"Deathstroke" – Titans S02E05 Review

"Deathstroke" is subtitled "Lights Out for Dr. Light".

Or to put it another way... guess Titans won't be giving us that Fearsome Five reunion I predicted a couple of reviews ago. A shame, really: I would have liked seeing Gizmo, Mammoth, and Jinx on the small screen. But such was not to be.

Esai Morales, Michael Mosley, Curran Walters, Titans S02E05

Instead we got Dr. Light being even more bro-like than ever. And then getting killed for no particular reason. Maybe it will make sense down the road. As Donna notes, Dr. Light was involved for a reason. There were lots of hints dropped this week about what that reason is. Presumably it involved Jericho, who we saw last week in flashbacks but there's no mention of this week.

Given next week's episode is titled "Conner", and it brings us the six-episodes-into-the-season introduction of that character and an ensemble of Superman characters (Lex Luthor! Martha Kent! Mercy Graves! Project Cadmus!), I don't hold up much hope for exploration of the Old Titans/Deathstroke/Jericho backstory.

So what happened this week among all the mooning about the Past Which Must Not Be Clarified? A surprising amount of angst and three above-average superhero fight scenes. We start with New Robin being hauled to Deathstroke and Dr. Light's lair. Which is filled with old lamps that Dr. Light spends his spare time draining the photon energy from. Despite being suspended from the ceiling, Robin gives Dr. Light what-for. However, Deathstroke shows up and rains on Robin's parade by recapturing him.

Anna Diop, Titans S02E05

Rachel, Gar, Rose, and Kory make up for being absent last week by the first three spending a lot of time wondering what's up with the Old Titans, Rachel tries to put a good face on it, Gar gets frustrated with Rachel and Rose, and Rose has a big bowl of cereal. Kory comes back from Chicago, and acts as the voice of reason. She's immediately accepted by the Old Titans in a way that the younger trio aren't. But she's involved with Rachel and doesn't have an ax to grind with Deathstroke and Rose being in the Tower. It's a nice step up for Anna Diop to act like a senior superhero; unlike the seeming naïve cheesecake that she was often portrayed in her original appearances in the comics.

The Old Titans search for the missing Robin, and Deathstroke and Light are watching them on hidden cameras. When Light gets antsy about how Deathstroke isn't killing the Titans as he promised, Deathstroke lets him go to his truck... and kills him. Deathstroke then cuts the tracking implant out of Robin's thigh and plants it on Light's corpse, and lets the Old Titans find him. There's a cellphone on Light's corpse, and Deathstroke uses it to call Robin and set up an exchange: Robin for Rose.

Brenton Thwaites, Titans S02E05

What follows is some pretty decent in-fighting among the team. Hank wants to turn Rose over, Dawn doesn't, Dick seems to be leaning toward turning over, and Donna is a bit too vague as usual to tell what is going on with her. There's talk about how the Titans can't become "monsters" by doing what they did in the past, and this is where there's a lot of pronoun games and pregnant pauses where real-life people would actually say what happened three years ago.

Kory returns from Chicago, and after checking in with Rachel and giving her a pep talk about how no one is born evil, she lays the verbal smackdown on the older members and goes with a straightforward "We don't abandon anyone". This would be more effective if Rose was an established part of the New Titans, but as noted it's nice to see Diop doing the "cut through the bullshit/do the superhero thing" argument.

Rose, Rachel, and Gar spy on the conversation, and Rose decides she doesn't want to be turned over to Daddy. She runs, Dick locks down the tower, and we get the first above-average fight scene when Dove takes on Hank. It's nice to see Hank actually do something, even if he eventually loses to Rose. He has a more street-brawler style of fighting, while Rose is a more athletic type. Too often Hank and Dawn just punch people, and it makes them look like Old Robin, fighting-wise.

Chelsea T. Zhang, Titans S02E05

After Rose beats Hank, she faces up against Rachel, who is having her own issues with a razor-sharp darkness coming out of her body. In the second above-average fight scene, after she loses to Rose in hand-to-hand, Rachel goes all Dark Raven and smashes Rose against a pillar, breaking most of the bones in Rose's body. Rachel reverts to normal and runs off, shocked. And in another above-average sequence although it's not a fight scene, Rose's bones snap back into place while she's unconscious. It's a lot creepier and effective than watching Wolverine regenerate in the various X-Men shows.

Rachel tells Kory that she's born evil. Hank has a scene with Dawn where he talks about how he knows what Robin is going through because Hank was molested as a child by his coach. And Dick decides they're not going to make the trade. He has Gar (who shapechanges into a tiger: yay!) and Rachel watch over the unconscious Rose. While the rest of them meet with Deathstroke to stop him once and for all.

But Dick goes solo once more and somehow determines that Deathstroke is in a nearby office building on a floor under construction. Dick does the "Kill me and the spare the others" routine that looks a lot more impressive than we figure it will play out. Mainly because we know Deathstroke isn't going to just kill Dick and call it a day. And Dick isn't going to let himself be killed, although he makes a big show of removing his Kevlar vest (??) and putting his hands on his head.

Esai Morales, Titans S02E05

Deathstroke reveals that he has Robin outside on a window washer's platform rigged with explosives on the cables. Before Deathstroke can trigger the explosives, Kory shows up and fires her "starfires" at Deathstroke. And we get our third and best/longest fight scene of the episode, as Kory and Dick go up against Deathstroke. There's martial arts galore, but also a lot of Kory using her starfires to blast Deathstroke and melt bullets. She uses them at range, she uses them in close quarters.

I don't recall Dick and Kory working as a team before, but it's a well-choreographed bit of three-way fighting. Deathstroke eventually stuns them with a flash-bang, grabs the detonator, and sends Robin plummeting to his death. Dick grabs him but soon loses his grip, and the episode ends with Robin plummeting down a skyscraper to his apparent death. And next week we get... Superboy.

"Deathstroke" has decent characterization, and some decent fight scenes that actually use superpowers in two of them. And we get a superpower scene of Rose's bones healing. I don't require a lot of superpower stuff, despite my occasionally geeking out over it. But if they're going to do a superhero show, I want to see some superheroics. It's the same kind of thrill you get when they break out the "Run, Barry, Run!" sequence on The Flash once or twice a season.

Esai Morales does a great job of portraying Deathstroke as a badass. Assuming that's him beneath the mask: we never do see an unmasked Slade. Michael Mosley as the doomed Dr. Light isn't too bad, either, even if it's hard to believe he was ever a college professor because he's so bro-ish. He makes a comment about superhero costumes that I found funny, given Light's own gladiator cosplay outfit. Pot, meet black kettle.

The creative team is still playing fast and loose with actually telling us what went down three years ago. They mentioned Deadlad (i.e., Aqualad, i.e., Garth) again, and apparently how the Old Titans turned all dark and did something similar to what they're contemplating with Rose. Used Jericho as bait? Get him into the Titans? Somehow got him killed while trying to flush out Deathstroke after Deathstroke killed Aqualad? But we have never found out why Deathstroke was hired to kill Aqualad. Or Donna, who was apparently his target and Aqualad got in his way. Who would want her dead? But then again, who would want Aqualad dead? It feels like there are several substantive pieces of the puzzle missing from the backstory. I wouldn't mind seeing more of Chella Mann as Jericho. He had an easy charisma in the little bit we saw of him last week.

I could speculate on all the ways that the current "Deathstroke Hates Old Titans" situation came about. But we've still got at least five more episodes, although next week seemingly focuses on Conner. Let's see what happens in those episodes.

But that's just my opinion, I could be wrong. What do you think?

Written by Gislef on Oct 5, 2019


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