Aqualad is an interesting episode as far as Titans goes. On the one hand we get our first real look at how the team used to function; on the other it doesn’t seem all that necessary. The most interesting part of Aqualad is the man himself, but that doesn’t go as deep as it should.
Strangely the problem with the episode isn’t that it’s a bottle episode or that it’s a detour from the main story. It’s that it really doesn’t own its roots like the rest of the series has up until now. With the Titans in their prime there should be a ton of crime fighting and in full costume. Instead there are only occasional fights here and there and most of the time the crew never suits up. It’s as if a bunch of superheroes, half of which are from Atlantis and Themyscira were ashamed of their cultural heritage.
The other side of this coin is that, while not in costume, the crew tends to act like a bunch of drunk bros and sorority sisters. Both Garth (Aqualad, played by Drew Van Ecker) and Hank (Hawk, Alan Ritchson) come off as jocks with chips on their shoulders. Granted it seems like the purpose of the team is to focus on bigger picture fights and only really suit up when the Big Bad shows up but there are at least two occasions in the episode where innocents get killed because they weren’t there to do their job. Instead we get a lot of CW-style romance and he said/she said drama that bogs down the plot.
Now progress is made but for some reason the story focuses far more on Aqualad and the team drama than developing Deathstroke, who the audience still knows very little about. Restructuring the episode to accomplish the same thing but spend real time with the villain would have made a lot more sense and added a sense of satisfaction to the conclusion of the episode. Without giving too much away the episode hints that it will continue following Dick and the rest of the Titans through this chapter of their lives. But that’s not the point of the series or this storyline. Departures are fine but they should fine their conclusions in the present, not the past.
Despite a spectacular season one it’s safe to say that season two is having trouble finding its voice. It seemed like it nailed it by episode two of this season but it keeps getting in its own way. The showrunners need to have confidence in their storytelling and trust the audience, it will go a long way.