DISCLAIMER: This is a spoiler-free advance review of the first few episodes of HBO Max’s Titans season 3.
After running for two seasons on DC Universe, Titans has moved over to HBO Max for its third season, and there are several significant changes in store for the DC drama. When it comes to superhero/comic book TV shows, or genre television in general, the third season is always the most crucial one for a series. Usually, this is when a show will get even darker, which can go in either direction. When looking at the DC TV/Arrowverse slate as a whole, season 3 is when most of the shows have struggled because of the increased grittiness. Some recover from it while others simply don’t. However, because Titans have always maintained the tone they started with, the third season is off to a solid start in the first five episodes. There is still a level of fun amidst the darkness, particularly with Brenton Thwaites’ Nightwing. Titans season 3’s first episodes see Dick Grayson as a freer character who is quippy, playful, and feels more believable as a leader after overcoming his darkness in the first two seasons.
If there really is only one issue with Titans season 3 so far, it’s the show’s need to still play more with the Bat-mythology rather than draw from the Teen Titans comics. Because this season takes place in Gotham City, we get introduced to iconic characters like Barbara Gordon (Savannah Welch,) Tim Drake (Jay Lycurgo,) and Jonathan Crane (Vincent Kartheiser.) As it has been almost two decades since she has been in live-action, Welch’s Barbara is a solid addition, and so far, she has an interesting dynamic with Dick. Lycurgo is the first actor ever to play Tim in live-action, and when we first meet him, he brings a lot of light into the series, something he’ll hopefully get to maintain throughout the season. While Scarecrow has been in multiple Batman projects, Titans’ iteration leans heavily into the Hannibal Lector factor and has an unexpected role that some viewers may not see coming.
However, aside from solid character portrayals, Titans season 3 needs to be the year where the show gets all Bat elements out of its system. While it’s certainly exciting to see Barbara, Tim (an actual Teen Titans member), and the first live-action Red Hood, Titans aren’t allowing most of their long-running characters to shine the way they should be at this point. For example, it’s hard to get a feel for Superboy’s arc as it’s very unclear where they’re going with Joshua Orpin’s Boy of Steel at the start of the season. Beast Boy’s presence has been improved, but the series is still not fully utilizing the talent the Ryan Potter brings to the table, which hopefully changes throughout season 3. Fortunately, Starfire’s arc looks very promising based on the first five episodes. Hopefully, Titans season 3 will be the season where Anna Diop’s character gets to shine and grow, especially with Damaris Lewis’ Blackfire being one of the big bads.
While the storylines themselves are compelling, with great action moments and a few plot twists (that fans will definitely be discussing), it sometimes becomes challenging to see the Titans in this show when there is so much emphasis on Batman characters. Ideally, this will be the season where they finished playing with the Bat-corner before moving on to more Teen Titans-related stories for future seasons. Titans’ biggest strength and (sometimes) weakness is that they have so many great characters played by talented actors. Because of that, it can be challenging to give everyone an equal amount of opportunity to shine and grow as a character. Even though they fix that to a degree at the start of the season, Titans still feel very overcrowded. The best option, and hopefully HBO Max is considering this, is to start looking into spinoffs to flesh out the Titans franchise. One potential spinoff for the HBO streamer to consider is an offshoot series for Curran Walters’ Jason Todd, as the first five episodes make a compelling case for a Red Hood show that could work after Titans season 3.
The move to HBO Max has so far benefited Titans as it becomes evident very quickly that their budget has been increased. Even though it’s questionable why they haven’t increased the episodes’ air time (a la Doom Patrol,) Titans season 3 feels bigger in terms of the story and production value. The Bat-Cave is perhaps the best set-piece thus far, as it has a familiar feel to it and manages to bring something fresh to the table. The VFX has also been given a boost, especially as you see the super-powered characters use their abilities. Hopefully, with the HBO Max upgrade, Beast Boy will actually get to be more than just one animal this season. It’s also important to note that for viewers who do enjoy Titans’ Bat-focus, they will be in for a treat as the third season kicks off, including some very intriguing DC Easter eggs.
Overall, aside from the mentioned issues, Titans season 3 is off to a solid start that will get a terrific pay-off by the end of the season. Unlike season 2, the third season doesn’t feel overstuffed with storylines regarding villains, as Titans are focusing on the heroes dealing with the two main threats for this year.
Catch Titans season 3 starting on August 12, with the first three episodes, followed by subsequent episode releases every Thursday on HBO Max.