Episode Reviews - Things Change

Episode #65 - Things Change
Original Airdate - January 16th, 2006 - Series Finale

After months of fighting the Brotherhood of Evil around the globe, the Teen Titans are finally back home. But a walk through the city reveals that things are no longer as they remembered. And while Beast Boy wants everything to be just like it was in the past, he has to face the fact that in life things change.

Review by Bird Boy
Defense / Rant by S.C.B.
Media by Bird Boy
Titans Writers
Written by Amy Wolfram
Directed by Michael Chang
Music by Lolita Ritmanis
Animation by Dongwoo Animation Co., LTD.

Titans Voices
Greg Cipes as Beast Boy
Scott Menville as Robin
Khary Payton as Cyborg
Tara Strong as Raven
Hynden Walch as Starfire
Ashley Johnson as Terra
Ron Perlman as Slade

Screen Grabs


Sound Clips
"That's because..." (MP3, 129kb)
Slade and Beast Boy Talk (MP3, 265kb)
Terra and Beast Boy Talk (MP3, 623kb)
After all of the Brotherhood of Evil stuff went down, the Titans are finally able to relax in Jump City once again. They return and naturally trouble strikes in the form of some mysterious villain and then in a crowd Beast Boy sees her: Terra! Yes, Terra, the character fans have clamored and moaned (out of the gutter!) for more of since season two’s “Aftershock” finale.

I’m going to start off by saying I was never that infatuated with Terra’s character. She was fun while she lasted, but I liked her better dead. Her return did absolutely nothing for me, though I won’t deny that Beast Boy having trouble letting go was sad.

For many this episode just raises more questions. Terra miraculously appears and no explanation for her departure from her stone form is given. For Beast Boy it doesn’t matter, nor for many fans do I imagine. But you can’t just brush this fact aside; this Terra we see now is deeply rooted in school with friends and a complete lack of knowledge of her past life. I could surmise that she was faking it and didn’t want to admit she remembered anything, but it really doesn’t matter since this was the final episode.

Another question that pops up is Slade. Yup, he’s back but only via another one of his robots (makes you wonder how many times we’ve actually seen the real Slade) and tells Beast Boy to leave Terra alone. This only adds more to the mystery of her return. For a final episode it certainly didn’t wrap anything up.

Of course, as Joss Whedon (I think it was him) said “never give fans what they want.” I’m sure no fan in their wildest, crappiest Teen Titans fan fiction ever thought of Terra coming back with no memory and real no desire to go back to her former life. I have to give Amy Wolfram credit for giving us something we didn’t think of. It did make for a more interesting episode than the predictable drivel that we’d gotten from the rest of the season.

I’m conflicted on what I want to say about this episode. On one hand, I thought it was a horrible and completely crappy way for the final episode of a series to end and yet the more I dissect and tear this thing apart, I begin to appreciate it more and more. It answered absolutely none of our questions from this or previous seasons (Who is Red X? Who activated that powder in Slade’s mask that drove Robin crazy? What in the hell was in that case?!) and yet I’m almost satisfied more this way. If Lost has taught me anything, the answers we get never live up to the hype so it’s almost better to leave us guessing and wanting rather than complaining about how it didn’t work out how we wanted it.

Most certainly this episode will be the talk of Titans fans up until the “Trouble in Tokyo” DTV hits shelves and rightfully so. There are plenty of questions to ponder and answers to formulate and more horrible fan fiction to write.

The animation was nothing to write home about, but Ritmanis did an awesome score at the end of the episode. When the dramatic cues hit after Beast Boy offers Terra his communicator the scenes emotional impact is amplified ten fold. No doubt about it, the music was one of the highlights of the episode.

There was also a lot of symbolism thrown around in here. The weird villain the rest of the Titans were fighting kept changing forms, the traffic light changing colors and also a few neat visual elements like the individual frames for Terra and Beast Boy when they’re first in Titans Tower and they continue to “grow apart.” Some will call it metaphorical BS, but I thought it added to the episode. It felt out of place in an episode of Teen Titans, considering we’d never see anything like it before in this show, but it still added to the impact of the episode. And also beat into our skulls the name of the episode.

Even in its ups and downs, Teen Titans was still one of the most entertaining, action and humor filled cartoon I’ve seen in a long time. It’s a shame that what originality it created will be copied over and over into mindless shows that “Cartoon” Network will continue to “amaze” it’s audience with.

Overall I can’t fully say that this was a satisfying end to the series. I also can’t call it a bad episode; perhaps if it had been thrown into season three instead of so far back into the series it would’ve played out better, but as it stands it’s still a solid episode and one fans of Terra will undoubtedly not want to miss.

Defense / Rant
I haven't always been a fan of the Teen Titans show. I had never heard of them before the show began, having only watched Justice League, Superman, and so forth. When I finally did get around to watching it, I was disappointed. My first episode was 'Final Exam', and I wasn't particularly impressed. It was the same pseudo anime stuff that I'd seen in a dozen other shows, and the action was pretty slow, and bluntly, a bit boring. But then I saw 'Masks', and my opinion changed forever. There was something great beneath the 'kiddie kiddie' atmosphere. I gradually got used to the exaggerated anime expressions, and even grew to enjoy them so much that I missed them during their absence in the beginning of Season 5. In the end, I finally realized what Teen Titans was all about: heart.

Now that's not to say shows like Justice League Unlimited and Batman Beyond don't have heart; it's very much the opposite. But those shows are the 'thinking man's' superhero show, if you will. Teen Titans is governed by emotion and style. And that's what is at the heart of the series finale, 'Things Change'.

I can safely say that the Teen Titans crew had never done something like this before. It was unique, incredible, and beautiful. And yet, I see so many complaints and criticisms leveled at the episode, my mind boggles. One of these criticisms is the fact that the other Titans subplot is given nowhere near as much attention as the Beast Boy/Terra storyline. And so, to defend this wonderful episode, let me redirect you to the press blurb that accompanied the episode:

After months of fighting the Brotherhood of Evil around the globe, the Teen Titans are finally back home. But a walk through the city reveals that things are no longer as they remembered. And while Beast Boy wants everything to be just like it was in the past, he has to face the fact that in life things change.

You'll notice that Beast Boy is the only character mentioned by name in the synopsis, and this is with good reason. I doubt I would get much argument when I say that Season 5 has been Beast Boy's season (much more so than Season 2, which is now Terra's season). It shows his journey from an immature and (more than slightly) nervous boy into a confident and capable hero.

As we begin Season 5, Beast Boy is being the same character we are used to ("Get it? Tuba? Snorkel? Tuborkel!"). Suddenly, as soon as it becomes clear that the Doom Patrol are in trouble, Beast Boy changes into a character that we have only seen glimpses of in previous seasons ('Betrayal', 'Aftershock', 'The Beast Within'). We see that when he is called upon, he can cast aside his self imposed image of the immature jokester and step up to the plate. However, after 'Homecoming' is over, Beast Boy sees it as clearance to act as his old self again, constantly trying to forget about the past and once more become the comedy relief in episodes like 'Snowblind' and 'Revved Up'. And it works, until 'Calling All Titans' and 'Titans Together', where he once again must assume his 'serious' mode and proceeds to successfully free the other Titans and defeat the Brotherhood of Evil, something that the Doom Patrol could never do.

However, even then, Beast Boy attempts to become what he once was ("Dudes, check it out; Brain Freeze!"). What Terra's return in 'Things Change' accomplishes is to finally show Beast Boy that he has come too far to go back. In fact, one could argue that the entire episode is Beast Boy's subconscious mind trying to get him to move on and to grow up. Each of the different characters could represent Beast Boy's trying, on some level, to push himself in the right direction. Terra is a gentle nudge, trying to convince him that he can't go on as he wants to. The Slade robot is far more abrasive, but the message is the same. And finally, the Titans are appealing to Beast Boy's unselfish, heroic nature, with Robin's message spelling it out as bluntly as possible:

"Beast Boy! We need you!"

And this finally accomplishes what the season has been trying to do all along; get Beast Boy to grow up. And he would not have been able to do that without some closure on Terra.

That is why the other Titans are not featured prominently. Their subplots and themes have already been resolved in this season, albeit in a more subtle way.

1) Robin has become far more trusting of his team, and shows much more willingness in allowing them to help him ('Revved Up'). His relationship with Starfire has also been resolved to a satisfactory conclusion in Season 4, no less ('Stranded'), showing that he is becoming far more comfortable with her as well as the idea of the two of them being together (this is subtly hinted at in 'Titans Together': "I could use a hand.")

2) Starfire's main difficulty throughout the series has been her difficulty fitting in with earth culture. By Season 5, she had become so comfortable and at home on Earth and with its people that she even brought an exiled man out of his self imposed retirement ('Snowblind') through her simple force of will and understanding of humanity.

3) Raven has also come far from the dark recluse of the earlier seasons. Because of the events of Season 4, she is much more comfortable with her emotions, as evidenced by her unofficially adopting three children ('Hide and Seek', 'Titans Together').

4) As usual, Cyborg is left as the odd man out, as his message has usually been the same in his spotlight episodes, that it's not the technology that makes him a hero, it's his humanity.

As you can see, Beast Boy is the only character left. The other Titans' battle with the white creature shows that they are comfortable enough with themselves to move on and continue with their lives, while Beast Boy continues to chase the past in the form of Terra ("Why can't things go back to the way they were?").

Obviously there are many Terra fans who are outraged by her 'return that isn't a return'. One of the things that writers are often concerned with is fan service (something that Teen Titans sister show, Justice League Unlimited, has been accused of many times). If Terra had been brought back only to become the same as she was before, it would be detrimental to the lesson of the episode; that things change, and life goes on. And consider this: even if Terra had returned as she was before, she most likely would have run away again, being unable to face up to the guilt of what she had done.

Slade would also have been a deciding factor if she had returned in such a way; he would have stalked her until she was his again. As it is now, Slade obviously has no interest in pursuing her. Perhaps it is out of some perverse affection for his former apprentice that he doesn't want her to come to any more harm, and this is what prompts him to send the robot to dissuade Beast Boy. I cannot honestly think of any other way that the writers could have brought her back and still make her happy. If she was brought back as before, she would have been miserable. Fans of the character should be pleased that she has finally found (if not entirely psychologically healthy) peace and closure.

But the most common criticism is that this episode doesn't do what a series finale should: tie up loose ends. The identities of Slade and Red X are not loose ends that need tying up. Slade has a second name, yes. He has a face beneath that mask, yes. What difference would it make to the character at this point to show the audience his face, or reveal that he is Jericho's father? None whatsoever. And as for Red X, he's hardly even a character. He's a symbol of Robin's darker side, of a past mistake he would prefer to forget. He also acts as a mirror of the Boy Wonder, showing him what he could have been like if he had gone off the rails instead of being raised by Batman.

Of course, there are questions raised in this episode (Is that really Terra? Does she really have amnesia? Why did Slade send a robot to attack Beast Boy? What the name of Hades is that white thing?), and all of them immaterial to what the episode was trying to do; complete Beast Boy's character arc. Many people have argued that 'Titans Together' would have made a better series finale, but that leaves Beast Boy at the exact same place he was when we first met him in Season 1.

If 'Titans Together' had been the final episode of the series, I would have a felt little bit short-changed. The episode speeds by at such a pace that you hardly have any time to acknowledge what's going on and really allow it to sink in. After I watched it, it hadn't stuck in my mind. It was a fantastic episode, don't get me wrong. But 'Things Change' had such a leisurely pace. It allowed you to truly get to grips with the concept and wrestle with it. And, most importantly, it leaves you thinking about it long after it's finished.

A Teen Titans episode has never done that to me before. As I have mentioned earlier, Teen Titans is driven by emotional and stylistic stories. It is very much dominated by the characters, rather than the situations they are in. That is why the stories cannot be scrutinized and looked at too closely, lest they fall apart. I have never been moved to write an essay on an episode of any TV show, animated or otherwise, and certainly never Teen Titans. That was the biggest indicator to me that this episode was something special.

And in the end, a series finale shouldn't be a quick paced 'wam bam' affair (though it sometimes can be). It should take you back to the roots of the show and remind you of what you loved about it. And at its heart, this show was about five teenagers learning life lessons, ranging from fitting in ('Sisters'), to obsession ('Haunted') to racism ('Troq'), and drug abuse ('Overdrive'). And personally, I can't think of a life lesson more important than knowing when to grow up.

“Beast Boy to Robin; I’m on my way. Over.”

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