Warning: major spoilers ahead for Episode 6 of Titans Season 3, called "Lady Vic."
The latest episode of Titans saw Dick Grayson and Co. continue the fight to take down the Red Hood and Scarecrow in Gotham City, and it involved some blasts to the past that shed light on who Barbara Gordon was before she took her father's place at GCPD and what kind of relationship she had with Dick. And for any fans who thought that the origin story of Savannah Welch's Barbara was going to line up with what DC Comics has told of Batgirl and/or Oracle before, the big twist in her story had to be a shocker. Personally, I'm totally here for it.
That's not to say that it wasn't a fairly weird episode in both the past and present, but Titans isn't exactly known for precisely keeping track of its own timelines and continuity. If I can suspend my disbelief about Jason Todd becoming the Red Hood basically overnight, Kory springing her sister from being locked up without really putting any thought into what comes next, and Dick going solo from the Titans again, then I can go with the twist on Barbara's story. So, here's how it went down and why it was actually pretty great in my book!
What Happened To Barbara Gordon Before Season 3
The Barbara Gordon story that DC Comics fans had every reason to expect from Titans was that she was Batgirl when younger, was attacked by the Joker later on, and would become a technological vigilante of sorts going by the name of Oracle. Titans already flipped the script a bit by killing off Jim Gordon and introducing Barbara as the commissioner, but who could have seen the twist coming that she and Dick didn't first team up to fight crime, but rather commit crimes?
I'll admit that the flashback reveal of Barbara as a cat burglar committing some pretty significant robberies because she wanted to keep her dad on his toes threw me for a loop, especially when it became clear that she didn't initially intend to give back all the stolen loot. In fact, she recruited Dick to help her, so instead of Batgirl and Robin fighting crime, Titans delivered a pair of cat burglars stealing for kicks.
It's certainly not the origin story I was expecting, as somebody whose first superhero experience was Batman: The Animated Series, but it did set up the conflict between her and Lady Vic as something deeply personal. Lady Vic lost somebody she loved when fighting Barbara and Dick six years ago, and her return united Barbara and Dick in a way fans hadn't seen before on the HBO Max series.
All things considered, it was a bizarre twist on a famous story, and I'm guessing definitely isn't going to be universally beloved by fans. But my takeaway from "Lady Vic" is that the cat burglar origin story was an unexpected surprise that also doesn't have to change everything that fans went into Titans expecting. And here's why.
Barbara Still Became Batgirl
Sure, Barbara's backstory as a cat burglar is something that came out of left field for anybody who thought Titans might stick more to a traditional origin for her, but earlier episodes of Season 3 already revealed that Babs didn't just go from burglar to Joker victim to police commissioner. She still became Batgirl, as she referred to her decision to hang up "the cape" in the Season 3 premiere.
Her phrasing also indicates that she gave up being Batgirl before she was shot by the Joker in the Titans take on how she ended up in a wheelchair, which is actually true to The Killing Joke comic canon, if not the movie. Titans' Barbara still became Batgirl; this episode was just Titans adding an extra chapter to her story before she went for a cape of her own.
Plus, "Oracle" even got a mention, although clearly not as Barbara's alter ego while using her computer skills to help superheroes. The mention at least plants the seeds for Barbara to become Oracle, which would again bring her back toward her comic roots and even give Titans a way to keep Savannah Welch in the mix even if the action moves back to San Francisco, or at least away from Gotham.
No Batman Required
Titans has name-dropped Batman plenty of times, and Iain Glen has played an important part in the series with his appearances as Bruce Wayne, but Iain Glen suiting up as Batman isn't likely on this show. So, giving Barbara this origin story was ultimately an ideal way to show off her fighting skills, personality, and bond with Dick without Titans needing Batman in the mix to turn her into Batgirl on screen.
Even though Season 3 is far heavier on Bat-drama than either of the earlier two seasons, this is still a Titans show, so Barbara's most important connection needed to be with Dick, not Bruce. And I think introducing her as "RobinGirl" like Dick suggested would be way more blasphemous than her burgling a museum or two!
Titans has never religiously adhered to comic canon, and in fact it seems like The Killing Joke might be the comic story that gets the most faithful retelling for Titans. If pretty much everybody else's origin story could be changed without ruining the show, surely that applies for Barbara's as well.
Dick And Barbara Need To Make Sense
Titans teased weeks ago courtesy of Hank's comment about Dick working with an ex that there was some romantic history between these versions of Dick and Barbara, which again is faithful to the comics to a certain degree. And Titans needed to find a way for them to come together in the past and set the stage for where they are in the present. Dick himself even said in the final flashback that he thought they made sense.
Of course, Barbara made a bit of a joke about it by commenting on Dick not exactly sweeping her off her feet with that sentiment, but this episode set it up so that it truly does make sense that they were together in the past and not dysfunctional in the present. They were friends before anything happened between them, and it really feels to me like the kind of relationship that would form in the dangerous Titans version of Gotham City.
We saw a different Dick in his flashback relationship with Dawn, and a different Dick during the brief romance with Kory back in Season 1. The flashback scenes with Dick and Babs in this episode made them make sense for me as more than two characters who are going to hook up just because comics.
Titans did some showing instead of just telling, and their story is definitely more interesting now having seen their earlier days together, and that's going to be way more valuable for an original story than painting by the numbers of any comics. Plus, Barbara and Dick getting together in Titans canon at least hopefully means that I don't have to worry about the show following the Killing Joke movie route of hooking up Batman and Batgirl. Seeing that happen once was more than enough!
Barbara's Fight Sequences
Last but certainly not least, I couldn't praise how Titans fleshed out Barbara's story in this episode without mentioning the epic action sequences that went down. First, there was the fight between Babs and Robin before Dick knew who was under the mask committing theft. Then, there was the four-person fight of Dick and Barbara vs. Lady Vic and her partner. And then, of course, there was Barbara vs. Lady Vic when Barbara showed off that she is not to be underestimated despite having to fight from a wheelchair rather than the way she used to back in the day.
All three of the sequences were impressive and fun to watch, but Babs fighting off Lady Vic in the present was one that I just had to rewatch pretty quickly. Sure, Lady Vic won, in a way, since her main goal was to snap a pic of Commissioner Gordon after luring her away from her friends and allies, but Barbara not only survived, but fought off the assassin who would have been all too willing to end her if she had to chance. She didn't need Dick to show up in Nightwing mode in the nick of time to save the day, but took care of business herself. A+, Babs!
And the cat burglar element of her story combined with the knowledge that she would go on to become Batgirl explains why Barbara could pull off what would otherwise seem all but impossible. Plus, it was just really, really cool to see. If I hadn't already been crossing my fingers for Titans to find a way to keep Barbara around beyond Season 3, I certainly would be after this episode.
Season 3 still has a ways to go before we need to start seriously thinking about what could happen in Season 4, however, so be sure to check out HBO Max (opens in new tab) on Thursdays for the newest episodes of Titans.
Resident of One Chicago, Bachelor Nation, and Cleveland. Has opinions about crossovers, Star Wars, and superheroes. Will not time travel.
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