Director – Akiva Goldsman

Writer – Geoff Johns

This week’s episode of Titans was a huge departure from the previous 8 instalments. Eschewing the main plot, which was left last week on a tantalising cliffhanger, we were treated this week to an episode exclusively focused on the history and backstory of Hawk & Dove, or to give them their true handles, Hank & Dawn. In what was a hard hitting, and at times uncomfortable episode to watch, the motivations of the titular characters were displayed in a masterful fashion by the combination of Akiva Goldsman’s nuanced direction and the wonderful, raw screenplay from the ubiquitous Geoff Johns.

Joining the characters at the point that they were left in episode 3, with Hank keeping a bedside vigil over the gravely inured and comatose Dawn, a series of flashbacks to Hank’s childhood are the starting point for the story that gradually brings us up to the present day. In yet another first for the series, we are given the very first live action portrayal of the original Dove, Hank’s half brother, Don Hall. Supportive of each other, the young Don is first seen cheering on Hank as he stars for the school football team. It is here where events take a more sinister turn, as the school football coach is revealed to be a paedophile, preying on the young boys on his team. Tragically, Hank allows himself to be subjected to such horrific treatment to save his brother from the same fate. Such a disturbing and hard subject matter is handled with care and some degree of taste here, as the events are not too explicitly referred to not depicted, but what it does serve to do is give Hank’s character a greater sense of tragedy and depth that wasn’t previously shown in his earlier appearances.

Huge credit much go to Alan Ritchson for his performance here, as he does a great job of displaying the dichotomy of the musclebound jock, full of bravado and confidence, yet he also conveys the very real vulnerability and sadness to the character. His rage and anger are given cause here, as he cannot gain closure over his past. Elliot Knight is excellent as Don, the younger brother that, while not as physically imposing as Hank, can hold his own in a fight and possesses a greater intellectual capacity than Hank too. Fiercely loyal to each other, as they grow into men and find themselves expelled from college, their vigilante beginnings are brilliantly depicted. Deciding to punish sex offenders that have seemingly escaped justice, their sense of joy is truly palpable and infectious, as they film their fledgling attempts to issue a severe beating to a deserving monster.

The parallel back story of Dawn is given it’s own platform too, as we delve into her past to see her as a successful ballerina, performing the principal role in a large production, cheered on by her mother, played by Marina Sirtis of Star Trek TNG fame. The compassion of Dawn is shown here, as she strives to give her mother the courage to walk away from her abusive husband/partner. This makes for a really tender and heartfelt mother/daughter scene, acted out beautifully, which highlights the diversity on offer in this quite brilliant show. Over the last nine weeks, we have had comedy, tragedy, thrilling action, truly brutal scenes of violence and a dazzling array of fresh characters to enjoy.

Our characters intersect at this point, as Dawn’s mother and Don are both tragically killed in the same traffic accident, leaving Hank and Dawn broken and alone in the world. This is a fresh interpretation of Don’s death that does veer from the source material of his demise, but works just fine within the context of the show. Drawn together by attending the same grief counselling group sessions, they start to very gradually form a relationship that initially is two people leaning on each other for friendship and company to get through their respective losses, but starts to veer towards a romance. The catalyst for them consummating their relationship is a scene that manages to be brutal and violent but book ended by real sentiment and affection, starts with Dawn discovering Hank’s vigilante past. Explaining his motivation for it, Hank opens up about the previously mentioned events from his childhood and explains his inability to go after his old coach in the same manner he and Don went after the other offenders on their list.

Without giving too much away, the resulting confrontation of Hank’s past is shown below. Please note the scene is a violent one on a par with previous episodes of the show.

Bonded by violence and a common goal, Hank and Dawn become an item, but one that is not built to last. This sentiment is echoed the morning after by Dawn, who expresses doubt that they can be together. It is at this point that we are whipped back into the present day. Throughout the episode, Rachel had appeared at various points in mirrors and surfaces, trying to communicate but remaining invisible. Somehow sending her consciousness into the dreams of both characters, asking for their help, it is extremely intriguing to wonder what horrors are taking place in Ohio at this time. As Dawn sees her presence, she is snapped out of her coma. Waking Hank, she tells him that they need to help Rachel and that they need to seek out the help of a certain Jason Todd to do this.

This ending is great, as it sets up Jason’s return to the show and plants the seed of a final showdown involving our 4 main Titans, Donna Troy, Jason Todd and Hawk & Dove. Consider our appetites well and truly whetted DC!

This episode was quite excellent, expanding on two characters that had not previously been given the lion’s share of the screen time. Could it be a way of doing a back door pilot for their own spin off show, Ala Doom Patrol? Or could be that they will join the team on a full time basis and this was a way of giving them an equal standing. If that’s the case, could we eventually get a back story episode for Donna Troy, set within Themiscyra? The possibilities for the show are limitless, which is part of it’s appeal. Nothing is defined or set in stone and the plot could take us anywhere we can imagine. With next week’s teaser promising action galore, it’s an exciting time to watch. With Starfire’s true motivations being unearthed, and Raven’s father inching closer to existence, the remaining few episodes of the season are going to be appointment television!