Check out Part 1 of TEEN TITANS: THE ANIMATED SERIES: A Retrospective!

TEEN TITANS: THE ANIMATED SERIES, a show that ran from 2003 t0 2005, made its mark on audiences with its balance between a light-hearted tone and mature thematic elements. In fact, the series was so beloved that its cancellation led to numerous petitions from fans attempting to revive the show.

Eventually, the show came back in a very different form. TEEN TITANS GO! premiered in 2013 with the same voice actors as the 2003 animated series. Interestingly though, the new series has no ties to the original. It is also much more comedic. I watched a few episodes of TEEN TITANS GO! when it first came out.

Unfortunately, though, the series only made me wish the original had come back. It lacks the emotional depth and maturity that made TEEN TITANS so impactful. So, how does TEEN TITANS: THE ANIMATED SERIES remain so relevant years after its cancellation? Find out below!

teen titans: the animated series
Starfire

Obsession & Destruction

Though the Teen Titans are young heroes, they are not unsusceptible to vices that are a result of their darkest, most hidden desires. Throughout TEEN TITANS: THE ANIMATED SERIES, Robin, has struggled with his obsession with discovering Slade’s identity and ultimately defeating him. He even goes as far as to secretly disguise himself as the villain Red X to get closer to Slade.

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This memorable storyline exemplifies the actions that ultimately blur the line between good and evil. The heroes of Teen Titans are young. They are still learning how to be heroes on their own. However, their infatuation with doing good can backfire at times. Robin becomes so overwhelmed by his desire to be a hero and escape his former mentor’s shadow that he loses himself in the process. Additionally, the episode “Haunted” features the grim consequences of Robin’s obsession. He begins acting erratically around his teammates, even lashing out at them.

He loses sleep and grows incapable of maintaining healthy relationships with his teammates who have also been his closest friends. Fortunately, he becomes aware of his missteps. Robin comes to learn that some things are out of his hands. As a result, he makes an effort to better himself as a leader and ultimately let go of what he cannot control.

teen titans: the animated series
Slade’s apprentice, Terra

Terra, the Heart of TEEN TITANS: THE ANIMATED SERIES

In season 2, audiences were introduced to a character who was able to manipulate earth. Her name was Terra, and she was my favorite character of the series. Of course, that opinion may be controversial considering she betrayed the Teen Titans at one point. However, she has one of the most impactful storylines in the series.

When she first meets the Titans, she is lost. She does not know how to control her powers, but she keeps that a secret from the team. Unfortunately, though, her secret exposes itself to the Titans and their arch-nemesis, Slade.

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Eventually, though, she returns and joins the titular squad as its sixth member. However, her struggle in controlling her powers remains the elephant in the room. Most of her teammates continuously question her capabilities. Thus, Terra continually feels a sense of rejection. Of course, the Titans do not have bad intentions. Despite this though, their hesitancy in trusting Terra entirely deepens a rift within the team. As a result, Slade uses that rift to his advantage.

He manipulates Terra into joining him by making her believe that he is the only one who believes in her. This begins a toxic, abusive relationship between the two that is hard to watch even now as an adult. However, this storyline introduces the concept that certain people will go as far as to take advantage of an individual’s vulnerability for their personal benefit to a children’s audience.

teen titans: the animated series
Raven

The Truth Revealed

Eventually, Terra’s darkest secret is revealed when the rest of the Titans discover that she is working with Slade against them. So, why exactly is she my favorite character? Well, the conclusion of her narrative comments on whether serious mistakes can be redeemable.

Can individuals truly learn from their missteps and redefine themselves despite them? Terra does. In the season 2 finale, “Aftershock: Part 2”, Terra turns against Slade and defeats him in an epic battle. However, in an effort to save the Teen Titans and the city they live in, she makes the ultimate sacrifice.

I remember watching that scene as a kid and crying because I had just witnessed my favorite character die. Prior to that episode, I had never seen superheroes experience suffering or death. So, Terra’s character truly humanized superheroes in general to me.

Additionally, I was shocked that a show with a children’s audience portrayed death so earnestly. They did not shy away from the tragedy of it at all. As a kid, I understood the gravity of the situation. Something serious and poignant had just taken place, and it had felt incredibly real.

No show had reached that far into my world until that very moment.

teen titans: the animated series
Cyborg

Who We See in the Mirror

TEEN TITANS: THE ANIMATED SERIES never shied away from addressing hard-hitting questions. So, it’s no surprise that it also focused on the definition of humanity as well. Though the show shares little details on Cyborg’s past, we assume that a terrible accident contributed to the application of his cybernetic parts.

In the season 1 episode, “The Sum of His Parts,” we get a glimpse into the internal conflicts Cyborg maintains regarding his humanity. There is certainly a part of him that measures it based on his external, artificial parts.

Now, the episode features his interaction with another cyborg named Fixit. Fixit attempts to replace Cyborg’s biological parts entirely so that they may be one in the same. Fixit had rescinded his humanity long ago and had since resorted to self-imposed isolation from the rest of the world. However, in one scene where he accesses Cyborg’s memories, he immediately becomes overwhelmed by their emotional depth.

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So, despite the fact that Fixit no longer has any biological parts to him anymore, Cyborg reassures him that he can still be human if he lets himself be. The definition of humanity may vary from person to person. However, most can agree that the interactions and relationships we maintain that evoke emotion contribute to the human experience.

When I watched this episode as a kid, I did not entirely understand the heights the episode was attempting to reach. Now, as an adult, I appreciate the episode more than ever.

teen titans: the animated series
Slade

The End?

Unfortunately, TEEN TITANS: THE ANIMATED SERIES’ was canceled by Cartoon Network after its fifth season. As a result, many plot lines were left open. Yes, there was the film TEEN TITANS: TROUBLE IN TOKYO that came out a little bit after the final episode. However, that film felt more of a distinct adventure than a closing tale.

The final episode of the series is entitled, “Things Change.” Interestingly, it ambiguously features the return of Terra. Beast Boy comes across a girl who looks just like her. However, the girl has no recollection of any of the events Beast Boy recounts to her. So, we never know if that girl truly was Terra or not.

Additionally, a robotic clone of Slade makes an appearance in the episode as well. Again, we never know if Slade truly returned or not. Among the other questions that the conclusion of the series left open is the identity of the second Red X, who I always wishfully thought was Jason Todd.

Though I wish the series had not met its end so soon, I can’t help but think that its inability to wrap up various storylines is another indicator of its maturity as a series. Sometimes, closure is impossible to attain. Beast Boy must understand that this girl does not wish to identify as the person he once knew.

That may be hard for his character to accept, especially considering how close he was to Terra. So, he may never be able to come to terms with her death. All he can do is accept that his experience with her has had its time and try to move forward, which he does as he speaks the final word of TEEN TITANS: THE ANIMATED SERIES,

“Over.”

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