Starring: Brenton Thwaites, Anna Diop, Ryan Potter, Joshua Orpin, Teagan Croft, Jay Lycurgo.
The Titans are on the trail of Lex Luthor's murderer, a case that brings them back to familiar ground while facing some surprisingly familiar enemies. HBO Max's Titans continues its season four winning streak of great episodes by moving past the previous seasons' obsession with dark drama, and replacing it with a team-driven dynamic that finally allows for more realistic character relationships. Simply put, the series finally seems like it can breathe as it sheds its "F&%$ Batman" persona for one more akin to the Titans we know and love. Episodes 3 and 4 of this season, "Jinx" and "Super Super Mart", respectively, continue this exciting trend with stellar action, occasional decapitations, and one jaw-dropping character return.
After a less-than-stellar first meeting with Mother Mayhem — who receives a revelatory origin in these episodes — leaves Raven powerless and Superboy rather embarrassed, the Titans are forced to find seek help against their magical foes. Enter Jinx, an "old friend" of Dick's whose magic could be just what our derring-doers need. Just as wily and mischievous as her Teen Titans (animated series) counterpart Jinx offers a delightful levity that masks her overt need to kill things, something her and Dick find some contention over. Her entrance provides an interesting side quest in episode 3 where, no spoilers, we get to see a true-to-form Nightwing fight that radiates comic book energy. Acrobatics and butt-kicking intermingle in a dazzling, if only momentary, display that tells me this show is starting to pay attention to what we as fans are looking for. Though this nefariously magical foray is short-lived it goes a long way towards building a broader universe around the Titans.
An important change made this season is that our team, for the most part, adheres to the wizened adage learned from Scooby-Doo and the gang: never split up. Past seasons attempted to define the Titans by splitting them up and building their characters individually in the hopes that throwing everyone back together at the end would yield the desired chemistry. Incorrect. Now we see a team, a group whose past is riddled with various shades of trauma but manage to overcome together. We see the best bits of this within episodes 3 & 4. While the beginning of season 4 opts to consolidate the tragic mess left by seasons past, "Jinx" and "Super Super Mart" moves forward with stronger bonds between characters. These bonds will come in handy as they discover who exactly their up against with Mother Mayhem, as well as how dastardly her schemes really are.
Speaking of characters, some real effort is put in to build on missed opportunities of the past. Beast Boy/Gar is finally getting time in the spotlight with his abilities. The previous — and ominous — destruction of a S.T.A.R. Labs testing room hinted at more dynamic self-discoveries and adventures with our favorite anthropomorphic hero. Superboy also finds new depths as the death of one father and the seeming perfection of the other casts a dour tint to Conner's self-image. Meeting a magic-user doesn't help (if you know, you know). The real shame however, is the underutilization of Tim Drake who so desperately wishes to be a superhero. Granted, if he just randomly displayed martial arts abilities and was able to keep up with Nightwing then I may very well be writing about how upset I am about that; patience may be the key here.
Overall, season 4 of Titans keeps the momentum of its stellar first episodes, adding depth of character and dynamic plot work. The added bonus of knowing Brother Blood is incoming — that poor Sebastian — leaves me tantalized at the future and in wonder at just how much I can be surprised by show turning itself around. If you're not doing so already, watch this show. Watch it now, because if ever there was a right time, it's now.
Now, shamefully I'm not as up on my Teen Titans comics; my love sprung from and is fostered by the animated series, but I do still have a few tricks up my sleeve (just one) in terms of READING RECOMMENDATIONS. If the machinations of Brother Blood and Raven are of interest in the greater umbrella of the Teen Titans then look no further than The New Teen Titans Vol. 11. Marv Wolfman delivers an eerie, though not as visceral, approach to blood-based villainy.
Austin Kemp read Batman #315 (Batman vs Kite Man) when he was 5 years old, and hasn't stopped reading comics since. Austin is a college writing teacher and has a masters degree in Comics Studies. Austin and his partner, Savanah, live in Massachusetts with their master, a cat named Chaplin.