While Titans‘ writing hasn’t always been the best–Season 2, I’m looking at you–its production values have been top notch the whole time, from almost movie-grade combat suits to above-average visual effects and some really good casting. This early in the season it’s a bit harder to get a handle on the writing, but Titans is once again a great-looking show even as characters barf up blood. Spoilers follow for Titans Season 4, Episode 2, “Mother Mayhem.”
We’re firmly in setup territory with this episode, as we get proper introductions to our one of our major villains and villains-to-be: Mother Mayhem and Brother Blood.
We start with a grisly sequence, in which a ghastly assailant in a bone mask murders a woman, kidnaps her husband, and locks her daughter in a catatonic state. A lot of stuff happens, but not much gets done in terms of actual plot movement. Starfire tracks down one of Luthor’s men, but he dies just like Luthor–coughing up blood until a massive snake erupts from his mouth. And again, the only witness zaps it with their superpowers. People are going to believe you guys about the snake if there’s, you know, an actual snake.
Content Warning: Blood
There’s a ton of blood in this episode, and there will probably continue to be, so keep that in mind. With the amount of magic this season will likely involve, it seems like Raven is going to once again take center stage. She’s now referring to herself as Raven instead of Rachel, and seems–just like Dick in his leadership role–much more confident in her abilities, thanks to her time on Themyscira last year. She looks and feels in control in her scenes, understanding the strange things she sees and having an idea of how to handle them.
When the team finds the catatonic girl, Raven steps in and seems to know what to do. Despite the darkness of her magic, her caring nature comes through strongly, and it never feels like she’s throwing a hail-mary pass. She’s just doing what has to be done.
On the flip side, we learn a lot about the aforementioned alliterative antagonists Mother Mayhem and Brother Blood. We watched last week as the nerdy and gentle-looking guy bled from the mouth and hallucinated, and this week he’s presenting a new mobile game to an audience of other developers. As he talks to them, he sees them all bleeding from the mouth, eyes, and hairline. I told you there was a lot of blood.
While this is unquestionably a setup episode, it doesn’t ever feel like it’s lingering. We spend time with every member of the Titans. Conner is in super-jail (not that Superjail) for most of the episode, but he’s exonerated and free by the end. An earlier season would’ve kept him there for three or four episodes, but he’s soon back with the team, and that suggests that the writers have learned from those past mistakes. This also would’ve been a chance to have him do a lot of brooding, but even when he’s frustrated he never comes across as quite so deadly serious as Dick did in Season 2 when he was trying to punish himself for being a superhero. Pure, unfettered optimism is going to be hard to make work in this ultra-dark show, but more characters seem to be facing things head-on instead of turning inward.
Mother Mayhem finally makes her appearance in the final moments of the episode, where she makes quick work of most of the team. If we consider Season 1 villain Trigon as something other than magic, then this is uncharted territory for the Titans, and could be an especially important test for magic-user Raven and the magic-weak Superboy. We’ll know once all the pieces are on the board.