Four episodes into Titans season 2, it's time to acknowledge the truth; the show has actually become a good one. Intended as DC Universe's flagship TV series, the first season of Titans was a real success. Unfortunately, that was largely in spite of its quality, rather than because of it.
The biggest problem was that Titans season 1 suffered extensive reshoots. These reshoots appear to have focused on the character of Dick Grayson, essentially turning Brenton Thwaites' role into a starring one. Other character arcs were truncated, with episodes dedicated to Starfire and Raven literally dropped, and many of these stories were never completed. Season 1 finally ended on a strange cliffhanger, with its intended finale bumped into becoming the season 2 premiere.
It was an inauspicious beginning for such a high-profile superhero TV show, but fortunately it's now becoming clear that the Titans team has found their groove. Season 2 is a dramatic improvement.
Titans Season 2's Retcons Are Working
The Titans season 2 premiere was a strange, mismatched episode; its first half was dedicated to swiftly ending the Trigon plot from season 1, and then it pivoted to retconning the in-universe history of the Titans. In season 2's rewritten backstory, the original Titans had gathered together years ago; their confirmed members had included Dick Grayson's Robin, Hawk and Dove, Wonder Girl, and the ill-fated Aqualad. The team had been based in San Francisco, and although Batman seemed to disapprove, he still gave them Titans Tower in San Francisco as a base of operations. He stocked the Tower with the same kind of technology and equipment he typically provides to the Justice League, including a Bat-Computer.
This retcon is a smart one. It doesn't work at all with season 1, which had suggested that Robin was based in Gotham, and allied with Hawk and Dove when they arrived in Gotham; even the relationship dynamics have changed, with Titans season 1 suggesting that Dick Grayson and Dove had an affair behind Hawk's back, whereas in season 2 they were an actual couple. But this approach has smoothed out the relationships, making the character dynamics in season 2 much more enjoyable. Meanwhile, the retcon introduces established threats for the Titans, most notably Deathstroke.
Titans Season 2 Is Finally Giving The Fans What They Wanted All Along
Titans season 1 was a strange beast. Although it was a superhero show, it desperately avoided having its characters suit up, and even featured one episode in which Dick Grayson burned his Robin costume. While set photos showed characters like Raven and Starfire in costume, these scenes were cut, meaning Titans failed to deliver on its promise. All that has changed this season, with Titans season 2, episode 4 featuring a flashback to the original team's glory days. It finally gives viewers what they'd been expecting all along; an in-costume superhero team going up against their latest bad guy.
Director Glen Winter handles the episode with skill, setting up a convincing confrontation with Dr. Light. The OG Titans win the day because of the quality of their teamwork, with each member serving a purpose in the final fight. That bodes well for the rest of the season, because it means that Titans' directors have gotten to the point where they're comfortable handling multiple characters in a conflict situation. It's true that there's a sort of hierarchy to the group, with Robin and Donna confronting Dr. Light while Hawk and Dove dispose of the henchmen, but frankly that hierarchy seems to work in character terms. There's no reason the same kind of approach couldn't be done with the Titans 2.0 team.
Titans Season 2's Character Arcs Are Much More Convincing
Moving to the present-day Titans team, the character dynamics are proving much more effective - and, again, that's partly because of retcons. Dick Grayson seems to be viewing the new Titans as a shot at redemption, still scarred after whatever happened to the original team. The proto-relationship between Beast Boy and Raven is much more natural now, and Teagan Croft and Ryan Potter have real chemistry. That was particularly notable in Titans season 2, episode 2, which featured an excellent scene in which the two bonded in Raven's room. Meanwhile, another retcon has given Anna Diop's Starfire a different reason for coming to Earth in the first place. This was always going to be necessary, simply to explain why she stuck around after the threat of Trigon was defeated, but it also serves to set up a new sub-plot.
All the actors seem to be a lot more comfortable with their roles, perhaps because their characters have settled down at last. Starfire, for example, spent most of season 1 as an amnesiac; this had the practical effect of meaning her character was something of a blank slate for most of the season, which made her quite a challenge for Diop to portray. Meanwhile, Raven's gradual process of self-discovery meant she didn't really feel like a fully-formed character in her own right. Now that journey is over, Roth is enjoying portraying her as a vulnerable and sweet teenager with a decidedly dark edge. Even Brenton Thwaites appears to be more relaxed as Robin, and more confident with the character arc.
Titans Season 2 Is Balancing Multiple Arcs Much Better
This newfound confidence is also shared by the scriptwriters and directors, who are balancing multiple arcs and sub-plots with a far greater degree of skill. The overarching narrative is dominated by the return of Deathstroke and the mystery of his daughter, Rose; but it's complimented by multiple sub-plots, ranging from Jason Todd's desire to prove himself to Raven's struggle with the darkness she senses inside herself. Pleasingly, in Titans season 2, episode 3, Jason's arc actually wove into the main Deathstroke story, and it did so fairly seamlessly - if a little predictability. Starfire's sub-plot still feels a little disjointed, but it has potential, and it will be fascinating to see how the Tamareans react to her refusal to go straight back home.
All in all, Titans season 2 is a dramatic improvement over the first season. It's still far from perfect - there are some pacing and plotting issues, Iain Glen's Bruce Wayne was a disappointment, and sometimes the show feels like it's dragging a mystery out. For all that's the case, though, it's getting more things right than it gets wrong now, and can stand as a worthy addition to DCTV's history.