Thursday, April 13, 2023

REVIEW: 'Titans' - Dick, Kory and Rachel Race to Retrieve a Crucial Object Before Sebastian and May in 'Caul's Folly'

HBO Max's Titans - Episode 4.07 "Caul's Folly"

Scrambling to recover after Sebastian's transformation, the Titans embark on a desperate mission to stop Trigon's return. Meanwhile, Dick and Kory receive news of a grim prophecy, while Conner is presented with a dire choice.

"Caul's Folly" was written by Melissa Brides and directed by Greg Walker

The Titans survive the fallout of Sebastian completing the blood moon ceremony. They don't exactly know how. They escaped their seemingly dire fates. They praise Gar for whatever he did. However, he doesn't magically reappear after six hours like they do. Instead, he remains missing. Moreover, Rachel notes how they resided within a death realm at that time. They didn't die. The space they were in was complete darkness where they could only barely grasp what was going on. Their return sees them land in a new world. One where Sebastian's newfound powers promise to fulfill the prophecy the Titans have long sought to defeat. It seems unavoidable now. And yet, Sebastian can only resurrect Trigon once acquiring a specific horn. He doesn't have that object. That gives the Titans time to regroup. They organize a plan. They are given a crucial lead thanks to Lex Luthor. He didn't trust the people he was working with. In fact, his partnership with May was probably the one instance where he was wrong about someone. He still had the foresight to know what she was planning. He located the horn for the team. They just have to go retrieve it. That should be a relatively simple mission. One where they stand united as a team. However, Conner breaks off on his own solo journey once more. He is propped up with praise of being better than the Titans. He shouldn't hinder his potential by falling in line with the team. He should be proud of his father and embrace his legacy. That's what will ultimately change the world. He too is given a clue as to what comes next. Of course, that information is withheld from the audience for the time being. It's meant to isolate the character further. That was a bad decision previously because it disrupted the plan the Titans had to defeat May before the blood ceremony was over. That left Sebastian vulnerable to her promise of making the pain stop. He was swayed by that argument. He emerges from the ceremony as a changed person. Rachel does as well. She has regained her powers. However, she knows their source is different. The narrative is suddenly about what she drives purpose from. It's no longer the destiny her father forced onto her. She broke free of those expectations. And yet, she still serves as a child of Trigon who gives the heroes a fighting chance at saving the world. Her presence may be the only reason the Titans enter Caul's Folly. This city serves as protection for the horn with Trigon's loyal followers everywhere. They too have been given a certain narrative. They assume Dick is the chosen son meant to enact this prophecy. Instead, Rachel wields the power to stop it with the right weapon by her side. The mission is simply compromised because May and Sebastian aren't that far behind at all.

The narrative creates a situation in which Dick is the only conceivable son of Trigon to enter this magical realm. It's a curse for some of the citizens. However, plenty are still loyal to Trigon. They protect the horn with the promise of only giving it to the chosen one. That label doesn't apply to Dick. He has value in other ways. He fights back. He's still ultimately overpowered. He's no match for these enemies when he's walking into a situation not knowing what to expect. Rachel and Kory were drugged. They lose their powers for a little bit. That's just enough time for everything to go awry. Meanwhile, Tim and Bernard are left behind incapable of continuing the search. They see the RV vanish right in front of them. However, their story is primarily focused on the awkward tension that comes from a few hours without any communication. It's enough for Bernard to suggest they are better off as colleagues. Friendship is the eventual agreement. That's not what either of them want. Tim had the time to give updates to the people he cares about. That's what downtime in the RV with Rachel was. They have that conversation. The show produces the argument for why Bernard reacts the way he does. It's mostly just a stumble for a new couple that take everything to the extreme. Bernard tracks down the Titans using the technology in the RV because he's worried about what they are off doing. They failed. They didn't die. They didn't regroup with their allies at S.T.A.R. Labs either. Instead, Bernard was left in the dark. That's a more personal betrayal because of his blossoming relationship with Tim. It's easy to overcome this. As such, it doesn't feel all that tense. The agony is real as Tim decides whether or not to unlock the door shared in their adjourning rooms. He's vulnerable as he hopes Bernard reacts in the same way. This is something they both want. That analysis is fairly understandable. It affirms what their relationship already was. Tension enters the dynamic to keep the characters busy. The time in Caul's Folly carries across more than one episode. That's displayed in the "to be continued" message at the close of the episode. However, the show required more active subplots to justify padding out its main storyline in that way. Rachel recruits some reluctant allies. They desperately want out of this town. She's charged with saving her friends. She wields the power that can possibly combat the darkness Sebastian has now surrendered to. That's a thrilling promise. The show employs delay tactics in order to keep the intrigue going. It's not enough substance to earn the stall though. That's unfortunate. It's powerful when a show has a strong command over its purpose and storytelling. When it's less certain, then it's easy to get distracted and question how much the various plots mean in the first place. That's glaringly so with Conner, Tim and Bernard while Dick, Kory and Rachel are largely in a holding pattern to see if they can truly be equal with the threat that now looms over the world.