2 finale of Titans, Jason returned to Gotham. He’s also plagued by nightmares. Sent to Dr. Leslie Tompkins, not the mother figure to Bruce she is in the comics, Jason talks about his “emotional shit” and is reminded of Jonathan Crane the Scarecrow. Watch the episode for the details, but Lazarus does a great job of showing how Jason’s bad choices lead to him becoming the Red Hood. Yet, and this is important to me of course, they do it without making it Jason’s “fault” he broke bad either. Iain Glen’s Bruce tries to reach out to Jason, but this street kid with a chip on his shoulder perceives his compassion as rejection.
The inclusion of Jonathan Crane sparked some skepticism for me. Before the season 3 premiere of Titans, I suspected him to show up for an episode and then be killed like Doctor Light. However, this also adds an element of chemical manipulation to the Jason Todd redemption equation.
Lazarus Feels Like a Backdoor Pilot for a Red Hood Series for HBO Max
Image by Ben Mark Holzberg via HBO Max
From the moment Walters showed up as Jason Todd, the rumor-mill said that a Red Hood series was inevitable. Well, this felt like the backdoor pilot for a potential series. An appearance by genre show heavy-hitter Eve Harlow as Molly, a friend from Jason’s past who wants to save him, even seems like a potential series regular. (Especially since neXt is cancelled.)
In this instance, the corporate necessity of setting up possible future adventures serves the character of Red Hood all the better. Otherwise, in Lazarus Titans might have wanted to focus on the vile things Jason Todd did as Red Hood. Instead, we are treated to a story of him showing up for a population that feels ignored by Batman. It’s easy to see how, with Molly’s influence, he could become the kind of lethal heroic vigilante that Oliver Queen was in the first season of Arrow.
We can also add in that Batman is gone, and Dick presumably will stay with the Titans and be Nightwing. This leaves Gotham in need of a protector, and Jason Todd may do it his way. I suspect this series will rehabilitate Jason’s character very soon, and that his redemption arc will start with a breakaway from Scarecrow. I doubt Red Hood would be welcome with the Titans, but I have a strong feeling this is only the beginning for this version of the character.
Titans debuts new episodes on Thursdays on HBO Max.
What do you think? How did Lazarus fare in turning Jason Todd from the Titans universe into their Red Hood? Would you like a series following this character? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Featured image by Ben Mark Holzberg 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.