Titans: We learn about Hawk and Dove’s tragic past and some of Rachel’s new abilities


Titans episode 9, “Hank and Dawn,” takes a brief hiatus from the central storyline to give us content into Hawk and Dove’s relationship. However, the episode also foreshadows Hank’s alliance with the Titans team.

Content warning: this episode of Titans and the proceeding review references childhood sexual trauma.

Retracing back to episode 2, an episode centering around Hawk and Dove, episode 9 of Titans focuses on the duo during their fledgling years—before they officially became the caped team we saw in that earlier episode. Beyond how Hank and Dawn meet, episode 9 also focuses on traumatic family bonds and coping with loss and disquieting pasts.

At the start of the episode, we meet the original Hawk and Dove: Hank Hall and Donald (Donny) Hall respectively. The didn’t always fight crime in their homemade costumes. As we follow the brothers through their vigilante journey, we swiftly learn that Hank Hall hasn’t just been repressing his insurmountable pain from his time as Hawk — he’s also been muffling childhood trauma.

On some level, we can assume that Hawk’s childhood trauma is the driving force that innervates his reclusive approach to both admitting and opening up about his physical pain caused by years of concussions and vigilante-related wounds. When we met Hawk and Dove in the first episode, we assumed that Hank’s drug dependency was due to years of physical fits. However, “Hank and Dove” expands that he uses medication and an unhealthy coping mechanism to squander childhood abuse.

Hank’s addictions are solidified when he breaks into the hospital’s medical supplies to steal a narcotic called Oxycodone Hydrochloride, and otherwise known as Oxycontin. Viewers watch as his drug and alcohol dependencies transmute into a flashback-induced dream as he falls asleep in a chair next to Dawn, who is still in a coma.

During Hank’s dream sequences, we see flashbacks of his life. The first flashback brings us to Hank and Donny’s earlier childhood shortly after their football practice. However, their football coach is trying to coerce Donny into the weight room for nefarious reason. This uncomfortably upsetting scene illustrates how Hank detects their coach’s motives and transitions into Hank’s selflessly volunteering to go to the weight room in order to protect Donny from being abused.

The eerie scene foreshadows another type of pain, where Dawn and Hank meet shortly after Hank’s brother and Dawn’s mother are killed in the same car crash directly in front of them. In Dawn’s half of the episode, we vaguely learn that he father is abusive. While she didn’t successfully convince her mother to leave her abusive husband, Dawn and Hank’s separate stories of abuse serve to show their intense bond to one another.

As the attend group grief consoling sessions, we see their kindred relationship grow stronger. After Dawn made a stride of venting about her mother’s death, Hank and Dawn bonded and spoke candidly about their pasts. During these extended conversations, Hank divulges to Dawn about how he was molested in the weight room as a child. Thanks to the implied context from the show, we can assume Dawn is the first and maybe the only person Hank has told about this traumatic event.

Titans — Ep. 109 — “Hank & Dawn” — Photo Credit: Christos Kalohordis / 2018 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved

Beyond Hank and Dawn’s bond, episode 9 simultaneously fortifies Hank and Donny’s family dynamics—an important and reiterated theme throughout the series.

The episode gives us insight in the reciprocal caretaker roles both Donny and Hank task themselves with. Though Hank is the older brother, they both watch out for each other in their corrupt town. Hank looks after Donny because he is Donny’s older brother and is naturally ever-vigilant of him.

Whereas, Donny is so protective of Hank’s mental and physical health, which we see when Donny physically prevents Hank from playing football due to his post-concussion syndrome. Donny is also protective of Hank because he wrongfully blames himself for what happened to Hank in the weight room.

The fact that Hank apparently dreams in flashbacks shows that he’s still lamenting his past because he hasn’t found a productive way to cope with his childhood sexual abuse or losing his brother. His dreams also provide us with a devastating parallel between Donny’s implicit self-blame and the blame Hank gives himself.

Hank’s undying devotion to Dawn as she’s in a coma reinforces his unconditional love for her. However, his increase drug and alcohol abuse are indicative of his repentance, seeing as Hank blames himself for Dawn’s injury in episode two, which is still impacting her now.  While “Hank and Dawn” focuses on the two titular characters, it does retrofit the solemn closure in their narratives back toward the conflict from episode 8, where we left off with Kory strangling Rachel.

Although “Hank and Dawn” temporarily jaunts the progress of the plot, it gives us insight into Hawk and Dove and how they met. Thankfully, the episode doesn’t entirely neglect the cliffhanger at the ending of the previous episode. Throughout Hank’s dreams, we watch Rachel’s astral projections all out to him for help.

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Hank might not notice Rachel’s projections of herself, but Dawn notices them and they wake her from her coma. The upsetting context behind Hank and Dawn’s respective and collective past might not help them in the future episodes. After Rachel’s successful dream-like signal to Dawn, it’s clear that we’ll likely see Hank team up with the Titans team in the few remaining episodes.