Titans Season 4 Intervew - Tom Pabst

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Tom Pabst Talks Titans Season 4, DickKory & a Bittersweet Farewell

Tom Pabst chats to Multiverse of Color’s G.W. about all things DC’s Titans season 4, including his own episode, and saying goodbye to the show.

The end is near for HBO Max’s Titans as season 4, part 2, arrives in only a week from now. Titans season 4, part 1 saw the heroes going up against Mother Blood, but not knowing that a new ally would eventually become their ultimate big bad. With only six episodes left to go, the heroes will soon go through their biggest battle yet.

Multiverse of Color recently had the pleasure of chatting with one of the Titans writers, Tom Pabst. Having been involved since season 2, Pabst spoke about getting ready to bid farewell to the DC drama, what is coming up in his final episodes, and what is next for him after Titans season 4.

G.W.: To what extent is your episode, ‘Dick and Carol and Ted and Kory’ based on/related to the film its name takes inspiration from? Was this just a fun name and nod to the film or is the episode actually inspired by the movie? 

Tom Pabst: For starters, I have to pass credit to Rich Hatem for coming up with the title. And to answer your question, no, not especially. But there was something at that time quite revolutionary about that movie, and about sexual politics. And this episode felt rebellious in its own way. It was only the spirit of the great 70s filmmaking mavericks, who would always kind of go for it. And we really felt like we were going to go for it with this episode! So that was the spirit of the title.

G.W.: Why was writing this episode important to you? What did it mean, as both a fan and a writer?

Tom Pabst: I was kind of written into some parameters. So it was a puzzle that I wanted to solve, but also I really wanted to get to an emotional place. And it’s hard with these characters and broad stories to really get to an emotional place. That was the goal. It was super fun to play in that realm. What was important was it was going to be Brenton and Anna’s last big episode together – they both considered it that. Even if we ended it right there, I hoped there would be a rich payment on how they (Dick and Kory) felt for each other… Without screwing up the rest of the season! I really got to swing for the fences.

G.W: Absolutely.

Tom Pabst: I’m a little nervous to see how people react to my episode, because it’s such a different kind of episode. But, boy, Anna and Brenton-

G.W.: -Oh, they’re brilliant.

Tom Pabst: I don’t think they’ve ever been better in the whole show. They really handed us a gift. And what about those fights?!

G.W: Yeah, wow! I think the fights in Part 2 were probably the best we’ve seen on the show. Would you agree?

Tom Pabst: I would, and that’s saying a lot. We had Larnell (Stovall), who was our stunt coordinator, who trained these guys, but wasn’t on the show this past season. He was off doing movies! Such a great guy, and he’s trained them so well. And they really stepped up without him. We script our action scenes and give them great leeway, and they’ll come up with ideas. Like in ‘Super Super Mart’, I think it was one of the stunt guys who came up with the clap; the clap that made the zombies stop. Such a cool thing. They kicked ass!

G.W.: The promo material, plot, and the recently released synopsis for Titans season 4, part 2 all seem to point towards a big moment for Starfire. This is certainly one of the fandom’s most anticipated things for Part 2. What can you tease about that? Will Starfire fans be satisfied?

Tom Pabst: I think they will. I think they’re going to be more than pleased, more than satisfied. We had an idea that this was maybe going to be our final season. In this season, Anna Kory really became our focus in a bigger way. I don’t even know that it was said; it was just one of those things where… We had shined the spotlight on Dick so many times, and others characters too. But really, it just felt richest when telling Anna’s (Kory’s) story. We hope it’s satisfying! We thought it was. And if it isn’t, it’s not for lack of devotion and focus.

G.W.: Part 1, to me, felt like a lot of setups. I think we all got the feeling that the big moments and payoffs would be saved for the second half. Would you say that’s accurate? Do things really amp up in Titans season 4, part 2?

Tom Pabst: Well, you’re very right. Part 1… You never want to think of your story, your episodes, as cutting carrots in your soup, right? They all have to shine in their own ways. But in order to give Joseph and Franka some places to go, we did have to cover that story and make it credible. 

G.W.: Sure.

Tom Pabst: When we have fallen down with our villains it’s because we just didn’t dig deep enough, we didn’t till those fields long enough. There’s some of that. And you have to go slow because (there are) 12 episodes. The setting up of Dick and Kory, Gar. So the first six slaved to the back and really to the penultimate.

G.W: Why were May and Sebastian the perfect villains for Titans season 4?

Tom Pabst: One of the challenges of Titans is how much power they have. You’ve got Superboy, Starfire, Raven, and Beast Boy. And you have all the resources and money in the world because you’re Bruce Wayne’s kid. Who the hell is not just gonna get mowed over by that much power? All of our villains have been formidable in their own ways, but magic (villains) seems the most formidable. It’s something that you can’t really understand. If you could, Kory could just blast it! Magic is so mysterious that it keeps vexing them, and it gives Superboy insecurity. So for that reason, I thought it was the best, most formidable duo of villains we could do.

G.W.: I think what you said about the power-scaling is such a relevant point, because it’s so difficult to know how to balance that and especially with a TV show because it’s not a film. You only have so much money! You have to be cautious of that.

Tom Pabst: For sure. I mean, there was a supernatural element with Deathstroke and Jericho, but it was still just a guy with guns, you know? It (magic) was also just something in the room that everyone liked. Richard Hatem and Bryan Hill love magic and the supernatural. Josh, Prathi, Greg, Melissa, Jamie. They all love it. It just thrilled each of the writers in a way that resulted in everybody doing some of their best work.

G.W.: Definitely. And I could tell when watching that exploring magic took your mind to new places and pushed your creativity. There’s just so much more you can do in terms of storytelling.

Tom Pabst: Yeah, it was super fun. I didn’t realize everybody loved horror so much in the (writers’) room. As soon as we started getting into that, everything started to take form and have some consistency—more consistency than we’ve had in other seasons. I mean, we were not entirely inconsistent, but there was just this spirit of excitement when we leaned into these things.

G.W.: If you could make season 5 happen with the click of your fingers, what would it look like?

Tom Pabst: If you’d asked me this three months ago, I would’ve had better answers. Greg and I would pitch and knock around ideas of how it could go. You really should start with who the bad guy is. Geoff Johns has always been our spiritual guide for our bad guys, so he should get most of the credit because he just knows the material so well. I read comic books, but I am not the expert that he is. So it would’ve been, let’s find out who our bad guy or gal or gang is. That would’ve been the most practical thing to figure out. 

G.W.: Following on from that, do you feel happy with where things are left at the end of Titans season 4? Would you jump at the chance to go one more or leave things as they are?

Tom Pabst: Well, I would jump. I think we stuck the landing, which is always good, but it’s only a landing! I’m actually shocked that we got canceled. This is the kind of show that I thought could go for 10 years. These characters are so beloved and getting more interesting as we explore them and new writers come in. So yeah, I would have jumped at the chance… You become attached to the people you make it with. I’m very attached to our cast and our crew, and it would just be great to get the traveling road show back on the road.

G.W.: It would. I’m really going to miss the show.

Tom Pabst: I was in a funk for a week when I found out. Greg (Walker) called me up, and we went for drinks we all saw each other, and had a party. And it was super emotional for us! It’s unfortunate. I’ll be honest; I’ll be surprised if we don’t get revived. I’ve heard nothing, but these are such recognizable and emotionally bonded characters. It may be five years, but I’ve always thought the premise (of Titans) was one of the best superhero premises. 

G.W. Couple more questions?

Tom Pabst: Yeah, no problem. I’m not stressed about time. I’m glad we started earlier because then I have the rest of the day not to bum out about Titans!

G.W.: I actually just wanted to ask about your experience on the show because you’ve been here since season 2. That’s three seasons on the show. So I just want to know what it’s been like to work on the show for these three seasons. The ups, the downs. Everything.

Tom Pabst: I’d never written a superhero show. I wrote a show called ‘The Sinner’. ‘Counterpart’, ‘Shut Eye’. Adult drama thrillers. So getting my head around writing a comic book show was… I had to learn to be respectful of it. I had to learn what the genius part of comic books are and one of the things I learned… because Bryan (Hill) writes comic books and would pitch comic book ideas. And I’d be like, ‘those are gold! They’re great! They’d really work in TV and movies!’. I’m a psychological digger kind of writer. I had to revel in the river of the goodness of comic books gave me and learn where the fruit on those trees is. 

Covid was a bummer. That was really hard. We get shut down. It made the actors sometimes a little cranky. Nobody likes wearing masks and having Covid police on set. I tried to buy sandwiches and goodies for the crew one day and Covid police stopped me! But there were never really any downs. Sometimes scripts would come in bumpy so we’d all work together and help – my own and others. That’s a super amazing process, and it’s happened a few times where a script would come in bumpy and the whole (writers’) room would come in. Mission: fix the script! And we’d get it done, and make a good episode. 

There were so many of those satisfying moments. I count them all as friends, these writers. Jamie (Gorenburg) has been on since season 2. Bryan (Hill) and Rich (Hatem) since season 1. There’s been a lot of the same faces.

I don’t know if you’ve heard too much about Greg Walker but Greg Walker is the greatest showrunner I’ve ever worked for, and I’ve worked for a few. He is the most fair, the most evenkeel, and generous spirit. To give me the leeway to write the crazy episode I wrote and more or less Walmart zombies. He had a really tough job. When you have Geoff Johns as a producer, Akiva Goldsman, and Greg Berlanti, and they say, ‘Greg Walker, you go run this!’, but those are such powerful people in the business that they could at any moment come and shake things up. So Greg had to hear them, take their notes, and ask them for help sometimes. Hat’s off to Greg, man. You just couldn’t have asked for a better guy.

G.W.: I couldn’t agree more. I had the pleasure of interviewing him back in November before Part 1 aired. It was so lovely to talk to him. An honor, really, as I’m such a big fan of the show. I wish I had more time to speak to him! More on a personal level, in terms of your career, what’s next for you after Titans season 4?

Tom Pabst: Well, I wrote a new TV pilot. So we’ll be trying to set that up! We just found a producer that wants to make it. And I’ve written a few scripts with my friend Kip Williams, who directed Paranormal Activity 2, which I co-wrote. We’ve become great friends and collaborators. 

I’ve been on a show (Titans) a long time and so I have a little while that I get to just think of ideas which I haven’t done in a while because the show’s-

G.W.: -It’s a commitment.

Tom Pabst: It is, but also, you end up learning how to make ideas for Titans. So it’s taken me a few months to sort of decompress from that. 

G.W.: Well, I wish you the absolute best of luck with your career onwards.

Tom Pabst: Thank you.

G.W. Finally, is there anything you want to say to fans?

Tom Pabst: Only thank you. More specifically, the passion for Titans. Whether you’re team Gar, team Kory or Nightwing, I’ve never been on a show that had more passion. When I worked on the first season of ‘The Sinner’, people were getting into it – not like this! Nothing like this! In love and being angry, you know? At times, I would check out Twitter and think, ‘I don’t wanna get in the way of that!’. The passion is just amazing, and to have been in that river with them has been a privilege.

Titans Season 4, Part 2 premieres on Thursday, April 13, only on HBO Max.