A Hockey-Mask Wearing Punk Appears! “Meet Casey Jones”

“Look, freak-boy: if you’re protecting these Purple Dragon scum, then you’re in my way…and you’re going down too!”Casey Jones

Written by: Michael Ryan
Original Air Date: March 1, 2003
Characters introduced: Casey Jones, Dragonface

Synopsis:

After faring poorly in a sparring match against Michelangelo, Raphael attempts to take his anger out on his brother with the help of an iron bar.  Stopped by the rest of his family and horrified at what he had been about to do, he runs out of the lair and into the city, where he meets up with another angry individual: Casey Jones, a hockey-mask wearing vigilante who will stop at nothing to destroy the Purple Dragon gang.

After witnessing Jones almost murdering a trio of Dragons, Raph, who sees way too much of himself in the vigilante, intervenes and attempts to calm Casey down, explaining that there is a limit to how far he should take things in his quest for justice.  Casey is having none of it, however, and begins fighting the mutant turtle.

As the two hotheads battle it out, Mikey, back at the lair, tries to convince Don to overhaul the armored truck they’d stolen from the Purple Dragons into a “Battle Shell”.  Exasperated, Don asks Mikey to hand their “Sewer Sweet Sewer” sign on the wall: one overemphatically-nailed railroad spike later, Mikey has broken through one of the lair’s walls to reveal a mysterious elevator—an elevator sharing the same design aesthetics as their lair, no less—leading to an abandoned warehouse above.

After sucker-punching Raph, Casey makes his escape, offering to have a rematch the next Friday at Central Park.  However, Casey is overheard by one of the defeated Purple Dragons, who calls his leader, Dragonface, to tell him of the news.

After filling his brothers in on the events of that night, the turtles agree to meet up with Jones in order to convince him of the errors of his way.  Hopping into their new Battle Shell—Mikey had convinced Don along with some help from Splinter—they make their way to the agreed-upon meeting place, where this time, Raph is more successful in getting through to Casey.  Casey tells Raph the reason for his vendetta: apparently, the Purple Dragons, led by Hun, had burned Casey’s father’s store after he’d refused to give them shakedown money.  Sensing that they are indeed kindred spirits, the two become friendly with each other, only to be interrupted by the approaching Purple Dragon gang.  However, the Dragons prove to be no match for five turtles and one sports-themed vigilante, and are defeated with ease.

—-

I’ve never really liked this episode; although it’s a fairly faithful adaptation of Raphael #1, several elements hold it down severely.

The first thing that bugs me is the way the Casey/Raph conflict gets resolved.  Usually, in fight-then-team-up plots, the battling heroes reconcile their differences when faced with a common enemy.  Here, Casey and Raph fight until they don’t, and become downright chummy for no particular reason.  It’s supremely jarring.

The second problem with this episode is that it runs headfirst against S&P restrictions, and isn’t quite able to get around the obstacles it presents.  It’s hard to believe that Casey is being any tougher against the Purple Dragons than Raph is when we don’t get to see it.

There’s also the matter of Casey’s origin, which seems strangely muted—as far as reasons for a vendetta go, a burned-down store lacks dramatic weight.  In season 4—when the series was allowed to get away with pretty much anything—we find out that his father was later killed by the Dragons, which has some nice “oomph” to it but the reveal consequently makes this moment feel weird—if the Dragons killed your dad, why focus on the burnt-down store?

That said, one has to commend the writers on making Casey a more coherent character than the random masked punk he was in the Mirage and movie continuities.  Not only does he have more solid ties to the turtles thanks to the Purple Dragons and Hun, it allows him to have his own nice character arc.  Mirage later adapted elements of this story back into Casey’s comic-book backstory, so Goldfine and Co. had to be doing something right.

There’s also a weird disconnect between Raph’s characterization here and in future episodes, in that we’re supposed to believe that he finds killing the Shredder acceptable while still keeping goons off-limits.  It’s a hold-over from the original comic book, and while one could explain it—the turtles’ vendetta is much more focused than Casey’s, and if pressed, the turtles would probably explained that Shredder is too dangerous to be left alive, while the same cannot be said for the Dragons—it still feels somewhat weird.

This episode also continues laying groundwork for the “Notes From the Underground” arc, in one of its nicer bits.  The underground arc is the season’s biggest original subplot, and although it doesn’t reach the heights of more important arcs, it’s quite well-handled.

Plus, the Battle Shell.  Peter Laird has said that the idea of the turtles’ car being an armored truck was a hold-over from an abandoned subplot in his own comics—where Don found an abandoned truck that had been lost after a bank-heist in the 70’s—and as obligatory action figure tie-ins go, it’s quite alright.  It’s introduced naturally enough, in any case.

This episode also introduces the concept of Mikey’s combat savvy, particularly when it comes to Raph.  Given that Mikey is sometimes annoyingly portrayed as “the dumb one”, it’s nice to see that he knows how to use his ability to push his brother’s button to his advantage, and that Raph will always fall for it.

I like that while we’re clearly supposed to conclude that the large punk in the flashback is Hun, it’s never explicitly said—the music is left to do all the work.

Given how Casey’s competence levels drastically decrease later on, it’s kind of weird to see him hold his own against Raph here.  While it can be explained as the result of having the element of surprise, I wish they’d been more consistent.

So with Casey Jones introduced, season 1’s main cast has been assembled.  Next episode we meet up with April again, and are introduced to the series’ first all-original villain.

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2 Responses to A Hockey-Mask Wearing Punk Appears! “Meet Casey Jones”

  1. Greenygal says:

    Much as I love this episode (Casey is one of my favorite characters, so I’m biased) it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that everyone in it has read the script and knows where it’s going–Casey, Raph, the turtles, and even Splinter. Casey is meant to become the turtles’ ally, so dammit, that’s what we’re going to do. You can handwave it, and I do, but still.

    Plus, as you say, the focus on the store, however traumatic it may have been at the time, seems a little thin for the vendetta he’s carrying. I can rationalize why he didn’t *say* it–he doesn’t know Raph very well yet, and he had to turn away from him just to get out the part about the store–but just dump it into a flashback, or at least the implication of it, and you’re good. They get explicit about Yoshi’s death only half-a-dozen episodes down the line, so it seems weird that it took them until fourth season to clarify that no, Casey’s not just upset about the store.

    I think there’s actually something unusual and interesting about Casey’s original characterization–that rather than being driven by a trauma and/or a desire to do justice, he really just wants to hit people and has fixed on this idea about fighting crime as an excuse. That said, the cartoon was never going to be able to make a character like that work–even the comic mostly moved away from it–so it’s probably best they didn’t try, and it does indeed give him more connection to the surrounding storyline.

  2. Ian Perez Zayas says:

    Eeek! A familiar name! Thanks bunches for posting, Greenygal–I love that you take the time to proofread the TV Tropes TMNT pages (I’m “DoKnowButchie” there, as well as “The Big Bad” on TheTechnodrome.com), so thanks bunches for that for that as well.

    As for your comments…

    Given all the hoops they had to jump through to get Yoshi’s death (not saying “die”, not showing any actual violence), it doesn’t surprise me that the creators weren’t really willing to go through them again for Casey’s dad–at least not yet.

    Still, it’s frustrating. While having a building burned can be very traumatic–particularly for a 5- or 6-year old like Casey appears to be here–that particular event doesn’t seem to connect with Casey’s particular drama in the way one would expect–I can see trauma manifesting as a fear of fire, but not as a yen for ass-kicking. There’s also another element in play here, and it’s that when we see an older Casey in “The Lesson” (god I hate that episode), he doesn’t seem to be portraying any trauma at all–but that’s a post for another time.

    As for “really just wants to hit people and has fixed on this idea about fighting crime as an excuse” isn’t that Raph’s motivation at this point? After all, the guy hasn’t been told about the Shredder yet, and he’s still got all these anger issues. In any case, I wouldn’t mind seeing that idea explored with another, non-Casey character.

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