“It’s Never Too Late to Change”: A Character Analysis on Terra
By: Josella Arriola
While the Titans have been busy fighting the Brotherhood of Evil at their headquarters in Paris, life has moved on without them in Jump City. Out of nowhere a huge white monster with the power to transform into any material it comes into contact with, such as concrete, attacks them. The monster slips away unnoticed by the Titans. After that encounter, Beast Boy notices a girl with a striking resemblance to Terra. He follows “Terra” to Murakami High where she attends to school as a student.
Just to make sure his mind isn’t playing tricks on him, he checks out Terra’s statue. The statue appears to be empty with only the plaque remaining. This leads Beast Boy to conclude that Terra is alive. He shares this news with his fellow Titans; however, they think it’s all in his head. Robin even remarks, “Sometimes you want to see something that isn’t there.” Robin has some insight into this based on personal experience, as he went through a similar thing with Slade. He thought Slade was still around plotting schemes so he became obsessed with trying to foil his schemes. As it turns out, those visions of Slade were only hallucinations brought on by the dust surrounding Slade’s mask. It really was all in Robin’s head.
In Beast Boy’s case, it could be the same thing. It could be possible that the girl resembling Terra could be a mirage tapping into his desire to see Terra alive again. They didn’t have any closure. Regardless of whether or not the girl in question is actually Terra, Beast Boy is determined to find her and uncover the truth. He returns to the amusement park and Ben’s Diner where they last hung out. To his dismay, his search bears no fruit because the girl who walks in is similar to Terra only in appearance but it isn’t her. She’s a whole other person.
While Beast Boy hangs out with the Terra look-alike, the Titans consider the possibility of Terra’s return from the dead. He walks up to her doppelganger calling her “Terra”. She denies being Terra and tells him, “You’ve got the wrong person.”
Normally a person changes their appearance through some sort of disguise along with a fake alias if they wish to escape their old life and begin with a “fresh new start”. That’s what happens here, as the girl in question is indeed Terra. She just won’t answer to that name anymore because she’s unable and unwilling to face herself and come to terms with her past. Beast Boy pleads with Terra to accept his offer to sit down and chat. She relents agreeing to one slice of pizza. During their chat, Beast Boy recounts the Titans’ battle with the Brotherhood of Evil in a short summary. He even brings up his joke about the Brain being frozen at end of the battle. As usual, Terra laughs, which leads Beast Boy to remark that she’s still the same person as before. Terra often laughs at Beast Boy’s jokes finding him to be hilarious. He recalls her past life where she lived in the desert, became a Teen Titan, and had trouble controlling her powers. During this recollection, Terra hangs her head down in shame, unable to face Beast Boy or her past.
He continues, saying that Slade helped her to keep her powers in check. This led her to side with Slade and take over the city, but she saved it in the end. Following the tale’s end, Terra’s follow-up question is: “Why would you be friends with someone who was so much trouble?” Based off of her history, Terra did bring a lot of chaos and drama into the Titans‘ lives, so it wouldn’t be strange for her to ask this.
Beast Boy continued to be a friend even though she’s a load of trouble because he knows her real character. A few minutes after their pizza arrives, Beast Boy proclaims that he ordered Terra’s favorite pizza in her honor: Supreme pizza with extra anchovies and no mushrooms. Terra refuses the pizza, stating that she can’t be the old Terra because she doesn’t like Supreme pizza with extra anchovies on her pizza. She has an allergy toward anchovies.
Desperate to spend more time with her, Beast boy shows Terra a tour of Titans Tower as a last ditch effort. Beast Boy and Terra arrive at Titans Tower. He proceeds to show Terra her old room, just as she left it with stars scattered across the ceiling. Terra finds the silver heart-shaped box that Beast Boy made for her sitting atop her bed. She picks it up and opens it. The box mirrors her own reflection. Beast Boy reminds her that the silver heart is a present from him which he gave to her before they went on their date. Terra suddenly closes the box saying that she’s in a hurry to leave. Terra rushes to make a hasty exit out of Titans Tower because the present stirs up repressed memories in her mind, memories that she’d like to forget but are still lodged deep in her subconscious. She chooses to forget the existence of these memories since they bring her nothing but pain and sadness.
As a last attempt to get through to her, Beast Boy takes Terra to the lake in front of Titans Tower. He recalls how they’d skip stones across the water. She was the one who taught him how to make his stone skip across the water instead of sinking to the bottom like an anchor. Following this, Beast Boy gets irritated with Terra for forgetting her past. As a way to jog her memory, Beast Boy throws mud in her face, saying, “You can move the earth.” His hope is that this single reaction will reawaken Terra’s powers, but it doesn’t, so Terra becomes upset and leaves.
Beast Boy is so desperate to have the “old Terra” back as his friend: the Terra that remembers the Titans and their friendship, the Terra that owned up to her mistakes and sacrificed herself for the greater good. Why doesn’t she want to remember? Searching for answers, Beast Boy heads to the amusement park where he and Terra last hung out.
He encounters Slade in the House of Mirrors where he makes a bold statement: Maybe she doesn’t want to remember. If the girl doesn’t remember or use her powers, it’s her choice.
I’m going to play devil’s advocate here and side with Slade. Terra has no desire to remember her not-so-heroic past. She wants to put that past behind her and start off with a clean slate. If Terra either doesn’t or chooses not to remember or not use her powers, it’s totally her choice. She didn’t ask for these powers they were just given to her. By having a normal civilian life now she’s in full control of her own life. She doesn’t have to listen to anybody except her adoptive guardians.
After their encounter, Beast Boy and Slade engage in a fight with each other, with Slade gaining the upper hand. He informs Beast Boy that he’s the only one who’s hurting her by forcing her to remember such painful memories. He should let her go and move on with her life. That statement is the last straw for him, so he summons all his strength and beats up Slade; unfortunately this Slade turns out to be one of Slade’s robots.
Beast Boy follows Terra back to her school to resume their conversation but she ignores him. Terra’s avoidance of him reaches a breaking point when Beast Boy gets thrown out of the library for being noisy. He’ll go on the condition that Terra will talk to him. She concedes to his request for a couple minutes in the hallway. Beast Boy starts off the conversation stating as a fact that Terra is his friend and a Teen Titan. Terra continues to be in denial though. He continues saying that she doesn’t belong at school living a civilian life. Her place is with the Teen Titans fighting alongside them against evil supervillains.
Hearing Beast boy call her “Terra” again, she gets fed up with it and snaps. “How many times do I have to tell you that I’m not Terra! You’ve got the wrong girl!” Beast Boy retorts back saying that her past is part of her identity. His biggest hope is for Terra to remember her past and become her old self once more. His hope gets dashed when Terra hits him with a large dose of reality: “Things were never the way you remember.” Memories aren’t always how you remember them, especially when you take off the rose-tinted glasses and begin to view them from an analytical lens.
Beast Boy hands out his communicator giving it to Terra as an open line of communication between them. Terra rejects his offer explaining to him that she won’t have any use for it. Filled with a tinge of regret, Terra makes this final declaration: “Things change, Beast Boy. The girl you want me to be is just a memory.” Terra isn’t the same person anymore that the Titans met near a cave. Beast Boy has to face the fact that Terra longs for a normal civilian life. Now that she has it, she won’t just abandon it to resume her role as a superhero. There’s no way Terra would do that.
As a last resort, Beast Boy invites Terra along with to fight the white monster alongside the other Titans. Terra shakes her head in response. She’s just a normal girl woefully unprepared for her geometry test in her next class. She walks away fading into the crowd of students in the hallway. Beast Boy updates Robin telling him that he’ll be coming to help them out. The final scene shows Beast Boy running out of the hallway to the other Titans. This ending brings up more questions that remain unanswered.
However, don’t fret, as a comic book series based on the TV series exists. For some closure on Terra and Beast Boy’s relationship, I suggest reading issue #51 since it delves into Terra’s backstory and has a satisfying conclusion unlike the TV series.