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Why DC Universe's Titans Is Unlike Other Superhero Shows, According To One Star

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It may currently be the holiday season, but for fans of superhero TV, 2018 was a gift that kept on giving. One of the brightest shining stars is also one of the darker series to feature costumed vigilantes: DC Universe's flagship drama Titans. A mix of action, suspense, comedy and horror, Titans is quite unique among the other comic shows out there. Alan Ritchson, who stars as the brute Hank "Hawk" Hall, shared with CinemaBlend why he thinks Titans isn't like other hero-based fare.

It's unlike any other superhero show ever. . . . Look, I think it's really easy to -- and I'm not knocking the other shows -- it's easy to sugarcoat these wish-fulfillment journeys and candy-coated crimes. We all know that crime is everywhere, and bad people are everywhere. We hope and long for vigilantes to stand up and fight for us. But we don't see a lot of is the humanity behind that and the scars that that style of justice [brings] and what those characters endure. To do that is what's so cool about it. it's just so much more raw material. I love it.

For Alan Ritchson, much of Titans' enjoyment lies in the more difficult subject matter that occurs away from all of the high-flying action and other sequences that superhero TV shows are accustomed to delivering. For every physical brawl that the drama delivers, there are two scenes devoted to the characters' emotional development -- rough estimation, obviously -- which makes the more painful moments all the more relevant and meaningful.

It's certainly understandable why shows like The Flash haven't dedicated an abundance of screen time to various heroes' wounds and woes on an episodic basis. Sure, virtuous characters like Barry Allen get hurt when taking down villains, but the pain often subsides completely by the time the next villain-of-the-week arrives. Barry's continued grief over his mother's death, in particular, would count more if he wasn't able to go back in time and watch her from afar whenever he wants.

For Titans' most recent episode, "Hank and Dawn," Alan Ritchson's Hawk didn't get an evil nemesis to do battle with. Instead, his Hank was a repeated victim throughout some of the show's grittiest scenes yet. Hawk and Dove's origin story tapped right into what the actor likes the most.

Spoiler warning for those who aren't yet caught up with Titans' most recent episodes.

The rage that viewers witnessed Hank displaying in Episode 2 was all tied to a particularly heinous moment in his childhood. His school coach was a pervert and probable pederast who took an interest in Don Hall, but Hank gave up his own innocence to keep his brother safe. Years later, that same brother was killed in a random traffic accident, just after the siblings had introduced their costumed alter egos Hawk and Dove to the world.

Perhaps the most striking and Titans-esque moment in the episode happened when the concussion-suffering Hank confronted Don about relaying his negative medical diagnosis to school officials. Just as the scene's ramping intensity peaked, someone advised Hank to be quiet, and it turned into a huge melee, with the tone instantly spinning on a dime.

According to Alan Ritchson, those scenes are precisely the ones that make him the most excited. In his words:

That's really where the pulse of this show lives, and why it works for me. I remember standing in my backyard, when [co-creator] Geoff Johns called. I had suggested that maybe the show wasn't for me when I heard about it for the first time. He called and he explained what you now know about the show: about who these characters are; about who Hank is; tonally what the show is, and where they're going to go with it. I was instantly hooked, you know.

Without the restrictions that broadcast and cable networks often place on shows that embrace mature content, Titans is allowed to thrive on DC Universe in just about any way its creators wish. To be expected, Geoff Johns, Greg Berlanti and Akiva Goldsman have taken advantage of how loosened the censors have been.

Though he's gone to some truly dark places in the comics, Geoff Johns hasn't been able to get too extreme with his TV work on shows such as Smallville, Arrow, and The Flash, among others. The same goes for Greg Berlanti, whose career blew up with Dawson's Creek, though as Batman Forever and Batman & Robin's co-screenwriter, Akiva Goldsman has crafted darker narratives for films such as I Am Legend and The Dark Tower, as well as Star Trek: Discovery.

The three comic-minded writers came up with the Titans tale that they thought was best for 2018 audiences, and many fans out there would agree. Not to mention the wholly agreeable Alan Ritchson, who told me his earlier worries about joining the show stuck around in the early going, as he didn't want to put all of his hopes and dreams into something that didn't live up to anyone's expectations. According to Ritchson:

With trepidation, I sort of went into it going like, 'I've been promised things before creatively that never came true.' Everything I was promised and everything Jeff suggested would happen with these characters and these storylines has come to fruition. I just am so pleased to be a part of it and so flattered and honored that they called me in for this. Really, it's a dream job and a dream show, and I really hope selfishly for my sake that I get to play this character for a very long time in this universe.

Thankfully, not everything that happens in Titans is meant to push the envelope, and the show does feature quite a bit of levity as the season goes on. I'm really hoping for a future episode where Hank has to spend an afternoon inside a broken elevator with Gar's Beast Boy. I'm not sure Hawk's gruff demeanor could withstand Gar's optimism.

Titans premieres new episodes every Friday on DC Universe at 12:00 p.m. ET. With only three installments left in Season 1, it's now as good a time as ever to dive into the manic mayhem. While waiting for future episodes, be sure to jot down all the big fall TV and midseason TV premieres that are on the way.

Nick Venable
Nick Venable

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.