Titans 4×01 Review – Maybe Gotham isn’t the problem

The Titans left Gotham behind at the end of Season 3, hoping to leave trouble behind them. Trouble comes calling quickly, however, and Lex Luthor reaches out to Conner Kent for a meeting. Spoilers follow for Titans Season 4, Episode 1, “Lex Luthor.”

“Lex Luthor”

After three seasons of focusing on guys who wore the Robin suit, it seems like it’s time to give the other members of the Titans some time in the limelight. As we return to Titans, the titular heroes have arrived in Metropolis via bus. I wonder if Dick Grayson has his Commercial Drivers’ License for that massive vehicle. After the Titans’ battle to save Gotham from the Scarecrow, Conner Kent has attracted the attention of the Man of Steel himself, who requested a meeting with him. The team heads to S.T.A.R. Labs to meet up, only to find that Superman is off-world trying to save an entire planet.

Fun Titans

When we first find the team, they’re at a bowling alley. A competitive Gar transforms his arm into an octopus tentacle to put some extra mustard on his ball, showing that he’s leveled up his abilities quite a bit since we last saw him. That idea accounts for a good part of this episode–Starfire’s newfound powers show incredible, untapped strength, Tim Drake gets a bo-staff as the first step in his career as the third Robin. Gar gets a suit that will persist through transformations, rather than forcing him to strip down every time he wants to transform.

Lex Luthor, meanwhile, is working underground with archaeologists for what we’re to assume is a sinister plot. When he calls upon Conner, it has to be to trick or convert him, right?

Titans makes some interesting moves this episode. By the time the credits roll, Lex Luthor is off the chessboard; this is a post-Kryptonite poisoning Lex, a terminally ill man clawing around desperately for life.

Dick Grayson, Leader

As a result, this episode feels quite a bit different than the Titans we’re used to. Dick is immediately able to function as a strong leader for the group, giving Conner reasoned, level-headed guidance, while easing Tim Drake into his future role. Starfire is comfortable with her power, even though she doesn’t understand it–she seems excited rather than anguished to explore it, with her sister Blackfire having helped her come to terms with her truth. Tim is excited to be there, of course, and both Gar and Raven seem immediately more comfortable in their respective skins.

Of course, we know trouble is coming. Multiple characters are suffering from hallucinations, and one even coughs up blood until a snake bursts from their mouth. But finally, our characters don’t seem absolutely anguished to be themselves. They have a mystery to solve, but the burden is protecting other people instead of clawing at their own pasts and identities.

Even in this first episode, Titans is also finding a good balance between putting our heroes in civilian clothing and costumes. Dick fights off some of Lex’s personal guard–ninjas, of course–in full Nightwing regalia and we get a satisfying but compact battle out of it. Brenton Thwaites really feels like Nightwing at this point.

Superboy and Raven

Right now, it seems like the focus of the show will be on Conner and Raven as they develop. Whatever is happening right now is all about magic, making it extra dangerous for anyone with Kryptonian blood and of interest to Raven and her developing powers. Conner feels like a fuller person already, with clear desires and drives, while Teagan Croft has come into her own as a great live-action take on Raven who finds herself riding the line between being powerful and dangerous, but respected and cared for by her teammates and friends.

The casting for Lex has to be touched on as well. While we won’t likely get much of him, Titus Welliver has the potential to be a great late-life Lex Luthor. The CW’s take with Jon Cryer captured the zeal and confidence of Luthor in his prime, while Welliver feels like a Lex whose time has been shortened by his own ambition and has left him feeling the regret of that. He feels immediately more natural for the role compared to Iain Glen as Bruce Wayne in age, look, and behavior.

I’m optimistic already for this season of Titans. The pieces they’ve set up have tons of potential, and it’s up to the following episodes to drop the ball or hit the mark.