Titans season 3’s latest offering might feel a touch familiar for fans of Breaking Bad – and that seems to be the show’s intention. Jason Todd’s transformation into Red Hood serves as the anchor of Titans season 3, with every other storyline orbiting this violent new villain. But after bringing Gotham City’s criminals to heel and beginning his reign of terror, Red Hood was revealed as an acolyte of another major DC villain. From his Arkham Asylum cell, Scarecrow has been prodding and prying Jason’s emotions, exposing those barely-hidden daddy issues. Throw a well-timed resurrection and chemical dependence into the pot, and Scarecrow found the perfect recipe to brew himself a formidable and obedient henchman.
All while Jonathan Crane was getting stoned behind bars, Jason felt their partnership was an equal one. Now Scarecrow is back out on the streets (or, indeed, fields) of Gotham City, the more experienced, intelligent criminal has seized power, establishing dominance over a typically out-of-his-depth Jason Todd. The more Scarecrow and Red Hood’s dynamic develops, however, the more they begin to resemble Walter White and Jesse Pinkman from Breaking Bad.
Bryan Cranston’s Walt is a frustrated chemistry genius who stumbles across the methamphetamine trade as a way of achieving greatness. He partners with the younger, more hotheaded Jesse Pinkman, who has more experience on the streets but nowhere near the same level of skill cooking meth. Titans‘ Scarecrow and Red Hood adopt exactly the same roles. Crane is the misunderstood genius scientist whose talents went unappreciated in academic circles, so turned to criminality as a means of fulfillment. He recruits a younger protégé who learns to cook drugs, but not with the same degree of skill, leaving Red Hood to handle Crane’s grunt work instead.
In Breaking Bad, Walt & Jesse began as equal partners, but after the former’s ego started growing exponentially, Pinkman got pushed to the sidelines. Faced with Walt’s sense of self-importance, Jesse felt a need to prove himself, and Aaron Paul’s character took increasingly dangerous risks to do so. Eventually, Walt deemed Jesse surplus to requirements and cut him from the operation altogether. Again, Titans season 3’s Scarecrow and Red Hood follow a similar pattern. Crane was happy to have an equal partner initially (while it suited him), but freed from Arkham and in full control of his
blue meth fear gas production, Scarecrow is becoming increasingly dismissive of Jason, who responds by rebelling against his partner. At this point, Curran Walters must be fighting the urge to shout “science, bitch!”
Jason Todd’s desperate search for a father figure is another element of his Titans season 3 story inspired by Breaking Bad. Jesse Pinkman is estranged from his parents when Breaking Bad begins, finding validation and guidance in Walter White, who genuinely begins to view his partner as a son. When their relationship breaks down, Jesse is drawn to Mike Ehrmantraut as a replacement. Titans‘ Jason Todd exhibits exactly the same personality trait. His biological family ties broke down (albeit for different reasons), and Bruce Wayne emerged as a paternal role model Jason could look up to. Let down by Batman, Scarecrow is now filling that fatherly void.
The similarity between Titans season 3 and Breaking Bad isn’t lost on the HBO Max superhero series. In episode 5, Crane mocked Jason with the line, “take that chemistry set, get yourself an RV, and you can have your very own television show.” But since Titans evidently knows how close it’s skating to Breaking Bad territory, could Walt and Jesse offer clues as to how Scarecrow and Red Hood’s alliance will end? After several seasons of practice, Jesse eventually learned to cook meth as pure as Walt’s. Titans has already shown Jason brewing up his own fear antidote – how long until he masters the craft, holds a gun to Scarecrow’s head, and takes his partner for a long drive in the desert?