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Teen Titans was an animated series that ran from 2003 to 2006. It was created by Glen Murakami, David Slack and Sam Register based on characters by DC Comics. Warned Bros. produced it, and it ran on Cartoon Network.
The show follows a group of teenagers with superpowers who fight a wide variety of villains and have a good time doing it, but it’s not all fun and games. Like most teens, these five are “going thru it”, and have their own struggles to weigh them down along with the responsibility of saving lives.
The cartoon tackles OCD, racism, heartbreak, loss, and other significant themes in its five-season run, making it very complex for a kids’ action show. Those who grew up on Teen Titans often developed a firm appreciation for the action/drama category, from shonen anime to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The show has received much praise, which makes it hard to narrow down a top tier of episodes. Below is my best effort at doing so.
10. “Date with Destiny”
Killer Moth threatens to release giant, destructive moths out on the city. The Teen Titans must give into his demands, including Robin taking his daughter, Kitten, to prom. Starfire is outraged, and goes to prom as well to watch over the two lovebirds. Chaos ensues, including plenty of Starfire jealousy and a surprise arrival from Kitten’s ex-boyfriend, a familiar face for the Titans. In the end, we get a little bit of couple-on-couple action as Robin and Starfire fight Kitten and Fang over the device that controls the moths. The teen heroes win easily, and they even get to share a dance.
Robin and Starfire are very cute together; all Teen Titans fans can agree on this, me especially. This is one of the best episodes for their relationship. Like most teen relationships, it faces its trials, just maybe a little bit differently than others, as most youngsters don’t fight giant moths and spiders in their free time. Their dance in the end is a nice touch, as the audience is pretty starved for direct displays of affection between Robin and Starfire. Additionally, this episode is one of the funniest in the show. Killer Moth and Kitten have a hilarious dynamic, and Robin and Kitten are even better. Perhaps Kitten is one of the best written villains of the series.
After locating H.I.V.E. Academy, Cyborg goes undercover as a student there, with a hologram disguise that can make him look fully human. After spending much time among teen criminals, headmaster Brother Blood reveals that he knew Cyborg’s identity all along, but he views him as a great villain prospect. He tells Cyborg that he can make him fully human again and mind controls him for good measure. Cyborg cuts himself off from the Titans, who go after him. A Titans versus H.I.V.E. fight ensues. Initially, Cyborg takes the villains’ side, before turning on Brother Blood in an expert deception. Ironically, the robot in him could not be mind controlled.
“Deception” is a lot of fun to watch. The whole “undercover” vibe is awesome, especially at H.I.V.E., as Cyborg must act evil and train hard but also partake in normal high school stuff with villainous twists. Cyborg’s struggle with humanity is extremely well done in this episode. His cybernetic body both nearly drove him to villainy but also saved him from villainy. Starfire telling Cyborg that she always viewed him as just a normal kid is a great moment.
8. “Titans Together”
In the previous episode, Robin was captured by the Brotherhood of Evil and the others were all defeated in battle, Beast Boy being the only exception. Though distraught, our green friend assembles his own ragtag gang of heroes, who manage to break into the Brotherhood’s base. When things seem dire, reinforcements arrive in the form of the Titans and all of the teen vigilantes that were recruited throughout the season. The Brotherhood of Evil is defeated by the extended version of the Teen Titans, together.
This episode serves as the perfect climax for season five. No other season built up to the finale quite as well. Every episode in the final season seemed to be a step toward this one, and it culminated perfectly. The all-out battle between the powerful Brotherhood members and the interesting new Titans is nonstop entertainment. It may not be the most complex or best-written episode on this list, but it’s an action-packed fun one.
Jinx is frustrated by her team’s consistent failure at the hands of a new speedster vigilante. The H.I.V.E. Five finally capture Kid Flash, and he and the sorceress get to talk. Among attempts at flirtation, the boy delivers the message that Jinx’s frustration comes from the fact that she’s not a villain at heart. Later, she is given the opportunity to hand Kid Flash over to her supervillain role model, Madame Rouge. Unsurprisingly, Rouge turns out to be a bit of a prick. Jinx chooses Kid Flash, and a second chance at life.
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This episode is the most unique on this list, in the way that it has almost nothing to do with the main squad of characters. It’s a great standalone story about a fun new character and an old character with an interesting twist. The fifth season is all about expanding the cast with cool new heroes and villains, and this episode is easily the highlight of that. It’s not classic Titans, but it does very well all the same.
Set in the past, this episode tells the origin of the Teen Titans. After Starfire escapes from her captors, she wreaks havoc on Jump City in a confused rage. The rest of the Titans, coincidentally on the scene, team up to try and stop her, only succeeding when Raven convinces them to negotiate. Starfire then basically tells them to get lost, and so they do. The quintet reunites after Starfire’s enemies arrive in the city in order to enslave the Tamaranean. The future Titans team up to take them down. In this span, Starfire learns compassion, Cyborg and Raven learn it’s okay to be weird, Robin is respected as a leader, and Beast Boy is just Beast Boy. They decide they’re a good team, and we all know what happens after that.
“Go” has a lot of great stuff going on, almost too much, in fact. My biggest complaint with this episode is that it is a bit rushed, but this would have been hard to avoid without major cuts to individual character development. Finally getting a Teen Titans origin story was awesome. Their pasts and identities are pretty vague for most of the series, so it was nice finally having that cleared up. It’s well done too, with each character having their own importance, as well as the effective use of foreshadowing (Robstar, Trigon, etc.). “Go” is packed with unique content, which I’ll take any day.
5. “Aftershock” Parts 1 and 2
Terra faces off against her former teammates for the first time since betraying them. The Teen Titans are reluctant to fight Terra, and so she whoops them and she and Slade take over the city. The Titans win in a rematch, this time holding nothing back. Slade berates Terra for her loss, the girl finally realizing that he was only using her. She tries to rebel, only to realize that Slade controls her suit. Beast Boy arrives, only to get whooped again by his sweetheart. Before Slade makes her kill BB, she breaks free of her master’s control and destroys (?) him in a volcano. In a courageous moment of redemption, Terra then sacrifices herself to stop the volcano from spreading.
A break from the usual laughter and fun, this episode is emotional. I’ve watched a lot of action shows, most of them for adult audiences, and few tell the story of an unwilling villain as well as Terra from Teen Titans. While usually this show is very black and white, good and evil, these lines are blurred in the season two finale, and it has an emotional impact on the troubled teens. In the end, Terra falls victim to her powers, a reoccurring theme in her life. Heavy stuff.
4. “Things Change”
While the Titans are locked in a fight with a new enemy, Beast Boy sees Terra, who was supposed to be frozen in stone. While his teammates struggle with the very spontaneous and very powerful newcomer, Beast Boy locates and attempts to reconnect with the girl. He guides her through countless memories, but Terra can’t recall any of it and is very uninterested. Beast Boy blames Slade, but when the two square off it is revealed that he has nothing to do with this. Intentionally or not, Terra cut herself off from the Titans. After receiving a distress call from his team, Beast Boy finally gives up on Terra and accepts that change, as sad as it can be, cannot be fought.
Most fans either hate or love this episode. I love it, mainly because of the risk it takes in being so unconventional. People expected the final regular episode of Teen Titans to be some kind of exciting battle between lovable heroes and awesome villians. Instead, they got a vague story about growing up and depression. Some viewers complain that it left them unsatisfied and bummed, but I think that’s how a good TV show should end. Besides, the Titans get their happy ending in “Trouble in Tokyo”. “Things Change” works perfectly as it makes the already-emotional feeling of a series ending far more emotional.
3. “The End” Parts 1, 2, and 3
The prophesied day for Raven to portal her evil father to Earth arrives. After Trigon threatens her friends, she ushers him in, as she felt that it was unavoidable anyway. The process destroys her and the rest of the world, minus the Titans, who she protects. The Titans try to fight Trigon, but only Raven’s powers are effective against him. Slade, with a grudge against Trigon, helps Robin locate Raven, who was reverted to a childlike state but not killed. While the other Titans fight evil versions of themselves and whatever else Trigon can throw at them, Robin teaches Raven of who she was: a good friend, not just some demonic portal. When things look their worst, Raven keeps this message in mind and stands up to her father, destroying him in her most powerful form and saving the world.
Long before Mando and Baby Yoda, there was Robin and Baby Raven. The wholesome interactions between those two are enough to make this episode (or series of episodes) great on its own, but there’s so much other awesome stuff. The stakes are so high, and the atmosphere is epic. I mean, the good guys really did lose for a second there. Lastly, I’m a sucker for a redemption arc, and I thought the team up with Slade was pretty cool, especially considering it was one of the last significant moments for his character. “The End” may be the most intense and exciting adventure endured by the Teen Titans.
2. “Apprentice” Parts 1 and 2
Robin holds nothing back in the Titans latest scuffle with Slade’s men, making it easy for the Boy Wonder to be separated. Once Robin arrives at Slade’s lair and the others destroy his bomb, Slade reveals it was all a plot to recruit Robin as his apprentice. The Robinless Titans are attacked and secretly injected with nanoscopic probes capable of killing them. Slade uses this to blackmail his rival into working for him, even going so far as making him fight his former teammates. In the end, Robin unites himself with his team, injecting himself with the probes. Slade, not wanting to kill his precious apprentice, destroys the kill-trigger, and everyone goes home safe.
Robin joining the bad guys was probably the greatest plot twist I ever witnessed as a kid, and it still resonates with me today. The concept of Robin and Slade working side by side was unheard of. These episodes do a tremendous job displaying the similarities between Robin and his archenemy. When the Titans show up to save Robin, uncaring of whether or not it may kill them, it is beautifully conveyed that the major difference between Robin and Slade is the people they surround themselves with. The rivalry between these two may be the best dynamic in the whole show, and no episode pulls it off better than “Apprentice”.
1. “Trouble in Tokyo”
In the Teen Titans finale, the team visits Japan in hopes of finding Brushogun, the boss of a criminal who attacked them. In an accurate summary of the entire series, Robin hunts the villain relentlessly while the others get up to amusing hijincks. Batman’s protégé has a bad stretch where he rejects Starfire’s romantic advances and then is framed for murder. After a few exciting action sequences while on the run from both criminals and the law, the Titans locate Brushogun’s headquarters. There, they discover that he was being used the whole time by the commander of the Tokyo Troopers, Uehara Daizo, whose whole career had been an act. Daizo takes over Brushogun’s power and nearly defeats the Titans before Robin, by the skin of his teeth, pulls Brushogun out of Daizo, cutting off Daizo’s abilities. In the aftermath, the boy reconciles with his orange significant other, and the two finally kiss. With things going pretty well for him, the Titans’ leader lets his team enjoy the rest of their vacation.
Maybe it’s a bit of a cop out to put the movie at number one, but I really do love this movie. It manages to function as both a standalone film and a conclusion to the show, as it introduces interesting new concepts while also tying up loose ends from the rest of the series. Daizo’s reveal is predictable, but that doesn’t take away from his excellence as an antagonist, especially alongside Brushogun’s colorful powers. Robin and Starfire’s kiss is iconic, and rightfully so. It had been three years in the making, and it caps off the lead character’s development nicely as Robin finally learns that even heroes should enjoy themselves. The finale is funny, dramatic, and all-around very enjoyable. It wraps Teen Titans up well.
There were many episodes that pained me to leave out, such as:
- “Mask” - More edgy Robin!
- “Betrayal” - Romantic tragedy!
- “Titans East” Parts 1 and 2 - New Titans? Count me in!
… and plenty of others.
Revisiting Teen Titans, rewatching several episodes, and deciding which were the best was loads of fun. I would recommend this show for any kid or any child at heart. Especially these 10 episodes.
Thanks for reading!