Really, I’ve Got No Pithy Title to Add Here: “Monster Hunter”

Written by: Michael Ryan
Original Air Date: September 20, 2003
Teaser Narrator: Michelangelo

Characters Introduced: Dr. Abigail Finn; Parker; Green (Wo)man of the Woods and Children
Gargoyles episode I could make a forced comparison to: “Bushido”

The Beats:

  • Mikey gets seen and recorded by a neighbor during a stroll in the woods, drawing the attention of amateur monster hunters Abigail Finn, PhD., and Parker, who arrive to Northampton with the intent of capturing the “Legendary Green Man of the Woods” in order to springboard her cable-access TV show’s leap into the Big Time.
  • Fearing that she would eventually turn her cameras into Casey’s farmhouse, Don, Mikey and Casey decide to scare Dr. Finn away.  After donning monster costumes and “attacking” her, they  discover that there is an actual non-turtle creature living in the woods.
  • Dr. Finn captures one of those non-turtle beasts and calls the media to hold a press conference on her discovery.  However, after Mikey causes a distraction, Don switches the beast with Casey-in-costume.  Neither Finn nor Parker notice the switch until Finn is actually giving her press conference, resulting in much embarrassment for the Doctor.
  • Leo has been spending most of his time alone in the barn, so Raph goes to visit him.  Together, the use the building’s forge and piles of scrap metal to forge a new pair of swords for the turtle.
  • With Leonardo healed both physically and mentally, the turtles decide to return to New York to deal with the Shredder.
  • After getting pissed at Casey for tracking snow and mud over the just-mopped floor, April asks Master Splinter to train her so that she wouldn’t get as angry at Casey.

Continuity Notes:

  • The monsters in this episode will eventually be revealed to be the descendants of mutants created by Y’Lyntians, the people seen in “Notes From the Underground”.
  • While Splinter is somewhat dismissive of the idea of training April, we’ll see that he does eventually acquiesce, off-screen, and begins training her in the martial arts.

I tend to feel that “Monster Hunter” is one of the more underrated episodes in the series. Sure, it’s not excellent, but I feel it does what it sets out to do well.  I’ve always liked Abigail Finn.  Sure, she’s very definitively a one-shot villain within the concept of the show, but as one of those, she works well.  I also really like the concept of a woman with a very untraditional build, who after making her way through the worlds of biology and engineering, decided that what she wanted to do was have a reality show about adventures in monster hunting; her’s is a story I’d definitively be interested in seeing.

I actually end up feeling somewhat sorry for her, as she arguably gets hit pretty hard by the karma stick despite the fact that she hadn’t done anything wrong.  She leaves Casey’s property after being told to leave, and Don’s claims as to her mental health aside, there’s really no evidence that she would have begun with the illegalities after legal methods had proved unsuccessful, or that she would have treated the monster as hostilely as she did if her encounter with the turtles hadn’t already given her reason to believe that they’d attack without provocation. And we don’t know what she’d end up doing after she’d proven to the world that the creature existed OR what she’d done if she knew the creatures were sentient, as her Gargoyles counterpart Taro did.

That said, the turtles’ fears, and the way they act on them, feel totally in character.  They’ve been trained to be super-careful about their security, avoiding the spotlight, trusting insiders over people outside their clique, and placing the family over others.  All of which leads to this episode’s less-than-heroic behavior.  And I like that–I think that a large part of why the show works for me is because the turtles aren’t trying to be heroic or holding themselves up to that standard: even if they’d like to, they don’t have the resources or the privilege necessary to do so, so they fall back on solutions that aren’t neat or elegant or actually helpful.

One of the little things I didn’t really like about the episode upon rewatching is April’s role in it.  While the bare outline of her scene had promise, I feel the way it played out feels like a disservice to the character and wrong, in a way I can’t quite explain.  So here’s a play-by-play.

  1. April has just finished mopping up the floor of the house.  No real context is given to this, except that, presumably, this is something she wanted to do. Fine so far. While April hasn’t been shown as been terribly concerned with cleanliness in normal situations, this is not a normal situation.
  2. Casey enters the house without cleaning his shoes, therefore tracking snow and mud all over the floor–perfectly in character, I feel, in normal circumstances.  That said, I do feel that he’d be more careful about it if he’d known that April had just been cleaning the floor, although I’m not sure if the writers agree.  Would he have known that April had been cleaning?  I don’t know.
  3. April chews Casey out over getting the floor dirty.  Like I said, how one reads the scene depends entirely on context that isn’t given to the audience.
  4. Casey agrees to leave and to get cleaned.  He does not apologize.
  5. April asks Splinter to help her not get angry anymore.

My problem here is two-fold: a) the episode implies that getting the just-cleaned floor dirty is something that isn’t worth getting angry about, and b) that getting angry was wrong.

As it pertains to the issue, context matters here.  April has just seen her home destroyed, her life upended, and has been forced to relocate to a completely unknown place.  Whatever measure of control or stability she might have had over her life is now gone–all of this not long after a series of big changes in her life.  In this context, it’s not hard to see her deciding that keeping the house clean is important, given that it’s one of the few things  she can control.    And Casey, intentionally or not, has stepped all over whatever sense of security she might have derived from it.

And even without the context, the fact that she spent time on it and considered it important makes it important, and even if Casey didn’t intentionally mean to ruin it, apologizing would have been the classy thing to do.  After all, intent ain’t magic.

The second point is broader.  April isn’t asking about helping her manage anger, but how not to feel angry at all, and I find that concept to be somewhat scary.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with the emotion of anger.  It can take you to some bad places and lead you to do hurtful things, but as an emotion it can be quite useful.  And April has a lot to be angry about.  Could she have acted more diplomatically?  Sure. Does that mean that she was wrong to be angry?  I wouldn’t say so, and I’m not sure why she thinks so or why the writers thinks so.

So what would the scene have played out, in my view? Well, in my world, Splinter would have responded to April’s request by stating that the problem is not feeling anger, but how she directs it and who it affects.  Then afterward, she and Casey get a scene in which they both explain where they’re coming from and apologizes to the other for fighting.  April manages to get some catharsis, and the two grow closer in a way that feels natural. But that’s just me.

Leo’s segment is easily the best part of the episode, even though it’s not as good as I remember it being.  The various different elements are all the tiniest bit off (Why is there a forge in the barn?  How is scrap metal suitable for making a sword?  Why is Leo removing his bandages if movement still hurts?), but I like the whole idea behind the scenes.  I also really like what they say about the relationship Leo has with Raph, which serves as a continuation of their scenes last episode: fighting aside, they get each other, and their relationship is the most fascination out of the various turtle combination.

Random Thoughts:

  • Like I said, I really like the execution of the Abigail Finn character.  She’s two-dimensional, but the way she’s sketched out has enough additional details to make her seem like we’re only seeing a facet of her personality.  She’s prime fan-fiction material.
  • I also really like Parker, her assistant.  I won’t say the fact that he’s Little Person/Dwarf (elaboration on appropriate terminology is appreciated) isn’t unproblematic–it sort of feels like it was done as a way to visually contrast Finn’s butchness, rather than because hey, adults shorter than 4 feet high exist–but he doesn’t feel othered or stereotyped, which I appreciated.  And given that he mutters once about how Finn is a “pain in the butt”, it makes me wonder what their relationship is.  Are they friends?  Strictly professional co-workers?  Lovers?  There’s lots of possibilities, and I sort of wish the characters had been elaborated upon.
  • I also really like Finn’s Sonic Operator Retrieval Taser Incapacition Units (a.k.a. “Sorties”)–little orbs that hover via rotors armed with tasers–they feel like something out of the old show, in a good way.  I’m not exactly sure how Finn isn’t raking in the dough for developing them, but eh.  They’d make for horribly fun little toys.

2 Responses to Really, I’ve Got No Pithy Title to Add Here: “Monster Hunter”

  1. Pingback: The Maury Povich of Evil Geneticists: “Monsters” | Monsters of New York

  2. Pingback: Landfill(er): “Junklantis” | Monsters of New York

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: