The season 2 premiere of Titans is actually mostly comprised of the finale DC Universe shot for season 1 before cutting it and ending the season in a cliffhanger. This is not hyperbole but the literal truth, as the series' showrunner elected to rework the planed finale into an epic premiere after Titans' was renewed for a second season before its first episode aired.
The first season of Titans was beset with production problems from the very beginning. Originally planned for 13 episodes, the episode order was cut down to 11. Despite this, an extensive series of reshoots was required to film a new season finale that did absolutely nothing to advance or resolve the season's storylines and served only to introduce a far more confusing cliffhanger.
In the end, almost all but the last 10 minutes of Titans' season 2 premiere is made up of footage that was originally shot for the season 1 finale. While those 10 minutes promise Titans season 2 will be a decidedly different show, it remains an odd choice to start a new season by resolving all the loose ends of the previous season's storyline and doing so in a way that highlights the flaws of that season. Despite this, there is reason to hope that Titans is finally moving in the right direction.
Trigon Was Originally The Season 1 Finale
Titans season 1 centered upon teenage runaway Rachel Roth and the mysterious organization that was trying to find her. The magically gifted Rachel was guided by her dreams to find Dick Grayson - a Detroit police detective, who was secretly the first Robin. Dick contacted various people from his past (like the vigilantes Hawk and Dove and his old friend Donna Troy) to try and help Rachel, as they met other individuals with special powers, such as shape-shifter Gar Logan, the Doom Patrol, and detective Kory Anders. As the season progressed, Rachel met her biological mother and learned of her destiny to act as the doorway through which her demonic father, Trigon, might emerge into the material plane.
Logically, one would have expected Titans season 1 to end with an epic battle against the season's chief villain, as the heroes introduced over the course of the season joined together to help Rachel fight Trigon. Certainly the penultimate episode of the season suggested that it was building to that point, as Dick Grayson, Donna Troy, and Kory Anders converged on the house where Trigon had just been summoned, as Rachel sent a message to a comatose Dove that she and Hawk needed to find the second Robin, Jason Todd. It surprised viewers when the finale was revealed to be an extended dream sequence in which Dick Grayson beat Batman to death and the season ended with Dick being possessed by Trigon, after giving in to his dark side.
Titans' season 2 premiere episode, "Trigon," delivered the confrontation fans expected in season 1. Hawk, Dove and Jason Todd arrived on the scene and joined Kory and Donna in trying to get into the house as Gar and Rachel were trying to escape from the possessed Dick Grayson. Ultimately, everyone except Gar and Rachel fall under Trigon's influence, with Rachel finally submitting after her friends apparently beat Gar to death. Fortunately, Gar survived thanks to a clever use of his powers and was able to free Rachel once she realized he was alive. This enabled her to stand against Trigon, who had assumed his true demonic form, and banish him back to his home dimension.
Why Titans' Season 1 Finale Was Reworked
Titans' showrunner Greg Walker first confirmed that the original season 1 finale was converted into season 2's premiere shortly after the reworked finale, "Dick Grayson," was aired in December 2018. "We thought it was such a good cliffhanger at the end of 11," Walker explained in an interview with TVLine, "and we wanted to go for an even bigger, better Season 2 opener. We had a big idea, and our friends at DC bought it." Another theory as to why Walker reworked the season 1 finale suggests itself after watching Titans' season 2 premiere; the conclusion is truly anti-climactic and would have killed what little enthusiasm remained for the series after the lackluster season 1.
All of the build-up to gather the team proved completely pointless, as Trigon easily took control of all the heroes after giving them a chance to be won over by their darker impulses. All of the Titans save Raven were literally left standing on the sidelines as Raven confronted her father, who seemed blissfully unaware that Raven was no longer under his control despite his thralls manifesting pale skin and smokey-eye make-up. The final confrontation ultimately amounted to Raven telling her father to scram, as Trigon dissipated into a cloud of dust resembling the special effects used when people were erased from existence by Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War.
Wrapping Up Season 1 is a Bad Way to Start Season 2
Ignoring the quality of the finale's story, the decision to open Titans season 2 with tying up the loose ends of season 1's story makes little sense. While an episodic television series does allow for more creative choices when it comes to telling a story, there are still certain conventions of basic storytelling that have to be conformed to, regardless of the medium. Chief among these are the idea that a story should build its action to an appropriate climax and denouement.
By turning Titans' season 1 finale into its season 2 premiere, Walker sapped the strength of the series at the precise moment it should begin building momentum. Half of the core cast is left sitting on the side of the road with no clear direction for their characters, as the other half move into a new skyscraper lair in San Francisco. The remainder of the premiere's final 10 minutes is devoted to Dick Grayson reconciling with Bruce Wayne and introducing the show's version of Deathstroke, all scenes that would have been far better served as a season 2 tease at the end of season 1.
The Soft Reboot Can Move Titans Past Season 1's Problems
Surprisingly the final 10 minutes of "Trigon" inspire hope that Titans season 2 may turn the tide for DC Universe's first live-action series. The scenes introducing Deathstroke and his butler, Wintergreen, seem to have been pulled directly from the original Marv Wolfman and George Perez New Teen Titans comics. A similar feeling of history and legacy is evoked as Jason Todd and Gar Logan explore their new home and Gar envisions the Titans of yesteryear as he discovers a room full of costume cases.
This acknowledgment of the team's roots and the soft reboot affirming that there was a Titans team before this new generation of young heroes plays to the strengths of everything that made the original comics unique and suggests the show may be ready to move past its awkward freshman phase.