Warner Bros. (2005) Warner Home Video (November 20, 2007), 2 discs, 298 mins plus supplements, 1.33:1 original full frame ratio, Dolby Digital 2.0 Dolby Surround Stereo, Not Rated, Retail: $19.98
Things get dark in a hurry as the Titans must face Raven’s dad— an extra-dimensional demon who wants to enslave our universe. On the other hand, this season they also face off against a geek, sentient tofu, and a hick from Texas. Yeah, it’s a mixed bag.
The Sweatbox Review:
I am still wondering who the intended audience for this show is. It careens from the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever seen, to some of the darkest stuff that ever found its way to Saturday morning. All these types of stories have a place, certainly, but placing them all into the same program continues to strike me as a less than good idea. Nevertheless, young and old can enjoy their own episodes from the fourth season of this hit show. The longer arc this season concerns the coming of Trigon, Raven’s father, who was first glimpsed in the first season episode Nevermore. Once that cameo had been made, you just knew the creative team behind Teen Titans would have to address Trigon eventually. That could be tricky, though, on this largely young-skewering show. Many of the episodes have the silliest of plots, but a proper Trigon story would have to deal with an extra-dimensional demon siring Titans’ member Raven, only to later re-enter our dimension and take it over in the most evil way possible. Dragging the story on all season would make it weighty indeed, so the producers and story editors conspired to balance things out by giving Season Four some of its goofiest episodes yet.
In terms of way-out episodes, look no further than Episode 257-494 AKA Don’t Touch That Dial. Control Freak, last seen in a nearly throw-away introduction in Season Two’s Fear Itself, returns to vex the Titans. When the Titans catch up with him, they find themselves zapped into TV land. They go from show to show, pop culture homage after pop culture homage, interacting with characters from the TV shows they become a part of. As an adult, I confess I hate this type of plot— ridiculous, nonsensical, and going way beyond what I am willing to scientifically accept. If you can get past all that, more power to you; but I did not like this episode bit. Cyborg The Barbarian gets things moving in a better direction. The premise is still kind of out there, but the story at least lives by its own rules in terms I can accept and understand. It’s also a good story for Cyborg, who becomes a hero to an ancient civilization after being brought there magically against his wishes. The specifics of how he gets there and how he gets back are left hazy, but then the story is about character, not time travel. Still, I do tire of these “Cyborg learns he is still human inside… it’s his heart that makes him a hero, not the electronics” episodes. Have they nothing else to say about this character?
Birthmark starts off the season-long arc of Trigon’s coming. It’s Raven’s birthday, and she is entirely not happy about it. There is something she’s not telling her friends, and it becomes apparent that bad times are coming. And not only that, but Slade is back from the dead! What does it all mean? Well, it sure can’t be anything good, but it makes for good drama. If all the episodes went this route, I would be so much happier with this show. The questionable faux-anime trappings are still there, but the story itself has a strong drive and promises a powerful ending.
The Quest leaves the Raven storyline behind, focusing instead on what is pretty much a solo Robin story. Frustrated by being beaten by an opponent, Robin searches far and wide for The True Master. His journey takes him to the Orient, where we see a story twist from a mile away; nevertheless, we are served with another episode that nicely balances action and characterization. In the “B” story, though, I wasn’t really grooving on the idea of all the other Titans dressing up like Robin while he was away. Ya just had to get silly, didn’t ya?! Okay, I admit that I laughed a couple of times there, and overall this was a pretty good effort.
Employee Of The Month vies with Episode 257-494 for dopiest of the year. Some fans love these over-the-top episodes, but I am not one of them. At all. Killer tofu from outer space? Cow-powered spaceships? Eating the villain? The idea of Beast Boy working in a fast food restaurant had a lot of potential, but you can tell the writers brainstormed this one on a tight deadline. Troq neither offends or impresses in its tale of a visiting alien. And what the heck’s going on with Raven anyways? Wasn’t she about to contribute to the end of the world or something? We finally get back to that with The Prophecy, which tells more about what we are to expect at the end of the season. The mystery behind Slade’s return deepens, and the Titans get a clearer idea of what they’re up against, as well as what Raven’s role is. It’s another strong story, and the best part is probably seeing how powerful the friendships on the team have become.
Stranded finds the Titans once again forgetting about Earth’s impending doom, but this time they have a good excuse as they are each individually marooned on an alien world. There is fun to be had in each character’s story, and best of all there is some movement in the Robin-Starfire relationship. While I may in the future basically stick to the Trigon episodes when viewing this season, this is one other one that is not to be missed. You could, however, miss Overdrive and not skip a beat. Hillbilly self-multiplying villain Billy Numerous is even more annoying when he creates more of himself, so that you are SO GLAD when the Titans finally defeat him. This is really a Cyborg episode, actually, with yet another way of telling us that Cyborg is trying to overcompensate for his lost humanity, this time by trying to upgrade his body further to the detriment of other concerns. At this point, if you’re looking for some good old Titans weirdness, then you may like Mother Mae-Eye. Then again, you may find this story of a magical, overbearing, cackling woman subjugating the Titans to her questionable parenting, the worst episode ever. I lean towards the latter myself. When is Trigon coming????
The End – Part One obviously provides the answer. It all hits the fan here, as Raven gives in to her supposed destiny, and the world ends. This is some serious stuff, with much stronger content than any of the previous episodes. At this point, things look pretty hopeless for our heroes, and as a viewer my interest was finally aroused. In The End – Part Two, Raven appears to be lost, and the Titans face their darkest hour. Robin teams up with Slade to find Raven, and we learn more of Slade’s return. That part of the story is interesting, but unfortunately the other Titans are stuck in a pretty dull “Titans fight their doppelgangers” thing that is just too old. The End – Part Three manages to end things well, however, with the Titans winning on the strength of Robin’s optimism fuelling Raven’s faith in herself. The prelude to Trigon’s final takedown produced some warm fuzzies, giving Teen Titans its strongest finale since Season One.
Is This Thing Loaded?
Teen Titans: Know Your Foes (14:52) is the lone series-related extra on the set, but it’s a pretty decent one. At first, I feared that it would be a lame text-based, generally useless feature, but I was pleasantly surprised at its relative depth. Five villains are spotlighted (Control Freak, Bob & The Source, Billy Numerous, Mother Mae-Eye, and Trigon) through interviews with producers, story editors, and voice director Andrea Romano. The genesis of these characters is discussed, giving some nice insight into how this season came together.
Aside from the solitary bonus, there are Trailers for Justice league: The New Frontier, Lego Batman: The Video Game and Scooby & Shaggy Get A Clue: Volume One.
Robin gets the spotlight on the cover again, as he did for Season One, but this time Starfire is fairly prominent behind him. It looks like the art department is shying away from giving the girls top billing on these sets, as Cyborg and Beast Boy had previous feature spots too. Too bad, as it would have shown some nice symmetry to give Starfire and Raven the Seasons Four and Five starring appearances on the cases. Inside the standard keepcase (with tray), we no longer get an episode list insert, though titles are listed on the back cover (including a dumb typo on Cyborg the Barbarian(s)).
Ink And Paint:
This is another winning transfer job from Warner, nearly perfect except for very occasional shimmering. This continues to be one of the sharpest-looking shows on television, and this bright, kinetic presentation shows off the series to great effect. Seriously, today’s television programs, with their computer-aided coloring, really make the cartoons of my childhood look pretty plain.
There is plenty to hear in these episodes from the standpoint of audio effects, and it’s quite fun to turn up the volume a bit on these and let the sound design impress you. It’s far from feature film quality, though, and the Stereo sound does have its limits. Bass is lacking compared to what one sees on screen, but for a TV show, it’s really pretty good. These things would really rock with 5.1 tracks, though. English subtitles are also provided.
One criticism I’ve had of this show in the past is the wildly uneven nature of the tone being presented, and it’s truer than ever in Season Four. I like that the producers and writers utilize the show to do a wide variety of stories while exploring different forms of storytelling, but the problem is that the silly stories border on childish or are simply ridiculous, while the serious stories are INTENSE, and not appropriate for the younger audience that enjoys the other episodes. I know my child enjoys the goofy Titans stories a great deal, and that’s fine. I prefer the harder-edged stories that they tend to utilize in their season-long arcs and season-enders. I just don’t know if it’s wise to cater to one audience in one episode, then exclude those viewers entirely while going in a whole different direction in the next. It would be nice to find a way to make every episode viewable for the whole family. Teen Titans continues with its multiple personality disorder, which I think is to its detriment. However, the “kiddie” episodes do remain great fun for the young ones (though I barely tolerate some of them), and the “serious” episodes are a great joy to this old comic book reader. So, by all means continue to collect this show on DVD— grown-ups and kids can both enjoy it, just not always necessarily at the same time. Plan your viewing accordingly.
This is a tough one to rate, but my overall impression is heavily weighted by my enjoyment of the Trigon storyline, which largely made up for the rest.
Animated Classic or Back To The Drawing Board?