This week's episode of Titans, "Jason Todd" (watch it here), gets into one of the most vital and engaging parts of DC Comics' lore: the relationship between Batman and his Robins. The last episode introduced us to the second Robin, Jason Todd, whom fans of the comics will know was Dick Grayson's replacement after he left to join the New Teen Titans. The show echoes that arc here as we get to know the young upstart after he saved Dick from Doctor Adamson and his goons.
Episode 6 starts with a flashback to the funeral of Dick's parents. A vital conversation between the young boy and a family friend from the circus named Clay occurs in which Dick asks to live with him rather than becoming the ward of Bruce Wayne. Titans is doing a great job of establishing just how unhappy Dick's childhood was, and how much of an impact it's had on him -- which this narrative plays upon perfectly when he's suddenly faced with a boy who's become Batman's newest weapon.
The pair is the focus of this episode as they attempt to find some common ground and a place to hide the body of the now incapacitated Adamson. As they head to one of Batman's many safe houses they trade barbs, with Jason celebrating his partnership with Bruce whilst Dick tries to explain his issues with the problematic set-up. A big theme here is whether or not Dick is actually ready to give up his role as the Boy Wonder in the face of being so quickly replaced. During the journey to Chicago, Jason reveals a final betrayal by Bruce, telling Dick that he was able to locate him because of a tracker that his former guardian had secretly inserted under the skin in his forearm.
Of course Dick doesn't take that news well, digging the device out of his arm with a scalpel as soon as he reaches the safe house. As Curren Walters' Jason tries to convince Dick that all of Bruce's questionable choices are for their benefit, Dick is fighting with his feelings of loss and jealousy over the fact that he's essentially being written out of his own life. The fact that Jason's just a car thief who tried to steal the hubcaps off the Batmobile doesn't help with Dick's abandoment issues either. The Titans' burgeoning leader thought he was special but he's beginning to learn he's created a legacy he can't control, as Jason says "Batman needs Robin, that's why we he makes us wear those stupid colors. We're drawing fire." It's a depressing dissection of Bruce's motivations that for some reason doesn't scare Jason the way it does Dick.
After locking up Doctor Adamson, the elder Robin demands that Jason leave, but he refuses and explains that Bruce sent him for a reason. That reason is a grim one, acting as a macguffin for the rest of the episode, as well as introducing what we can assume will be a core advisory for Dick. Jason reveals a set of gruesome photos which Dick immediately recognizes as his old circus pals who've been brutally killed. The pair manages to piece together that it's all linked to an old crime family that Robin has a deep connection with. This narrative also gives us our first glimpse of the Batmobile and Batcave as we see Robin in its iconic halls in flashback, trying to find the man who killed his parents.
Though this is a Robin-centric episode, Dick gets a call from Kory that throws the rest of the Titans back into the mix. Soon, Rachel, Gar, and their adoptive alien mother figure are in the Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired apartment, and they're incredibly confused by just who this other Robin is. Gar excitedly offers his services as yet another Robin; plus it seems like Rachel takes a shine to Jason. But Dick quickly shuts that down as he heads off to investigate the mysterious figure who's been killing his circus family, seeking out the help of his old friend Clay, which puts the ex-circus strongman in mortal danger.
As we reach the third act we're introduced to Nick Zucco, the son of Tony Zucco, the man who killed Robin's parents. During a flashback we see that the police were going to allow Tony to go free for snitching on Gotham's notorious Maroni crime family. This justifiably infuriated Dick, and during the criminal's transportation from the courthouse Dick swooped in, beating him half to death and leaving him to be killed as the Maroni family close in. It's clearly a painful memory for Dick, who's immediately struck with the impact of his actions as he faces down a twisted mirror image of himself, a boy so contorted and obsessed with his family's death that he'll do anything to hunt down the man he blames... sound familiar?
As the younger Zucco and Dick face off, things look bleak for our hero. But with the help of Jason he's able to defeat Nick and save Clay. After the rescue, Dick finds Jason beating a squadron of cops. When he calls him out, stating that Bruce wouldn't condone it, we get to see a glimpse of the new boy behind the domino mask. For Jason, getting to beat on the men who beat on him when he was a street kid is just a bonus, and he doesn't care if his boss wouldn't agree because he isn't there. This leads to a moment between the two where Jason clearly states how much he loves the violence and viciousness that comes with his title, pointing out that Dick clearly doesn't know where he stands or who he wants to be.
It's a wake-up call for the ex-Boy Wonder. When he phones Kory to tell her he's coming back, she asks "How many Robins should I expect?" His decisive answer is "None," which leaves us wondering if Nightwing could appear sooner than we think...