Titans season 3, episode 5 review: Lazarus

The latest outing from Titans season 3  gives us a stellar, heartbreaking, and frustrating origin behind Jason’s Todd’s transformation into the Red Hood.

When Jason Todd returned in the pages of DC Comics, there was only one question on reader’s minds: How did Jason Todd come back from the dead after being killed by the Joker? At the time, DC said it didn’t really matter and focused on how his return affected Batman and the Bat-family was more important. But the truth is, when you bring a dead character back to life, you better have a very good explanation.

The same goes with Titans’ Jason Todd (Curran Walters). Yes, as revealed last episode, it was very much a no-brainer that the Scarecrow (Vincent Kartheiser) somehow converted Jason into his own murderous disciple. But, just like the original Batman story, Under the Hood, the real question isn’t just how the second Robin became a gun-totting, crimson helmet-wearing psychopath. It’s how he came back to life. Well, considering the title of this episode is called “Lazarus,” that should be enough of a clue.

But first, we pick right back up after the former Robin’s fight with Nightwing (Brenton Thwaites) last episode, and he’s freaking out. He knows Dick won’t stop coming after him now that Hank is dead, and demands Crane to tell him what their plan is. The Scarecrow reassures Jason that, together, they will terrorize Gotham to the point where, in their desperation, they’ll look to them as their new heroes. (I guess Crane watched The Incredibles one too many times while smoking his bongs in Arkham). He then calms Jason down with a hit from an inhaler of fear suppressing “happy juice.”

Broken Bird

The rest of “Lazarus” is a flashback, starting from “three months ago.” Considering all the trauma he underwent last season, it’s little wonder Jason’s been having nightmares. Even weirder, they also involve an eerie-looking Donna Troy (Conor Leslie), who cryptically warns him after being shot by an unknown assailant, “Don’t go. You still have time.”

Jason’s night terrors have gotten so bad that Bruce (Iain Glen) tells his ward that he’s scheduled for him to see his psychiatrist friend, Dr. Leslie Thompkins (Krista Bridges). Jason, being Jason, insists there’s nothing wrong, and that he doesn’t need to see a shrink just because he’s having “bad dreams.” That’s when Bruce lays down an ultimatum: unless he sees Dr. Thompkins and she gives him the okay, his activities as Robin are suspended. It’s clear that Bruce means well, but Jason, being Jason, thinks he’s being unfair.

Hence why, despite Bruce clipping his wings, Jason’s looking to do some vigilante street justice. Meeting up his reporter friend, Molly Jensen (Eve Harlow), Jason learns that street kids are going missing. Molly’s worried about one kid in particular named Diego, and that the police aren’t taking his disappearance seriously because he’s both poor and a minority. She suspects that the Joker might be involved, which makes Jason all the more eager to prove that he still has what it takes to be Robin.

After tracking down one of Joker’s known associates, Jason and Molly decide to confront the perp directly. This proves to be a very bad idea. Not only does the perp pull a gun on Jason, Jason freezes, recalling his defeat at the hands of Deathstroke. Thus what should’ve been an easy fight, results in Jason getting the crap beat out of him and, after Molly begs for him to stop, the Joker’s goon gets away. Fans may have wanted to see this snot-nosed kid finally get his comeuppance, but probably not like this.

Batman’s greatest failure

“Lazarus” is not only the best episode of the season, it’s a strong contender for the best episode of the entire series.

Realizing he needs professional help, Jason finally sees Dr. Thompkins, though he’s still reluctant to open up. It’s here we learn that Leslie was once a colleague of Jonathan Crane’s before he became the Scarecrow. She was also one of the first victims of his fear toxin, until being saved by Batman.

Bruce later tells Jason that, it’s because she survived her ordeal with the Scarecrow that made her become an even better therapist. But, given the way Jason starts looking at the sample of Crane’s fear toxin in Batcave’s trophy case, the Boy Wonder is becoming a little too fascinated by all things Scarecrow.

As for the sessions themselves, the interaction between Walters’ Jason and Bridges’ Dr. Thompkins is fantastic. Not only are they a much-needed insight into Jason’s psyche, but they also serve as an insightful deconstruction of Batman and Robin’s “Dynamic Duo” relationship.

Jason admits to Leslie he thinks he’s no longer worthy of being Robin, and that Bruce will abandon him because of it. But Leslie points out the obvious: Robin isn’t a “real person,” but a “projection” of Bruce’s “borderline personality disorder” that’s also “a ghost” of his lost childhood. What Jason really fears, she suggests, is being himself.

But the real acting tour-de-force for this episode definitely goes to Iain Glen, who continues giving us a surprisingly open and emotionally vulnerable Bruce Wayne. More than any other episode, you can see this is a Batman who has reached a point in life where one looks back, feels regret, and desperately wants to make amends. And for the first time, he openly acknowledges Jason as his son and that he’s proud of him. He even goes so far as to trust him with the Ducati and offers some dating advice (“If the new girl likes cats…run!”). All in all, it seems as though Jason is finally on the mend.

But it all comes crashing down when Bruce decides to take Jason to Crime Alley, which Batman fans know is the place where Bruce’s parents were murdered. In what is perhaps the best character interaction of the entire series, Bruce informs Jason he’s no longer allowed to be Robin, believing it’s doing more harm to him than good.

Given how many people Bruce has lost to Gotham, it’s plain as day that he’s doing this out of love and not wanting to see his adoptive son get hurt. But for Jason, he thinks this is a betrayal, believing Leslie told Bruce everything he discussed with her in confidence. And, naturally, Jason also sees this as proof of Bruce’s “favoritism” towards Dick and he thinks he’s “too weak.” Even though Bruce insists that Jason “doesn’t have to be Robin in order to be his son,” it’s too late. By trying to help Jason, Bruce has already failed him.

Under the Red Hood

Thus we now come to how Jason transformed into the Red Hood, which is also the weakest portion of the episode. Not because of the performances, but for the pacing of the script and the total 180 Jason undergoes. And it all starts the moment Jason calls Leslie out for her “betrayal” and heads off to see Crane in Arkham Asylum.

Having stolen the sample of the fear toxin from the Batcave, Jason asks Crane whether it can be reversed-engineered to remove fear instead of causing it. Crane offers him a deal: he’ll provide Jason with the formula in exchange for all of Batman’s secrets. Jason agrees, and thus we see how he created his special inhaler. We then learn that Jason going after the Joker in “Barbara Gordon” wasn’t just him trying to prove himself to Bruce, it was a trial run for his anti-fear gas.

As for how Jason came back from the dead? Turns out Crane discovered one of Ra’s al Ghul’s Lazarus Pits which Bruce somehow didn’t account for. The resurrected Jason is taken back to a hidden room in Arkham, and as Crane rocks out to Iron Butterfly’s “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida,” Jason becomes the Red Hood. What’s the first thing Jason does as Hood? He gets some revenge on the same Joker goon who beat him earlier, ultimately shooting him in the face.

But “Lazarus” ends hinting that Jason hasn’t become full-blown evil just yet. Turns out he found Diego and returns him back to Molly. “The city owes us a lot,” he tells her before walking away. “And I’m going to collect the bill.” Needless to say, Molly is more frightened for what her friend has become.

Despite the rushed plot development over Jason’s sudden heel turn, “Lazarus” makes up for it with some strong performances. Considering how this episode demands a lot of heavy lifting by Walters, he more than lives up to it, giving us a realistic portrayal of a young man suffering post-traumatic stress, desperate for the love of his surrogate father, and yet always assuming the worst. For the first twenty-five minutes anyway. Even so, “Lazarus” is not only the best episode of the season, it’s a strong contender for the best episode of the entire series.

What did you think of Titans season 3, episode 5? Let us hear your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!