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Teen Titans: The Complete Fifth Season

Warner Bros. (2007), Warner Home Video (July 8, 2008), 2 discs, 299 mins plus supplements, 1.33:1 original full frame ratio, Dolby Digital 2.0, Not Rated, Retail: $19.98

Storyboard:

The Teen Titans make themselves a powerful new enemy when they go against the Brotherhood Of Evil, but they also make a bunch of new friends.

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The Sweatbox Review:

With four seasons behind them, the creators of Teen Titans were well aware that the fifth season would be their last. A fifth season of thirteen episodes makes for 65 total, the magic number for syndicated programming. So, just like the folks behind The Batman, they decided to make this the season to bring in all the guest stars they wanted in one big blowout. However, while The Batman might have actually peaked a season earlier, the fifth season of Teen Titans was possibly its strongest, finally finding a more even tone that allowed the season to feel cohesive. And, with only one true loser episode (every season has had at least one episode that made you shout, “What were they thinking?”), the level of excitement and anticipation was able to generally grow with each story.

Disc One
Homecoming is a great start to the season, as it immediately sets into motion the plotline that would encompass most of the season-long arc. The episode’s prologue flashes back to the days when Beast Boy was still a part of the Doom Patrol, a situation that is true to the comics. The Doom Patrol here consists of the classic team of Robotman, size-changing Elasti-Girl, and Negative Man, along with the later addition (but still classic-era) Mento. The only person missing is the team’s original wheelchair-bound leader, The Chief, whose inclusion may have made for too many characters, not to mention inevitable comparisons to the X-Men’s Professor X. (The two teams premiered in comics just three months apart in 1963, both showcasing outcasts led by a man in a wheelchair. For the record, the Doom Patrol appeared first.) Anyhow, the prologue shows what led to Beast Boy leaving the Doom Patrol, and also introduces this seasons’ big bad: The Brotherhood Of Evil. As the episode moves to the present, Beast Boy is summoned to come to the aid of The Doom Patrol, and the Titans travel around the world, only to find Robotman hanging from a tree (again, based on a memorable scene from the comics). Interestingly, The Doom Patrol use their real names as well as their code names, a refreshing change from The Teen Titans, who apparently have no secret identities, just superhero ones.

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In Homecoming, Part 2, The Titans get a history lesson from Mento, who describes the members of The Brotherhood Of Evil. Mento is portrayed as rude and abrupt, and his ego forces him to tell the Titans to leave the Brotherhood to the Doom Patrol. Naturally, the Titans don’t exactly follow orders, leading to a terrific team-up between the two teams, and a new level of understanding between certain characters. And, most importantly, the Brotherhood focuses its sights on the new generation of heroes, leading to a Titans hunt for the rest of the season.

That hunt begins in Trust, as shape-shifter Madame Rouge goes after the Titans’ friend Wildebeest, and The Brotherhood’s leader The Brain (who really is just a brain on a skull-faced pedestal) discusses the hunt with his lieutenant, a speaking gorilla named Monsieur Mallah. With Wildebeest dispatched, Rouge next goes after Hotspot (last seen in the Master Of Games episode), who receives help from Robin. The resolution of this conflict forms a major turning point in the battle between the Titans and the Brotherhood.

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With the Teen Titans scouring the globe looking for the Brotherhood, Titans East (Bumblebee, Speedy, Aqualad, Mas y Menos) is asked to move into Titans Tower and protect the city in For Real. At the same time, Control Freak comes to the Tower to challenge the Titans, but is profoundly disappointed to encounter who he considers to be only wannabe Titans. In order to test their mettle, he subjects them to a series of challenges.

Snowblind takes the Titans to Russia, where they encounter a powerful threat outside a remote village. During their investigation, they meet Red Star (originally “Starfire” in the comics before he was renamed). It becomes apparent that there is a connection between Red Star and the creature, all tied into Red Star’s secret shame that haunts him and the nearby village to this day. Though his origin is quite different in the TV show, I did like his redesigned costume, which was inspired by the one worn in his first comics appearance.

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Kole is a pretty wild episode, bringing together two obscure characters from the comics— Kole and the caveman Gnaark, while further cementing the notion that Dr. Light is a buffoon who is destined to be made a fool by the Titans. The globetrotting Titans come across Dr. Light near the North Pole, where he is trying to harness the Northern Lights. Things go typically bad for him, but the Titans find themselves in an underground world inhabited by dinosaurs, a girl who can turn herself into crystal, and a caveman.

Hide And Seek teeters on the line between being a good episode and a very bad idea, but I think they pulled it off. An unimpressed Raven is instructed by Robin to escort three little kids with super powers to a safe house, in order to protect them from the Brotherhood. However, Monsieur Mallah in on their trail. The shenanigans with the kids tormenting Raven just by being kids threatens to turn the episode too silly, but enough danger and action remains to carry the day.

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Disc Two
Lightspeed finally, finally, finally brings Kid Flash to the show. His absence from the show seemed to be a huge oversight until now, but apparently the creators were not allowed to use him for some reason. They reward Kid Flash’s patience with giving him a spotlight episode, where he takes on the former H.I.V.E. members in order to try to convert Jinx to the cause of good. Despite the episode veering away from the usual cast, it’s one of my favorites of the season, due to some heartfelt dialog and Kid Flash’s crush-induced faith in Jinx.

Revved Up is where the series inevitably has its “What were they thinking” entry. Sigh. There have been some dopey episodes of Teen Titans, and this is certainly one of them. Fortunately, it’s the only really dopey episode this season, if you can forgive the babysitting one. When your villain is named Ding Dong Daddy, and the story seems to have been inspired by Wacky Races, you know you’re in trouble. Hoo boy. The Titans enter a road race with DDD in order to recapture the briefcase he stole from Robin. Other villains join in the race, and nuttiness ensues. And after all the silliness, we don’t’ even get to find out what’s inside the briefcase. …Next!

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Go! goes even further away from the season’s story arc, as it is entirely a flashback episode featuring the origin of the team. It still manages to feel like it belongs here, however, as it bridges the gap between Beast Boy leaving the Doom Patrol, and his anxiously hooking up with a new team. The story is surprisingly faithful to the New Teen Titans comic storyline from 1980, considering all the character changes made (no Kid Flash or Wonder Girl). Several young heroes, including a Robin recently separated form Batman, come together to help an alien princess who is escaping her Gordanian captors. Even Starfire’s surprising way of learning English is kept here, as is Cyborg’s original tracksuit. Yes, I liked this one a lot.

Calling All Titans is the start of an epic two-parter that brings together dozens of heroes and villains from past seasons, in a battle for the future of the superhero community— not to mention Earth. The Brain calls checkmate as his master plan to defeat the Titans and capture all the world’s young heroes comes into focus. More Titans from the comics are introduced, including Herald, Jericho, and Argent.

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With most of the Titans captured, it’s up to Beast Boy to mature into a leader in Titans Together. Paris is the scene of a huge battle where the former Doom Patroller finally is allowed to enjoy victory over his long-time enemies, and the Titans can emerge stronger than ever. It’s a big finish, with a battle that goes on forever without feeling like padding. If only the series could have ended there, but…

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Things Change is the baffling series finale. It’s almost as if the creators said, “You know, we’re at risk for really ending this series with a bang. The last two-parter was such a perfect wrap-up, it seems like a cliché. Let’s do one more episode that makes little sense and carries a melancholy mood, just to show we can do a unique series ender.” I mean, seriously! In this episode, the Titans arrive home, only to find that the city has changed in their absence. As they enter battle with yet another unexplained creature, Beast Boy spots Terra in a crowd. Beast Boy becomes infatuated with finding the long-thought-deceased Titan, but the girl he finds has no memory of being Terra. In the end, no answers are given, and Beast Boy learns that he has to move on with his life. This might have worked better if we had even heard any mention of Terra in the past three seasons, but as it is, this confounding episode just seems to come out of nowhere. Feel free to skip this one altogether, so that you can think that the series actually went out in style.

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Is This Thing Loaded?

All extras are found on the second disc, beginning with automatic Trailers for Tiny Toon Adventures & Freakazoid, Batman: Gotham Knight, and the second volume of the Fleischer Popeye. The menu also gives the option to view further trailers including Ben 10: Race Against Time and Speed Racer: The Game.

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The only true bonus feature is a series of featurettes concerning Season Five, called Teen Titans: Friends And Foes (25:12 total). Separate spotlights are given for The Doom Patrol, Titans East, The Brotherhood Of Evil, Honorary Titans, and Gordanians. All together, the comments by various members of the directing, writing, and art teams provide lots of nice insight into the thought process behind how these characters were portrayed in the cartoon.

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Case Study:

Standard keepcase, with a tray for the second disc. No insert. The girls miss out again, with Cyborg spotlighted on the cover for the second time.

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Ink And Paint:

Warner is getting pretty darn good at making their current releases look pretty darn perfect. The video is just what you would hope for with such a recent show. Colors are bright, the quick action is captured exceedingly well with no aliasing, and no other artifacts— whether digital or physical— are present. Very nice.

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Scratch Tracks:

The 2.0 sound here sounds as good as it always does on these releases. There is a level of “oomph” missing that a full 5.1 mix would have delivered, but one can still enjoy lots of auditory mayhem in these rich sound mixes. Only English subtitles are offered, and no other spoken languages.

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Final Cut:

The creators finally delivered a season where they kept the cutesies under control, and the anime influence never threatened to totally annihilate the suspense of the season-long arc. This felt like the most well balanced season for Teen Titans, although it wasn’t perfect. Ding Dong Daddy never should have seen the light of day, and I’m still puzzling over what they were trying to achieve with the final episode, which never saw its message gel. Despite these setbacks, this is still a pretty fun season, with lots of old favorite comic book characters showing up and joining in a big, big story. A little more continuity between episodes would have sold the arc better, but I can understand the need to keep episodes as stand-alone as possible. Overall, this old comic fan found lots to enjoy in the final season of Teen Titans.

Animated Classic or Back To The Drawing Board?

MAIN FEATURE
SUPPLEMENTS
VIDEO IMAGE
SOUND TRACK
OVERALL DVD

 

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