REVIEW: TITANS – SEASON 2

Esai Morales, Minka Kelly, Alan Ritchson, Anna Diop, Conor Leslie, Ryan Potter, Brenton Thwaites, Chelsea Zhang, Joshua Orpin, Curran Walters, and Teagan Croft in Titans (2018)

Starring

Brenton Thwaites (Pirates of The Caribbean 5)
Anna Diop (Us)
Teagan Croft (Home and Away)
Ryan Potter (Big Hero 6)
Minka Kelly (Just Go With It)
Alan Ritchson (Smallville)
Conor Leslie (Chained)
Curran Walters (Girl Meets World)
Esai Morales (Caprica)
Chelsea Zhang (Daybreak)
Joshua Orpin (The Blake Mysteries: Ghost Stories)

Teagan Croft in Titans (2018)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Rachel Nichols (Alex Cross)
Seamus Dever (Hollywoodland)
Iain Glen (Game of Thrones)
Demore Barnes (The Flash)
Michael Mosley (Ozark)
Hanneke Talbot (Star Trek: Discovery)
Drew Van Acker (Pretty Little Liars)
Chella Man
Ann Magnuson (Panic Room)
Mayko Nguyen (Anon)
Raoul Bhaneja (Miss Sloane)
Genevieve Angelson (The Upside)
Natalie Gumede (Coronation Street)
Peter MacNeill (Open Range)
Sarah Deakins (Andromeda)
Evan Jones (The Book of Eli)
Currie Graham (Agent Carter)

Chelsea Zhang in Titans (2018)When the first trailer for Titans dropped and we heard Dick Grayson utter the words “Fuck Batman”, we knew this was not going to be anything like the animated version of DC’s young crimefighters. Over the course of a decent first season, DC Universe’s first original series ended up feeling a lot like the CW Arrowverse shows just with more profanity. Now, with the premiere of the second season, we get to see if the series can break out into something a little more distinct in the wake of shows like Doom Patrol and the quickly cancelled Swamp Thing. The premiere episode of the second season serves as both a wrap to the first season storylines as well as a soft reboot of the show. So, if you were hoping for more of what you saw in the first season, you may be slightly disappointed.Picking up immediately after the first season finale, season two finds the Titans gathered together with Rachel/Raven and Gar/Beast Boy trapped in a nightmare realm by Trigon (Seamus Dever). With his master plan requiring that Rachel’s heart break so that he can garner a power to destroy Earth, the first episode primarily focuses on each of the Titans dealing with the darkness in their own souls. It is a familiar trope in television shows and goes all the way back to big screen comic book movies like SUPERMAN III when Supes fought Clark Kent in a junkyard. Here, the effect feels more like treading water for a good chunk of the episode.Brenton Thwaites in Titans (2018)When the final battle finally takes place, it feels a bit underwhelming and almost like this episode should have been the first season finale rather than a premiere episode. Almost as if split in half, we get a wrap up to Rachel’s relationship with her father, Trigon, and comes into her abilities in full. We also get a substantial amount of screen time from the first season characters as well as Curran Walters as Jason Todd, aka Robin II. There is even a nice fight between Dick Grayson and Jason Todd, something we have never seen before in live action. I have always enjoyed the multiple iterations of the Robin character and seeing two together like this is a highlight of this series.Esai Morales and Curran Walters in Titans (2018)The second half of the episode plays more like what I was expecting the season premiere to be: a focus on the next storyline. We get an introduction to Deathstroke, a very different version of the supervillain here played by Esai Morales, and one that seems to have a past with Dick Grayson and the Titans. We also get our first look at Iain Glen as the latest Bruce Wayne. While Batman was seen (played by Alain Moussi) in costume in the first season, this is the first actual dialogue spoken by Bruce Wayne in live action on the small screen. With the brief screen time in the first episode, it is not fair to judge how suited for the role that Glen may be, but it is certainly a different take on Bruce Wayne than we have seen before.Esai Morales and Curran Walters in Titans (2018)As the season continues, this season is very different than its predecessor. throughout this year the universe gets bigger with the introduction of some major DC characters debuting including Superboy and Aqualad on top of Deathstroke and Bruce Wayne. Each character gets his or her on showcase. The biggest highlight has to be Esai Morales as Deathstroke. this version gives Arrows version a run for his money. I absolutely love this show and with a third season green-lit, we have more Titan fun to come. Joshua Orpin in Titans (2018)Titans is not going to blow anyone away but it will still appeal to established fans and has some nice moments for fans of DC Comics history.

 

REVIEW: TITANS – SEASON 1

Anna Diop, Ryan Potter, Brenton Thwaites, and Teagan Croft in Titans (2018)

Starring

Brenton Thwaites (Pirates of The Caribbean 5)
Anna Diop (Us)
Teagan Croft (Home and Away)
Ryan Potter (Big Hero 6)

Teagan Croft in Titans (2018)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Minka Kelly (Just Go With It)
Alan Ritchson (Smallville)
Reed Birney (Gossip Girl)
Curran Walters (Girl Meets World)
Rachel Nichols (Alex Cross)
Conor Leslie (Chained)
Sherilyn Fenn (The Wild Life)
Brendan Fraser (Bedazzled)
Matt Bomer (Chuck)
Lester Speight (Faster)
Elliot Knight (Life Sentence)
Marina Sirtis (Star Trek: Generations)
Seamus Dever (Hollywoodland)
Alain Moussi (Pompeii)
Lindsey Gort (2 Guns)
Jeff Clarke (Downsizing)
Melody Johnson (Jason X)
Jeni Ross (Stage Fright)
Logan Thompson (IT)
Tomaso Sanelli (Detention Adventure)
Meagen Fay (That’s My Boy)
Bruno Bichir (Che)
April Bowlby (Twp and a Half Men)
Zach Smadu (Miss Sloane)
Richard Zeppieri (Earth: Final Conflict)

Melody Johnson, Zach Smadu, and Brenton Thwaites in Titans (2018)After all the hype over the past 12 months, the DC Universe streaming app is finally here – and with it, its first original production, Titans. In the lead-up to its debut, there’s been a lot of controversy about the show’s violence and infamous “F**k Batman” line. Many detractors complained about its edginess and DC’s doubling down on darker superhero material.Brenton Thwaites in Titans (2018)The simple fact is this: The MCU isn’t the be all and end all of everything comic book-related. Yes, it’s a proven formula that works, but there’s enough room for all sorts of superhero programming – including darker ones. Heck, just look at Marvel’s Netflix series as perfect examples of how it can work and exist in its own vacuum. Titans isn’t nearly as violent or obscene as some people anticipated. Remember how everyone was freaking out about Robin using guns and killing thugs? Well, DC gotcha. It was all clever editing in the trailer. While the Boy Wonder brings the pain to the criminals, he never crosses the line.Anna Diop in Titans (2018)That isn’t to say that there aren’t a few deaths in the show, because there are. Raven shows the darkness in her, while Starfire also displays what happens when you cross her. Even so, these actions aren’t inexplicable. They make sense in the context of the story, and you’ll understand better once you watch it.Brenton Thwaites in Titans (2018)In the premiere titled “Titans”, the focus is on Dick Grayson, Raven, and Starfire.  Raven is the central point of the series and is what brings the team together. Her gift – or curse – is what sets off the series of events, and she seeks out Grayson’s assistance. At the same time, we get insight into Grayson’s new life as a detective in Detroit after his split with Batman. There’s still a lot more to explore, but it lays down a good basis of Grayson’s inevitable transformation into Nightwing. Starfire is a bit of a conundrum here, as she struggles to remember her memories and embarks on a quest to find out more about her “forgotten” life.Anna Diop, Ryan Potter, Brenton Thwaites, and Teagan Croft in Titans (2018)From a structural point-of-view, the series introduces these characters in a fluid way. While team-up series always run the danger of stuffing too many characters into an episode, Titans avoided this by focusing only on three of them. In fact, Beast Boy only made an appearance at the end of the first episode, but when you keep watching he becomes a more fleshed out character and is key to the introduction of Doom Patrol. Brenton Thwaites in Titans (2018)The story grips you from the get-go as well. There are a few narrative threads that need to be unravelled and you’ll want to tune in to see what happens next. Raven’s arc, in particular, looks to be like something out of a horror movie as she has numerous people after her, and you know things will take a turn for the worse at some point.Anna Diop and Teagan Croft in Titans (2018)Look, this isn’t a beat-for-beat reimagining of Marv Wolfman and George Pérez’s New Teen Titans; it takes influence from the source material but introduces its own twists and turns. While too much talk has centred on the series’ violence and F-bombs, it’s not as gratuitous as you’d think. There will be many people eating their words about Titans, that’s for sure. It’s something different, promising, and the premiere works in establishing this new universe. It leaves you pondering about a few of the mysteries it introduces and wondering what’s next. Isn’t that the purpose of any good show.

REVIEW: SWAMP THING (2019)

Derek Mears and Crystal Reed in Swamp Thing (2019)

Starring

Crystal Reed (Gotham)
Virginia Madsen (Better Watch Out)
Andy Bean (Transformers: The Last Knight)
Henderson Wade (Riverdale)
Maria Sten (Channel Zero)
Jeryl Prescott (The Skeleton Key)
Jennifer Beals (Lie To Me)
Will Patton (Silkwood)
Kevin Durand (Resident Evil: Retribution)
Derek Mears (Sleepy Hollow)

Kevin Durand and Derek Mears in Swamp Thing (2019)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Leonardo Nam (Westworld)
Ian Ziering (Sharknado)
Michael Beach (Aquaman)
RJ Cyler (Power Rangers)
Macon Blair (Logan Lucky)
Elle Graham (Mile 22)
Given Sharp (The Gifted)
Tim Russ (Star Trek: Voyager)
Selena Anduze (Venom)
Adrienne Barbeau (The Fog)
Justice Leak (Supergirl)
Jake Busey (Starship Troopers)

Swamp Thing (2019)Say what you will about DC Universe, but original series-wise the still-young streaming service is on the same trajectory as Superman himself: Up, up, and a-way better than Titans. That first series had its fans and certainly improved as it went along,  Then came Doom Patrol, which started out solid as Brendan Fraser‘s bare backside and gradually became one of the most wonderfully absurd delights on all of television.Crystal Reed in Swamp Thing (2019)That put a lot of pressure on the big mossy shoulders of original series #3, Swamp Thing, to keep up the quality, especially in the wake of the backstage wonkiness that cut its originally-ordered 13 episodes to 10. Well, I’m here to report that Swamp Thing, at least in its first two episodes, not only ups the ante, it’s also a triumph on pretty much every level, a nasty, gleefully disturbing bit of body horror on the Louisiana bayou that evokes everything from John Carpenter‘s The Thing to executive-producer James Wan‘s work with the Trench in Aquaman. It’s 2019, man, and it looks like it’s officially time to go green.Derek Mears and Crystal Reed in Swamp Thing (2019)Len Wiseman—the director behind the pilots for Sleepy Hollow and Lucifer—also helmed the pilot here, an extremely on-brand choice considering Swamp Thing follows a similar formula: Straight-laced professional woman partners up with a quirky man who has a supernatural twist. In Sleepy Hollow, it was a sheriff’s lieutenant and the actual Ichabod Crane. In Lucifer, it was a detective and the literal Christian Devil. Here, it’s a member of the CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service named Abby Arcane (Crystal Reed) and biologist Alec Holland (Andy Bean), the latter who—spoilers—eventually morphs with a sentient swamp to become a giant moss-monster played under heavy prosthetics by former Jason Voorhees Derek Mears. Again, it’s a formula, but the formula really does work to charming effect.Swamp Thing (2019)Arcane has been called back to her hometown of Marais, Louisiana to investigate a strange disease that’s seemingly emanating from the nearby swamp, causing locals to collapse, cough up gooey leaves into their hospital beds, and—in much more extreme cases—devolve into mossy, decaying statues straight out of a biologist’s worst fever dreams. (Think the gory artwork of Hannibal meets, like, a fucked-up Ent.) Butting into her investigation is disgraced scientist Holland, who discovered abnormal mutagens in the swamp that may just be the key to finding a cure. But the deeper Arcane and Holland dig, the more it smells like a rotten conspiracy, a conspiracy the swamp itself seems intent on violently stopping.Derek Mears in Swamp Thing (2019)It’s in that violence and rot that this show truly shines as a no-joke horror story, not a surprise given Wan’s involvement and a pilot script co-written by Gary Dauberman (IT, The Nun) and Mark Verheiden (Ash vs. Evil Dead). Wiseman, who also directed episode 2, shoots Marais’ swamp like a dark fairy tale, all twisted trees and moonlit ponds. The effect makes it that much more jarring in the moments that almost primordial darkness invades Abby Arcane’s world of science. There’s a scene set in a morgue that floored me in its creepiness; the swamp disease brings a corpse back to profane “life”, the body standing up off the operating table even as it’s ripped apart by twisting vines and probing branches. It’s gross, it really does have serious The Thing vibes, and most importantly, it appears to be mostly practical.

Derek Mears in Swamp Thing (2019)Those practical set-pieces throughout elevate Swamp Thing a good deal. Maybe it’s the Jaws fanatic in me, but I love seeing a boat actually lifted out of the water by some unseen monstrosity. But Fractured FX—the minds behind the Lipstick-Face Demon in Insidious and every ghoul in The Conjuring franchise, among many other abominations—worked overtime to make sure the monstrosities we do see are equally impressive. I don’t think Swampy fans could ask for a more pitch-perfect live-action take than the one we get here. The suit plastered on Mears oozes and shines in all the right, rotten ways; there’s a moment where he pulls off a piece of his own head and you can see the strands of goo between his fingers. It’s disgusting. It’s great. (And yes, Swamp Thing is ripped af, and I expect certain corners of the internet to react accordingly, as is their right.)Derek Mears in Swamp Thing (2019)But the real miracle here is that Swamp Thing still manages to feel like a human show. Abby Arcane is an effective entry point into the madness; she brings back to her hometown a dark secret from her past that Reed manages to tease out through haunted looks and sentences cut just short. She has an easy chemistry with a pre-monster Bean, whose oddball charisma makes you sad that he has to turn into Swamp Thing on a show literally called Swamp Thing. But of course, it’s Mears pulling the real magic trick here. He doesn’t speak a single word over the first two episodes because he doesn’t need to. Mears injects a potent dose of rage, confusion, and sadness into Swamp Thing with his face, the way he stands, the way he stumbles against a tree.Sadly Swamp Thing got cancelled due to a high budget, so one season is all we get, but it sure as hell is one hell of a season

REVIEW: DOOM PATROL – SEASON 1

Doom Patrol (2019)

Starirng

Diane Guerrero (Justice League vs The Fatal Five)
April Bowlby (Two and a Half Men)
Joivan Wade (the First Purge)
Alan Tudyk (Firefly)
Matt Bomer (The Magnificent Seven)
Brendan Fraser (The Mummy)
Timothy Dalton (Flash Gordon)

Doom Patrol (2019)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Julie McNiven (Mad Men)
Julian Richings (Man of Steel)
Kyle Clements (2 Guns)
Alan Heckner (The Mule)
Ashley Dougherty (Dynasty)
Phil Morris (Smallville)
Curtis Armstrong (American Dad)
Alec Mapa (Ugly Betty)
Lilli Birdsell (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)
Mark Sheppard (Battlestar Galactica)
Ted Sutherland (Rise)
Will Kemp (Reign)
Alimi Ballard (Sabrina: TTW)
Jasmine Kaur (Ender’s Game)
Lesa Wilson (Stargirl)
Bethany Anne Lind (Flight)
Ethan McDowell (The Gifted)
Jon Briddell (Nightmare Tenant)
Tommy Snider (Baskets)
Max Martini (The Order)
Joan Van Ark (Knots Landing)
Pisay Pao (Z Nation)
Susan Williams (The Accountant)
Devan Long (Bosch)
Edward Asner (Elf)
Haley Strode (Gangster Squad)
Victoria Blade (Chicago Fire)

Penultimate Patrol (2019)When I watched the first episode of Doom Patrol, I was immediately excited by what I saw: a great-looking, well-written story about surprisingly human superhumans with powers that were more than power fantasies. With the finale in the rear-view mirror, it’s time to look back and see if the show stuck to its ideas and made good on its promises.
In short, Doom Patrol is an incredibly special show – as a superhero/comic-book show, as a DC Universe show, and as just, you know, a dang TV show.April Bowlby and Joivan Wade in Doom Patrol (2019)At its roots, Doom Patrol is a show about people with disabilities. People with differences that separate them from “normal” people. They hide their disfigurements, struggle, and shame themselves. They stand out not as a matter of choice, but just by existing. And the show, the story, never loses sight of that. Through their adventures, the Patrol meets a sentient, teleporting, genderqueer street, a guy who gets special powers from eating beard hair (it’s gross), and a cockroach with a god complex. They get sucked into a donkey that farts words, end up inside a snowglobe with characters that would freak out the people who made Return to Oz, and break into a government facility that houses, among other things, carnivorous butts.Doom Patrol is a show that fully embraces its weirdness in a way very few shows manage. But throughout this, our characters continue to struggle and fight against the forces that work against them: a reality that wants to write their narratives for them, a government agency that wants to track, monitor, and use them because they don’t fit neatly into the idea of normalcy, and a few overprotective father figures with questionable ideas of what it means to protect their children or their charges.Diane Guerrero in Doom Patrol (2019)Together, the team validates each others’ struggles. Cliff immediately accepts Crazy Jane, and the eventual dive into her mind helps him understand that only she can put herself back together – and that it’s with the strength of her relationships that she can start to try to do it. Larry Trainor was a gay man living in mid-century America. When he was forcibly united with the Negative Spirit, the idea of hiding his real self from his loved ones became very literal, and the disfigurement he held for himself in his mind became real – and toxic. It wasn’t until he started to communicate with the spirit that he was able to find peace with his own truth. Cyborg, who I’ve previously described as a Justice-League-grade hero had to push his way out from under his helicopter-parent father to truly become himself and to find an even ground on which he could communicate with that father. The group went through therapy together, even if there was a rat inside Cliff’s head for it.Brendan Fraser, Diane Guerrero, and Riley Shanahan in Doom Patrol (2019)And while these characters were working through their collective and individual traumas, we got an incredibly good-looking show with stellar character designs and great visual effects. The arc that took the characters to Nurnheim stands out as an especially good-looking part of the show with some wild monsters for the characters to fight off, making them look like a superhero team for the first time.Riley Shanahan in Doom Patrol (2019)And few shows are so compassionate toward their characters. No show is perfect, especially when handling as many sensitive issues – disability, mental and physical trauma, sexual assault, hate, internalized ableism, just to start the list – but I don’t know if I’ve seen any show do it with such aplomb. This is a show about people with very real barriers to living normal lives, not super-geniuses who can take off their power armor, and it lets us into all of their struggles and loves them through it. With reports that suggest the show will see a second season, I can only cross my fingers and hope we’ll see more of these incredible characters.