Titans: Season 4, Part 2
It's funny. We were just lamenting The End of the Arrowverse, and now we have to say goodbye to another DC ComicsOne of the two biggest comic publishing companies in the world (and, depending on what big events are going on, the number one company), DC Comics is the home of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and just about every big superhero introduced in the 1930s and 1940s. grand experiment: one of the last surviving shows from the DC Universe streaming app. That app died over two years ago when it was consumed by HBO Max (also a streamer that just died to make way for Max), and with Titans now, and Doom Patrol soon, leaving the air, just about every bit of the old TV cinematic universe DC was able to create will be gone. That's a bit sad.
Not that I'm sad that Titans is leaving the air, mind you. In fact, I'd argue that most of the ArrowverseWhen it was announced that the CW was creating a show based on the Green Arrow, people laughed. The CW? Really? Was it going to be teen-oriented like everything else on the network and be called "Arrow High"? And yet that one show, Arrow has spawned three spin-offs, various related shows and given DC a successful shared universe, the Arrowverse on TV and streaming. probably should have been ushered off the air long before it was (we'll get to you, Flash, soon enough). This Teen TitansStarted in The Brave and the Bold back in 1964, the Teen Titans were a supergroup formed of the younger sidekicks of the more famous heroes in the DC Comics line. Over the years the team has been reformed, rebooted, and relaunched, but always with that basic premise in place. reinvention was a mess when it debuted and if very rarely ever managed to grow or evolve to meet its ambitions. It's a sloppy, poorly designed show that just, well, sucked. It's always sucked. Let's be honest.
Frankly it's impressive that this show somehow managed to make its way to four seasons. That's over 49 episodes, quite a feat in this streaming era when any show that doesn't get massive, instant engagement is euthanized two episodes into its run. Titans was a garbage show from the moment it debuted (everyone remember, "Fuck Batman"?), and yet it went on to garner four full seasons, outlasting the streaming network that launched it. It beat out Swamp Thing and Stargirl and, I guess, went out on its own terms. That's something.
In fairness to Titans, the show has tried to evolve over time (it hasn't succeeded but it has tried). It went from a grim-dark reinvention of the Teen Titans (which, at that point, was, and still is, best know for the happy, poppy Teen Titans Go!) to something more like a bright and colorful found-family superhero show. You can tell that the original mandate was to, "be dark," only for the producers to go, "whoa, whoa, no one likes dark." Except, then the show careened back and forth between bright and happy and dark and broody, sometimes on a dime. The show could never find its footing during its entire run.
This fourth season is probably the best set of episodes the show has yet produced, even if that's not saying a lot. Given a full 13 episodes to carry out its run (the first half of which we reviewed a few months back), the show tries to swing for the fences to give it a big finale. Trigon, the big bad who was promised in the first season and then messily dealt with in the first episode of the second season, would be back to give the series some nice roundness and closure. Live would be put in peril, universes would be brought to the brink of destruction. The show would find that big, climactic finale it always needed.
If you've watched Titans all this time, it shouldn't surprise you that none of that actually happens. Trigon is, once again, barely a blip for the series (despite being built up, once again, as the big bad). Instead, Brother Blood takes over and, somehow, steals Trigon's power. Then, for some reason, he decides that he has to go and destroy both Tamaran and Earth (despite, you know, being on Earth at the time) via an inter-dimensional wormhole. Oh, and this all ties into a prophecy that would lead to Kori's death. It's... a lot, and a giant mess, and it doesn't really work. At all.
When the show does work it's through little moments. The times when the characters just get to hang out and be people. The finale of the series has a great scene with the characters all hanging out together over one last dinner, talking about where they'll go next (in adventures we won't, thankfully, see). It's a good moment; not well earned because the show was a mess up to this point, but a good moment all the same. Instances like this showed the promise of the show even if the series itself could never deliver.
And then there are the lingering plot lines that didn't ever get mentioned again here. What happened to Wonder Girl after she came back from the dead? She went back to Themyscira and then was never heard from again. Jason Todd shows up, working on a big case that seems to promise even grander mysteries... and then that's just dropped and never explored. Hell, Barbara Gordon is mentioned, doing her thing as Oracle, and she's otherwise never seen this season after being a big part of the last one. The show loved bringing up people, making them a core of the show, and then just ignoring them right when they finally felt like they belonged.
Other times, the show took narrative diversions that just really didn't work at all. I know part of the Internet absolutely exploded when Beast Boy finally got to enter "The Red" (the dimension in DC Comics where all animal powers come from), but the whole episode was just a unfocused disaster, introducing characters and powers that, once again, never show up for the rest of the run. And then somehow this leads Gar back to a version of the Doom Patrol manor, that isn't the manor, with versions of Cyborg (who he's never met before), Robotman, and Negative Man all there. I get they wanted the cameo for these characters who technically launched from this series before entering a different show that existed in a parallel universe, but the inclusion here was ham-fisted at best (especially since, like a broken record, they didn't do anything and then were forgotten after).
Forgive me if it feels like I'm beating a dead horse here, but Titans has been a well beaten, very dead horse for a while. Now that it's over I can go back and look at it, as a whole, and see just how it failed to truly become... well... anything. It just wasn't a show that was worth watching. I found myself, season to season, dreading getting into it because I knew, deep down, it was just going to flounder around and fail again. As a reviewer I do give every show the benefit of the doubt. I try to go in and see what was positive and enjoy what I can. Titans just made it hard to like the series.
But, if I did have to single out anything that did work, it would be the cast. I almost liked all of them, from Anna Diop's Starfire to Teagan Croft's Raven, Ryan Potter's Beast Boy, Jay Lycurgo's Tim Drake, and Joshua Orpin's Superboy. The weak link in the cast was Brenton Thwaites as Dick Grayson as it felt like he never really grew into all the dimensions that the role called on him. He was too flat, too green, and not really dark or charismatic enough to sell all that Nightwing required. I'm not saying a better actor in the Dick Grayson role would have made the show any better... but it wouldn't have hurt.
Still, deep down, the flaw with the show was the show itself. It had bad writing leading to bad storylines and then terrible greater arcs. Any time the show settled down for an episode or two to do something, it then had to leap up like a hyperactive child and run around in five directions stacking all kinds of meaningless crap on top before everything crumbled to nothing. This is a show that never understood just what it needed to do or what it had to be, and in the end the fact that it's ended is probably a good thing. At least this way some money can be funneled to other superhero projects that might just succeed where this failed.
We can pour one out for the Titans as I know it had fans and, well, it did at least try. but I'm not sad its gone, and you shouldn't be, either. It had its time and now we can close the door on one more part of the old DC Universe before the next DC Universe takes over.