SPOILER ALERT: This post contains spoilers from the third season of Titans.
When you're a superhero, death is not something you're unfamiliar with. It might be part of your origin story, you might face it every day while fighting your villains, or your teammates and friends might meet their end while you're all just doing your jobs. It's obviously not a very pleasant aspect of the role—and likely not one human resource recruiters would put as a selling point in the job description—but it's one that affects them all, in some form, at some point in time.
For the members of the Titans, death has come in many forms. And there are four deaths that have specifically shaped the Titans into the team they are today. (Today being the latter half of Titans’ third season.)
The first death broke them. Or, at least, broke a version of the Titans that wasn't meant to last. I’m talking of course about the first incarnation of the group, made up of Robin (Dick Grayson), Wonder Girl (Donna Troy), Aqualad (Garth), Hawk (Hank Hall) and Dove (Dawn Granger). When Deathstroke killed Garth, no one on the team could agree on what to do next. Garth's death, while noble—he saved Donna from taking the bullet that killed him—fractured a team that had previously seemed so solid, but perhaps was shakier than anyone knew. The team went their separate ways and some of them even swore off superhero-ing for the foreseeable future. (Some might argue that certain folks' jobs as police officers were sort of superhero-adjacent, however.) But even though Garth's death led to a long break for the team, and some not-entirely-productive vengeance attempts, it led to an ultimately stronger version of the Titans.
The second death unified them. The new version of the Titans—made up of Dick, Starfire (Kory Anders/Koriand'r), Raven (Rachel Roth), Beast Boy (Gar Logan) and Superboy (Conner Kent), with the occasional assistance of Donna, Hank and Dawn—had floundered a bit with the mix of old Titans and new, but they were finally finding their way. And when Donna died doing what she did best, being a hero and saving innocents, the team didn't let her sacrifice go to waste. Instead, they honored her by moving forward as an even stronger unit. (Of course, now we know Donna’s death wasn’t permanent, but the point still stands. And unlike our next death-defying hero, she was dead for more than what felt like five minutes.)
The Titans’ third "death" led them on a totally new path. With Rachel in Themyscira with the Amazons, it was up to Dick and the rest of the crew to mourn for Robin (Jason Todd) in Gotham. This new path, sadly, led directly to the fourth death, which both gave the team a sense of direction, but also led to a bit of a new fracture amongst the remaining Titans. Although Jason had estranged himself a while before his run-in with the Joker, he was still a member of the family. When his new role as Red Hood led directly to Hank's gruesome and truly shocking death, the team was sent reeling—but their foundation wasn't broken, merely shaken.
Although both Jason and Hank's deaths are pretty reminiscent of Garth's death—the death that broke them, the death that came at the hands of someone who could be punished for it—thanks to Donna's death, the Titans were no longer in a state that led them directly to violence and revenge. (Also, Bruce kind of took care of that for them…)
As of right now, it’s not clear where the Titans are going to land on how to approach Jason. Gar seems to desperately want to find and help him, while I have no doubt that Dawn, wherever she may be, would kick them all upside the head for even considering that. However, I think it’s safe to say they’re not looking to kill him, which seemed to be a possibility at one point. Even if some folks on the team don't think he's deserving of forgiveness, it seems they're still willing to try. (Remember what I said about them being family? Families can be so complicated!)
Death has made the Titans stronger. Death has made them a more cohesive team. I honestly hope that death leaves the Titans alone for a while after this season, but again...superheroes. I guess we'll all just have to keep watching to see where the team goes from here. In the meantime, I will not be participating in any betting pools on who's next to go. Don't even ask.
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.
NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of Mandy Curtis and do not necessarily reflect those of DC Entertainment or Warner Bros.