Weird New York Gun Control: “Lone Raph and Cub”

” Woah, there, quick-draw!  You’d better take a break and think before you act.  You can’t just go storming off like a hothead!–Raphael

Written by: Eric Luke
Original Air Date: October 18, 2003
 Teaser Narrator: Raphael
Characters Introduced: The Mob (including the Boss and Weasel), Tyler, Tyler’s mom.
Gargoyles episode I could make a forced comparison to: N/A

The Beats:

      • Raph, frustrated by the lack of progress made in the turtles’ search for Splinter, heads topside to blow off some steam.
      • A group of mobsters is searching for a child named Tyler.  Before they can find him, Raph appears on the scene and defeats them without trouble.
      • The group’s leader, a guy named Weasel, calls his boss, who tells him that getting Tyler is imperative; nothing is going to stand in the way of their ascension to the top of the New York crime food chain.
      • After Raph’s attempts to leave Tyler with the police end in failure, the moppet explains his situation: he and his mother, a reporter who had obtained incriminating evidence on the mob, had been kidnapped by Weasel and his goons; while he had managed to escape with the evidence, his mom was still in their hands, and Tyler determined to rescue her.
      • As Raph and Tyler begin to bond a bit over their missing parents, they are interrupted by Weasel and his goons.  This time, however, it goes a bit different, as Raph is blinded by a flash grenade.  Fortunately, with Tyler acting as Raph’s eyes, the two manage to escape.
      • Tyler leads Raph to the warehouse where the mob goons are keeping his mother.  After working out a system  so that Tyler can guide them, the two infiltrate the building.  Once inside, Raph calls the goons out, which they do.  Also making an entrance is The Boss, a large man with a boxer’s physique.
      • Although Raph still can’t see, he’s less as a disadvantage against the Boss than he otherwise would have been, thanks to the system–based on clock position–he and Tyler had talked about.  Although the goons attempt to hinder the turtle by capturing Tyler, their leader is eventually beaten.
      • With the immediate danger now over, Tyler rescues his mom.  Having served its dramatic purpose, Raph’s sight returns.

Continuity Notes:

—-

When originally published in its comic book form, “Return to New York” was the last “important” TMNT story Eastman and Laird worked on before ceding writing duties to others for a time. It would be several years and twenty nine issues before they revisited the world they’d created in the “City at War” saga, and until then, the characters were more or less stuck starring in a series of stories which, regardless of their merits–which are considerable–did little to upset the status quo.

This is not the case here.  Blessed with hindsight and a clear sense of direction, Lloyd Goldfine and the 4Kids writers knew exactly where they wanted to go after the turtles’ “final” battle with Yoshi’s killer, and wasted little time getting to the next big part of their story.   But first there was this episode, providing a bit of a breather for viewers while setting up some important characters for future use.  The Shredder’s dead and everyone knows it, so it is now time for the more enterprising underworld figures to try and replace him.

While the mob didn’t cause much of an impression among the fandom when they were initially introduced, I have to admit that I rather like ’em.  Sure,  Weasel and The Boss may not be the character finds of 2003, but they get the job done well enough, and manage to come across as reasonably competent, which is precisely what one wants  of the Hufflepuff House of crime factions.  And Tyler…well, he’s really annoying, which given that he was meant to be, means there’s not a bunch to say except “mission accomplished”.  When it comes to this particular episode, he’s far from the most annoying thing in it.

Family Friendly Firearms

As season 1 of the show wore on, it became more and more clear to me that despite its aspirations, there were various ways in which TMNT could not match the comic book it was adapting, particularly when it came to violence.  It was in this episode that I realized they couldn’t show guns.

It’s surprisingly off-putting. Sure, when one gets down to it, it’s equally weird that the Purple Dragons didn’t use guns either; however, since their entire aesthetic is based more or less on villains from 80’s beat-them-ups–who, for logical reasons tend not to use firearms–it feels more acceptable.  These guys, however, are TMNT‘s version of Tony Dracon’s gang in Gargoyles, and follow a different set of tropes.  Mobsters wearing suits don’t use baseball bats and chains, and yet this is precisely what they’re using here. And it gets even weirder when Weasel reaches into his duster and pulls out…a flash grenade.

Still, this isn’t particularly surprising, since cartoons which treat realistic firearms (defined here as “guns that shoot stuff that looks and sound like bullets”) as something to be avoided at all costs.  And to a degree I can understand the reasoning behind it: given that a non-trivial amount of children like imitating what they see on TV, and that cartoons cannot, by and large, accurately portray the consequences of guns, then there’s a certain level of merit to not giving children additional reasons to play around with guns.  Not a whole lot, mind you, but enough to prevent me from wondering WHY OH WHY MERCIFUL MINERVA DO YOU ALLOW THINGS LIKE THIS TO HAPPEN? (See: DC Nation, hiatus)

However, what this usually means is that we have cartoons which either take the rather nonsensical of giving all characters laser weapons no matter what the world’s established technology level happens to be (Spider-Man: TAS, X-Men: Evolution), show people using every weapon under the sun except for guns (The Legend of Korra), or a combination of both (G.I. Joe: Renegades). Which would all be fine and dandy if the United States weren’t also particularly known for its gun culture.  Sure, guns aren’t the only thing cartoons refrain from showing–overt religiosity, any sort of drug use, and non-straight sexuality are also things which tend to be completely absent (*1)–but given that these tend to be action shows featuring a whole lot of the criminal element, it’s very annoying to see this particular aspect be erased.

TMNT, for its part, managed to deal with the issue in a way that was considerably less infuriating than it could have been.  While high tech villains did indeed go the laser route, starting with season 2, people who didn’t have that option–including the mobsters from this episode–began using firearms which seemed designed for maximum ambiguity.

It’s the Heckler & Wesson “Let’s put as little detail as we possibly can” model.

Eventually, more realistic firearms made their way into the show, culminating with season 7’s use of guns which managed to fire and sound like what people who’ve never used guns before think they sound like.  But until then, there’s this episode.

(*1)  And which really shouldn’t be.  C’mon, creators!  If Archie Comics can give us a gay character, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to do so.  These are actual people you’re erasing!

Random thoughts:

    • While the  clues that we’re given are not especially subtle, I like the fact that The Boss’ boxing prowess is only visually foreshadowed.
    • Given that the mob is still operating during the “City at War” arc, one is left to assume that Tyler’s mom’s evidence turned out to be less than the silver bullet she hoped it would be, from the mundane (the case is still moving through the system by the time the gang war comes along) to the tragic (the mob got to them after the events of this episode.
    • One particular detail I like: Raph leaves what appear to be sweat marks on The Boss’s shirt whenever he kicks him.
    • One particular detail I don’t like: if you’re going to claim to use clock position, do it right. Don’t say “seven” when both combatants are in the same place they were when you said “one”.
    • Given that the show in general is more interested in fathers than it is in mothers, I wonder what the rationale for making Tyler’s parent a woman was.  The cynical part of me feels like it’s due to the fact that hir role in the story was that of someone that needed rescuing, while part of me wants to believe that they simply didn’t want the comparisons to Splinter to be too on the nose.  Or perhaps they decided that they simply didn’t need to make the gender disparity between characters any larger than it already was.
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7 Responses to Weird New York Gun Control: “Lone Raph and Cub”

  1. Yarp says:

    Which season seven episode is that pic from?

  2. Ian says:

    Turtles Forever, actually–part of the scenes cut from the TV edit.

  3. Yarp says:

    Thanks 🙂

  4. Greenygal says:

    One thing that’s slightly odd about this episode is…where the hell is Casey? He’s in last episode. He’s in next episode. Why is he not in, or even mentioned in, the episode where everyone is scouring New York for Splinter, which is obviously something he’d be involved in? The reason, of course, is that if he were in this episode he’d take off with Raph and we would have a totally different story, but I would have appreciated a line like “Once Casey gets back from his repair work, we’ll have another set of eyes; maybe that will help.”

    Also Tyler totally failing to get away from Raph–again and again and again–is one of the funniest bits of the series for me. Can’t beat the ninja, kid.

  5. Ian says:

    Hello, Greenygal. Thank you for dropping in. : )

    Casey’s abscence this issue never bothered me, honestly. No matter what his bond with the turtles is, Casey’s got his own life to live, and after having to place it on hold for them during their time in Northampton, I’d imagine he wouldn’t exactly be champing at the bit to spend more time with the turtles than he has to at the moment, and the turtles would not be asking nor expecting for him to get involved to the same degree they are. This isn’t to say that he isn’t invested in the search for Splinter or wouldn’t be helping out when he can–he does come to their aid next episode, as you mention–but to me, it feels natural for him to not be helping out 24/7, or for him to be absent during a lull in the search. It’s not something that needs to be remarked, in my mind. That said, I probably wouldn’t have found it amiss if he had been in this episode, although as you say, it probably couldn’t have happened without altering the plot considerably.

    And yes, that scene with Raph and Tyler is indeed very funny.

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