Titans review: The worst torture comes from within


On DC Universe, the Titans have unofficially formed their team. While they’ve previously been testing physically, Asylum tests them emotionally, just as the episode title suggests.

From the conception of DC Universe’s Titans, Trigon has been the behind the scenes antagonist for the pseudo-formed team as a vague reference. Still, without any screen time, Rachel’s interdimensional demon dad and his followers are proving to be formidable villains for the Titans.

We’re still reveling in the mid-season highlights and the quirky one-liners from each character. In episode five alone, we witnessed Garfield, Kory, Rachel, and Dick work as cohesively as a fledgling team can against a suburban serial killer family. With Dr. Adamson captured, most of their immediate threats were diminished. Though the Titans might have developed a false sense of confidence in their fighting strategies, that was quickly squandered in episode seven, Asylum.

Exploration of powers

Since the initial character introductions for the four main Titans (this season anyway) are over with, the team has gradually learned more about one another and themselves. Kory might not know who she is yet; however, she’s quickly learned how to control the fire within her. Like Rachel, Starfire is also searching for answers. Since their experiences mimic each other’s, Asylum also parallels Kory and Rachel’s struggle to understand their abilities.

Early on in the episode, Dr. Adamson slits his throat in front of Rachel, which forces her to discover her empathetic healing powers. Viewers already saw a preview of her medicinal magic in episode four, when she brought back a recent postmortem deer. However, Rachel never saw her abilities take action.

Seeing her abilities as beneficial gave Rachel a minor redemption arch. She’s thought her abilities we solely evil and by relation thought she was evil. Though Garfield reassured her when she condemned her seemingly faulty powers in episode four, Rachel finally sees the fruition of her positive attributes. This innately gives her hope because she finally gets to see that she has free will within her powers when she thought they were hopelessly malicious.

Granted, this newfound hope despite her demonic prophecy is fleeting, seeing as her demonic counterpart rescinded the psionic stitches, she gave to Adamson earlier in the episode.  Showing the give and take behind her powers also emphasizes the duality of her character thus far. At the surface level, Rachel’s healing also shows similarities to Kory’s own healing powers.

After Adamson’s crew captures them, Dick, Gar and Starfire all undergo uniquely gruesome experiments, where Kory discovers she has the power of rapid regeneration. Unlike Rachel’s powers, Starfire seems to have to the capability to self-heal. Like the pain that Kory endures by The Organization, Garfield and Robin also experience a different mode of torture.

The tragic character development

The Organization invokes drug-induced hallucinations on Dick. Dick likely experiences psychosomatic pain during his struggles with the figment of his former self. However, his experiments toy most with his psyche.

His hallucinations focus on his dissonance with acknowledging and actually accepting that he’s become a different person and symbol than what Robin meant for him, and he’s different now because of this. As his younger self explains in the episode, Dick hates how unbridled aggression has changed him.

At the end of the episode, Dick’s struggle with his change — partly thanks to his time as Robin and brooding over his parents’ murder — somewhat ends. He might not thoroughly accept his transformation, but he is at least complacent with his anger that stems from his character development over the years. (After all, he does tell Kory to torch the facility, which kills everyone inside.)

On some level, Garfield and Dick both endure physical pain during their experiences. The “researchers” obviously use electrical prods to try to provoke Garfield into shapeshifting. Just like they both endure physical torture, they also faced emotional torture.

After Rachel and her mother Angela Azareth (who, we’re not completely sure we can trust yet, despite the name) find and release Gar from his cage, he protects Rachel and her birth mother. In doing so, he loses control and kills someone.

Though he protected his new family from danger, he’s devasted by what he did. In episode five, he mentioned that he had never even bitten anyone, and now he’s done much more than just bite someone. With the commotion in the rest of the episode, Garfield barely hasn’t even started to come to terms with what he’s done, and he’ll face the full emotional side effects from this torture in the proceeding episodes.

Episode seven strained each character emotionally. Some members, such as Gar and Dick, were tested more than others, and they’ll likely feel the ripples of Dr. Adamson and his accomplices’ experiments for the rest of the season and into the next.

More. Titans midseason highlights: 6 scenes we’re already obsessed with. light

Based on the preview into episode eight, we have a lot more character development to come –even if Dick Grayson tries to disband the unofficial team in the near future.