Saturday, August 20, 2016

Review: Teen Titans Go! "Dude Relax"

So, when watching this episode, did anyone else find the Couch Spirit a little… disturbing? Beast Boy and Robin getting sucked into some kind of alternate dimension, the cultish repetition of “be one with the couch”… it could have gone to a creepy place.

This is what the episode gave us.
This is what a small part of me expected.
Actually, that probably would have made the episode awesome. Robin having to fight against an eldritch couch from beyond space and time? I'd watch the heck out of that.

Plot/Themes
Robin learns to relax.

The moral in a nutshell.
This is a good example of a high-concept work. The premise is quick to explain, and the events all stem from exploring that premise. This is also a good way to illustrate that “high-concept” does not automatically equate with “sophisticated.”

The idea, at its core, is something that could have easily been done by the original Teen Titans cartoon, though I’m pretty sure that the similarities would have quickly ended at the basic premise.

Characters
Robin
Although TTG has re-characterized Robin into a neurotic wreck, the descent started off rather slow. But between this and last episode, he seems to have gotten exponentially worse. To be fair, it is explicitly stated that the lack of crime is beginning to get to him. After all, he is apparently conditioned now to expect interruptions. And I’d imagine that ninja training with Batman might have made him even more paranoid, if I may give the show the benefit of the doubt.

It’s important to note that Robin’s uptightness has not been cured. If anything, he’s going to get worse as time goes on. But TTG focuses on comedy over continuity. So even though the Couch Spirit will show up again, Robin’s lesson will not have stuck.

Neither will have Starfire's third arm.
I’m not saying that that’s a bad thing, though. I’m not saying it’s a good thing, either. It’s simply how Teen Titans Go! chooses to tell its stories. The question as to whether or not Teen Titans Go!’s approach to continuity works overall is for another time, though. For now, I will say that Robin’s uptightness is explored adequately enough in the terms that TTG wishes to use in its exploration of Robin’s character. Which basically means that the show was trying to make me laugh and I did.

Still, I find it interesting that a monkey stealing Robin’s diaper was apparently more traumatic to him than losing his parents to a trapeze. Repressed memories hiding behind a false memory of a moneky stealing his diaper? That would explain the mask his baby self was wearing. Sounds like fodder for a dark Teen Titans Go! fanfic to me.

Beast Boy
Beast Boy’s stoner tendencies are getting stronger, as well, providing a counterpoint to Robin’s inability to relax. Short of actually hinting that Beast Boy smokes weed, all the symptoms are there. Half-closed eyes, laid-back demeanor, laziness, et cetera.

These qualities have been dialed up from his portrayal in the original Teen Titans, likely acknowledging many fans’ headcanon/fan theory/jokes regarding Beast Boy being a stoner.

Couch Spirit (Khary Payton)
The laid-back spirit of all that is lazy is the first of Teen Titans Go!’s numerous physical embodiments of concepts. By the third season, this idea will be rolled out every other episode or so, but Robin’s journey to meet with the Couch Spirit plays on the old trope of going on a journey to meet with an old, wise master to ask him a burning question. And Robin’s subsequent soul-searching reflects the kind of answer that such journeys end in.

Although the explanation still came out of the blue.
Visuals
The animation quality had a lot of energy to it, though with little in the way of animation. For example, the various parts of the Titanmobile fall apart in the space of one frame each. And Robin’s electrocution was animated similarly. Other parts, like the couch dimension, have a suitably trippy design and a slightly more fluid framerate. So there seems to be a tiny bit of experimentation among the animation staff.

Final Thoughts
The episode actually works.

I mean, it’s not great, but it competently manages to be entertaining beyond randomness for the sake of randomness (apart from the bit inside the couch). I know that sounds like I’m damning the episode with faint praise, but this episode finally feels like the show’s finding its own niche, rather than reigning in the humor from as far as the writers want to go with it.

Next time, Laundry Day. See you then. Underthings. Tumbling.

2 comments:

  1. "Although TTG has re-characterized Robin into a neurotic wreck, the descent started off rather slow. But between this and last episode, he seems to have gotten exponentially worse. To be fair, it is explicitly stated that the lack of crime is beginning to get to him. After all, he is apparently conditioned now to expect interruptions. And I’d imagine that ninja training with Batman might have made him even more paranoid, if I may give the show the benefit of the doubt."

    I wish you were in charge of the series. It would've been interesting if the show was set in a world similar to "The Just" where all the main superheroes basically put crime in all but the single digits and the proceeding generation had barely anything to do but re-enact old battles.

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    1. The writers of TTG love to troll the audience, so I wouldn't be surprised if the series finale goes out of its way to reveal that this show DOES take place in a similar world, or a dream world, or Hell, or something.

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