Titans keeps letting down the character of Jason Todd - most recently wasting what could have been a brilliantly meta tactic. Based on DC Comics' titular team of teenage heroes, the inaugural offering of the DC Universe streaming service burst onto screens with mixed reviews but a hugely passionate fanbase - especially when released internationally on Netflix. Though initially scheduled to be comprised of 13 episodes, it ultimately condensed the story into 11, pushing the remainder of the story into the season 2 premiere. With the story centered on Dick Grayson as he tried to leave his past as Batman's sidekick behind him, season 1 mostly revolved around the mystery of Rachel Roth.
As a result, characters like Jason Todd (Curran Walters) were used sporadically and as little more than fan service. He first appeared in the climactic moments of season 1, episode 5, "Together", when he saved Dick Grayson from the armed forces of Trigon's cult. He featured more prominently in the proceeding episode, the fittingly titled "Jason Todd", which introduced to Dick the fact that Batman had already replaced him as Robin. Jason then spent the episode with Dick, helping the latter to deal with a chapter of his past that had returned to haunt him. Simultaneously, the episode revealed the truly tumultuous side of Jason Todd's nature - which could often manifest in brutally violent ways, as seen when he attempted to provoke a random bar fight and, later, when he savagely attacked an assortment of police officers. The character would then not be seen outside of a hallucinatory vision Dick Grayson had been trapped within.
Following the cliffhanger ending of Titans season 1, it was confirmed, however, that Walters had been upgraded to a series regular for season 2. Having been recruited by Hank Hall and Dawn Granger (at the season 1 behest of Rachel), Jason featured in the episode's weirdest scene - when, trapped within his own dream state, he shot Dick Grayson with the gun that had killed Batman's parents. Like the others, Jason succumbed to Trigon's dark influence, essentially making him a futile presence as Rachel dealt with her demonic father personally. Bruce Wayne then asked Dick to oversee Jason's continued training as part of the newly-retconned Titans 2.0, with the hope that the original Robin might smooth out the second incarnation's rougher edges. In the episodes since, however, the show has contented itself with focusing on the wrong element of Jason Todd's arc.
Titans Keeps Teasing Jason's Death
Titans has repeatedly hinted towards Jason Todd's comic book fate. In season 1, he was seen in Dick Grayson's Trigon-induced vision as being a casualty in Batman's war of crime. Similarly, in an earlier episode, Dick tried to talk Jason out of taking over the Robin mantle with the line, "you're gonna wake up one day and have no idea who you are". The line is no doubt a nod to the comics in which, following his demise, Jason returns to life and spends numerous months wandering with little to no memory of his identity. In season 2, the show has crossed the line into more overt teases.
After recklessly attempting to track down Doctor Light with minimal back-up, Jason was abducted by a vengeful Deathstroke. Some assumed that this could be Titans setting up a similar moment as in Death in the Family - with Deathstroke taking on Joker's role in Jason's death and Dick taking on the Batman's. That proved (for now at least) to not be the case, with Deathstroke instead killing Doctor Light for questioning The Terminator's plan. Regardless, Titans repeated the pattern by putting Jason in a second life or death scenario - wherein Dick Grayson could only watch as Jason was sent plummeting from a skyscraper. This instance seemed to have the opposite of the desired effect, with many accurately predicting that Superboy would save him.
Unfortunately, the show would have been doomed to fail, however things had played out. As eager as some fans are to see the emergence of Red Hood, to rush to it at the expense of emotional resonance would be a dire mistake. The character has not been developed nearly enough to make Jason Todd's death anything but a lackluster piece of fan service. Would it have been surprising? Perhaps. But would it have packed a truly emotional punch? Definitely not. Though his comic book fate came as a result of the character's supposed unpopularity - especially when compared to Dick Grayson - the TV show is an entirely different beast and needs to be treated as such. Walters' version of Jason, after all, has been widely praised by many fans. And the source material offers the character a lot more than just an infamous death.
One of Jason's comic book arcs, for example, sees him cross paths with serial rapist Felipe Garzonas. With Garzonas escaping justice due to his father's diplomatic immunity, one of his victims takes her own life out of fear of her attacker returning. Discovering the body, Jason confronts Garzonas. The encounter ends in the latter's ambiguous death. Such a storyline would track with the kind of tone that Titans is attempting to offer. Equally, along with developing bonds within the group being somewhat antagonistic and Jason's preceding search for his birth-mother, it would allow Jason the kind of emotional character layers the show is currently neglecting to afford him. As it stands, having a character exist simply to die is no true character at all.
Thankfully, Jason received somewhat of a reprieve this week - with Superboy instead being on the receiving end of Titans' latest fake-out. Having been shot by a kryptonite bullet fired by Lex Luthor's right-hand, Mercy Graves, a handful of the Titans could only watch as the world's newly emergent superhero began to succumb to his wounds. It's extremely unlikely that this will truly be the end of Conner Kent. Conversely. however, this will likely not be the last time Titans utilizes such methods - especially when it comes to Jason Todd.
Titans Used Up The Meta Jason Todd Death Poll Idea
In the wake of the aforementioned cliffhanger, DC Universe went a step further. They set up a poll which, allowing fans to cast a vote as to whether Jason Todd should live or die. It was an amusing twist on DC Comics' own move in the 1980s - when they allowed readers to decide whether Jason survived The Joker's brutal attack or not. Unfortunately, the streaming services poll only garnered around 20,000 votes - many of whom were repeats due to fans being able to cast a fresh vote every 24 hours. Even without that fact, it's hardly the kind of viewer investment Titans probably would have hoped for. It all turned out to be moot anyway, however, given that the episode was already filmed and thus Jason was never going to end up in anything but Superboy's safe hands. As such, the marketing tactic was as wasted as Jason himself has been so far and might have been better served at a time when the character's death was actually tensely viable.
Jason Todd's Titans Death Would Be a Terrible Change to Batman Mythos
In the original comics, it's The Joker that delivered the final blow upon Jason Todd. Given that and everything that follows, Titans runs the risk of requiring some massive hoops to jump through if changing the storyline's central characters. For instance, the whole reason Jason takes off the Red Hood persona is because it was a mantle once worn by The Joker. Equally, one of Jason's driving motivations is his frustration with Batman's refusal to kill The Joker in order to avenge what was done to him. The former would make little sense if it was indeed Deathstroke who killed Jason. And Bruce Wayne's minimal presense in Titans would rob fans of exploring the dynamic of the latter.
After all, an argument that could be made that the character of Dick Grayson hasn't developed enough to carry the weight that could (and should) come from Jason's death. Plus, with Titans having established that Dick has killed, he likely wouldn't have qualms with violently avenging Jason. Although season 2 has largely improved the characters and overall story since the first season, Dick is still a far cry from being the character fans have longed to see realized on-screen. As such, Jason's death would not only subtract from Batman lore one of its more pivotal events but it would be merely another reason to make the future Nightwing angsty and give him more reason to brood on past mistakes and failures. While that will no doubt appeal to some fans, there will be many more who'd want to see the storyline done justice to its fullest impact. And that would mean more than a passing glance at a reaction from Iain Glen's Bruce Wayne and the fans themselves who, after the teases, run the risk of being desensitized to it.
Titans recently demonstrated that it's willing to kill off characters, as seen with the flashbacks depicting Deathstroke's murder of Aqualad. Even that, however, served as a testament to writing out a character with minimal emotional build-up. With nary a mention of Garth in the first season, season 2 episode 4, "Aqualad" had a do a lot of heavy lifting to make it count. A lot of that fell on Donna Troy and trying to shoehorn a whole lifetime of denied feelings and mutual attraction into less than an hour. Fans will obviously have their own opinions regarding the success of that endeavor. Equally, the If debate will rage how quickly the show should get to the Red Hood storyline. The show, however, owes it to the characters and the fans to forgo the shallow teases and do it properly....especially if Titans wants to maintain the increased quality it has shown of late.