Rumble in the Jungle: “The Shredder Strikes Back” Part Two

Like the phoenix, I have risen from the ashes.  And into my fire, you shall fall.“–The Shredder

Written by: Erik Luke
Original Air Date: June 14, 2003
Recap Narrator: Splinter

Synopsis:

We begin where we left off last episode, with the turtles just having received a wounded Leonardo’s warning: The Shredder is back. The turtles initially try to convince themselves that that’s impossible–there’s no way he could be alive after their last encounter—but given the evidence, their skepticism proves short-lived.

Realizing the danger they’re in, Splinter orders the turtles to begin moving Leonardo out of the building. However, its too late, as Foot Ninja surround the building and begin breaking in through the second floor windows. Overtaken by sheer numbers, Splinter orders April and Michelangelo to retreat with Leo down the stairs and outside the building, while he, Raph, and Don hold the enemy off. Before Leonardo can be moved, however, he regains consciousness enough to ask April to leave him behind and save herself, a request she category: the turtles are family, which means they don’t get left behind. Carrying Leo, she makes her way to the stairs, where more Foot Ninja await. A quick intervention by Mikey takes care of them, however, and the group begins their descent, leaving Raph behind to provide cover.

Having reached a lull in the battle, Mikey is instructed to scout the 2nd Time Around store so they can make their exit. Unfortunately, the store has also been occupied by the enemy, this time the four behatted Ninja that kicked Leo’s ass last episode. Nevertheless, they press forward, with Splinter taking Raph’s place to allow him to join his brothers.

The three turtles take on the four Elite Foot, and are barely managing to hold their own. As April watches from the shadows, Hun appears behind her and takes Leo from her, throwing him against a metal support rod. As the Foot liutenant makes his way towards April, Raph attacks him and manages to temporarily take him out of the fight…just in time for the Shredder to make his entrance through the store door. After the usual “none of you will leave her alive” and “you are a dishonorable opponent, Shredder” prefight talk, the battle continues, with Shredder taking on Splinter (who’s vanquished his foes upstairs and joined the fight below) while the Foot Elite and the rest of their forces continue their attack on the turtles. The Foot press their advantage and appear to be near victory…

And then a guy in a motorcycle bursts in through the store windows and takes care of the Elite. “Now that’s what I call crashing a party,” he quips.

Casey.

Fucking.

Jones.

Casey: [Looks at the approaching Foot Ninja] This can’t be the band.  I want rock and roll, man!  [Twirls hockey stick and golf club on each hand].  Good thing I brought my own drumsticks.  Now, who wants to be the drums?

Hell yeah.

With the turtles having obtained a much-needed  morale boost, the battle continues.  Hun returns to the battle and makes a beeline for April in order to kill her and take the fight out of the turtles.  Casey intervenes, however, and thanks to the power granted by protecting somebody you care for and/or whose pants you want to get into, defeats the mountain impersonator with ease.

Outside, a police patrol driven by Officers Eastman and Laird arrives at the store.  After taking one look at the brawl inside, they decide to call for backup.

Inside, Leo makes a valiant effort to stand on his own.  Unfortunately, his struggle draws The Shredder’s attention.  As the ninja master prepares to strike at the wounded turtle, Splinter intervenes.  Leonardo watches as the two masters’ battle continues; and realizes, to his horror, that The Shredder appears to have the upper hand.  Desperate, the turtle uses the last of his strength to knock over a cupboard, which has the effect of separating the two combatants and giving his sensei some breathing room.  His energy spent, the ninja turtle collapses.

Splinter, realizing that this is a battle they will not win and that his sons are already being run ragged, calls for a retreat.  April suggests they lock themselves inside what she reveals was a walk-in cooler (the shop used to be a grocery store), which they manage to do.  It’s a temporary solution at best–once the Shredder breaks in, all that’s left is the last stand.

Fortunately, it is at that moment that the cops’ reinforcements arrive and surround the building, causing the Shredder to call for a retreat.  Before he makes his exit, however, Saki leaves behind a parting gift.  After barring the door to the cooler to prevent escape, Shredder slices open a gas duct and, using a funky fire bomb, decides to go all scorched earth.

Inside the cooler, the turtles have noticed the sudden silence, the fact that they can’t get out, that the door to the cooler now feels unreasonably hot, and that it’s begun to smell of gas and smoke.  Putting two and two together, they begin to desperately look for a way to escape the Shredder’s improvised death trap.

Outside, officers Eastman and Laird are blown off their feet by the force of the explosion within the store.  Atop a nearby rooftop, the two guardians we’ve previously seen also witness the conflagration.  They report the event to their superiors, announcing that Shredder has defeated and killed the turtles.  The superiors agree that this is cause for concern about the Shredder’s power, and that they need to accelerate the implementation of their plans.

The transmission ended, the guardian who’d previously helped Leonardo tells his partner of his conversation with the turtle that day, and how the loss of he and his brothers is a great one.  The camera pans back to the burning building.

To Be Continued?

—-

Continuity Notes:

  • This episode adapts the story “Silent Partner”, found in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Vol. 1) #10.  It is the second adaptation of the story to the screen, the first being found in the 1990  TMNT movie.
  • Casey Jones was last seen in episode 1.08, “Fallen Angel“.  Guardian A–the one we’ve heard speak most often–last appeared in episode 1.11 “The Shredder Strikes” Part Two while his companion and their superiors last appeared in episode 1.07, “The Way of Invisibility“.

This episode was initially the last before a rather long break, which I remember being maddening–the best two episodes of the cartoon, followed by a cliffhanger?  Clearly, the creators were EVIL! Eight years later, this is still my favorite episode of the season, and one that went a long way into cementing my love for the series.  An episode-long fight scene through and through, this episode is basically just a collection of awesome moments.  “Nice hats”, the turtles’ fight with the Foot Elite, Casey’s entrance, Casey’s fight with Hun, the Shredder’s exit…it’s the most badass the series has been thus far.  This is especially true with Casey, who soon after gets hit with the José Canseco comic-relief bat and never quite recovers, even when his fighting skills do. While the more mature Casey of later seasons is a good character, by then he’s lost the aura of unpredictability and danger that made him awesome.

Part of the reason why this review has taken so long is because I couldn’t figure out what to say about it.  It’s an episode-long fight scene.  It’s awesome.  The end.  And then I started thinking about it differently.  This episode–this two-parter–is basically about one thing: The Shredder reestablishing his dominance after his initial defeat* at the hands of the turtles (or rather, Splinter)–which, if you’re comparing the series to Gargoyles, means exactly one thing.

This is TMNT‘s version of “The Edge”.

Now, it’s worth noting that the Shredder is not, by nature, an introspective character, and the series doesn’t really let us get into his head, even when he gets to narrate a teaser/recap.  It’s that particular detail that forms the basis of the difference between TMNT and Gargoyles‘ takes on the “Villain re-establishes how bad-ass they are” concept.    When Xanatos enacts his plans, it as much about boosting himself up than it is about demoralizing others–after successive defeats, he needs to prove to himself that he is not at fault–he’s just as badass as he’s ever been.

The Shredder, on the other hand, feels no need for self-reflection–there’s no doubt in his mind about his abilities.  Thus, his plan here is not to improve himself, but to send a message to his opponents: do not fuck with me.  It’s also why his plan is more or less the same as it was in “The Shredder Strikes”–send himself plus a lot of ninja after the turtles–except enacted in a manner that gives him the element of surprise and keeps his opponents off-balance, therefore negating the factors that resulted in his last defeat.  And it works, too–it’s only April’s quick thinking that saves the turtles.

The Shredder’s inability to be introspective will go on to become one of his main characteristics, and possibly his greatest weakness, one that will eventually lead to his downfall.  It’s also something that would probably be a minus in another show (this sort of thing is a key quality to one-dimensional villains) I feel it works here, partly because it feels so deliberate (if Goldfine and Co. wanted the Shredder to be a sympathetic, three dimensional villain, they could have done so**).  It also helps really sell the Shredder as the ultimate evil the turtles face: he might not be the most powerful villain out there, but in the end, he is very literally the one who will not give a damn about who or what he destroys, as long as he wins–and that’s powerful stuff.

Random thoughts:

  • In a point related to the one above, it’s interesting how the Shredder’s victories over the turtles usually come down to number games.  Given the tendency for groups of mooks to be less effective the more of them there are, seeing the turtles get weight down by the larger forces is something of a rarity.
  • This is the first episode where the show’s reluctance to use the words “dead” and “killed” became really apparent.  While some writers found ways to get around it with natural-sounding equivalents, some didn’t, leading to very awkward lines.
  • The initial fight between the turtles and the Elite Foot is probably the best extended fight scene in the first season, both in animation and choreography, and a sign of things to come.  I never get tired of it.
  • The season’s tendency to awkwardly recap past episodes  is at its worst in this episode, as we get an overlong and completely unnecessary flashback to “The Shredder Strikes” Part 2, one that feels more at home in Shonen anime than in American cartoons.  It’s a false step in an otherwise excellent episode.
  • Comparing this version of the Second Time Around fight to the movies’ I have to say I like this version more.  Whereas the movie concentrates a bit too much on the slapstick for this particular fight, this version manages to find a happy balance between being action-y and fun.

—-

* Or rather, defeats–as we’ll see later, the Shredder had been defeated  a second time between “The Shredder Strikes” and this episode.

** See Karai, Bishop, Baxter Stockman, etc.

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3 Responses to Rumble in the Jungle: “The Shredder Strikes Back” Part Two

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