Titans: Lex Luthor

No, the beard isn’t compensating for anything, why?

Last season of the Titans ended with the defeat of Jonathan Crane, the at least partial redemption of Jason Todd, and the team taking off on a road trip. Well, most of them. Donna came back from the dead only to take off for Paris to visit Dawn/Dove, and then apparently start working with ARGUS. I’m very much hoping she comes back, but I guess we’ll see. Season four is already looking pretty packed, given the title of the opening episode is “Lex Luthor.”

Apparently, the Titans aren’t in a hurry to drive cross-country from Gotham to San Francisco, since the season opens with them in a bowling alley. They seem uncharacteristically relaxed and having fun, with a few surprises as far as both the skill level of some members of the team, and a level of mastery of powers we haven’t even really seen a hint of before. Dick and Kory chat about destiny and new chances, and then Dick gets a phone call. He comes back with news, which at first leads to an amusing misunderstanding, and then an exciting new destination and reason for the going there.

Elsewhere, a small convoy of cars moves through a rainy night, and we meet the latest incarnation of Lex Luthor. He gets a tour of a site with a name that should be familiar to fans of a different Titans show, and then gets rid of the person who did all the work for him. Surprisingly, it’s a “fire them and pay them well and remind them of an NDA” kind of get rid of, which isn’t what I’d have expected from Lex. The person leaves, making some ominous statements on the way out. Elsewhere again, we meet someone with a familiar name who seems to be working on a speech of some kind and working on a hobby that isn’t exactly popular. And in yet another location, a couple we haven’t seen before stays in for tv night, makes some very meta comments about tv series, and then has a really bad night.

Having gotten some good news, Conner is now nervous about an upcoming meeting. While Tim and Gar give him utterly unhelpful suggestions, Rachel has a horrific vision, some of which is shared by the earlier hobbyist in his workshop. For reasons that aren’t explained, and I can’t think of a good one, she keeps this from the team.

By morning, the RV arrives at their next stop: the Metropolis branch of STAR Labs. Everyone is excited, possibly barring Dick, who I imagine has been here before. This scene really makes me wonder how there are any secret identities in this world. No one is in costume, and they mention that the group is connected to Bruce Wayne several times. None of these genius scientists are smart enough to put this together? At any rate, Conner gets disappointing news, Tim gets a new toy (but not what he was hoping for), and Gar also gets an upgrade. However, when he tries it out, he blacks out, has a vision, and apparently runs amok in an interesting fashion while he’s out. Following in Rachel’s footsteps, he also doesn’t tell anyone about his vision. I guess they make a good couple.

Moving on from this bit of chaos, they get to a lab dedicated to studying Metropolis’ most famous citizen. Conner sees some impressive things, and Dick does his best to reassure the younger hero about something he was looking forward to. In another lab, Kory demonstrates her abilities and the STAR tech working with them shares some surprising news. Eventually, the Titans take their leave of STAR and Bernard, who has been the one they dealt with the most there. In the comics, Tim Drake was recently retconned as being bisexual and his first boyfriend is also named Bernard, although it’s definitely a different person. On the way out, the team gets shown another surprise that kinda looks cool, but I’m not sure makes a lot of sense.

On the road again, we see Krypto hanging out, who I guess just stayed in the RV at the last few stops? Tim asks for some pics so he can send them to Bernard at STAR, and gets teased by Gar and Rachel. This gets interrupted when the RV loses power and Conner and Krypto get a high frequency message from our titular villain, inviting Conner to LexCorp Tower. The team debates what to do, and Dick, refreshingly, isn’t trying to boss everyone around. Conner decides he’s going to go, which no one thinks is a good idea. Dick decides they need more info, and has a plan.

Lex’s gourmet lunch is interrupted by Kory showing up and fighting an improbable number of guards. Battling her way to his table, they have a chat about Tamaran, which Lex is very well informed about, and Kory tries to get more information out of the genius villain. He is, for once, not launching into villain monologue mode, but that’s ok, as we see Kory’s splashy entrance was a distraction for a really impressive Bat-gadget to do its thing. Of course, Lex somehow knows about at least some of the side mission. For reasons unknown, Dick is actually in costume for once, which comes in handy when the LexCorp ninjas (no, really) attack. Nightwing gets in some great moves, we see a few cool weapons, and Tim tries to help. Considering, as Dick said earlier, he’s “been a Titan for five minutes,” it doesn’t go well.

Meanwhile, Conner, Gar, and Rachel go to the Daily Planet for their information on Lex. We see their huge morgue (for stories and files, not bodies) and see a familiar face, although amazingly meet no Superman supporting cast members. Rachel has another really disturbing vision that she again decides to keep to herself because… reasons. The team links back up, and Dick shares what he got from his illegal side quest. It’s an interesting development that seems to be a slightly different spin on a story from back during the John Byrne era of Superman comics, as well as an old DC Animated Universe story.

Dick and Kory discuss Conner’s choice, although they still remain smart enough to not tell him he can’t go. If nothing else, I don’t know how they’d stop him without resorting to really upping the stakes. Conner goes to meet Lex, alone, which strikes me as a particularly bad idea. We learn that Lex knows a very important secret, and Lex makes his pitch to Conner about why the Teen of Steel should stay with Lex for the next six months. Their discussion gets interrupted when Lex takes a turn for the worse, but this is clearly nothing to do with what Dick learned about. Conner tries to help, and ends up looking really bad when Lex’s security forces storm in, guns drawn. I’m a bit bemused Conner put his hands up. What are they going to do, bounce bullets off him? Rachel and the guy off on his own seem to share some of what’s going on with Lex, and the episode ends with someone repeating an earlier line, who apparently knows exactly what’s happening to Lex and is fine with it.

What I Liked: The bowling scene was goofy, but I actually kinda liked it. It was nice to see them get a few happy moments in. The trip to STAR was unexpected, and they got a few interesting new gadgets out of it. Nightwing vs. the Ninjas was a fantastically done fight. I like that Tim still clearly needs training and isn’t just magically good at fighting for no reason. I’m intrigued by the Lex story, and it’s actually nice to see the master manipulator not wholly in control for once.

What I Didn’t: At least one of the characters is having some very inconsistent control of their powers. I really don’t like what I long ago dubbed “Smallville Syndrome,” in which a character keeps secrets from people they trust for absolutely no reason aside from it makes things more dramatic. I don’t like stuff from my least favorite version of one of the characters creeping into this show, but I guess we’ll how it goes. I’m also really hoping Donna comes back, and maybe we meet some more Titans (Roy? Wally? Lilith? Mal?). I also miss Barbara, although I get her not coming along with the team.

I’ll give this a 3.5 out of 5. With the two major plots they introduced in the opening, it’s going to be a busy season.