Mutants and the Things that Scare Them: “Notes From the Underground” Part Two

“I am Quarry of Tunnel Squad 3; the others are Stonebiter and Razorfist.” — Quarry

Written by: Greg Johnson

Original Air Date: May 17, 2003

Recap Narrator: Donatello

Introduces: Savage Foot Mutants

Synopsis:

Approached by the three monsters, the turtles retreat back into the Foot facility, where they make a stand. Although they technically outnumber the monsters (and only technically, as Mikey does very little actual fighting) and are better trained, the turtles can barely manage to hold their own.

As the fight wears on, the blue-hued monster is the first to speak, declaring that the turtles will take no more of them. The statement confuses Leo, but when several large vats of green ooze threaten to fall on the monster, the ninja turtle decides to save its life by moving it out of the way. This act of mercy, however, is not enough to stop the fight, as the other two monsters continue to wail on the turtles.

Out-powered, the turtles retreat into a facility annex, which they barely manage to seal off…a temporary solution at best, since the monsters then use their rock-smashing abilities to force their way inside anyway. Before the fight can resume, the blue monster stops the other two, and Leo does the same. DIPLOMATIC!

Leo explains that they are not who the monsters think they are. The blue monster argues that the crystals Don carries imply otherwise, as it and its cohorts have always considered them a sign of danger and evil. After Mikey activated Don’s crystals last episode, they’d decided to go investigate, which is when they set off the perimeter alarms. Blue also notes that the crystals’ emanations usually come from deeper underground, instead of above, a factoid which catches Don’s interest. He suggests finding more crystals to discover their origins, but Blue is totally against the idea. “There are some things man was never meant to tamper with,” it says.

As the seven mutants return to the facility’s hub, Leo and Blue begin talking about the Shredder and the how and why of the whole “turning humans into mutants” thing. Blue explains that the subjects appeared to have been snatched at random, from “the streets, our offices, our homes; anywhere a shadow could conceal a Foot soldier.” Leo asks for their names, but Blue can only give their Foot-given codenames (see quote above); their true names, it explains, were lost during the experimentation. The turtles try to console Quarry by explaining the Shredder is no longer a problem.

A perimeter alarm goes off; Quarry explains that “the others” are in the vicinity, and then rushes to activate the energy shield. The same one the turtles broke last episode.

As Quarry tries to fix the force field generator, it explains that “the others” are a group of fellow mutated humans, ones whose minds have deteriorated to the point of mindless savagery—a fate that will eventually befall Quarry’s group as well. As the other monsters approach, Quarry manages to fix the generator, only to find that the crystal powering it has burned out—indeed, when Don tries to inspect it, it cracks into pieces. The only other remaining crystals are the turtles’ which, while too small for long-term use, will have to do. Don tries to connect it to the system, but it doesn’t work.

The monsters draw closer. Don and Quarry try to get the force field to work, with no success. Mikey, perhaps thinking of remote control batteries, suggests that maybe they’ve placed the crystal upside down, a notion Don finds ridiculous. However, as the monsters finally break their way into the chamber, he decides to give it a shot… It works. The seven mutants we care about crowd around the control console, and the force field begins engulfing the room, pushing the other mutants out—apparently, the safety doors have been broken, as the enemy mutants simply exit the room instead of being crushed against the walls like the turtles almost were. Then, just about the crystal is about to overheat, the monsters decide to leave.

Safe for now, the mutants take stock of the situation. The enemy mutants will eventually be back, and Quarry and co. will need a functioning force field, which means they’ll need another crystal which means they’ll need to enter The Forbidden Zone to obtain one.

The Forbidden Zone: a series of catacombs stretching for miles underground. During previous attempts to traverse it, several of Quarry’s comrades were lost, taken by a ghostly entity which causes them to disappear without a trace. While the Foot Mutants are hesitant to return, the turtles stress that they don’t have a choice, and offer to go with them.

After a travel montage through an area more reminiscent of planet Zebes than New York, the seven mutants.After several miles and one whirpool, they arrive at the catacombs, which include a series of man-made (so to speak) structures sharing the aesthetics of the turtles’ lair. As Quarry finds a crystal that will serve its purpose, Mikey notices something bad: The Others have arrived.

The seven mutant escape deeper into the catacombs, but find their progress impeded by a closed door, made of material impervious to the monsters’ special skills. Noticing an opening near the door, Don thinks to place his crystal there, but it doesn’t work until he turns it upside down (or right side up) and replaces it. The door opens leading into a tunnel. Don only gets within a few feet when a series of orbs of light travel towards him, surround him, and cause him to disappear! That’s not the most pressing issue, however—that would be the still approaching monsters still bearing down on our heroes. Needless to say…

To be continued.

—-

Not much to say here, as this is strictly a transitional episode: a fight scene takes up most of the first act, and the rest is taken by exposition and action scenes.  A more concise creator could have eliminated this episode wholesale and distributed its necessary bits among the remaining two without much trouble, but this approach works too–after all, if you have twenty-six episodes per season, you can afford to move at a more leisurely pace.

After one-point-twenty-five episodes as one third of the apparent villainous group of this arc, Quarry–the only member of the Foot Mutant trio to get a speaking role–turns out to be Mikey’s (less-annoying) mutant alter-ego, hesitant to place her comrades in any danger.  She also channels a bit of Donny, displaying enough technical expertise to make one wonder what she did in her former life–given what little we know, she sounds more like a Derek Maza/Talon than a Maggie or Thug.  Unfortunately, we’re never really given a chance to explore this aspect of the character, which was probably a mistake, in retrospect: characters like Sydney could have done a lot to help make season 7 seem…well, not like the creators were going through the motions (and yes, I know the situation was more complicated than that–still).  The other two, unfortunately, turn out to be little more than extras–we don’t even get to see Razorfist’s human form–and while I can understand the decision–there’s enough stuff to worry about.

Anyway, back to this episode.

Midway through the episode, Michelangelo makes a very interesting comment, as he expresses his distrust of Quarry and Co because they’re monsters, before Donatello responds with the obvious point–that to most people, the turtles were considered monsters too.  This tidbid isn’t really elaborated upon, but it doesn’t paint a particularly nice picture of Mikey, particularly in an episode where he’s already at his worst.  The Foot Three, at least, had some sketchy circumstantial evidence underpining their initial distrust of the turtles.  Mikey has monster movies.  It makes one wonder…if the turtles actually met the gargoyles, how would Michelangelo respond?  Granted, we don’t know what the ‘goyles Public Relations situation would be in 2003 or beyond, but if the Manhattan Clan continues to be the victims of bad press, then I could very well see Michelangelo perceiving them as the threat the John Castaway paints them as, at least at first.

The one other thing to note here is the little tidbid about the Foot’s methods.  It seems to be  in line with what we know of the Shredder, and yet Quarry’s statement that their victims were procured from all walks seems a bit off.  Why, after all, when you can get all the unwilling human subjects you want from the streets, as the Garbageman proved a scant few episodes ago?  I could see it maybe if these victims were people whom the Shredder somehow considered a threat, but we never get anything to really back that theory up.

Random thoughts:

  • Those who’ve seen the series know that Quarry’s name is revealed in season 2 to be “Sydney”.  When we hear it trying to say its name this episode, we hear “Sy…Syd…”–an indication that this development, at least was planned from the beginning.
  • While it’s rather obvious why the original mutant trio was mutated in the manner they were, the logic behind this episodes’ batch of mutants is not nearly so clear.  They seem to be somewhat generic monsters than monsters specifically designed to dig.
  • While I had no substantive problem with Michelangelo’s behavior last episode, this episode is another matter entirely.  With the focus ever so slightly pulled away from him, he gets, if anything worse, demonstrating gross neglicence in the initial battle agains Quarry and co.  While a lot of people will say that Mikey was ait his worst during Fast Forward or Back to the Sewer, I’d say this is his rock bottom when it comes to his immaturity.
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