Put a Hex on that Lex

Titans: Season 4, Part 1

Whether the creators on the series knew it or not, Titans will be reaching the end of the line with this fourth season of the series. It was announced just today that the show would not get a fifth season on HBOThe oldest and longer-running cable subscription service, HBO provides entertainment in the force of licensed movies along with a huge slate of original programming, giving it the luster of the premiere cable service. and that it, and partner series Doom Patrol would just end once they both finished up their fourth runs of episodes (with each season broken into two halves). Even if they didn't know it was coming, it does seem like the producers created this season to serve as something of a finale for the whole run.

If you've been with the show since it's beginning (all the way back on the DC Universe app) then you've watched as the show slowly lumbered through it's storylines, bringing together Dick Grayson (Nightwing) and Rachel Roth (Raven) in a dark storyline about the rise of her father, Trigon. It then meandered from one storyline to another, not even finishing the Trigon story until the second season before dealing with Batman killing the Joker, Scarecrow resurrecting Jason Todd, and... stuff. Through it all the show basically had two things you could point to as it's major themes: Trigon, and Daddy Issues (which also at times related to Trigon).

So what's the story for season four? Trigon... and daddy issues. The season starts with Superboy getting an invitation to meet his other father, Lex Luthor (an underused Titus Welliver), so that lex can give him the keys to the kingdom. Then Lex dies, seemingly at the hands of some strange and twisted blood cult. That brings us to Mother Mayhem (Franka Potente), the leader of a dark cult that needs Lex out of the way so they can steal a particular piece of property they need. Why? Trigon.

It seems that Mother Mayhem is betrothed, in a sense, to Trigon and she wants nothing more than to bring the demon back from the tiny crystal he's stuck within. That crystal is on the forehead of Raven, and that means the Mother has to battle the Titans to gain the demon. In the process we're also introduced to Sebastian Sanger (Joseph Morgan), a man whose entire life has seemingly been engineered by the Blood Cult. The reason for that remains a mystery right up until the last couple of episodes of this first half of the season, but suffice it to say the reason is also Trigon.

There's good and bad in the way Titans is handling its major plot line this season. On the one hand, it's good to see the show bring everything full circle. Trigon was the first plot line the series tackled, and arguably it was the best story the show managed to tell. That's damning with faint praise as the show has never really mastered telling nuanced, interesting television (it's always been much more of a train wreck), but the Trigon story coincided with the series at its darkest and most interesting. It had a focus to its story that the series, since, has lacked.

With that said, the Trigon story ended with a bit of a whimper. Season one gave us a cliffhanger with Trigon born onto this world, ready to take over and rule our dimension... and then, one episode into season two, his whole story was resolved and we moved on to the Titans going to California for a happy, poppy, brightly lit version of their adventures. From that point forward this inconsistent show only got more inconsistent, and you can point the finger right at executive meddling. The first season was "too dark", so whatever plan was intended for Trigon (if there even was a plan) was shifted and the show had to change gears. It never really recovered.

Oh sure, it's brought in new characters and, sometimes, done fun things with them. Superboy was enjoyable for a while, his "fish out of water" style a nice contrast to all the Earthlings. I guess the creators decided they had to take him in a new direction this season since they mired him in the Lex storyline and, now, are having him go full Luthor this season, running the fun character we used to have.

Of course, even that might have made more sense if they'd have Lex on the show for more than a single episode. He gets introduced, Welliver delivers an absolutely scenery-chewing performance, and then the show unceremoniously kills him off. They killed Lex seemingly just for shock value, but it raises the question: is a DC universe without Lex or the Joker even worth watching. By the measure of this fourth season, no, not really. It just removed the big threats from the series and replaces them with something much more vague.

This is the issue with Trigon, and why the series should have done more with him the first time around. Trigon is a threat, maybe even a promise of what will come, but he doesn't exist in the moment. The heroes know who they have to fight eventually, and they do everything they can to try and prevent that, but when your entire storyline is built around the rise of a villain that we know will come about eventually, any plans to "stop them" are just table setting and padding out the story. And it's all so they don't actually have to reveal the villain, just say, "oh, he'll be here soon enough."

A show needs its antagonist. Mother Mayhem, for all the fine acting that Franka Potente is trying to give in the role, is just a lackey. She might be powerful, but she serves a villain that hasn't show up yet. The heroes aren't battling her, they're biding time until Trigon shows up. The antagonist we need isn't here yet so there's simply no chance for the heroes to really push forward. We're in a holding pattern, for six episodes, as we wait for the real threat to arrive. Presumably he does in the last six episodes this season, but he's certainly not here yet.

So instead we get a tonally inconsistent show that bounces all over the play, from comedy to darkness, murder to romance, brightly lit to dark and broody, all seemingly without warning. It's tonal consistency is that it lacks any tonal consistency, and while the actors, from the main cast to the cameos, do solid work with what they've given, everything is underwritten and under baked. You get to watch them run from one issue to another while the villainous lackey magically (literally due to magic) thwarts them at every turn simply because the plot requires Trigon to arrive. Nothing they do matters and there's not really much to hang on while you wait for the big reveal.

So it's six episodes of padding leading up to a reveal that might give us a reveal that might then give us the real reveal. Or, you know, just another season of Titans.