Since the only thing Titans likes more than making us wait a long time for something we know is coming (I write as I take down my “Countdown to Conner” clock and replace it with “Countdown to Nightwing”) is cutting away from a cliffhanger ending, it takes this episode a while before it shows us what became of Jason Todd after his perilous fall last week. First, we go back to Cadmus and see what becomes of Superboy after his escape. As we saw at the end of last season, the Kryptonian clone was able to kill everyone keeping him hostage at Cadmus and escape with his super-dog Krypto intact. Now we see what comes next.
Grabbing clothes off a security guard to clothe himself, Conner just walks away into the city with Krypto by his side. A T-shirt vendor gets mad when he tries to take the classic black T-shirt with S-shield without paying for it, but some things are just destiny. Needless to say, it’s bedlam at Cadmus when everyone wakes up and realizes what’s happened. Eve Watson, the doctor who helped create Conner, shows up hungover in a party dress for no reason other than it indicates the suddenness of Conner’s escape. As Eve explains to her Cadmus boss and Lex Luthor’s right-hand woman Mercy Graves, Conner is walking into the world as a blank slate. The epigenetic memories of the two people whose DNA created him (Superman and Lex Luthor) could start popping into his head, but he’ll also be affected by whatever people and things he sees for himself.
So far, the Luthor memories seem much more dominant, which makes sense since the extent of Superman’s presence in this world is still extremely unclear — Superboy’s existence is the very first indication we’ve gotten of it. Haunted by memories of Luthor being beaten by his abusive father, Conner heads for the farm where the world’s smartest man grew up and encounters that very dad. Smallville’s Lionel Luthor this is not; Conner finds the Luthor father frail, aging, and alone in a Kansas farmhouse — likely not that far from where Clark Kent himself was raised. Luthor Dad tells Conner that the reason he beat Lex wasn’t because he was an abusive drunk (which he clearly was, based on the flashbacks) but because he was trying to beat the evil. A problematic argument to be sure, but it doesn’t get very far before Cadmus troops show up.
This is a pretty fun fight! At the very least, it demonstrates that the Titans team is capable of adapting each of Superboy’s powers. We see his superspeed, superstrength, bulletproof skin, heat vision, X-Ray vision, and best of all, his super-breath — when the troops throw tear gas at him, he simply inhales it and blows it all right back at them. Even Krypto gets a chance to show off — first by melting a soldier’s gun with his own heat vision, and then by catching a missile in his mouth and hurling it right back at the soldier who fired it. Will Krypto become the Titans MVP by the end of this season? Honestly, don’t count it out.
After the soldiers are gone, Superboy is able to have a much more reasonable conversation with Eve. She explains who and what he is, and to further illustrate the point, takes him to the original Cadmus lab where he was born. The episode drags a little bit during this long exposition scene, but it’s kind of funny when Eve attempts to list real-world precedents for secretive science experiments: Tuskegee, MKUltra, and “the Nazis.” Although I love the ever-growing presence of Tuskegee and MKUltra in our cultural consciousness (look them up if you haven’t!), I’m not sure the comparisons are quite apt in this case since these scientific innovations don’t seem to have involved experimenting on people against their will.
Eve leaves Superboy with some heavy advice: Don’t use your powers, don’t draw attention to yourself, don’t be a hero. It doesn’t last long, however. How could it? This kid may have Luthor’s memories, but he’s definitely got Superman’s instincts. He can drag Krypto away from one mugging, but when he then sees a man dangling from a nearby skyscraper window, he can’t help himself. After a few giant leaps (remember, Superman could “leap tall buildings in a single bound” before he could fly), Superboy manages to save Jason Todd from falling to certain doom — just as I predicted in last week’s recap!
Unfortunately for him, Titans really loves its cliffhangers. Seconds after saving Robin, Superboy catches a few Kryptonite bullets courtesy of Mercy Graves. Dick, Jason, and Kory just met this guy, and now he’s bleeding out in their arms. Somehow, I think he’ll survive.