Titans S2, Ep 4: “Aqualad”
Did I start this project with any idea that I would immediately fall a month behind? Actually yes, I kind of suspected this would happen. But I am committed to catching up and to sticking with it through the rest of the season.
Aqualad starts five years in the past with a proper introduction to Deathstroke as he commits a handful of murders. Because that is what Deathstroke does; kill people. It also introduces, but does not name or identify, Jericho.Then it switches to showing the original Titans in action as a team, with the five of them brutally taking out a trio of car jackers. Five original Titans, with the four we already know—Donna, Dick, Dawn, and Hank—as well as previously unseen (and maybe unmentioned) Garth, who is the Aqualad from the title. They return to the tower for what appears to be a birthday party for Garth.
The show kind of falls down in its portrayal of the relationship between Garth and Donna. Garth keeps pressuring her for a date, while Donna studiously avoids him. That is despite Dawn’s pushing her to him. It isn’t quite clear why Donna is not into Garth, but it doesn’t really matter. She makes it clear that she is not interested, and everyone is ignoring her wishes. It feels kind of gross, with them all pushing her to a relationship she clearly does not want. Now, it is possible she is supposed to appear more conflicted than she does. Donna is leaving for Themyscira soon and does not want to start something that will inevitably be forced to end. It works a little better as the episode goes on, but maybe it should have started with a scene of them actually connecting. It also feels as though there is some information that the show is still holding back. I feel like I’m all over the map here, but only because the show is all over the map. Despite the title of the episode, this episode is about Donna Troy. However, I came out of it feeling like I knew less about her character than when I went in. Without knowing what Donna actually wants, her actions in this episode are inexplicable.
The other big thread in the episode is a little more explanation of who exactly Dr. Light is. Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot there. “Would your pedestal be so high without the insights from my spectacular failures?” he shouts at a contemptuous colleague. Dr. Light sucks, and everyone knows he sucks. The team takes him out with minimal effort.
Everything ends in tragedy when Deathstroke returns, setting up another flashback episode to tell the other half of this story. It also has Dick making a connection with Jericho, who is Deathstroke’s son, which seems to be part of his revenge plot.
I’m not sure how well this flashback episode works, because it leaves so many unanswered questions and killed the momentum the show had built up with last week’s episode. We still don’t know who hired Deathstroke, who he was actually hired to kill. We also don’t know what has set him coming after the team again in the present. “Aqualad” merely served to kind of focus the questions we should be asking about Deathstroke’s plot. It did give a bigger look at Donna than episode has yet, but I don’t think we actually learned anything about her. It kind of feels like a missed opportunity.