Titans Season 3: How Hank Hall Evolved Into a Character We Cared About - VRGyani News and Media

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Friday, September 24, 2021

Titans Season 3: How Hank Hall Evolved Into a Character We Cared About

[Editor’s Note: This article contains spoilers for Titans Season 3.]Titans season 3 made the bold move to kill off one of the show’s main characters in the first half of the season. And after episode 9, it looks like that character will be staying dead. Hank Hall (Alan Ritchson) was The Red Hood’s (Curran Walters) first major victim in the season, and his death was both unexpected and devastating. The Hank Hall of Season 3 was a very different character than the one introduced in the first season of Titans—and his transformation over the course of three seasons ensured that Hank’s demise was felt as acutely by the audience as it was his teammates.

Hank made his debut in the second episode of the series, "Hawk and Dove." At the time, his character was every generic male character we’d seen before—overbearing, overprotective, and regressive. He was unnecessarily antagonistic, especially towards Dick Grayson (Brenton Thwaites). Hank spent his introductory episode brawling with Dick over Dawn Granger (Minka Kelly), his girlfriend and Dick’s one-time flame. Hank was, in a word, the worst. We were left feeling sorry for Dawn who appeared to be stuck in a bad situation with a man she was somehow beholden to. The physical toll that crime-fighting took on Hank was, at the very least, a unique addition to the superhero canon, but Hank nevertheless seemed destined to be a cliché; the jealous boyfriend who was second-best to the heroic protagonist.

RELATED: Why Jason Todd's Quick Turn as Red Hood Works in 'Titans' Season 3

That changed during Hank’s second spotlight episode. "Hank and Dawn"’ proved the show could add depth to the characters and subvert gendered pop culture tropes. Viewers learned Hank and Dawn's backstory, which easily could have been a tired story about a beast being tamed by a beauty turned into a moving tale about life-long grief and sacrifice. Instead, Hank became a fully-fledged character whose simmering anger and overprotectiveness finally made sense.

In the episode, we met Hank’s half-brother Don (Elliott Knight). The brothers were raised by an ailing single mother, but their academic and sporting prowess meant they were set up for some degree of success. Unfortunately, Hank was a victim of child sexual abuse at the hands of his football coach, an offense he let continue in an effort to stop the same thing from happening to Don. Later, in college, he played through concussions because the team needed him. It took Don putting a stop to it for Hank to channel his anger elsewhere—the brothers became the original incarnation of Hawk and Dove, pledging to end the rampant sexual abuse of minors in their community.

After Don died in a freak accident in front of Hank, Hank didn’t spiral. Instead, he found solace in his friendship with Dawn, who was grieving the death of her mother in the same accident that took Don. We saw a vulnerable side to Hank and, refreshingly, he didn’t chafe against it. Hank opened up to Dawn about the childhood abuse he faced, which motivated Dawn to bring Hank’s coach to justice. The duo took down the coach together, thus taking their first steps toward the fight for justice. Hank went from being a brute to a human being. He was also a male character coping with a still-taboo topic in the real world. The best part was that Dawn never denigrated what happened to Hank. She was the partner that Hank deserved, someone who knew him, understood him and who would watch out for him the way Don had. By the end of the episode, the writers had chipped away at the cliché version of Hank. It became obvious that the character’s bravado and intimidating presence were a guise to protect himself and Dawn from danger.

Since those revelations, Hank’s characterization went from strength to strength. He gave up the superhero life to focus on his mental health and wellness, even helping another addict recover. Though he struggled with addiction, Hank dragged himself out of it with the help of Dawn and the Titans. Although the addiction aspect didn't always make sense—the substance abuse wasn’t needed for an already browbeaten character, nor was it particularly cleverly handled—the writers continued to subvert gender expectations in Hank and Dawn’s relationship; she was out fighting crime at night, while Hank was settling into domestic life.

When Hank was pulled back into the vigilante life, he had an (understandably) antagonistic relationship with Jason Todd, who was irreverent and a general pain in the neck. Yet, the moment Jason was captured by Deathstroke (Esai Morales), Hank found himself sympathizing with the boy’s fear and loneliness, likening it to his own childhood fears of being trapped in the weight room with his coach. Hank put his life on the line to save Jason, and continued to fight alongside the Titans, even though he craved a quiet life. Throughout Season 2, the writing proved that below that macho exterior, Hank had a heart of kindness.

When Hank’s arc culminated in season 3, he was a fully fleshed-out character. He began this new season as a bike cop in San Francisco, a job he loved. But the moment he sensed Dawn running headlong into danger (a.k.a Gotham City), he was by her side. Despite his insistence that the only way to stop Jason Todd was to kill him, Hank still believed in saving the boy, faith that ended up being to his detriment. Hank followed Jason’s instructions, hoping to bring the former Titan home, and instead he ended up with a bomb stuck in his chest. As they say, no good deed goes unpunished.

Hank spent his final hours assuaging his teammates’ and Dawn’s fears, all the while calmly resigning himself to his imminent death. Hank even patched things up with Dick Grayson, his mortal enemy. Male friendship in pop culture can often be toxic, with a dudebro code, but for a short period, Dick and Hank had a friendship worth emulating. In the end, Hank died singing, leaving nary a dry eye among viewers.

I’m glad the Titans writers brought Hank back for one last hurrah. His demise was crushing, but the needs of the plot meant viewers didn’t have time to mourn his loss. In season 3, episode 9, "Souls", Hank returned in the afterlife to guide Donna Troy (Conor Leslie) and Tim Drake (Jay Lyurgo) back to the land of the living. He was the Virgil to the two heroes, acting as a sounding board, advisor, and beacon of hope. Hank really wanted to return to life, mostly to seek vengeance, but also to comfort Dawn. We could feel his desperation through the screen, which made his ending that much more heartbreaking. Though Hank didn’t get to return home, he was reunited with his brother Don, who was back to being Dove and fighting to protect people in the afterlife.

Hank’s arc, which began as a template for toxic masculinity, eventually challenged it at every turn. He was a diamond in the rough—objectively the opposite of Dick Grayson, yet much more complicated. As the writers chipped away at Hank’s stereotypical exterior, they revealed a character who was more likable and realistic. Alan Ritchson also added a great deal of levity to Hank, especially in season 3, which was a much-needed departure from the intense darkness of the storyline. After an ignominious introduction in "Hawk and Dove," Hank evolved into a layered character meant to be loved and missed. His sacrifice in "Souls" was heartbreaking, but to see Hank reunited with his brother Don, and for them to be back to fighting side by side, is the ending we can all agree Hank deserved: happy, pain-free, and saving people with his loved one by his side.

KEEP READING: 7 Shows Like 'Titans' to Watch for More Gritty Superhero Stories



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