Losing control of your own mind is terrifying. In real life we see it in things like Alzheimer’s and amnesia; in fiction, it happens through magic, hypnosis, and other more fanciful, but no less grim means. That makes this episode of Titans feel especially tense and scary despite the warm Sunday morning sun beating down throughout the runtime. Spoilers follow for Titans Season 4, Episode 8, “Dick & Carol & Ted & Kory.”
“Dick & Carol & Ted & Kory”
Despite how buck wild comic book stories can get–try explaining Dark Knights Metal out loud to a non-comic reader if you don’t believe me–they generally don’t really deal in new topics or ideas. Instead, they take the characters we love and put them into familiar situations to let us get an idea of what makes them tick.
We’re still in Caul’s Folly this week, but Dick and Kory wake up in some luxurious pajamas inside a house that would look huge to every member of the Titans except Dick himself. Oh, and it belongs to Ted and Carol. Also, Dick and Kory are Ted and Carol.
Just a few hours after they wake up, Dick and Kory are already suffering the effects of the brainwashing. At a loss for ideas, Dick goes full Batman. He buys a pair of tape recorders with the plan of creating a chain of memories that they can use to trace back to their actual identities, hoping to use his intact mind to fight against his decaying one.
Kory is resistant to the idea. Weirdly resistant, actually. Even as their memories fray, she blames his suggestion on major daddy issues. It’s hard to tell from the delivery and tone whether that was supposed to be Carol or Kory reacting to the idea or what. It seems like the kind of thing that Kory would’ve been up for in any other episode, but this episode required her to be against the idea so that she could fall victim to the brainwashing more quickly.
The brainwashing itself is also kind of goofy. Instead of just chalking it up to magic, they went with this complicated idea that involves neural implants behind their ears, multiple dimensions, and an old guy hooked up to a network of blood pipes–which are made of clear glass, of course–to apparently run the radio station that plays all throughout town. It seems like this was done more so that they could have the gnarly-looking setpiece of the old man and the blood pipes, but it just serves to make the whole thing more complicated than it really needed to be.
Even with that though, the whole episode feels incredibly tense because of the brainwashing. I found myself cringing every time the characters’ mental fortitude wavered, even though it seems pretty obvious that they’re not going to kill either character in a storyline like this. It also shows just how deeply unappealing the Trigon cult is–they have to literally play music 24/7 to everyone in town to keep them brainwashed.
The episode also features a fun fight scene in which Dick gets a second chance against the corrupt police force of Caul’s Folly. Dick gets to employ one of my all-time favorite John Wick weapons, a book, though things aren’t nearly as gory here.
Another highlight is the growing confidence sported by Rachel and Tim. Rachel is tied up in a musty-looking church backroom, but she effortlessly turns two of the cops against her by reminding them that she’s a daughter of Trigon, the very demon they’re hoping to summon. Tim and Bernard catch a whiff of the place thanks to the strong signature of Kory’s powers and end up at the prime material dimension’s version of the same radio station. There, they run into someone who lost their family when Caul’s Folly burned to the ground a decade ago, and it gives Tim a hunch that Bernard dismisses at first. Tim from earlier in the season would’ve let Bernard walk all over him, but he’s gained confidence both in himself and in his interactions with Bernard.
The Titans manage to break the spell over Caul’s Folly once they destroy the radio station, and Kory gets her memories back exactly the way Dick said she would–through the recorded thoughts. The only people that we see leaving the town are the father and daughter who had resisted the mind control, but it never cuts back to the town. It would’ve been cool to see how they reacted to everything going on–were they even wearing all those mid-century clothes in the other dimension, or would they find themselves in dingy jumpsuits or something? Would the mind control loosen? Someone said in the episode that people don’t get their memories back, but that was before Dick Grayson jammed a crowbar into the radio station’s control panel.
There’s unfortunately still no sign of Gar. We do get a quick cut to Conner, who is now wearing a black suit. He buys Sebastian a drink, and we’re left wondering what his plan might be.