Ooh, Shiny Sword: “Darkness on the Edge of Town”
14 April 2010 6 Comments
“The Sword of Tengu. Still just as potent after all these years.”—The Master
Written by: Marty Isenberg
Original air date: March 15, 2003
Teaser Narrator: Donatello
Introduces: The Sword of Tengu; mysterious exoskeleton
Teaser: As he swims back to the surface of the East River and makes his way to terra firma, Don comments on how he’d be fascinated by the concussive canon currently being used by his enemies, if staying alive and surviving an attack by ninjas weren’t a priority.
As the turtles do their contractually obligated EXTREME! sporting (Don has a bike, Leo a scooter, and Raph in-line skates, while Mikey uses a skateboard) an annoy the heck out of Splinter in the process, a sudden blackout interrupts their derring-do.
After confirming that the power failure is not confined to the lair, the turtles are allowed to investigate the surface. There, they realize that the blackout is total; nothing, not even emergency lights, are working. Since they’re extra teenager-y this episode, they view this as an excellent opportunity to do their EXTREME! sporting outside for once. Before they can have too much fun, however, they find a strange bit of weirdness–a trio of the same ninja they’d faced once before breaking into a museum. Itching for some payback after their last defeat, the turtles follow them inside, and watch as, with the help of a gauntlet they’d brought with them, they remove an ancient sword from its case. The turtles make their entrance, boasting that there’s no way they’re escaping the sword, particularly since they’re outnumbered–which then causes a dozen more ninja to appear at the scene.
Fortunately, for whatever reason, the turtles fare considerably better against this group of ninja than they did the last time they’d fought–Mikey even manages to get a trophy: the emblem from a downed ninja’s costume. They do so well that they eventually begin using their sports gear in the fight, which works well enough at first, but ends up with all the turtles crashing against each other, allowing the ninja a chance to escape. The turtles try to pursue, but the ninja carrying the sword suddenly manages to use it to emit a wave of concussive energy with knock the turtles flat on their shells. Mike comments that he can see a teamwork training session in their future.
The turtles take their asses back to the lair, where they tell Splinter what happened and show him the ninjas’ logo. It clearly has some meaning to Splinter, but aside from mentioning that it’s “trouble”, he refuses to say anything on the subject, and forbids his sons from involving themselves further with the ninjas. The lights have returned by this point, so Donny goes to his computer to do some investigatin’.
At the Mysterious Ominous Tower of Evil Deeds and Punished Mooks, the “master”–whose name has yet to be revealed–removes the top half of his outfit (although its worth noting that his sarashi still covers his stomach) for a sparring session with four of his ninja. Given that they are lowly mooks to his Big Bad, they go down easily. The big mook that had brought him Baxter Stockman three issues ago–now identified as “Hun”–enters the room carrying the stolen sword, which is itself identified as “The Sword of Tengu”. The master takes the sword–which he manages to hold without the use of the protective gauntlet his ninja had previously used–and notes that the sword remains as powerful as ever, and that it still responds to other items sharing its “unique origin” (to illustrate, he brings the sword close to a suit of samurai-style armor, which causes the sword to glow), which will allow him to track down similar objects. He returns the sword to Hun, and instructs him to take it to the Tech team in preparation for phase two.
Back at the lair, Donny finds that there’s been another blackout–this time over by the South Street Seaport. Ignoring Leo’s token objection (Raph argues that they’re not disobeying Splinter, since he’d only prohibited going after the ninjas but had said nothing about investigating the blackouts) the four brothers head out, as Splinter watches silently.
At the seaport, Don, with the help of night-vision goggles and a hang glider (both which he built himself) scans the bay for signs of wrongdoing. Eventually he finds what he’s looking for: two technicians are using a concussive canon–powered by the Sword of Tengu–to scour the bottom of the river in search of something. unfortunately, Don gets too close to the canon and loses control, crashing into the river.
The three remaining turtles attempt to rendezvous with Donny, but when they arrive at Pier 16, where the canon is located, they’re ambushed by a group of ninja. As they fight off their foes in a scene reminiscent of Disney’s Peter Pan (for some reason, most of the fight takes place aboard a wooden sailing ship, which leads to the usual cut sails and rope-swinging), the techs find what they’re looking for–a piece of wrecked metal with a vaguely humanoid shape–and call in “air support” to retrieve it. The turtles, who by now have reunited up with Donatello and dispatched the ninja, watch as a helicopter arrives and picks up the item.
Their mission succesful, the techs shut off the machine to leave, but are ambushed by the turtles. Although armed with handheld lasers, these guys are no fighters, and quickly go down. However, a stray laser hits the canon, shorting out it circuits and causing it to reactivate and go haywire. The techs’ helicopter returns for another pass, allowing the two men on the ground to make their escape.
With the activated canon now aiming at–and thoroughly wrecking–the port, the turtles turn to Don to deactivate the device. As Leo, Raph, and Mike try to turn the canon back towards the river, things get worse as a police helicopter approaches the scene. Worse still, Don’s technomagic actually causes the canon it rotate even more rapidly–at least, until Leo finds a crowbar and sticks it in its axle. Donny tries to remove the sword, but gets shocked; Leo, spotting the gauntlet that the Ninja had used in the initial heist, passes it to Don, who find that it indeed does the trick. The turtle then manage to make the escape, unseen, just before the canon’s vibrations destroys the platform it lies on, causing it to fall into the water, where it explodes.
Back at the lair, Splinter inspects the sword, declaring that while its design is unmistakably 11th-century Japanese, its made from a metal completely unknown to him. He asserts that, given its many mysteries, it’s best if they keep the sword for safekeeping.
At the Mysterious Ominous Tower of Pissed-Off Employers, the two techs make their report to their displeased master–despite a successful mission (which apparently proves to The Master that his enemies actually reside within the city), losing the Sword of Tengu was not an option. The techs try to explain that there were extenuating circumstances–namely, a quartet of four “strange creatures”. The Master, holding a photo of the image captured by the mouser back in “Attack of the Mousers“, asks them if the creatures were the same as the ones in the picture, which they confirm. The two are dismissed, but don’t manage to make it out the door before being accosted by Hun. The Master muses that, with two operations now disrupted by the turtles, “these freakish thorns in [his] side must be removed…permanently!”
This isn’t a terribly good episode, which is a shame; it’s an important one, giving the first few hints of the Shredder’s origins twenty-eight episodes before it’s officially revealed. However, it’s done subtly enough that, unless you’re a fan of the original comic books, the clues aren’t immediately apparent without heavy doses of hindsight. Heck, I didn’t even notice the little utrom on the sword until “Return to New York”.
This is also when we first see that Splinter keeps things from his sons, a particular character detail that will continue popping up throughout the first five seasons, and is taken from the original comic book, where he only tells the turtles about their origin as a lead-in to his order that they kill the Shredder. While the comic book features little reason why that particular tale had to be a secret, here we can conclude that it’s his way of protecting the turtles; the events surrounding his prior involvement with the Foot are a painful burden he carries, and one he does not wish to pass on to his sons. Still, this, like his reluctance to let them out into the surface, is misguided; the turtles have been raised well, and are fully ready–and more importantly, willing–to help him carry his burden, as he’ll eventually learn. I’ll explore this bit in more detail when the recap for “The Shredder Strikes” comes up.
One of the consequences of having Playmates being the third major source of funding for the show is that said show will have to include lots of things designed solely to become an action figure or else sell an already existing one. Sometimes, as with the Battle Shell, it works naturally enough; with the sports gear…not so much–it’s one of the biggest stumbles during this first, exploratory season. Even with the turtle’s historical connection surfing/skating culture (see Turtles in Time‘s “Sewer Surfing”), it doesn’t really work here. Fortunately, the sports gear doesn’t really show up again until the seventh season.
This episode features one of the best examples ever of Hollywood Darkness ever. The post-blackout city is supposed to be pitch-black, allowing the turtles to walk outside without being seen, and yet the colors are exactly the same as they usually are. On that note, the “blackout” plot device, seems, in the end to be pointless. First, it seems implausible–unless the Foot were carrying an EMP devices which disabled everything, I just can’t visualize New York going completely dark–surely some buildings would have emergency back-up. And even if they did, I’m not sure what I think of ninjas who need a blackout in order to steal a sword–particularly since the device isn’t used at all in future episodes (although to be fair, this is the only time we see the Foot involved in a straight-up theft).
- Five episodes after their first appearance, the Foot Ninja return. While their shift from “formidable enemies in their own right” to “time-wasters” was inevitable, I wish it had been handled more smoothly. They’ll get even more pathetic in future episodes.
- The show occasionally has some very cringeworthy lines, and this episode features one of the worst. “Lets turtlelize them!”? Ugh. Along with the sports gear, it makes this episode feel as if it’s trying to emulate the old one, except with none of the charm.
- This is the second time Don comments that he’s fascinated by the technology he sees while going out (the first being during his similar teaser dialogue in “Nano“.
- It’s implied in this episode (and confirmed later) that the Sword of Tengu initially belonged to the Shredder. How, then, did it come to end up in the museum? My personal favorite theory is that he pulled a Xanatos and donated it there, but that really doesn’t fit the character.
- The post title, by the way (which literally translates to “the night we became people again”), is from a short story of the same name by José Luis González, about a New York City blackout that brings a group of Puerto Rican immigrants together as a community. It’s worth reading if you know Spanish.