"Titans" is back, streaming its second season on the DC Universe app. For now, the show can enjoy some breathing room: It's coming out well after the debut of the best not-suitable-for-work superhero show (Amazon's "The Boys") and before the launch of the Disney+ streaming service, in all its Marvel Studios and Star Wars glory.
Consider this "Titans" second season as a potential audition for your DC Universe app dollars down the road. Is "Titans" the best superhero stream out now? No, again, see "The Boys." It's not even the best original show on the app (that would be the surprisingly amazing "Doom Patrol").
But "Titans" hits all the right fanboy emotions in its Season 2 premiere. You're not subscribing to DC's streaming service unless you already love its characters anyway. And if the classic '80s "Teen Titans" tales that made DC's kid sidekicks one of the best comic book series/teams of that decade are your thing, you'll enjoy this modernized, mature take on that mythos.
"Titans" gets right to what it spent the show's first season dancing around: a showdown with Deathstroke, the supervillain most tied to Titans comic-book lore. Played very smoothly by Esai Morales, Deathstroke is here to kill them all once he realizes they've banded back together after he gave them enough psychological damage to justify a breakup.
Dick Grayson (Brenton Thwaites) takes on a leadership/mentor role as he puts together a new team of Titans (yes, in San Francisco and yes there's a Titans Tower) featuring Teagan Croft's Raven (now equipped with a demonic jewel on her head), Ryan Potter's Beast Boy (still not green all the time) and the current Robin, Curran Walter's Jason Todd (still not dead, yet).
Dick has left his Robin the Boy Wonder persona behind, letting Jason fully embrace a mantle he no longer wants. The countdown begins as to whether he will become Nightwing this season, or if he'll avoid his new mask for another season.
Hawk (Alan Ritchson) and Dove (Minka Kelly) are still around as damaged lovebirds who can provide veteran mentoring to the younger Titans, and Starfire (Anna Diop) is less Titan at the moment and more an alien trying to find her way far from home.
Conor Leslie remains a pleasant surprise as Wonder Woman sidekick/kid sister Donna Troy/Wonder Girl. Giving off Wonder Woman vibes is no easy task. Only Lynda Carter and Gal Gadot have done it to rave reviews. Leslie has the swag and screen presence to pull it off. When she lassos up, it feels legit.
The biggest Season 2 surprise in "Titans" is how well Iain Glen works as an older Bruce Wayne/Batman. Never mind that Glen has to convince us he's not "Game of Thrones" Ser Jorah Mormont back from the dead and traveling through time - he's also blond, a big Batman no-no. Glen overcomes those distractions well in his performance as the Dark Knight, giving off a sophisticated vibe that almost feels like what Adam West could have done with the character if he wasn't working with camp.
Glen likely won't actually be suiting up and this season we'll probably just get his Bruce Wayne doing things like having drinks unmasked with his former Robin, Dick Grayson, chatting about old times. But if Jason Todd falls this season, maybe he'll have a reason to put on the bat-suit.
That's a whole lot squeezed into a Season 2 premiere that also features the debut of Superboy (Joshua Orpin). It's the black T-shirt-wearing emotional Superboy, not the mucho mas cooler early '90s version who deserves some live-action love. But at least superdog Krypto is there as well.
And don't forget, these Titans curse. There are just as many f-bombs as batarangs here, in case you were thinking of transitioning your kids to this show from "Teen Titans Go!"
These sidekicks are all grown up.