RTF Review: Tales From the DC MulTVerse #11
On this, the 11th installment of RTF: Tales From the DC MulTVerse, I’ll be discussing the final two episodes of Season 1 of Titans and the mid-season finale of Black Lightning.
The penultimate episode picks up on the cliff-hanger moment we were left with, two episodes prior. That cliff-hanger being, a possessed Starfire, choking Rachel. When Beast Boy intervenes, she tosses Rachel aside, and begins choking him. As a long time wrestling fan, I couldn’t help but get flashbacks to old-school Undertaker when watching this. Dick Grayson enters the house and tries to intervene but is just as easily tossed aside. With these scenes, it’s really reinforced how strong Starfire is. This is great, as it makes Donna Troy’s entrance in this episode, all the more fantastic. As she arrives, she prevents Starfire from striking any more of the Titans by roping her hand, with the Lasso of Persuasion. The two engage in a bit of a tug of war, before Donna delivers what amounts to a flying clothesline to Kory, knocking her unconscious. Is it just me, or could some of the Titans fight choreographers be log time WWF/WWE fans. I love the fact that the seemingly two strongest Titans, are women!
When Kory awakens, Rachel’s mom demands that she leaves. She takes off, seemingly having remembered something. Donna and Dick drive off after her. Kory arrives at a locked storage facility, her invisibility cloaked spacecraft reveals itself. When Dick and Donna arrive, all three enter the ship and Kory informs them she remembers everything and that she is an alien, from the plant Tamaran. So, my theory about her being inhabited by an alien spirit, was 100% wrong and I’m okay with that. I’m absolutely thrilled they went full blown comic book. Though, the Invisibility cloak of her ship made me think more Wonder Woman than Starfire but having Gal Gadot on the brain, is never a bad thing. Kory also gives them a brief history lesson on Raven’s father, Trigon. We learn that he’s conquered other planets before, and has been imprisoned in another dimension. She goes on to corroborate that Trigon will use his daughter, as a gateway to Earth. This lines up with what I know from the comics but my surprise came with the revelation that Rachel’s mom was part of the plan. I’ll confess, I’m not a Raven aficionado, so when it is revealed that her mother was in on the plan to release Trigon from the get go, I was shocked. The fact that she had poisoned Gar making him sick, I assume via poison in his morning cereal, wouldn’t have dawned on me. Rachel’ mother tells Rachel, that her father would have the power to cure Beast Boy. With all her might, she summons her father and pulls him through to this dimension. He does as her mother promises and seemingly cures Beast Boy. Given the way Rachel Nichols played the nurturing mother over a couple episode, this was unexpected. Her ability to toggle between wholesome and evil is impressive, even if she ham’s up the “evil” routine just a tad. I was a little disappointed that we only saw Trigon in true form, via dodgy hologram footage, via Starfire’s ship. When he arrives on the series full stop, we see him in human form. Here’s hoping we see Trigon in beast mode for a Season 2 battle.
The episode ends with Trigon putting some sort of cloaking spell on the house, saying they can’t destroy the world, before Rachel’s heart is broken. As the team come upon the house, they are perplexed but they sense a force field surrounding the property. For a small instance, Dick can see the entrance and runs through the door. This was a solid cliff hanger. Clearly the two people that entered the house are the ones that Raven cares for the most, I’m fascinated to see what Trigon does to them, in order to break Rachel’s heart and turn her into his world destroyer. Not only that, this episode puts the pieces of the puzzle of the season that have been revealed in place, setting us up for a big finale.
Speaking of the Titans season finale, it’s the first one I get to cover as part of the Tales From The DC MulTVerse column. This episode wasn’t intended as the season finale, as DC Universe changed Titans episode count from 12 to 11. What was to be the actual finale, will serve as the Season 2 premiere. Despite this, I think the episode works as a finale. The entire episode is essentially Dick Grayson’s dream/nightmare scenario, as orchestrated by Trigon’s magic. Think of the Alan Moore story, “For the Man who Has Everything”, just replace Superman with Dick Grayson. In Dick’s ideal world, he’s living in California, married with Dawn. The two have a son, with another baby on the way, This twist gives us insight that in Dick’s conscious state, he may have residual feelings for Dawn. Things are going perfectly for Dick, until a wheelchair bound Jason arrives, telling him that the Joker has killed Commissioner Gordon and that Batman has lost it and is on the hunt to kill the Joker. Urging from Jason and Dawn, lead Dick back to Gotham City.
When Dick returns to the Gotham of this manipulated reality, it’s a cesspool. You see prostitutes on every corner, fights breaking out on the street, homeless people everywhere. There are areas of the city that cab drivers refuse to go into. While this Gotham looks like a “normal” city, this show does a great job at portraying it as a “Hell on Earth.” As good a job as any Batman incarnation, in my opinion. So how crazy has Batman gone? Well, he threw Joker off the roof of a building and onto the hood of a car, expecting to kill him. Instead, he sent Joker to the hospital, apparently paralyzing the Clown Prince of Crime. Dick uses the fact that Joker isn’t dead, to try and talk some sense into Bruce, before he actually breaks his code against killing. When Dick goes to the manner, this episode of Titans really shows viewers how damaged the relationship is between Bruce and Dick, as Bruce won’t come up from out of the cave and Dick won’t go down there. So he talks to Bruce via the clock entrance to the cave, while Bruce watches on from monitors on the Bat-computer. However, Dick’s protests fall on deaf ears and almost in spite of Dick’s pleas, the next scene sees Dick being called to Arkham Asylum, after Batman has gone on a murdering spree of his rogues gallery. The Joker, Riddler and The Ventriloquist, were among the casualties. It’s worth noting, that at a point in this scene, we see Batman’s silhouette, reflecting off a wall, before he leaps out a window to get away.
This leads to Dick Grayson doing the unthinkable. What surely is, the ultimate betrayal for Batman. Dick Grayson goes to the authorities, revealing Bruce Wayne is Batman. Not only that, but he leads a strike team of government agents, SWAT, and police into a raid on Wayne Manor, to apprehend Batman! What follows is one of the coolest action scenes to date on Titans. As all various law enforcement descend on the Batcave, Batman uses smoke grenades to surprise attack them all. Batman attacks the “good guys.” That’s how forgone the Joker’s actions have sent him. I think this Batman is further off the deep end, than the Batman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice! He even uses Mr., Freeze’s cold gun to kill Starfire. We actually see Batman this episode. Sure, what we see is all black and we don’t see his face, but in the Batcave sequence, we clearly see the cowl and cape in more than just a shadow. The whole Batcave battle, was reminiscent of something out of the Arkham video games. In a last ditch effort not to be taken into custody, Batman detonates a bomb in the Batcave. After the explosion, Dick heads down to the cave, and finds Batman under some rubble. Batman calls out for Robin to save him. Dick says no, and stands on Batman’s neck, killing him. The episode ends, cutting to reality, with Dick, completely under Trigon’s control.
This episode works as a fantastic Elseworld’s story. Some fans claim that it doesn’t work for them as a finale, because we see so little of reality based stuff with our main characters. However, I think that the previous episode did enough of the leg work, to justify the route episode 11 did take. Plus, it left us with a cliffhanger, that will leave us wondering where things go next. Isn’t that what all good finale’s do!? Also, there’s a great post credit scene that introduces Superboy and Krypto. For those who haven’t seen how it plays out, I wont describe it. Watch it! All I’ll say, is Krypto actually looks like Krypto. Even if I hadn’t liked this episode, I would’ve given it a pass, for the awesome post credit scene alone!
“Jennifer separately tries to save a feverish Khalil after their narrow escape. Jefferson, Lynn and Anissa work on tracking down the pair.” ( The CW)
Black Lightning continues it’s up and down season with this mid-season finale, which being totally honest, is the most underwhelming mid-season finale, I have ever seen. I’ll start with two things I did enjoy. I loved that Jennifer was able to get the upper hand on Cutter, using her powers to track her energy signature, and get the drop on her! Once she’s captured Cutter, Jennifer injects the assassin with her own poison. She forces her to admit and tell Jennifer how to cure Khalil, in exchange for her own life. This is a truly vicious move, highlighting how recent events with Khalil have truly changed her. Watching Jennifer transition from a whiny stereo typical teen in season 1, to a fierce protector with burgeoning superpowers, has been a highlight of this uneven season. Another aspect of the episode I found interesting, was Tobias Whale recruiting another protégé, to replace Khalil. He targets a kid named Todd Green, who has just lost a scholarship and is down on his luck. Tobias tries to win him over with a fancy party, women at his beck and call and the promise of wealth and power. The student who Tobias is trying to coerce to his cause, is played by RJ Cyler. RJ played Billy the Blue Power Ranger in the 2017 film and was the stand out performer in that. Judging from their early scenes together and how Cyler’s character extorts more money out of Tobias, their interplay will be a highlight going forward. Also, Tobias manipulating a down on their luck student, further cements him as an absolute sleaze.
My issue with this episode is the overall narrative barely moves. For the last few episodes, Black Lightning, Thunder, Lynn and Gambi have been searching for Jennifer. Meanwhile, Jennifer and Khalil are on the run, planning to leave Freeland. Well guess what happens through out this episode. The Pierce family is on the hunt for Jennifer and Khalil. Guess what the big cliffhanger at the end of the episode is? Jennifer and Khalil decide to leave Freeland. So in the grand scheme of things, nothing has really happened for 3 episodes! And this is your big mid season finale? What an absolute let down. Look, I’m not going to drop this show because there are elements I’m still enjoying, unlike DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, which to quote Venom; “is like a turd in the wind.” However, it’s definitely going through a mediocre phase this season. Here’s hoping for an improvement and return to form, in the back half of season 2.
That brings this installment of Tales From the DC MulTVerse to an end! The Arrowverse shows will resume next week, so I’ll be covering those as normal! Also, be on the lookout for Tales From the DC Multiverse: The Podcast this week! I am proud to bring my podcast to the site. On the podcast, you’ll hear myself and my co-host Travis Hynes, discuss DC Entertainment films, comics and of course, television. On the TV side, we will key in on shows that I don’t cover on this column. In the immediate future, we’ll be looking at GOTHAM Season 5 & Young Justice season 3! Keep a listen out for it!