This week’s installment of HBO Max’s Titans comes back into focus and tackles several storylines at once, most notably shining a spotlight on Barbara Gordon’s complicated past with Dick Grayson.
The following review contains SPOILERS for DC’s Titans Season 3.
Aptly titled “Lady Vic”, the obscure sociopathic villain from the comics is introduced in the opening of the episode. The blood-thirsty assassin is shown killing two cops at some random diner, as it seems their public display of love for each other what too much for her to handle. She’s on the road heading towards Gotham City, where there are enough villains to spare for several lifetimes already. Nonetheless, the show then returns to the Wayne Manor, where Blackfire gets her first taste of what it’s like to not be treated like royalty.
The vengeful sister of Starfire is instantly drawn to the half-Kryptonian, assuming the kind-hearted hero is her servant at first. It seems that even after killing her own parents, she still hasn’t shaken off the sense of privilege that her Tamaran royal blood gave her. Even in the first few minutes of her arrival, it’s clear her dynamic with the team will be an entertaining and compelling shake-up to the everchanging status quo for the Titans.
We are then taken to a flashback in Gotham, set 8 years earlier. An uninvited guest seeks to steal an antique vase from a museum, earning a visit from Batman’s sidekick, Robin. Although Dick Grayson rocks the Nightwing outfit, the show’s near-perfect depiction of the Boy Wonder is always fun to watch. A tightly choreographed fight scene ensues between the two, but it becomes pretty obvious that the masked criminal is none other than Barbara Gordon. The daughter of Commissioner Gordon has been robbing expensive goods to keep her father on his toes, well before she became the vigilante fans know and love. They clearly already know each other, but it’s at this moment when their relationship begins to become something more than just family friends.
In the present time, Dick wakes up from his Barbara-centric flashback sequence, still recovering from the bullet wound inflicted on her orders. When Kory tends to his wounds, both she and Gar chastise him for going after Red Hood alone. Although Dick has his reasons, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that if any other Titan was involved that Jason would be defeated within seconds. Nevertheless, Nightwing is going to Nightwing, meaning he’ll continue to do whatever he thinks is necessary to stop Red Hood. Unfortunately, he doesn’t get to meet Blackfire yet, which might actually be a good thing judging by her dangerous antics towards Connor.
After last week expanded upon the complex relationship between Scarecrow and Red Hood, the former returns to put Jason in his place with the hiring of Lady Vic. The ex-Robin is eager to get his anti-fear drug on the streets, but Dr. Crane clearly has a more fulfilling plan in the works. Moreover, with the help of a cold-blooded Lady Vic, Dr. Crane displays to his padawan that he is expendable. They aren’t partners in crime, nor is Jason privy to the specifics of his mentor’s end goals.
At the crime scene of Lady Vic’s work, both Dick and Kory find out they are blocked from investigating the premises thanks to the Commissioner. Back at Gotham PD, Dick attempts to get back on her good side but then suggests she utilize “Oracle”, an AI program that seemingly spiraled out of control at some point. Of course, Barbara doesn’t budge, forcing him and the Titans to work the case off the books. This leads us to the power trio made up of Starfire, Superboy, and Blackfire visiting the location of a scientist related to Scarecrow’s plan. Shockingly enough, the three aliens create some of the series’ most entertaining dynamics, especially between Blackfire and Superboy. The connection they make in the car is a surprising development that actually makes sense on paper, despite some of their chemistry coming off a bit wonky at first.
When the scientist they encounter has the same bomb that killed Hank, Superboy gets the opportunity to save her life. Besides, if we’re being honest, it was totally Dove’s fault the bomb went off last time around. Meanwhile, at the Batcave, Dick gets to bond with Gar a little bit while analyzing the sounds of the crime scene. Despite Beast Boy not having a clear character arc for this season, serving as the heart of the team is benefiting the series immensely. Their bonding is the perfect example of when the series is able to tie the overall narrative with the team’s growth, in fact, this episode does a lot of that throughout with other characters.
In another flashback, we see Dick and Barbara at the peak of their romantic relationship come into contact with an equally younger Lady Vic. It turns out that her moment of bloodshed in the opening of the episode is thanks to the death of her boyfriend, indirectly caused by Barbara attempting to save Dick. The fight scene itself is certainly entertaining, but it’s especially impressive considering it features actress Savannah Welch participating in many of the stunts, despite having her leg amputated several years ago after a car accident. The fact the series ensured she was involved in every aspect of the classic DC superhero, before and after she got the wheelchair, is a noteworthy effort that shouldn’t go unnoticed. Moreover, in the present time, Barbara gets to have a rematch with Lady Vic, one that ends with the former Batgirl winning yet again. Pulled straight from the source material, she uses some purple and yellow batons while on the chair and holds her own against the assassin.
The haunting final sequence has Jason distribute several imperfect batches of the drug to some goons, which happens to take place right in front of Tim Drake’s family restaurant. Utilizing the toxin, one of the criminals enters the place with a pistol, showing no remorse and firing several shots into the family members. As the musical score reaches a chilling crescendo with the bevy of gunfire, the camera doesn’t shy away from Jason’s face almost the entire time.
The addict has become the dealer, desperate to give others the same emotionless high he feels all the time, no matter the consequences. Yet there is a brief moment of self-reflection, even while on the anti-fear drug. Some part of him feels bad about what he’s caused directly, but unfortunately, his insistent need to drown out his emotions brings him to another whiff of the toxin. The former Robin has now created a future superhero in Tim Drake, one that will likely follow the footsteps of Red Hood’s enemies instead.
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