Titans season 2 has managed to improve all of its main superheroes, but Raven seems to be stuck in one gear. After a mixed reception to its debut season, Titans has undergone somewhat of a soft reset for its sophomore effort and, in many ways, feels like a totally different show. The mature edge has been toned down a little so as to not feel forced, the general tone of the series has shifted more towards the comic books and the Titans are finally operating as a group, whereas before the superhero team was never actually spoken of.
Unfortunately, this has necessitated a little reworking of the stories and characterization from Titans‘ first season. Dick’s troubles with Batman have effectively been cast aside after a single conversation, throwing an entire season’s worth of brooding down the drain. Starfire’s reason for coming to Earth has been altered from hunting down Rachel to escaping the position of Queen on her home planet. Suddenly, the Titans themselves are now a hot topic of discussion, rather than a minor part-time partnership between Robin and a few pals.
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This series of retcons can feel jarring and largely contradicts key events from Titans season 1. However, if viewers can get past the initial culture shock and more or less ignore last season, treating season 2 as a brand new start for Titans, many of the changes have actually improved both the series and its characters. Everyone seems to come out of the shake-up better for the experience…everyone apart from Raven.
The Core Titans Team Feel More Well-Rounded In Season 2
Titans‘ shift in tone has done wonders for the main group, especially Dick Grayson. In season 1, Dick’s arc was dominated by his hatred for Batman and his resentment of the Robin mantle. This perhaps wasn’t the best starting point for Titans‘ lead character, and Dick’s heroic, more human qualities were swamped under a relentless desire to prove his former mentor wrong. As a general rule, trying to turn the audience against Batman (even an older, angrier version of the Dark Knight) isn’t going to work out. Having shed that baggage in season 2, there are far more shades to Dick’s persona. There remains a darkness dwelling inside the protagonist – and a subsequent attempt to repress it – but viewers also get to see the original Robin in his leadership role, torn between his old friends and his new ones.
Although Starfire’s origin story has been overhauled without much in the way of a working explanation, Anna Diop’s character does benefit as a result. Tying Kory’s reason for being on Earth into the Raven and Trigon material worked in the short term, but also made it tricky to dive into Starfire’s comic book history and own dysfunctional family, and to cast her as a simple warrior takes away huge chunks of what makes this Titans member so interesting. Reframing Kory as a runaway Queen hunted by her own people creates an interesting tug-of-war between Earth and Tamaran and adds an extra layer to the burgeoning romance with Dick Grayson. The moment when Starfire is dragged back to her own planet will be a fascinating test of the Titans’ mettle.
As in season 1, Gar hasn’t had a huge role to play in Titans season 2, but even he has experienced credible development in recent episodes. Gar’s role in the core Titans team was previously unclear but he’s now found a niche as the tech guy, and as the guy who desperately tries to keep the others from tearing each other apart. He’s the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles‘ Donatello. Beast Boy’s biggest piece of character development came during his excursion with Jason Todd – and the guilt that resulted from the mission going awry.
The Supporting Titans Feel Like Proper Superheroes
It’s not only the new guard who have been revamped in Titans season 2. Donna Troy was a peripheral figure in Titans‘ first season, largely used as a moral sounding board for Dick Grayson during times of crisis, but season 2 has allowed Wonder Girl to develop an arc all of her own. The bubbling anger at Dick’s rebooted Titans eventually lead to the reveal of Aqualad’s death in one of Titans‘ strongest ever episodes, suddenly turning Donna into a more multi-faceted entity.
Hawk and Dove were a hot mess of conflicting emotions in Titans‘ first season, and that has more or less continued in the current run. Despite not being altered as radically as their colleagues, the avian duo’s dynamic has been simplified by quashing the romance between Dawn and Dick (Robin admits it was just a rebound) and removing some of the more overt addiction elements to their relationship. This leaves the focus squarely on Hawk and Dove’s reluctant return to vigilantism, and whether they can escape their current stint as Titans in one piece.
Perhaps more than anyone else in Titans, Jason Todd has been boosted by season 2’s sweeping changes. Curran Walters’ character was portrayed from the outset as a volatile and arrogant individual, bordering on incompetent. While naivety and immaturity are parts of Todd’s comic character, the Titans version ignored his capabilities as a hero, but this has been set right in season 2. It’s clear that Jason wants nothing more than to impress his Robin predecessor, and his frustration is justified when the old Titans realize they could’ve used the youngster’s help. Jason then tries to make amends, but bites off more than he can chew and is captured by Deathstroke. However, Jason shows his true worth by doing everything he can to fight back, tenaciously defying his captor’s torture.
Raven Hasn’t Progressed At All
Titans season 2 began promisingly for Raven, as she adopted her traditional comic book appearance and looked to have been set free from the shadow of her demonic father. But just as the Raven of season 1 was characterized as a struggling teenager with out of control powers that keep hurting the people she loves, season 2 Raven is characterized as a struggling teenager with out of control powers that keep hurting the people she loves.
The nature of Raven’s supernatural abilities may have changed a little but, essentially, her role in Titans hasn’t moved forward at all. She’s the damsel in distress – the character everyone is trying to help as the darkness inside her threatens to burst out. Season 2 has merely replaced creepy reflections and blackened eyes with a dark ethereal goop that beats people up when Raven is asleep or angry. Rachel may keep telling the audience that her powers have changed since the battle against Trigon, but any evolution has been superficial at best, and Raven still relies on the help of others to keep control.
While Raven as a superhero has failed to progress, she also seems to have stalled in terms of interpersonal relationships. Each of the superheroes currently living rent-free in Titans Tower fulfills a role in the group, whether that’s leader (Dick), skeptic (Donna) or the voice of reason (Kory). Raven, however, seems to lack direction, and the only real development she experienced came when bonding with Rose over their deadbeat Dads. Happy to sit on the fence, Raven has mostly been neutral in the new-look Titans, neither rocking the boat or taking an active role in the group’s work.
Fortunately, there’s still time for Raven to get the same upgrades afforded to the rest of the Titans cast – and the improvements made to Dick, Kory and the others prove that Titans is capable of making changes where necessary to better the show.
Titans season 2 continues with Conner October 11th on DC Universe.
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