TMNT Re-Review: Episode 1.01 “Things Change”

“I gotta tell ya, this has been one mondo bizarro day.” –Michelangelo

“Things Change”
Written by: Michael Ryan
Original Air Date: February 8, 2003

Synopsis: The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ lives are changed forever when robotic beasties–mousers, although they don’t know that yet–destroy their lair and separate them from their Master Splinter. Forced to move topside, they accidentally encounter members of the Purple Dragons, “the toughest street gang in the East Side”. After defeating the dragons with ease, the turtles are attacked by a group of ninjas, who proved to be far more formidable opponents. Forced to retreat in an armored truck stolen from the Dragons, the turtles meet up with Splinter, who has fought of yet more mousers, and more importantly, has found them a new home. Meanwhile, in a Manhattan skyscraper, the terrified leader of the defeated Purple Dragons explains his failure to his leader, Oroku Saki, who does not take kindly to his underling’s failure.

Random Thoughts:

* I love that first scene. From the very start, we’re shown that Lloyd Goldfine and the creators are fans of the turtles, and that they want to remain faithful to the books. While Leonardo’s speech isn’t an exact translation of the one he makes in the very first comic book, the fact that they thought to include it shows that they’re awesome.

* I’ve always been impressed at how jam-packed this episode is. In roughly twenty-two minutes, we’re introduced to the turtles and Splinter, have three different encounters with three different groups of enemies, lose a lair, gain a lair, and get a glimpse of the big bad. Not bad at all.

* While it’s pretty obvious upon reflection that this episode (and the first couple of seasons as a whole) has some of the usual restrictions applied to Saturday Morning cartoons–Leonardo’s initial spiel has been excised of all of the original’s references to death; none of the human opponents are seriously maimed or use guns–it’s because of that fact that the episode’s final scene comes across as daring: we are seriously meant to assume that Purple Dragon Leader Guy is killed, and it perfectly sets the tone for The Shredder, and shows a good amount of trust in the audience.

* One particularly notable thing in retrospect, is the turtles’ decision to give the stolen money they find in the armored truck to the police, particularly when you consider all the other stuff they’ve stolen or kept to themselves. I’m conflicted on it. While it makes sense–the turtles can’t easily use the money themselves, and at this point they don’t know anyone who can–it still seems like a scene that was added as a moral for the kids watching at home. There are a couple of scenes like that in this season, where the turtles appear to more heroically than one would expect from them, and they bug just a smidge, particularly since the show is for the most part pretty consistent in portraying the turtles as not being superheroes.

* One thing I always notice about this episode, particularly in contrast with latter seasons, is the music. There’s more of it, it’s actually spotlighted instead of just sitting there, and it’s more varied. It’s not the greatest music ever, but it fits nicely.

* No matter the year, the turtles have always been an concept for the eighties, and I think the reimagining of the Purple Dragons plays to that rather nicely. The look, not like any real gangbangers, but like rejects from classic beat-them-ups like Double Dragon or Final Fight. I really wish more had been done with this particular incarnation of the group.

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