Sucker-punched: “Fallen Angel”

“Listen up, hairballs: it’s gonna take a lot more than chains to bring down Casey Jones. YOU HEAR ME?! I won’t rest until every last one of you Dragon clowns is behind bars…OR PUSHING UP DAISIES!”–Casey Jones

Written by: Marty Isenberg
Original Air Date: March 29, 2003
Teaser Narrator: Casey
Introduces: Angel; Angel’s grandmother

Synopsis:

Teaser: A bruised Casey has been cuffed upside down to an X-shaped cross, which is lowered via pulley into a wrestling cage in plain view of the public. He explains how he’s having a bad everything day thanks to Hun, who is acting as MC at a Purple Dragon fight club event. The Foot enforcer explains to his audience how tonight, they’ll get a chance to get rid of a hated enemy. In a cute moment, audience stares confused, as they have no idea who the guy in the cross is…at least until he’s made to wear his trademark hockey mask, which causes them to cheer in anticipation.

Theme song.

Dragonface and the Purple Dragons break into an electronics’ store as part of a test for Purple Dragon initiates. One of these is Angel, a pink-haired girl of about thirteen. As they prepare to leave with the loot, they’re ambushed by four Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and one Casey Jones.

As the turtles make short work of the Dragon rank and file, Angel tries to escape. As she looks behind her to see if she’s being followed, she crashes into Casey, who, surprise, surprise, actually knows her. He reveals his so-called secret identity to her, which gets her to stop.

Casey demands to know why Angel is “making the biggest mistake of [her] life” by joining the Purple Dragons and asks her to quit while she still has a chance. Angel is having none of it, however; she explains that the Dragons are “family”, and that once she passes a second test (the robbery was the first) she’ll be a full-fledged member. Using her bag of loot as a cudgel, she sucker-punches Casey and climbs over a chain-link fence to make her escape.

As the turtles rejoin Casey, he explains the backstory: Angel lives in the same neighborhood as Casey, and he’d made a promise to her grandmother that he’d keep her out of trouble, a promise he vows to keep.

Later that night, an unmasked and trenchcoat-wearing Casey follows a couple of Purple Dragons into a warehouse, which the street gang has converted into a fighting ring. An MC (Dragonface?) announces that tonight, Purple Dragon wannabes will fight members of the group for the opportunity to join–the second test. As narrative convenience would have it, Angel is the next initiate to enter the ring, where two Dragons twice her size will be her opponents.

Casey watches silently as Angel handles her opponents with some skill, and it’s not until he sees one of the Dragons preparing to hit her from behind with a piece of wood that he decides to intervene. Putting on his mask and taking out a baseball bat, he enters the ring. He doesn’t get a chance to be very effective, though, as he’s soon knocked down by a punch in the gut. “Hello Jones,” says Hun. “Long time no see.”

As Hun smacks Casey around, he explains that yes, he’s always known that Casey Jones was the vigilante who’d been “disrespecting” the Dragons so much. With ridiculous ease, he takes Jones down, breaking his bat in two in the process. Once his opponent is down, he orders the dragons to lock Casey up for later. Angel, looking horrified, runs away unnoticed.

At the turtles’ lair, Don is tinkering with the Battle Shell. He explains to his audience of Mikey that once he’s done, they’ll be able to control the Armored Truck via remote. Mikey notices the remote control on the table, and being the “press first, ask if he should press later” kind of turtle he is, he, well…you get the idea. The Battle Shell springs to life, driving itself through the lair and causing damage until it stops by crashing into a wall. Once everyone has recovered from this impromptu bout of excitement, Splinter explains that while he thinks that the Battle Shell is a wonderful machine, and that he never wants to see it in his home again.

At the Purple Dragon Battel Warehouse, Casey has been imprisoned in a cell and chained to the wall. As he tries to free himself, Hun enters the room. The Purple Dragon head honcho taunts Casey by bringing up his father’s store, and explains that he’s organizing a little “smackdown” for the privilege of killing The Vigilante. As Hun leaves, Angel enters the room via the roof. Apologizing for Casey for getting him into this situation, she tries to channel her inner Jill Valentine and pick the lock to his cell. After she fails, Casey tells her to go for help, and instructs her to head to the abandoned warehouse at the corner of Eastman and Laird and ask for Raphael. Which she does.

One off-screen explanation and one transition scene later, Angel and the turtles (disguised in what Mikey describes as “kind of a hip-hop/cat-burglar/stormtrooper” look) enter the Purple Dragon Warehaüs* of Wrestling, where Hun’s little smackdown is about to start. The Casey-bearing cross from the teaser has been raised to the catwalks, so the turtles decide to split up; Angel, Don and Mikey will rescue Casey, while Leo and Raph will keep everyone’s eyes on the ring by taking part in the smackdown.


The plan goes well; using the spotlights to blind the Purple Dragon Stage Crew, Angel gives the turtles a chance to take them down unnoticed and free Casey (whom they re-arm with a baseball bat they’ve bought with them). However, although Leo and Raph outmatch the Purple Dragons by a fair margin, one of them accidentally manages to disrobe Raphael, blowing his cover. Hun is not pleased.

Upon seeing his masters’ enemies before him, Hun enters the ring to confront them. Despite being outnumbered two-to-one (and later four-to-one, after Mikey and Don join the fray) the Foot enforcer proves more than a match for the turtles (particularly since television standards dictate that Leo can’t use his swords on him); shrugging off most of their attacks, he eventually brings down the wrestling cage on them with his bare hands. As he takes Leo’s swords and prepares for the finishing blow, he is sent flying by a surprise *thwack* on the head from Casey’s bat, which leaves him stunned on the floor.

With Casey freed and their main opponent out of the fight, all that’s left is the escape; using the Battle Shell’s remote control, Donny summons the armored truck into the warehouse. However, Casey isn’t ready to leave yet; heading for the now-helpless Hun, he lifts his baseball bat for a finishing blow FOR GREAT JUSTICE. Before he can do so, he’s stopped by Angel, who doesn’t want Casey to make “the biggest mistake of [his] life”. Casey quickly agrees, and leaves with her on the Battle Shell.

The turtles drop Angel and Casey off at Angel’s grandmother. They watch as Grandma thanks Casey for keeping Angel safe and asks him to stay for pie. As all three humans enter the apartment, the turtles drive off into the night.

—-

Of all the TMNT protagonists, Casey Jones was the character most likely to get shafted in adaptations. His role gets drastically reduced in the first cartoon; he’s completely absent from the Archie series and The Next Mutation; and gets reduced to a cameo in the third movie after being completely absent from the second, even after being an integral part of the first. As we get to his first character focus episode eight episodes into the new series, it becomes clear that this will not be the case here.

The “killing your hated enemy is bad” speech is a time-worn tradition in comic books and Western animation.  An interesting point here is that it’s Angel who talks Casey away from killing Hun–she’s the only one that can**.  Not only is she the one who can most clearly see the practical repercussions (the turtles are hidden, and exist completely outside the law; they can, and do, get away with killing scores of people–Casey, April, and other humans can’t), she’s the only one in the episode that actually believes it.

Although Raph talked Casey away from killing purse-snatchers in “Meet Casey Jones”, this was not meant as a condemnation of vigilante killing per se; the turtles, raised in Bushidō by Splinter, don’t actually believe that.  “A warrior cannot live under the same sky with the murderer of his kin” the saying goes (at least, according to Usagi Yojimbo); according to Eastern thought, Casey would have, in fact, been obligated to kill Hun.  Fortunately, Casey’s morality, although skewed, is not his friends’: given how awesome Hun turns out to be, it would have been a shame to kill him off now.  Still, given how entrenched the themes of revenge are in the original comic book, I’m glad they could be translated in some (less explicit) manner into the cartoon.

In any case, how does Casey’s decision stack up with his quote above?  I’m not entirely sure, and the fact that he just seems to go along with Angel’s plea with no internal struggle doesn’t help.  Perhaps he truly doesn’t want to mess with the Foot, or maybe he just realized that he’d be traumatizing her friend (who, it’s worth noting, seems quite fragile behind her initial bluster) if he’d gone through with it.

In this episode, we also continue discovering things about Hun.  Last time, we learned that, contrary to stereotype, the guy had some smarts on him.  Here we also learn that the initial impression one gets of him is also correct, and that the guy is indeed as tough as he looks–but that’s not the most interesting thing about him here.  For the first time since that brief flashback in episode four, we see Hun independent from the Foot, and we learn that while Saki may have given him strength, power, and even some insight, but he wasn’t able to fully assimilate him.  Hun is still a Purple Dragon, and at the end of the day, that’s who he’s loyal to.   He might have traded up for a fancier appartment, but he hasn’t forgotten where he came from.  It’s an interesting character note that sets him apart from other Dragons (the trope, not the gang), and makes him one of my favorite characters.  Eventually we’ll see that aside from the Shredder, his loyalty to the Foot is dangerously variable, but that’s not for a while yet.

The rest of the episode is okay–the plot is something that you’d get in Static Shock or Captain Planet, and it’s done in a way that subtly (read: I’m probably hallucinating things) seems to indicate that the writers just wanted to go through with it as fast as they could.  Angel meets Casey *ZWIPP!*  Casey gets captured, Angel gets contrite * ZWIPP!* the turtles rescue Casey.  Episode over.  Still, Angel’s an alright character, and one that I wouldn’t have minded seeing more of (the other episode she’s heavily featured in, “The Darkness Within”, merely uses her facilitate the plot).  I also find it somewhat interesting that they allowed her to be as young as she is–I get the feeling that another series would have probably made her a couple of years older.

Random thoughts:

  • While the series has a consistent group of about a dozen distinct Purple Dragons we see regularly, this episode creates about a dozen or so more to fill the fight club–an impressive little feat, given that creating extras is usually a pain.  Even so, they clearly weren’t using them in any consistent manner–you can see the Dragon with the afro teleport from guard duty to catwalk duty to being downstairs after being knocked unconscious a minute before.
  • The CG used in this series is excellent.  The scene where the Battle Shell runs wild switches between a traditionally-animated version of the truck and a CGI version, but you’ll have to pay attention to notice.
  • While the fact that Leo can’t use swords on humans has always been noticeable, this is the first time it’s actually jarring.  Leo, the guy isn’t watching–juststabhimalready!
  • I like that Hun is so blasé about Casey’s “secret identity”–it’s a realistic touch.  Still, I find it kind of odd that he apparently remembers burning down Casey’s father store–it doesn’t seem like the kind of thing that he’d keep with him.
  • On that note, we once again have the weirdness caused by having “burning down the store” eventually be supplemented by “killing his dad”.  One can excuse Casey fixating on the first one–it’s the one he was actually present for–but to have Hun mention the first and not the second just seems weird in retrospect.
  • This doesn’t have to do anything in particular with the episode, but I really wish the show had managed to use Angel as a gauge for how much time has passed in the series.  It almost happens–her season 3 model looks slightly older than the one for this episode (it helps that she loses the earings by then), and her Back to the Sewer model looks older still, but it’s undermined by having her using her season 1 model in season 4.
  • On a somewhat similar note: while Angel pretty definitively biracial (or at least ambigously brown), does she look somewhat Asian to anybody else?
  • It’s silly as hell, but the entire sequence with the turtles in disguise–complete with surprisingly bearable hip-hop-ish background music–is hilarious.  How can you not love the pic above?

—-

* Apologies to Chris Sims.

** Aside from probably April, but she’s not in this episode.  She won’t be seen again until episode twelve, which I initially found all kinds of surprising, seeing how prominent she usually is in adaptations.  Can you imagine Elisa being missing for six episodes?  I can’t.

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7 Responses to Sucker-punched: “Fallen Angel”

  1. Gina66 says:

    I agree that this episode clearly marks Casey as an actual ally, just as important as April. In fact, the reason I like Casey was the fact that he was just so promenient in this series.

    You mentioned that it was strange for Hun to remember burning down the Jones’ store, but I don’t find it strange at all, especially when you look at the event from the flashbacks throughout the series.

    I think he remembers it because of Arnold Sr and Casey; I think it’s ‘Dragon’s Brew’ from S4 where a much bigger backstory is told and it seems like Casey’s dad was just as defiant as his son. That’s what got him killed, apparently. I also think Hun remembers the incident because Casey has been after Hun and the Purple Dragons for years (I believe it’s either this ep or MCJ where he says that), so of course Hun is going to remember the incident, as Casey will not leave him alone.

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  5. Supermorff says:

    Hey Ian. I’ve just been looking for some of your old re-reviews, and I found out that episodes up to this one, “Fallen Angel”, are only in the re-review category not in the TMNT category. Is it possible to add the extra category so they’re easier to find?

  6. Ian says:

    Sure. Gimme a day.

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