Review: Titans season 4 slows things down for a dark, compelling thrill-ride

Titans season 4. Image courtesy HBO Max
Titans season 4. Image courtesy HBO Max /

Titans season 4 takes the show back to its darker roots but it also makes time for some refreshing character development.

Titans has arguably the most potential of any shows on television. It doesn’t always live up to that potential, with previous seasons struggling to find a balance in tone, characters, and storylines, but season 3 was a step in the right direction. It lost its way at times, but it got there in the end, delivering the show’s most consistent season yet.

That brings us to season 4. One of the most anticipated returning seasons of the year, the fourth season picks up with the titular heroes on the road. Hoping to head back to San Francisco (where they established their home base of operations in season 2), they make a stop along the way in Metropolis. What’s waiting for them makes them extend their trip longer than they hoped to, bringing them face to face with some nefarious new foes.

Does it live up to expectations? Well, I have seen the first five episodes, and have a lot of thoughts. I can only share some with you at this time, so let’s get into it.

Titans season 4 takes its time (in all the right ways)

Titans season 4
Titans season 4. Image courtesy HBO Max /

There is a steadiness in the early chapters of Titans season 4 that is very much appreciated. It doesn’t go out of its way to be anything different (like many shows often feel pressure to do at the beginning of a new season), and very much feels like the continuation of what came before. The best part about it is that it makes the most of that, allowing us to see some nice character interactions that the often fast-paced show doesn’t always make time for.

This is particularly prevalent in the premiere, as the Titans just get to be normal people for a little while. This won’t be news to you if you’ve seen the already-released footage and the promo photos, but the scenes are delightful – and a stark reminder that Titans could do with letting Dick, Kory, Gar, Rachel, Connor, and Tim have a little more fun. And yes, the bowling scene is great.

Speaking of pacing, it’s surprising, to say the least. Titans season 4 is slower moving and that’s a good thing. It spends more time with its characters, crafting the new ones from the ground up and allowing them to grow. This also works well for the Titans themselves, as established dynamics get the chance to breathe and evolve, while we just simply get to know the characters a little bit better.

One of Titans‘ most frustrating issues is its habit of separating its primary characters and subsequently caring more about some than others. It looked like it had overcome this in season 3 before it began to do it again in the back half. I’m happy to report that season 4 (at least the first half of it) improves on that a great deal, giving each character enough focus to actually make it feel like an ensemble show.

Characters who benefit from this are the often-underappreciated Kory Anders (Starfire) and Gar Logan (Beast Boy) as it feels like they are finally beginning to get the spotlight fans have been craving for them to get for years now. Anna Diop’s Starfire spends more time on our screens too, and to say that she could very well be the MVP of the season’s first half would be an understatement. I can’t wait to see more of Kory as the season progresses.

Titans season 4, Bernard
Titans season 4. Image courtesy HBO Max /

Among the new characters is Bernard Dowd. The Director of Special Projects at S.T.A.R. Labs, he quickly becomes an enjoyable addition to the show, with James Scully proving to be a delight in the role. And when the show gets dark (and if you know Titans, it will get dark), it needs a little light-heartedness, which Bernard provides. Someone else who also proves to be an exciting new addition is Jinx, with Lisa Ambalavanar bringing the screen to life every time she is on it.

All this talk of new characters and darkness feels like the perfect time to bring up the villains. This time, the show is returning to its supernatural roots, with Gothic villains in Brother Blood and Mother Mayhem. I will admit that I was uncertain about this, as Titans has fared better when it sticks to grounded, less-supernatural stories, but so far, so great.

Franka Potente is nothing short of captivating as Mother Mayhem, commanding every single scene she appears in, and making the mysterious character a force-to-be-reckoned with rather early on. Joseph Morgan has always been a titan on-screen so it will come as no surprise to you to learn that he’s incredibly compelling here, giving us a layered look into the beginnings of Brother Blood that you might not expect. His performance is stunning, and I still feel like the best is yet to come from him. Don’t be surprised if you come out of this season ranking Brother Blood as the show’s best villain.

And on the villains note, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Titus Welliver’s Lex Luthor. We’ve seen many versions of Lex on the small screen, and Welliver’s might just be up there with the best of them. There is an imposing presence to his performance that lives up the “Lex Luthor hype” and this makes it totally believable that he has existed in this world up until this point (even if we’re only seeing him now).

Titans season 4
Titans season 4. Image courtesy HBO Max /

Yes, Titans season 4 does get dark, and yes, it does fall victim to some of that unnecessarily graphic content, but there is more levity this time around to ensure that it never gets too grim. Watching the episodes of part 1 made me realize that this show has found its footing in terms of tone, and it’s getting closer to that image of the ideal Teen Titans show fans had been expecting from the start. It’s all down to the Titans themselves this time, their interactions, their friendships (and perhaps even more than friendships in some cases), and their presences on-screen. It’s honestly quite refreshing.

But don’t let the levity fool you into thinking that there aren’t any stakes, because there are – and they get pretty high. This is something that the slow burn approach of this season really benefits, because they rise slowly, and when the tension mounts, it sets the stage for some explosive all-or-nothing moments.

For the most part, Titans season 4 starts strong. Yes, there are issues, and it falls victim to a number of familiar issues, but it takes its time, it builds upon the foundations and further develops some of the show’s most important relationships. It also paves the way for more high stakes action, and an all-round thriller of a season. If it keeps going like this, we could be in for a great season.

Grade: B+

Titans season 4 part 1 premieres on HBO Max on Thursday, November 3, with its first two episodes.

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Are you excited for Titans season 4, part 1? Let us know in the comments below!