Saturday, June 11, 2016

Review: Teen Titans Go! "Dog Hand" aka "Raven's Daddy Dearest"

I must say, I'm actually enjoying the process of going over Teen Titans Go! more than I thought I would.

The most fascinating thing about these early episodes looking at all the experimentation at work. The first season in general has a really weird balance of zany humor with slightly more grounded fare, and it can actually be pretty interesting to take a look at some of these episodes and examine where the writers' creative boundaries currently are.

In this episode’s case, the basic story is pretty much what you'd expect a humor cartoon to give us when it comes to a story about a monster trying to reconnect with his teenage daughter. But the direction of the jokes show Teen Titans Go! beginning to take its eventual shape.

It's really surprisingly fascinating, like an animated vivisection.

As I said, a demon is trying to reconnect with his daughter to turn her into the little hellspawn he’d always wanted her to be, while using gifts to get her friends on his side.

And I’ve never meant this more… but that’s it.

There is so much padding to this episode that it’s not even funny. Stretches of jokes, slow movements, pointless bits. Not just slowly-paced, but padded out the wazoo. And it's a 12-minute episode.

At its core, whether intentionally or not, this episode is basically a remake of the minute-long New Teen Titans short “Bad Dad,” where a gigantic Trigon shows up at the tower to try and buy his daughter’s affection with gifts. And I must say, the juxtaposition of a gigantic, demonic Trigon offering his daughter a bunny as they make awkward conversation is infinitely funnier than dressing him up in a vest.

In fact, let's talk about that.
Trigon (Kevin Michael Richardson)

The line has been crossed.

If you ask me, this is the official moment when Teen Titans Go! first started leaning toward wackiness full-time, even before “Meatball Party” was finally greenlit. Previously, the characters were comedically exaggerated and put in funny situations. But Trigon’s depiction here is the first time one of the characters became a joke.

Sure, putting Trigon in a vest is a funny idea, but when coupled with the sitcom parody, it all comes at the expense of the character’s seriousness, which ruins the joke. Having a monstrous demon attempt to make small talk is funny because it goes against our expectations. Turning Trigon into a goofy, wise-cracking “cool dad” wannabe who only occasionally grows into a giant demon goes against our expectations… at first. Then it simply creates a new status quo for the character, meaning that there’s no joke anymore, since the persona that they’re juxtaposing against the casual setting doesn’t appear in the casual setting.

Gee. I sure hope that Cyborg’s backstory as the offspring of a toaster was worth the one joke. And I’m sure that they’ll never ever contradict this random gag a few times this season. At least it sort of explains why he didn’t wish to be human again, as in the original cartoon: he never was completely human.

…Man, now I keep wondering why in Thor’s name Cyborg’s mom had sex with a toaster.

Potentially, there’s some character development in the idea that Starfire’s greatest wish was to be able to talk like a regular Earth teen. But this is Teen Titans Go!, you fool. Don’t expect character development. Not even for Raven.

She dislikes her dad for being an evil wiener, and she ends up being proven right. I wish I could talk more about what this reveals about Raven’s character… but it doesn’t. She hates her dad, and she hates him for a very good reason. This story about raven isn’t even about Raven; it’s about making jokes and giving the Titans goofy powers. Perhaps why the original title of “Raven’s Daddy Dearest” was changed to “Dog Hand” (except in some UK listings), setting an eventual trend for really random and stupid names. I’m looking at you, “Breakfast Cheese!”

I must say, though, that there’s some surprisingly smooth animation this time around, especially with Starfire’s sassy movements while she talks like an Earth teen.

Though I must ask why Beast Boy has patellas in his arms.
So like many of the other early episodes, there’s some creativity and skill applied to some of the animation.

No joke, this is pretty dynamic.
Final Thoughts
It exists in an awkward middle space between the relatively-grounded initial ideas for the series and the eventual left turn the show took into abject weirdness. There's really nothing elevating this episode beyond the basic storytelling opportunities presented by Trigon showing up to try and be what he considers a good father.

So... Meh. One big meh, which is what I predict most of these episode will be until the writers start moving outside the safe zone, for better and for worse.

Next time, we'll get some more magical hijinks that show exactly why Raven hasn't been using her powers on her friends. See you then!

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