WARNING: Do not read this article before watching episodes 1-3 of Titans. They’re wild!
Nobody hurts you like family. Sometimes a family member might disregard your feelings, borrow your stuff without asking or use a bad picture of you in the annual Christmas card. Or maybe they’ll kidnap another family member, surgically attach a bomb to their heart and trick a loved one into pushing the detonator. Totally relatable family drama, right?
You don’t need Dick Grayson’s detective skills to figure out that I’m talking about Jason Todd. The live-action Titans series is currently putting their spin on the Red Hood story and Curran Walters is crushing it as the infamous antihero. Walters’ portrayal of Jason Todd is mean, moody and magnificent, bringing the classic “Under The Hood” storyline to life in a way fans never thought was possible. Some scenes have been taken directly from the comic panels, like the infamous duffel bag filled with heads, but Titans has also gone in their own direction with the storyline, giving viewers some unexpected twists and turns. That’s where Hank comes in.
In case you need a refresher (or you got curious and ignored our spoiler warning), Jason Todd attached a bomb to Hank’s heart, with every heartbeat causing it to count down. Even worse, at the end of the episode, Jason tricked Dawn into pressing the detonator, killing Hank seconds before Conner would’ve been able to deactivate the device. My first reaction was “Oh shoot! Titans season three isn’t playing around!” But after I had calmed down (it took a while), my second reaction was to wonder if Jason could come back from this.
The Red Hood story has many themes, and I’d like to argue that forgiveness is one of them. Jason can’t bring himself to forgive Bruce for not killing the Joker, and Batman can’t forgive himself for failing Jason in life and death. If you read “Under The Hood” and the stories that followed it, you’d see that forgiveness wasn’t something that came easy for Bruce and Jason. In fact, they are still struggling to let go of the past, as recent issues of Batman: Urban Legends demonstrate.
During his early days as Red Hood, Jason tried to kill Batman and other members of the Bat-Family. It took a while, but they eventually found a way to work together as allies. I’ll admit, it felt strange seeing Jason alongside Barbara, Dick, Damian and Tim during Batcave family gatherings in crossovers like “Death of the Family.” If it felt weird to me as a reader, imagine how it felt for Dick and the others. Was Dick silently thinking about the time Jason tried to kill him in “Battle for the Cowl” and stewing?
Either way, the Bat-Family found a way to forgive Jason, but I’m not sure if Titans will be able to follow that same path. It’s an understatement to say that killing Hank is a gamechanger, and it’s going to be hard for the Titans to look past that. Jason’s comic book counterpart has killed and Batman has forgiven him for it, but his victims have mostly been criminals. Never a member of the family.
The Titans have been struggling with forgiveness since their debut episode. Most of season one was centered around Dick’s journey to forgiving Bruce. Last season, the group temporarily broke up after Dick revealed that he lied about the circumstances of Jericho’s death. Gar and Rachel have lost control of their abilities and killed others. Everyone in the group has made mistakes…except for Krypto (he’s perfect). Killing another member is a new level, though.
We also don’t know the full story. Dick has discovered that Jason was experimenting with some sort of drug and we saw the Boy Wonder inhale some strange chemical before fighting the Joker. Is it possible that drugs have played a role in Jason’s behavior? While that answer wouldn’t excuse his actions, it would give added context that should be weighed when we consider Jason’s path to redemption.
In a way, this version of Red Hood’s origin story is a cautionary tale about forgiveness. Jason left the Titans last season because he couldn’t forgive them for their failings. He sought comfort in the arms of Rose Wilson and bared his heart to her. When Rose revealed that she was a spy, Jason spiraled. Titans season two ended with the group coming together and healing, but Jason couldn’t bring himself to join them. Even Donna’s death wasn’t enough to reunite him with his teammates. Jason blamed the Titans for the way Rose used him and he’s held onto that anger. If Jason had found a way to let go then he never would’ve become Red Hood and Hank would still be alive.
Dick and Bruce blame themselves for Jason’s death, and Bruce’s inability to cope caused him to kill the Joker. Dick feels like he failed Jason by not seeing the warning signs sooner. Will those feelings of guilt cause Nightwing to go easy on Red Hood, or was the murder of Hank a bridge too far? Dick might feel like he could’ve done more to help his adoptive brother, but in the end, Jason is responsible for his own actions.
This scenario reminds me of another article I wrote about Titans’ sister show Doom Patrol. Two years ago, I asked if the Doom Patrol should forgive the Chief, and the situation is a bit similar to Red Hood and the Titans. In order to turn Cliff into Robotman, Niles engineered an accident that killed Cliff’s wife and lied to him about his daughter surviving. Cliff lost his wife, decades with his daughter and his entire humanity. Would you forgive Niles? Cliff finally decided to accept Niles’ apology during season two, but seconds later, Niles tricked him into being ejected from an airlock.
If the Doom Patrol could forgive the Chief, then maybe the Titans can forgive Red Hood—just stay away from airlocks. Of course, this entire argument assumes that Jason will go on a redemptive path and find his way back to the Titans. While it’s true that’s what happened in the comics, the show might go down a different path. Maybe Red Hood will remain a villain forever, or maybe Jason won’t survive season three. If the first few episodes have proven anything, it’s to expect the unexpected and that not everyone will be getting out of this alive. Can Jason Todd be forgiven? I think the real question is what is he going to do next?
Titans Season 3 is now streaming on HBO Max. Look for new episodes every Thursday! Not yet an HBO Max subscriber? Sign up today to enjoy the best of DC movies and TV.
Joshua Lapin-Bertone writes about TV, movies and comics for DCComics.com, is a regular contributor to the Couch Club and writes our monthly Batman column, "Gotham Gazette." Follow him on Twitter at @TBUJosh.
NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of Joshua Lapin-Bertone and do not necessarily reflect those of DC Entertainment or Warner Bros.