Titans 4×04 Review – Back to the Asylum

Most people kind of just know and understand that Wal-Mart is evil; we don’t need clear visual markers to know that the big box stores that plunk down everywhere are bad for business in our communities. We don’t usually get flocks of ravens swirling above them to indicate as much. Just one more way the Titans universe is cooler than real life. Spoilers follow for Titans Season 4, Episode 4, “Super Super Mart.”

“Super Super Mart”

It’s time to go back–in two senses. Our heroes track Mother Mayhem and her work to somewhere they visited in Titans Season 1, while we go back in time to find out where she got her start. We end on one of the strangest moments yet in this show–or just about any other DC show. And we’re including Doom Patrol, a show with zombie were-butts.

The Titans investigation serves as a sort of metanarrative to guide the primary story. With Sebastian in their custody, they’re able to put a lot of pieces together very quickly; in just minutes, Raven is putting pieces together and stopping Sebastian from uttering the three words so closely associated with her character in the comics and animated DC universe: Astaroth Metrion Zinthos.

Mother Mayhem

We accompany Mother Mayhem–formerly May Bennett–from her origins as a put-upon office worker who seemingly, using uncontrolled magic, causes her terrible boss to throw himself out of a window. From there, she’s contacted by The Organization, the cult the Titans fought when they first met Raven. The Titans explore the basements of the asylum, now located under a Super Super Mart, discovering a collection of tapes of the Organization’s activity.

Of course, this is all in Mother’s plans–she wants Sebastian and the Titans right there. Here comes the weird part. She sends all the workers of the Super Super Mart down after them, and apparently, all of these workers were zombies. But then, among them is… Deathstroke?

The Rise of Fanservice

I couldn’t help but think of that moment in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker when Rey buries the two lightsabers on Tatooine, under the binary sunset. For viewers, it’s a full-circle moment. We came back to the place we began, ending the story and giving the main characters some peace. Except that Tatooine is the place where Anakin was a slave, where Luke’s aunt and uncle were killed, and where Leia was held captive by a Hutt crime lord. That place has no positive meaning for any member of the Skywalker family.

Similarly, this Deathstroke moment seems like a scary thing until you examine it for half a second. How does Mother Mayhem know that Deathstroke is the team’s worst fear? How did she know where to find his body? And how did she get his armor? Is the Organization or Mother Mayhem connected to Deathstroke in any way that we’re supposed to be aware of? It feels so totally random. They could’ve used some of the creeps from Season 1 if they wanted to call back–this just feels like fanservice for the sake of fanservice with nothing in the narrative supporting it.

This moment seems so strange, and it’s so jarring, that it almost breaks the episode for me. It doesn’t make sense for the antagonist, the heroes don’t react how you’d expect, and there’s no real consequence to it–it’s just a bad excuse to bring back the Deathstroke armor, and yet it overshadows everything else going on. Even a couple of minutes of exposition about the why and how of it would’ve made it less weird. But it would still be weird.

Too Little

There’s also the problem of Mother Mayhem’s origin story, which feels just a little too light to be given its own episode like this. I would’ve wanted another couple of scenes to convince me of why she’s such a devout follower of Trigon and how she became so powerful. Instead, we get what feels like the CliffsNotes version, then Deathstroke shows up, and then the episode is over.

Overall, this episode is a little disappointing despite some good fighting and a lot of story development.