The first trailer for DC's Titans appears to suggest Robin is a killer - but it's likely that this is just a mislead. The flagship show of DC's upcoming streaming service, Titans promises to be very different to the usual superhero fare over on The CW. It's clearly being positioned as a dark and mature series, right down to a holy F-bomb that would never happen in Arrow or Supergirl.
But the most surprising moment in the trailer isn't the F-bomb. It's the moment when Robin, the Boy Wonder, advances upon his reeling foes - and casually stands on a man's neck, breaking it like a twig underfoot. This scene is particularly startling given the last few years have shown just how sensitive casual viewers are to the idea of superheroes killing. When Zack Snyder had Batman killing goons in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, it prompted a storm of online criticism. Robin's act is even more shocking, though; the thug is already defeated, and yet Robin chooses to kill him. It seems to turn the Boy Wonder into a brutal, murderous vigilante.
This is a far cry from the character we're used to in the comics. On the face of it, this trailer seems to suggest the Robin of Titans is an actual murderer, more dangerous than even the DCEU's Batman. But is there really something else going on in this trailer?
The Dream Sequences
The Titans trailer carries clear overtones of Marv Wolfman and George Perez's classic New Teen Titans run, which launched in 1980. The first issue saw the mystic being known as Raven gather together a group of young heroes to act as her champions. She found them by entering their dreams, or - more accurately - their nightmares. In fact, Raven was even able to project nightmare visions into their youthful minds, glimpses of the future as it would be if they didn't join the Titans.
In the trailer, it's clear that Raven has tapped into Dick Grayson's dreams. That's why the circus tent is so haunting; Raven is walking through Dick Grayson's memories, reliving the tragic memories that trouble his sleeping mind. Then, in the real world, she finds her way to Grayson and asks for his help. "You're the boy from the circus," she tells him, leaving a stunned expression on Dick's face.
But if one of these scenes is a dream sequence, why does Robin's fight with the thugs have to be real? That could easily be another nightmare, this time revealing Dick Grayson's greatest fear. Robin is afraid that the vigilante life will lead him down a dark path, one in which he disavows his mentor's lessons and kills without thought or qualm. Given some of the other scenes in the trailer, it's actually possible Dick feared this so much that he gave up being Robin; that would explain his hesitancy and frustration when he brings the costume out. Raven's desperate cry for help tempts him to return to the vigilante life, but that dream haunts him with the threat of just what he could become.
The Titans trailer may be dark and atmospheric, but it shouldn't be taken at face value. Raven's ability to enter the dreams of others means the boundaries between nightmare and reality are very much blurred. If this action scene is indeed another dream, then rather than prove Robin to be a killer, this trailer confirms that he's a man who is tempted and yet is determined to fight it every step of the way.