This season of Titans has been a weird one. It’s been meandering and full of flashbacks. But if the final arc of the season is anything like this week’s episode, we’re in for a great ride that will leave me eagerly anticipating the just-announced third season. This week’s episode has an interesting story and great pacing that make me excited for what’s to come. Spoilers for Titans Season 2, Episode 10, “E.L._.O.” follow.
This episode has everything: superpowers, a Bruce Wayne that we can believe is Batman, people working together, and more.
When last we left off, things were very dark, and they start that way, too. In a show that’s not afraid to get a bit gross from time to time, we get what might be the grossest moment yet. Cadmus is experimenting on Gar, and they’ve even lopped off part of his skull so that they can poke at his brain directly and understand how his transformations trigger. We get lots of close-ups of Gar’s squishy, moist brain. Too many, in fact.
Meanwhile, Dick Grayson is still stuck in the Kane County correctional facility following his decision to assist the Corto Maltese gang members’ escape. But he’s deathly ill following his beatdown, and Invisibruce is back to mess with his head again. The feverish once-and-future vigilante is ruminating on his last encounter with Deathstroke, as his conscience berates him in the form of Bruce Wayne.
The Elko Diner has the best donuts
Dawn, Kory, Donna, and Rachel are still scattered, but already being pulled back toward San Francisco. Dawn is in a pick-up on the highway, sans Hank. Donna has returned to Titans HQ to find it empty aside from dried blood and broken glass. Raven’s nightmares are intensifying, and she calls Dick’s phone for help, only to find that his mailbox is full. Kory, now stranded on Earth, is feeling lost and is doing whatever feels good.
All at once, the four women start getting a weird transmission: an old commercial for a diner in the Nevada desert. Dawn’s pick-up starts to break down, while the TV in Kory’s ridiculous penthouse suite goes on the fritz. Donna gets a garbled message from “Rachel,” and Rachel’s visions kick in hard as she stands at the bus station. The women get the message so to speak, and end up at the diner almost at the same time. A few minutes later, who walks in? Bruce Wayne.
The actual, real Bruce Wayne
Huh. Okay. Bruce, apparently, orchestrated the meeting. I’m not sure how, though. Hacking a TV, an internet-connected car, and a phone seems like it would be trivial for a comic-book genius character. But how did he hack Rachel’s brain? I’m into it, but this seems like it requires more explanation. But I have to say, goading four resistant people into meeting up through mysterious means is the most Batman-esque thing this Bruce has yet done, and Iain Glen’s Scottish accent seems to be hiding better and better with each appearance on the show.
The quintet discusses the rough shape the Titans are in, and Bruce talks to the four about how a family – even a chosen family – should confront its problems head-on and work through them rather than splitting apart. I have more thoughts on that, but we’re not done with Bruce just yet. Just as Bruce leaves, the girls see news on the diner’s TV that finally explains why Master Grayson hasn’t been answering their calls.
Dawn and Donna resolve to go rescue Gar from Cadmus; Kory and Rachel, meanwhile, go after their jailbird friend.
While this is happening, Dick is continuing to wrestle with the Bruce in his mind. Bruce insists to his protegé that he’s missing something. Frustrated, Dick throws a tantrum – and then a punch. This is all in Dick’s head, which is concerning in its own way, but for us, it’s very real. For Dick, too, it’s very real. The Bruce Wayne he fights here is the way Dick imagines he fights.
And finally, we have a Bruce Wayne that actually feels kinda like Bruce Wayne. The two battle it out. Dick is younger and faster, but Bruce sees all the hits coming. It’s a well-choreographed fight. In one fun moment, Dick throws a trio of Batarangs at Bruce, and Bruce catches them effortlessly. In another, Bruce stops one of Dick’s kick attacks cold, only to drop him with an uppercut as he recovers. We cut back out of the imaginary battle to Dick’s cell, where Dick is doing Kung Fu-style punching drills. The show has framed these interactions with Bruce like a hallucination, but here it seems more like Dick is working through the problem in his head. Real-world Dick is clearly doing practice drills, not getting tossed around by his very own Tyler Durden.
A different take on Bruce Wayne
And the Bruce we’re getting to know here seems like he might be interesting. I’ve struggled with him thus far, but as the picture gets clearer, I’m more interested. The Bruce we’re meeting now has clearly worked on himself and has dealt with some of his problems in constructive ways. It’s a different Bruce than we’re used to. This is one of the few times he’s been depicted as an older character, and this version of Bruce is a comparatively optimistic take on the character. Instead of someone permanently tortured, we see someone who does eventually find a way to heal. He wants to pass that on to his original student.
To that effect, he’s been talking sense throughout the episode, both in and out of Dick’s imagination, and leads Dick toward a revelation. By the time Kory and Rachel find their way to Dick’s prison cell, he’s gone. For someone like a former Robin, being in prison is literally a choice. He could’ve left anytime he wanted. After seeing a bird waiting in his window and his own winged shadow, Dick left. All he left behind is a message scribbled on the wall: “Jericho is alive.”
While all this is going on, Jason and Rose are living that cool sexy vigilante life, busting drug rings and making out. We learn a bit about Jason’s past here, and then that Rose has been feeding information to Deathstroke – but is apparently done with that. Finally, we find out that Cadmus has thoroughly broken Gar, the purest member of the Titans. I should’ve suspected this when they finally gave him screen time.
This episode feels completely different from the ones that directly precede it. This week, characters are coming together. Things are getting weird. There’s an optimistic tone to the story. The Titans are still off in separate groups, but they’re working together, trying to protect each other. Conner and Gar are in captivity, and who knows where Hank is. But things are coming together. I wish they hadn’t taken this long to get here, but I think the show has finally arrived after a long, multi-episode dip. If this is how the rest of the season is going to be, I’m buckled in and ready.