“We kick the butt.”
Here’s a nice lesson for all the television executives out there who are quick to cancel shows after only a few weeks. If Teen Titans had never made it past its first season, it would only have been remembered as “that one time they made a comedy anime version of some DC Comics heroes.” Instead, over the course of five seasons, the show steadily improved. It kept the kinetic action and the in-your-face comedy, but as the show’s creators became more confident and more used to this world they established, they started telling smart, emotional and exciting stories within the context of Teen Titans. In this fifth and final season, Teen Titans went out on a high note, with an expanding cast, some truly sinister villains, and a deeper look at just who these characters are.
Facts of the Case
Teen Titans roll call:
• Robin (Scott Menville, Mission Hill), martial artist and master strategist
• Cyborg (Khary Payton, God of War II), half-human half-machine powerhouse
• Starfire (Hynden Walch, Drillbit Taylor), perky alien princess
• Beast Boy (Greg Cipes, Club Dread), wisecracking changeling
• Raven (Tara Strong, Ben 10), dark and gloomy magic user
This year, the Brotherhood of Evil, led by the Brain (Glenn Shadix, Beetlejuice), takes an interest in the teen heroes, enacting a season-long plot to finish them off one by one.
The first episode on this two-disc set starts out with some villains up to no good and a group of superheroes arriving to stop them. Just imagine this comic book fan’s surprise to see that these heroes weren’t the titular Teen Titans. Nope, it was none other than the Doom Patrol saving the day. That’s right—the freakin’ Doom Patrol, baby! Not only does this season introduce DC’s quirkiest heroes into the Titans’ world, but the Doom Patrol’s chief villains come along for the ride as well. The Brotherhood of Evil—featuring the Dalek-like Brain, Russian fighting expert Madame Rouge, and genius gorilla Monsieur Mallah—prove to be formidable adversaries. The Brain forms a plot to destroy the Titans for no other reason than the perverse joy of seeing them broken down and torn apart.
To combat the Brotherhood, the Titans spend most of this season traveling around the world, recruiting other teen heroes into their ranks. Just like the Doom Patrol’s big appearance, the addition of other Titans features dozens of characters and references from the various Titan lineups from over the years. This season introduces Kid Flash, Red Star, Jericho, Wildebeest, Hotspot, Herald, Kole, Gnarrk, Argent, Pantha, Bushido, Thunder, Lightning, and even a few new characters. The Titans East from the third season are back as well. Impressively, the show’s creators make the jump from five core characters to about 30 without confusing viewers. Even if a new character doesn’t get a lot of screen time, there’s still enough to get a sense what his or her personality is like and what powers he or she has.
This season also contains the long-awaited origin story, looking back on how the five original Titans first met and became a team. At first I thought, “So why wasn’t this the first episode way back when?” As I continued watching, however, it dawned on me that a lot of the interaction between the characters on their first meeting was reliant on what we the viewers already know about them. The point of the episode isn’t “this is how they met.” Instead, it’s, “Look at how far they’ve come.”
Then there’s the ambiguous final episode, which is a throwback to the popular Terra arc from the second season. This one leaves a lot of questions hanging in the air, with no resolution. Was this a set up for a sixth season or a direct-to-DVD feature that never got made? We may never know. (Note that the currently-in-production Teen Titans: The Judas Contract direct-to-DVD feature is not a continuation of this series, but a new reinvention of the Titans based on the work of Marv Wolfman and George Perez.)
One episode this season has to do with the Titans in a race against a thief, with the winner claiming a briefcase full of secret information about Robin. This plot really should have been thought out a little bit more. Where did this guy get this briefcase? Why don’t the super-powered Titans just take it from him? More troubling, though, is that this is the one episode in the season that doesn’t contribute to the overall arc about the Brotherhood and all the new Titans. Then, like the finale, it ends on an ambiguous note. Was this, too, setting us up for a future story that never got made? Or was this episode a leftover from a previous season? Either way, it’s the one that just doesn’t feel like it belongs.
All 13 episodes of the fifth season are on this set, and the picture quality continues to be eyeball-poppingly gorgeous, with stunning colors and smooth, fluid animation. The stereo sound is good as well, showing off the many laser beams and explosions throughout. The “Friends and Foes” featurette gallery is the best look we’ve had to date about the behind the scenes work that goes into the show, as various writers, directors, and animators discuss the many new characters introduced this season, and the challenges of adapting these long-running characters onto the screen.
When Teen Titans debuted, it was a confusing, schizophrenic show, bouncing back and forth between action and comedy, not sure what type of series it wanted to be. Over time, though, it found its “voice,” concluding with this flat-out excellent final season.