Back in 2003, Teen Titans debuted. It was a fun animated show featuring Batman’s sidekick Robin, as well as other teen superheroes Starfire, Raven, Beast Boy, and Cyborg. I recently rewatched it and it’s still a lot of fun, although season five dragged for me. They spent so much time introducing new characters you didn’t really get a chance to know any of them. It was also disappointing that they never revealed who Slade really was or what his big plan was.
To me, it felt like season 1 focused on Robin and his nemesis Slade, season 2 focused on new titan Terra, season 3 focused on Cyborg and his nemesis Brother Blood, season 4 was about Raven versus her father Trigon, and season 5 was about Beast Boy versus the Brotherhood of Evil. (While we did meet Starfire’s nemesis Blackfire, we never got a multi-part season finale focusing on their conflict.)
Anyhow, Teen Titans, which seemed to be aimed at a tween audience, was followed up by Teen Titans Go! (for young children) and Young Justice (for teens). It wasn’t until 2018 that we got Titans, a show featuring the same characters, but this time it’s live action rather than animation and it’s intended for an adult audience.
I’ve just finished season 3 of Titans and it’s a bit ridiculous. I’ll give a few light spoilers below because I can’t really talk about the show without mentioning some of the things that happen, but I’ll try to remain vague. In the opening scene of the first episode, Robin wants to beat up a guy for abusing his kid. Does he wait for the guy to be alone to confront him? Of course not. The moment he picks for the confrontation is during a meeting between two gangs. This way we can show off how awesome Robin is, somehow taking out a dozen armed men with just his martial arts skills.
When we first meet Starfire, she’s in Germany and she has amnesia. They never give an explanation for why she was in Germany or why she has amnesia, she just does. She kills a guy she finds tied up in her room without knowing whether he’s a good guy or not. Later, she picks a fight with guys in a restaurant just to show off what a good fighter she is. There’s a lot of moments like this in which members of the Titans beat up or kill people who may or may not be bad just to show off their skills. It’s not a show you should think too much about.
Raven’s mom tells her that her dad is evil one moment, then asks her to summon him the next and Raven thinks this sounds like a good idea. Characters are often inconsistent like this. When it’s revealed that Raven’s mom has been working for her dad all along, previous episodes suddenly don’t make sense. Why didn’t Raven’s mom raise Raven to be on her dad’s side? Why did the group that wanted to summon her dad lock her mom up for all those years if she was always on their side? Again, it’s best not to think too much about it.
There’s an episode that introduces the Doom Patrol (I loved season 1 of Doom Patrol, season 2 was more depressing and less fun). In the episode, Robotman tells Beast Boy he should go with the Titans who he’s just barely met. There’s no reason for Beast Boy to team up with these strangers. It’s a pretty awkward way to get him onto the team. It’s disappointing that Beast Boy hardly transforms into anything other than a tiger. (By the way, why has Doom Patrol never mentioned Beast Boy even in passing? Also, why is Cyborg on Doom Patrol instead of Titans? I’m glad he’s on the more character-driven show rather than the muddled Titans, but it doesn’t really make sense.)
Hawk and Dove target sex offenders since Hawk was a victim of an abuser when he was younger. I like this as a superhero origin story, however, it’s a bit reminiscent of Stephen Marshall, a real-life vigilante who used sex offender registries as hit lists and murdered a couple people. The show encouraging vigilante behavior like this is not a good look.
Much like the 5th season of Teen Titans, Titans seems to introduce a new character nearly every episode, leading to a bloated cast of characters you don’t get to learn much about. They keep secrets from each other for no reason other than to build dramatic tension. Pretty much anytime someone dies, they come back from the dead, so there’s no consequences to worry about.
For some reason, the people without superpowers are more formidable than those who do have powers. Robin is the best fighter on the team and their most feared villain is Deathstroke, a sniper lacking depth perception. It takes all the Titans working together to defeat Dr. Light the first time. However, Jason Todd, the second Robin, is able to beat up Dr. Light on his own. Twice. Because apparently not having powers makes you a better fighter than having powers.
The Titans thought that Deathstroke died five years ago, but when we get the flashback to the events, there’s absolutely no reason for them to have thought that. Deathstroke’s daughter Rose has superhealing, except it apparently doesn’t apply to her eye. The Titans live in a world full of superheroes, but it never occurs to them to ask for help from Superman, Wonder Woman, etc. Batman is the only one they turn to for help. It never even occurs to Beast Boy to ask the Doom Patrol for help at any point. The second he leaves them, they disappear from his backstory. Just sloppy writing.
Overall, the Titans seem to hurt as many people as they help. All of them seem to be struggling with inner demons and you get the impression they could just as easily become villains as heroes. In fact, the toughest enemies they fight are usually brain-washed members of their own team. So, in the end, the Titans do as much harm as good. You get the impression the world would be just as well-off without them there.
The overall moral of the story seems to be might makes right. Whoever is stronger is the good guy. For some reason, a person who’s really good at martial arts is better at fighting crime than police or social programs. I used to like shows like these, but now, anytime I see a “realistic” take on superheroes I can’t help thinking that realistically, vigilantes like Stephen Marshall make the world a worse place.. Statistics show crime goes up whenever a city is harder on criminals and crime goes down when you treat criminals like people who need help. The Batman method for reducing crime by beating people up is a fantasy that’s long past its prime.
That said, I did watch all three seasons of this. It can be really entertaining if you don’t think too much about it. Also, it’s undeniable that Krypto is awesome!