Episode Reviews - Winner Take All

Episode #22 - Winner Take All
Original Airdate - March 6th, 2004

Robin, Cyborg and Beast Boy are transported to an alternate dimension. There, the mysterious Master of Games invites our heroes and five other superpowered teens (Aqualad, Speedy, Gizmo, Joto and Wildebeest) to participate in a friendly competition: The Tournament of Heroes. As the contest rages on, Robin becomes more and more determined to win -- while Cyborg becomes more and more worried about what happens to the losers after they disappear. Will Robin realize that winning isn't everything before he loses the only thing that matters: his friends?

Review by Bird Boy
Media by Bird Boy
Titans Writers
Written by Dwayne McDuffie
Directed by Ciro Nieli
Producer Glen Murakami
Producers Linda M. Steiner, Bruce Timm
Music by Lolita Ritmanis
Casting and Voice Direction Andrea Romano
Animation Services 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
Jim Cummings as Master of Games
Mike Erwin as Speedy
Wil Wheaton as Aqualad

Screen Grabs


Sound Clips
"I didn't know Robin had a clone..." (MP3, 192kb)

What’s the first thing you see when the WB logo fades away? A giant pile of cards, featuring various acts of nature, all besting each other the higher you go. It was like watching rock-paper-scissors being played with cards—of course, it could’ve been a spoof or homage to some sort of D&D or Magic: The Gathering card game—I really don’t know, I never played them. Reminded me of Pokemon somewhat though…

Ah…where was I? Oh yeah…the card game. After about a whole five seconds of playing, Robin declares himself winner, only to find out Cyborg has one final card: the asteroid. Apparently this card is one-in-a-million and can destroy anything and everything (what if Thunder, Tornado and Rain combined forces and destroyed it before it hit earth though? Hmmm…), thus, not only making Cyborg the winner, but giving Robin a small “I lost, and now I’m ticked” scene, complete with the kooky effects we’ve come to know and love from the series. But wait—all this moping around is cut short by the sudden disappearance of Robin, Beast Boy, and then Cyborg, leaving the girls alone in the tower (two which we later see as Raven knitting and Starfire hanging by the phone), completely oblivious to what’s about to take place.

Fast forward past the intro and we’re now at the Tournament of Heroes, a contest to see who, out of the eight chosen (Robin, Cyborg, Beast Boy, Speedy, Hot Spot, Wildebeest, Aqualad and Gizmo), who is the best at doing what they do. After a short explanation of what’s going to happen, what the prizes will be (there will be prizes—but no moped, much to Beast Boy’s dismay) the opponents begin to talk to one another. Hot Spot comments on something that smells (Wildebeest), Cyborg confronts Gizmo and wonders why the heck he’s even there (a “hero”, Gizmo is not), Beast Boy and Aqualad exchange quick quips, and Speedy and Robin share quantum physics information on their light arrows and power discs. No sooner can Robin spit out a complicated sounding formula that the matches begin.

Paired up with Cyborg is Gizmo, Robin with Hot Spot, Beast Boy goes up against Wildebeest, and finally Speedy and Aqualad. We’re treated to some more expertly choreographed scenes, ranging from Hot Spots flames spitting and licking all around Robin, Speed and Aqualad’s water and light arrows fight and, perhaps one of the cooler parts of the episode, Cyborg and Gizmo’s battle, where we see the two duke it out for a second time, and ending with an awesome scene of Cyborg ripping Gizmo’s wings off, which cause his spider-legs to spring out automatically, sending Cyborg flying to a platform below, only to have his boot shoot a power blast into Gizmo, shredding his legs apart and eventually sending him back down to the ground where Cyborg removes his equipment. Winners of the other battles are Robin (K.O.ing Hot Spot), Speedy (turning Aqualad into an icicle), and Wildebeest (Beast Boy’s T-Rex transformation destroyed their cage).

Resting in-between matches, we learn what Master of Game’s true intention for the match is: to gain the loser’s powers and become one of the most powerful beings on earth. Finding this out, Cyborg tries to take him on—only to be defeated in a matter of seconds, allowing the Master to gain his powers as well.

Waking the next morning, Robin, Speedy and Wildebeest are the only one of the eight chosen that remain. Thrust into a fight, Wildebeest is quickly taken down by a combination of Robin “riding” him into the ground and him getting sucker-punched by one of Speedy’s arrows, we get into what the fans have been waiting for since their first encounter: Robin and Speedy squaring off. Not only do we see some awesome acrobatics employed by Robin, excellent archery skills displayed by Speedy, but we have some of the coolest animation I’ve seen out of this show. Perhaps the coolest part in their fight was Robin literally “rocketing” out of a huge cloud of smoke his power discs created around Speedy, allowing him to sneak up on him and finally take him out. The way the smoke hugged and then disappeared from Robin’s body was some of the nicest smoke-effects I’ve seen since Return of the Joker. So, what’s left in the episode except for Robin to take down the big, bad, voodoo daddy of the episode? That’s right, nothing. So let’s get to it!

Robin’s filled in quite quickly about the situation at hand: his friends are trapped inside Master of Game’s device, and he has to free them. Challenging Master of Games to a match (“How can you be the most powerful if you don’t have me?”), we see fire, water, light arrows, ape arms, brute strength and blasts of blue energy all being thrown at Robin. At first it looks like our heroes not going to make it, but then throws a quick kick to the device hanging around the Master’s neck—throwing Cyborg and Speedy out. With their help, Robin’s able to move faster—Cyborg shoots steady blasts of energy at Master, while Speedy waits for the right moment—then sees it: the device hanging in mid-air. Firing an arrow, it pierces through the device and frees the remaining heroes. Defeated, the Master “disappears.”

For their services in helping the Titans, Robin gives Speedy, Wildebeest and Hot Spot all badges that make them honorary Teen Titans members (that makes four honoraries now, for those keeping count). They’re transported back home, leaving the device behind. This is where one of the more surprising (and humorous) moments of the episodes come: the Master comes back to the same place, only this time, now it’s the Tournament of Heroines. We see Starfire with a worried look on her face before the episode fades to credits. How’s that for an ending!

Music, sounded almost Static Shock-ish this time around, but not so much so that I wanted to break something—it offered the right mix of techno “noise” in the fights, giving you a sense of speedy and excitement throughout them. The animation, as mentioned before, was excellent as well. Aside from the first few episodes, I think I have yet to see a poorly animated episode yet!

All in all, another enjoyable episode—unfortunately now the series is on a break which will likely go on for a few months…

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