Titans S2Ep1, “Trigon”, Review by Case Wright (Dir. Carol Banker)


titans-1

Welcome back! This has been a hard year for me in terms of reviewing season two and three shows-

Sabrina 2- garbage

Stranger Things 3- Just so very sad.

And then there was Titans.  I was prepared for a sophomore slump like I had seen all year with my favorite shows and ….. it NEVER happened.  Season 2 Episode 1 was like a new pilot of my most beloved show.  It had family murder, a quasi Lucifer, and an introduction of Death Stroke, Bruce Wayne, a new Titans Headquarters, and a cure for male pattern baldness!

The episode picked up where it left off with Dick turned into an evil minion and the rest of the gang trying to help.  Hawk and Dove go to Jason Todd and they all descend upon the EVIL Farmhouse …. and are invited in or are they?  Trigon (Seamus Dever) is up to his old tricks of temptation, manipulation, and pagination – he’s really into orderly manuscripts; it can’t be all about world destruction.

The Titans fall one by one.  Jason Todd is manipulated to kill his “older brother” Dick, Starfire is tricked into killing Rachel, Hank gets Dawn hooked on smack… yes smack…horse…the dragon…the boy…the beast…H…or dope.  You even see the needle enter her arm and shoot it up.  I’m not sure whether this show or Breaking Bad is darker?  Maybe I need to watch something lighter like Disneyland being hit by a meteor or all the unicorns dying to Adiago For Strings.  But, man oh man it is enthralling!!!  I know that DCU is yet another subscription service, BUT it is worth every single penny to me! *Views expressed do not represent this blog, but are always correct. *

Once everyone is turned and Gar is nearly beaten to death by the now Evil Titans, Raven’s heart breaks allowing Trigon to fulfill his prophecy and start some earth destroying.  He reaches into his daughter’s chest, crushes her beating heart, turns it into a ruby, and puts the stone on her forehead….and I thought my childhood Thanksgivings were awkward…HIYOOO! Then, Trigon goes full-on Lucifer, which almost made this a Horrorthon post.

Gar wakes and breaks Raven free of the curse and she kills/banishes her father. EPIC… JUST EPIC! Anywho, once the dust settles, we get introduced to our new villain Death Stroke (who apparently hates Jason Todd; I don’t know why because he really grows on you) and Bruce Wayne.  This was a really good portrayal of an older aging Bruce- from father to Dick’s peer.  The episode ends with the Titans in San Francisco in their familiar HQ to the fans of the animated series.

This show succeeded in so many ways.  It’s deliciously 99% Cacao Dark.  It has great action, great dialogue, heart wrenching failure and redemption.  The performances, as always, were superb across the board.  I will say that Jason Todd (Curran Walters) should get a spinoff of the Red Hood.  He would be an amazing Anti-Hero and a clever take on a Batman like hero without ANY rules.  Ahem Greg….Ahem!  See you in a week!

“Titans” S1 Ep 10 & 11; “Koriand’r” & “Dick Grayson” Review by Case Wright *Spoilers*


titans-1

Do you know the exact moment when you sold your soul?  Or when your soul is forfeit are you so far gone that you don’t notice?

thedevilsadvocate62

Dick Grayson started as the damaged hero and ended with nothing.  He’s a tragic hero whose pride destroyed him.  He became seduced to believe that his pain allowed him to decide life and death, causing him to commit the paragon of sins: Patricide.  As you look at the 11 episode arc, you see Dick losing his identity as Robin, and in doing so, he loses his moral compass and his soul.

I reviewed these last two episodes together because they flow as one episode.  It could’ve been titled The Last Temptation of Dick Grayson.  Unfortunately, he made the wrong the decision and we see his soul die. Not only was the story brilliantly written, but these two episodes had a creepy factor that was palpable.  In fact, the story began and ended in a haunted house.

In the previous episode, Starfire starts choking Rachel.  Dick and Donna burst in and Starfire stops, but the damage has been done and Rachel’s mom insists that Starfire leave.  Starfire does and Dick and Donna follow.  Rachel’s mom has successfully separated the group.  We learn that Starfire is an Alien and needs to stop Rachel from unleashing her father Trigon who is basically the Devil.

Rachel has been trying to keep from using her powers because she can’t control them and they seem inherently evil because … well … they are.  Rachel’s mom as it turns out is still all about Trigon AKA Satan and she really wants her some Satan.  In order to do it, she needs to get Rachel to use her evil mojo and pull her dad out of a mirror.  Rachel’s mom accomplishes this by infecting Gar through a haunted mirror.  Rachel’s mom tricks Rachel into pulling her dad out of Hell because only he can save Gar.  Well, she does and Gar is healed by Trigon, but evil is now unleashed upon us.  How did this work?  Rachel was manipulated and seduced.  She knew that her father was likely pretty pretty bad, but she was willing risk us all to help her friend, making the act selfish, but disguised as altruistic.

Dick Grayson enters and he is in his idealized reality, but not all is well.  First of all, he’s in Southern California, which is almost a hell dimension all on its own.  Dawn is his wife and he’s got another baby on the way AND they both have left the hero business behind to pursue a life of….well let’s just assume real estate? They probably have some really cool pictures of themselves on local benches.  In fact, Minka Kelly should really be on ALL advertisements at all times.   

Jason Todd arrives in a wheel chair and informs Dick that Batman has run a muck, killing the villains instead of beating them to near death, which is …. better?   Dick returns to Gotham and is continually manipulated by Satan that Bruce can’t be stopped without killing him.  Dick fights his way through the mansion and upon seeing that Starfire was killed by Batman, he gives into his wrath and commits patricide.  By giving into this final act of evil, Dick becomes Trigon’s minion.  Dick even gets evil eyes, but I didn’t not to use a screen cap of that because it might spoil visually.

These episodes and the season as whole take a deep dive into PTSD and human weakness.  Dick was filled with bitterness and pain and when he burned his Robin suit he also burned the last vestige of his hero identity.  When he kills Bruce, he wasn’t in costume; he was just angry Dick Grayson who wanted to get back at his Dad.  Dick answers the question for us posed at the beginning:  we don’t know when our soul is forfeit because we left all our scruples behind getting to that point, therefore, we become a husk of a human being capable of anything.

Screenshot (84).png

Screenshot (81).png

“Titans” S1 Ep 9, “Hawk and Dawn”, Dir Akiva Goldsman


titans-1

Anger turned inward is suicidal, but anger turned outward is homicidal.  This episode (Dir Akiva Goldsman) was a story of rage and revenge.  Where do you put all of your anger when self-help groups, drinking, and drugs no longer satisfies the grief?  Revenge.  Revenge is as seductive as heroin and it does not have to be directly done to the individual that wronged you.  Revenge is an idea of retribution distilled into a violent id.

Titans once again challenges us to support primitive justice.  In the not too distant past, blood had to be answered with blood.  In Titans, blood still calls and must be answered.  There is no lawyering up to satiate the desperate pang for revenge.  It is pure.  It is violent.  Honestly, maybe it’s healthier?  Civilized society gives us Justice – the impartial review of the facts to determine legal guilt and reasonable punishment. Vengeance is instant punishment by the aggrieved for the likely guilty.  Vengeance is not civilized, but it is satisfying.  This episode answers the question what does it take for a civilized person to close the door on society’s civilized justice and enter the world of primitive vengeance?

The episode begins with Hank and his brother in football pads filming their first adventure as superheroes.  They are about to beat up a pedophile so that he will plead guilty to his crimes.  Why do they opt for this life?  Hank was sexually abused by his football coach in middle school.  Later, he becomes a football star at his college, but he and his brother get kicked out for fighting.  Without anything, they decide to go after pedophiles and mete out justice in their neighborhood.

Then, we meet Dawn. She is a ballet dancer, daughter to a sophisticated Londoner, BUT her mother is married to an abuser and she keeps going back.  Despite her family’s dirty secret, they remain within the boundaries of the law and society.  We see all of the characters meet moments later.  Hank and his brother and Dawn and her mother all run into each other on the street.  Just as we’re about see the guys become superheroes, a car kills the mom and the brother.

This sends both Dawn and Hank down a spiral of depression and drinking.  In this haze, they find each other, but their anger is just under the surface- Waiting. The loss and the drinking doesn’t send Dawn outside of society. It takes something more for to turn away from society- Intimacy.  No, I don’t mean sex.  I mean real intimacy.  Dawn gets Hank to tell her about the sex abuse he suffered.  She is there for him.  He has undressed himself by sharing his trauma, she can relate to his pain because of her abusive father. Through this shared pain and intimacy, Dawn leaves society and decides to mete out her own justice.  She enters the world of vengeance.

Dawn confronts Hank’s football coach and demands that he turn himself in.  He refuses and a very good fight ensues.  This is what makes this show great.  It’s honest in terms of the physics.  Yes, she lands some solid kicks and punches, BUT he is a large grown man and he makes contact and delivers some ass kicking as well.  In Arrow, we would have to believe that a 100 pound 5’0 lady could beat up four men at the same time.  It always took me out of it.  The fights in Titans are brutal and honest.  To get the upper-hand in this fight, she has to stab the coach in the leg.

Just as the Coach is about to win the fight and kill Dawn, Hank arrives and beats the snot of the Coach.  This is the shared intimacy.  Hank offers to let her leave- that she was never there.  There’s a beat. Then, NO. Right then, she has fully crossed over.  She closes the door of the Coach’s home so they can finish beating him possibly to death.  We watch from a distance as she fully closes the door on us.  The reason is that we are on the outside looking in; Dawn has left our society.  We as the viewer in the comfort of our home and safety and permanently separated from her new life.

When they arrive home, they complete the intimacy by removing all of their clothing and consummating their relationship. They are now both changed.  The story ends with her being roused from coma by Rachel inserting herself into Dawn’s dream.

Greg, you love spin-offs – this is a great one.  Ritchson and Kelly have perfect chemistry; you feel their pain.  The characters and their story is wonderfully dark.  It would be a great addition to the DC Universe as its own series!

 

 

Titans, S1E3, Origins, Dir. Kevin Rodney Sullivan, No review ep 4


titans

This episode – Origins – digs deeper into Dick and how he evolved into Robin and how Dick, Koriand’r, and Rachel evolved into the Titans.  I don’t mention Beast Boy because he joins in the next episode and he is kinda lame.  Speaking of Beast Boy, I won’t review Episode 4- Doom Patrol.  It’s a backdoor pilot for the eponymous show that was reviewed on this site – check it out here.

The episode opens with my only critique for the season.  Rachel is captured, but doesn’t use her Goth powers to kill everyone.  Why not?  This was not explained.  It seems that somehow her powers were neutered, but I’m not sure how.  She ends up being driven around by the world’s creepiest suburban family.  This quick cuts to Koriand’r searching for Rachel and kicking serious ass kinda unnecessarily.  I mean these were cops and she just breaks one guy’s arm when he begs for mercy.  OUCH!  Koriand’r catches up to the “Nuclear Family” and sets the dad on fire and rescues Rachel.  Koriand’r sets more people on fire than the Romans did! Not too long after, she practically tears apart a wife beater at a diner!  WOW!   Koriand’r takes Rachel to a convent where she discovered Rachel spent the first few years of her life.  All the while, Dick is on the hunt for them both!

The B- Story is Dick Grayson’s youth and how he became Robin.  I wasn’t sure how I thought of this device, but it re-centered the story around Dick to keep the narrative clear: This show is Dick’s Story.  Young Dick Grayson is adopted by Bruce Wayne who doesn’t speak, but lurks around the house staring at Dick.  HMMMM.  Anywho, Dick starts breaking out of Wayne Manor using his acrobat and car stealing techniques.  He’s caught and brought into his social worker who is certain that she knows the way forward: reason with the boy.  Unfortunately, she doesn’t get it.  Dick isn’t running away; he’s hunting his parents’ killer to kill them.  This causes Bruce to take an interest in Dick and recruit him into becoming Robin.

If you look at Dick as someone with deep-seeded PTSD, (which is exactly what’s going on) Bruce and Dick’s actions are very logical. They have repressed rage and, unlike many of us, the means and ability to exact revenge on people who mirror the cause of their trauma.  Most of us just end up in therapy, but I admit that I envy these guys.  Yes, it’s easier on your family to go to the VA and work through your justified rage, but wouldn’t it also be fun to wear some sort of leather and beat the ever loving snot out of a bunch of wife beaters, drug dealers, and child molesters?! It’s be a lot more fun than therapy and far fewer group sessions where you get slightly better than mediocre ham sandwiches.

Dick, being a pretty good detective, catches up to them and Rachel loses it full-on Carrie style.  Dick Koriand’r and Rachel back to the convent and has a heart to heart with Rachel. He said something that stuck with me.  Rachel was going on about how no one can really help and Dick admits, Yes.  He thought Bruce could solve his problems by having him beat the snot out of people, but no one else can be responsible for your pain.  You have to channel it yourself into something constructive, but it never goes away because it did happen to you.

It turns out that the sisters decide to lock up Rachel in the basement for her own good while Dick and Koriad’r step out for a few.  This seems like an odd choice for the sisters.  It’s obvious that Rachel is still there and why would they think that Dick and Koriand’r would be okay with her being locked away in a basement?!  Kinda weird.  Other than a few flaws, the episode lays the framework for an expanding family.  I really do enjoy watching this group evolve into the Titans and they are really good at showing the subtle sparks that Koriand’r and Dick have for one another.  Once again, I’m impressed with how accurately and directly they deal with PTSD and how that would affect all superheroes.

vlcsnap-2019-06-24-19h10m19s222.png

Titans, S1 E2, “Hawk and Dove” Review by Case Wright (Dir. Brad Anderson)


titansI used to say that Hope was a useless emotion. So many things come close and never quite make it. A surgery, a marriage maybe, finding the right job, or a myriad of things we try for and fail. As we get older, our hope is hesitant and reality becomes our future.

Titans encapsulates those near misses and the familiar heartbreak that doesn’t sting like it used to.  It is the most brutally realistic show I’ve ever seen.  It’s almost like watching a documentary.  This is really what it would be like if heroes were real and we can see their touchstone in the faces of Veterans.

Brad Anderson wherever you are- You can bring it!  The PTSD of this show is Battlestar Galactica levels of real.  The fight scenes are sometimes hard to watch, but you can’t look away.  You really can show disappointment.  This episode was all about coming up short.  You missed it by this much!  It’s Superhero Noir.

The episode introduces Hank and Dawn/Hawk and Dove.  They are a tough duo with a history with Dick/Robin.  By history, Dove and Robin knocked boots.  Dick failed Dawn.  Dawn failed Hank.   Now, Dawn and Hank are living on the margins, trying to take down/ripoff a gunrunner or just die.  It’s sad.  Hank gets beat up a lot, he needs a new hip, he’s alcoholic, addicted to pain pills, and steroids.  Dawn is resigned to her fading life with a broken man who will need long-term care- if he lives.  She has a broken partner and she pines for Dick Grayson; the true love of her life.

Dick has the great idea to abandon Rachel with this well-adjusted duo in DC.  It works out…..terribly.  Dick agrees to help Hank and Dawn ripoff of the gunrunner and he proceeds … well …see below.  There’s hedge clippers to the balls and a throwing star R to the eye.  It is brutal.  To be fair, Dick doesn’t believe that he is father material.  Well, maybe he’s right?!  Unfortunately for Rachel, Dick is all she’s got because the cult that is out to kill Rachel has tracked Dick down to DC.

The cult has a Leave it to Beaver family juiced up on super steroids and they totally beat the snot out of Hank, Dick, and Dawn.  Dawn is thrown off a building for good measure and appears to be dying.  Rachel is kidnapped by the cult….again.

What makes this show great is that they are trying to make rational choices, but life still wins and they still lose.  They are competent, but just outmatched.  Titans taps into real humanity because success is rare, they understand how flawed they are, and they’re just not good for anyone.  The photo below of Dawn looking down on her broken drug-addled boyfriend summed up the whole episode: Hank to Dawn: I promise this time will be different and Dawn’s face says – no… no it won’t, but it’s nice for you to try.

Minka Kelly, Alan Ritchson, Brenton Thwaites, and Teagan Croft’s performances were so painfully spot on.  You felt that their failure was yours.

 

 

Titans, S1 E1, Review By Case Wright (Dir. Brad Anderson)


titans

Titans isn’t your Dad’s superhero show, unless your Dad was awesome and loved Watchmen and if that’s the case he EARNED the World’s Best Dad mug!!! This is also different because it’s on the DC Universe subscription site and you’re like ….

But Case, I already already have Netflix and Hulu and Comcast and a burgeoning Methylphenidate habit because I’ve got this Calculus exam and I’m afraid of losing my funding….I mean …..smoking. 

My response is:

DROP HULU and get this subscription!!!! You get digital access to EVERY SINGLE DC Comics, Movie, show, anime, tv series, and this AWESOME SHOW!!!!

Back to the show!!!

The show takes place in Gotham? NOPE.  Metropolis? Nope! Vaguely Vancouver? Well….

It takes place in Detroit! The story revolves around an Angry PTSD Robin.  Honestly, it’s pretty accurate!  I have friends that have looked for trouble and found it.  They see a guy beating up his girlfriend or harassing a lady and they mete out the justice right there.  That’s who Robin is.  He’s angry and worked for Batman: a rich guy who liked to beat the snot out of troublemakers.  I am not saying it’s right and I never indulged in that kind of wrath, but I understand.  The law can be supine when it comes to justice, it’s good at order, but justice…not so much.  This is the world where Robin and the other Capes live.  A world where the justice is instantaneous and the world shrugs.  It comes from a real place.  Afghanistan and much of the World operates the same way: the criminal justice system is corrupt, incompetent, feckless or all three, leading people to embrace extra-judicial solutions, but their vigilantes wear surplus fatigues instead of costumes.  By far, that’s why we failed in Afghanistan, the Taliban could offer something we could not: instant brutal justice.

The show is brilliantly written by Geoff Johns and Greg Berlanti. If you don’t know who they are: Wonder Woman, Arrow, Smallville, Flash, and everything with the DC on it- they did.  If you notice the fast pace and lived-in dreariness, that’s all Brad Anderson. He directed the pilot as well as the Hawk and Dove episode.  Brad is a veteran of the show The Killing- a gritty dark murder mystery that takes place in the greatest city on Earth- SEATTLE. He is a David Fincher 2.0 with his brutal dystopian realism.  Every shot is almost always near winter as if the seasons themselves have given up.  The cities are as decaying and broken as their inhabitants.

The story starts rolling with Rachel Roth who is confused, angry, and on the run.  She watches her mother get killed by an unknown assassin and she goes scary as shit and whoops ass!  Then, she flees for Detroit and is nearly human trafficked, but her alter ego warns her in a reflection because it has to be done in the most creepy way possible.  I am not sure if keeping this girl alive is really in humanity’s best interest.

This forces her path to cross Dick Grayson (Robin) who has left Batman to become a Detroit Police Detective.  He tries to be on the right side of the law for awhile, but he sees child abusers go free and dons the cape again to mete out justice. By mete out justice, he beats people within an inch of their lives: see below! After Robin gets his 30 lbs of flesh, he gets pulled into a mystery surrounding a girl named Rachel Roth who just might be the harbinger of the apocalypse.   Side note: I have known A LOT of cops over the years; the Army’s lousy with them.  Brenton’s portrayal is very accurate for a long-term detective: he self-deprecates, but he’s really hard to know.  I would have him make some more practical jokes or kid around more a bit.  Most guys like that hide their feelings in humor a lot, but other than that, it’s flawless.

There is one scene, which is in a gif below: Robin is cleaning up his weapons after beating people nearly to death and that reminded me of my Soldier days.  You finish your training exercise or patrol.  Maybe you fought. In any case, it’s over.  Everyone gets quiet, some shirtless, all the cleaning implements are placed neatly, and you methodically clean your weapons in a very zen activity. This was a great and accurate detail.

weapons.gif

Our next hero is Koriand’r – she has no idea who she is, but she knows how to dress.  She’s a mix of badass, sexy, and neck breaking! She does all three.  There’s Russian dudes out of nowhere and she goes full-on Firestarter and burns them to DEATH! You feel almost kind of bad for them. Almost.  She has a 70s soundtrack wherever she goes.  I’m starting to blush.  Anyway. She ascertains that she needs to go to Detroit and find Rachel Roth.  In this show, who doesn’t realize that?!

The show cuts back to Rachel who meets Dick, but she’s kidnapped by a very unlucky man.  Rachel wakes to see her mother’s killer.  Wow, did he pick the wrong lady to mess with! Dick goes to rescue her, but Rachel’s dark nature takes over, she enters and explodes her would-be killer!!!! It’s AWESOME AND GROSS!!! Dick becomes her protector.  Kordiand’r is on her way to Motown. We even meet Beast Boy who likes to commit petty theft as a green tiger.

This series is the best show on television. PERIOD.

If you like my work, read the rest of it, retweet it, re-blog it, tell my editor @lisamariebowman that you like my work.  Of course, if you hate my work, I suppose there’s got to be a pill for that.

Trailer: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (Exclusive Teaser)


CatchingFire

The next installment in The Hunger Games series, Catching Fire, looks to return later this year with a new director taking over the reins. Gary Ross began the series as director of the first film and the film enjoyed massive success and very positive reception from the critics-at-large. So, it was surprising news that Ross wouldn’t be returning to continue the series and instead Lionsgate replacing him with Francis Lawrence (Constantine, I Am Legend).

This sequel brings back everyone who survived the first film and adds some new faces in the cast such as Philip Seymour Hoffman, Toby Jones, Jena Malone and Jeffrey Wright.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is set for a November 22, 2013 release date.