Titans Takes Useless Detour Into Troubled Water In New Episode
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Titans Takes Useless Detour Into Troubled Water In Latest Episode

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BY October 4, 2021

This season of Titans on HBOMax is a high point for the series, but latest episode “Troubled Water,” is the low point. At the center of the episode is a premise that’s so preposterous it rips you right out of the story. And that’s saying something in a show where two characters came back from the dead last week. Honestly, with What If also airing right now, I am wondering if I didn’t slip into a new universe. Because this felt like an episode of a different TV show, just with the same characters. That said, there are some great moments in the episode, particularly from Vincent Kartheiser’s Jonathan Crane. With everyone acting so mad in this episode, it almost makes sense that the psychotically disturbed character is the most interesting.

Last week’s Titans was the first episode with Raven in season 3, and she’s also mostly absent from the action. I am loathe to call any episode of television “filler,” because those self-contained stories are often very entertaining. Yet, this episode does feel like filler, but it’s just that significant changes occur that alter the character dynamics in huge ways. In short, I feel somewhat blindsided by much of what this episode does.

Still, even at shaky moments in seasons past, Titans storytellers are excellent at driving the characters together against the villain in the home stretch leading up to the finale. If you can chalk the events of this episode up to just something in the water, the season should be able to get back on track very quickly.

Spoilers for the episode to follow.

“Troubled Water” Is an Episode of Titans Centers on a Legitimately Terrible Idea

Titans Troubled Water Episode karen-robinson-savannah-welch Image by Ben Mark Holzberg via HBOMax

Diving right in, Dick Grayson makes a terrible decision during the course of this episode. This is immediately followed by each member of the team, all of whom should hate this idea, signing on with no complaints. Watch the scene with the sound off, and it’s a great moment of the Titans coming together. Yet, this is completely undercut by the inane premise. After Crane somehow hijacks every phone and television screen in the city, he broadcasts Red Hood propaganda. Thus the Titans are now blamed for the sci-fi poison dumped into the water last episode. It’s weak, but I’m buying it. It gets worse.

In the midst of this city-wide crisis, Savannah Welch’s Barbara Gordon meets Brendon Thwaites’ Grayson for a solo dinner in a restaurant. These two are on a date while hundreds of thousands of people are raging because of Crane’s anti-Fear toxin. It’s at this dinner he suggests that the Titans turn themselves in to the authorities. Then post bail and “work from the shadows.” Literally, what? When they ultimately do this terrible plan, there is no media present. So, the “it’s just for show” thing doesn’t make any sense. (Although, this show routinely uses its well edited fight footage for news reports.)

The Red Hood then pays off some cops (again, why?). A fight breaks out when the Titans turn themselves in. All this is done to get the Titans “wanted” and lead them to eventually either clearing their names or remaining wanted and working from the aforementioned shadows. Also, Barbara shoots a cop to save Dick, getting herself arrested.

It’s Not Just Nightwing Who Has Bad Ideas This Episode

Along with all the Gotham stuff, a plot this season focused on Anna Diop’s Starfire and her sister Blackfire, played by Damaris Lewis. In the first Titans episode with Blackfire, she and her sister had a full-on fight. Starfire is super-strong, and Blackfire was taking those punches. In this episode, she is apparently vulnerable to bullets. All season, Starfire experienced episodes in which she’d lose herself in visions only to wake up in a different place. Rather than explaining this, the show deepens the mystery. Because Blackfire is dying, Starfire uses her power to “heal” her. (Sure, why not? Tamaranians are made-up.) However, in the process, Blackfire takes possession of Starfire’s powers. Even though she was on board with Dick’s terrible plan, Blackfire then tries to convince Starfire to abandon the Titans. It seems no storyline is safe in the “Troubled Water” episode of Titans.

Meanwhile, Conor Leslie’s Donna Troy is stuck outside of Gotham, and has to some other “resurrection crucible” before rejoining the team. This does actually facilitate the best part of the episode. Donna realizing that she’s not “hated” by the Amazons is a big moment. It’s just overshadowed by so much silliness. It also could have been avoided, had she had this conversation with this woman in Themyscira rather than on the side of a highway on the outskirts of Gotham. Another highlight was the few seconds we got of Teagan Croft’s Raven at the end of the episode. She’s definitely much more in control now. The finale team-up will be something.

Lastly, if Donna’s back, that means Iain Glen’s Bruce Wayne is probably back, too. I hope with my whole heart that he walks in on Curran Walters’ Jason Todd and Crane kicking it disrespectfully in his house.

Titans Troubled Water Episode conor-leslie_0 Image by Ben Mark Holzberg via HBOMax

Titans debuts new episodes on Thursdays on HBOMax.

What did you think of the “Troubled Water” episode of Titans on HBOMax? Am I being too harsh? Did Dick Grayson’s plan to turn himself in make sense to anyone? Share your thoughts, theories, and defenses in the comments below.

Image by Ben Mark Holzberg via HBOMax

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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.

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