I'm thirsting hard for Robin and it's all Titans' fault.
As the first original series to launch on DC Universe, the new DC streaming service, Titans is getting a lot of attention. And despite the pressure, Titans absolutely kills it by breaking all the rules previously set by other DC shows. It's not just one genre—the show seamlessly combines gritty crime noir with intelligent sci-fi and whimsical romance and compelling mystery and hardcore action. It's hyper-stylized without sacrificing substance—the direction, CGI, moody music and muted colors don't distract or take anything away from the writing. And while it's *extremely* dark and violent, that doesn't mean it's grim for grim's sake. It's actually kind of hilarious in some moments, with organic humor and emotional character beats balancing out the intense blood and gore in others.
But after watching only one episode of Titans, I'm not thinking about any of that. All I can focus on is my intense crush on Dick Grayson (Brenton Thwaites). This is…surprising, even to me. I'll be the first to admit that I've never gravitated towards Batman stories in the same way as other DC characters, let alone Robin. I've always seen Robin as Batman's idealistic, innocent sidekick and left it at that. To be fair, I'm not well-versed in the Batman comic books and I only just learned about Nightwing's origins, but personally I've never really been all that interested in Robin.
Before I watched the Titans series premiere, I actually predicted that I was going to be raving over Starfire (Anna Diop) and her badass powers and IDGAF attitude (plus, that hair!) more than anything else. Channeling early Smallville vibes, back when Clark Kent was discovering each new power as it appeared for the first time, the amnesiac Starfire eschews that former #DCTV character's fear or caution as she realizes the extent of her destructive powers in favor of absolutely rocking it and enjoying every delicious moment (even when it comes to—gasp!—killing people).
But now Robin is my ultimate comic book crush and it's all thanks to Titans. And dear reader, the reasons why I'm all of a sudden thirsting so hard for Dick Grayson are…unusual and slightly concerning. Sure, series star Thwaites is most definitely hot and worthy of said thirst (thanks for that shirtless scene in the series premiere, Titans!). But it's so much more than that.
This R-rated version of Teen Titans follows the core group of heroes before they meet. At the center of everything is Dick Grayson, harnessing a barely-restrained rage at the world around him for taking his parents too soon, which comes out in explosive, precise episodes when he's suited up as Robin. But he's estranged from Batman at the start of the series, having transferred from Gotham to Detroit where he's working as a police detective by day and donning his Robin costume solo to bring some brutal vigilante justice to the streets at night. This isn't some teen sidekick joyfully fighting for what's right—he's an adult with an ax to grind against the cruel world that shaped him into the weapon he is now.
Easily the best part of the Titans premiere (at least, for me), Thwaites' pre-Nightwing Robin pushes the boundary of what fans expect to see from an antihero in marvelous fashion, to the point where you'll sometimes wonder if, despite all the good he does, is he…actually kind of a psychopath? And yet that only makes me thirstier for him! I know, I know, this is not healthy behavior to be lauding. But I refuse to feel guilty about my new pop culture boyfriend because, in the end, he is working for the side of good over evil. His methods are just…extremely, undeniably problematic.
This is definitely not a family show, as Dick's violent tendencies are more hardcore than anything I've ever seen on TV. You thought Marvel's Netflix series went hard? Titans is like, "Hold my blood-soaked batarang."
Watching Robin unleash his bottled-up frustrations on criminals is like watching a car crash—you know you shouldn't ogle at the carnage, but you just can't tear your eyes away. He doesn't just put criminals down; he completely eviscerates them with a kind of bloodlust usually reserved for absolute monsters. In one fight, he wins easily against a whole gang of criminals, and yet he doesn't stop there. He slowly scrapes one guy's face against a rough brick wall, leaving a thick red trail of blood and gore in his wake with a speed that makes it clear that he's actually enjoying the carnage.
In the same fight, he smashes another guys face along the broken glass of a car window even after he's gotten the information he needs out of him. And in the perfect example of kicking a guy when he's down, Dick curb stomps a guy WAY more times than is necessary.
But here's the thing: Dick is still a hero in spite of crossing all of the lines imaginable. He's fighting to protect kids from those who would harm them. The aforementioned curb-stomping was a warning to the acquitted criminal to stop hurting little girls. He even takes troubled teen Rachel Roth (Teagan Croft) under his metaphorical wing (bird puns will never get old) as she struggles with her inner demons. I mean that literally—an evil demonic force lives inside of her and is constantly either at war with her or protecting her from nefarious cult-like creeps intent on using her for their own purpose.
So while Dick has strayed quite far from the path of his former mentor Batman, and his methods may shock and disturb (and yes, for some like myself, even excite), he's doing it all for the right reasons. He's getting his hands dirty so others don't have to. If he's able to do all this while staunchly pushing others away as a lone wolf vigilante, there's no telling how deep my thirst for Robin will run as Titans continues and the whole team starts to work together. But the promise of what's to come is so thrilling that I'm absolutely ready for whatever is next.
And if anyone wants to join my Robin Thirsting Anonymous support group, you know where to find me.
The premiere episode of Titans is now available for streaming exclusively on DC Universe.