November 3, 2022

“Titans” Assemble...Again (Review)

At around the three-season mark, a television series begins to settle into a certain groove. Though it had a rocky start, Titans (which began on the now-defunct service DC Universe, before moving over to HBO Max) found its footing very soon afterward, and has continued in a consistently engaging vein ever since.

In superhero stories, it’s convenient how a new, major threat only makes itself apparent once after the conclusion of another, so the titular superhero (or team) only has one major villain on which to focus their attention at a time. Soon after the wrap-up of the Red Hood/Scarecrow debacle of the previous season, the Titans are able to relax, finally getting a chance to be a real family. Unfortunately, nothing good lasts forever, and it’s not long before they’re pulled into a brand-new conspiracy involving a very Rasputin-looking Lex Luthor (played by Titus Welliver of
Lost and Bosch), who seeks to connect with his cloned pseudo-son Superboy (Joshua Orpin). The Titans leave for Metropolis, unwittingly heading towards a life-threatening menace that could tear the team apart.

Ominous? Absolutely. Necessary? Also yes. The first episode of Season Four largely stands alone, bridging the gap between the years, before getting into the real meat of this new threat. To stray too far past the premiere would risk exposing the true nature of who they’re facing and how it all ties together, which is too good of a reveal to let slip this early on.

“I don’t care about all of these new characters!” says a nameless side character in the season premiere, watching a television series of their own. “Just give me the main cast!” This serves as a meta shout-out to the fact that, in typical
Titans fashion, the return of our favorites is also accompanied by the introduction of a host of new factors. The most notable this season is Joseph Morgan (The Vampire Diaries) as Sebastian Blood, a fumbling hopeful who’s confident he will change the world. No one is willing to give him a chance, and to make things worse, he’s been having disturbing visions of blood in otherwise everyday circumstances. I don’t find it realistic that he would miss the obvious parallels with his surname, but hey, it’s a superhero story. Not everything has to add up.

I wouldn’t necessarily call Titans Season Four an improvement, but the series is continuing on the flatline trajectory it’s worked hard to maintain since its messy first season. The fight choreography remains incredible and there’s an interesting mystery at the core, but the reliance on brutality and intentionally shocking reminders (undoubtedly to remind audiences that this is a mature-rated series) is wearing a bit thin. How long the series can maintain this pattern remains to be seen, but for now Titans is still one of the best superhero shows out there; unfortunately, these days, that bar is getting progressively lower.

New episodes of Titans premiere Thursdays on HBO Max. Five episodes of Season Four were screened for this review.

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