WTF?!: “The Search for Splinter” Part Two

” Myself, I would have fired the decorator.— Michelangelo

Written by: Greg Johnson
Original Air Date: November 1, 2003
Recap Narrator: Raphael
Characters and Concepts Introduced: Mr. Mortu, Utroms, The Transmat
Gargoyles episode I could make a forced comparison to: N/A

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Everything is Different Now (Blog Note)

Since I finally seem to have managed obtaining a steady trickle of comments, I feel it’s as good a time to introduce a comment policy, before I have to step in and actually have to deal with sort of stuff I created this space to avoid.  You can find it here.

The intention here isn’t to needlessly censor or to act as draconian overlord, as fun as at that sounds (not really). It’s simply that there’s certain language I don’t want in my blog, because it’s offensive, and it drives  away people who might otherwise have interesting things to say and don’t have a place to say it.

None of this should be taken to mean that I intend to run this blog as a safe space, as I have neither the knowledge or energy necessary to make such a thing happen.  I just wish to make it not suck for as many people as possible (more than it already not sucks, anyway).

Also, please note that as the product of  a flawed human being, it is completely possible for these guidelines to be incomplete, problematic, and/or counterproductive.  They will be continuously ammended as time goes one, and I will try and let y’all know when that happens.  Also, as a human being of many and varied flaws, there will be times when I myself don’t abide by these rules, and I will appreciate a made-in-good-faith heads up when that happens.

So yeah.  So far, the comments here so far have generably been great, and think the great majority of those who’ve posted will have little problem with the new rules; I really don’t think this will actually change much.  Still, I could be wrong, so we’ll see.

TMNT (2012): “Panic in the Sewers” (Spoilers)

Yes, I’m late with my essay on “The Search For Splinter”  Part Two, and this blog is not really supposed to be about Nick’s TMNT, but these are a snap to do and get decent page views, so I’m fairly sure I’ll be doing these regularly.

I think I’ve managed to figure out what my main problem with the series is.  Like I said elsewhere, its plotting isn’t tight enough for me to be able to appreciate it as a dramatic series–for example, just what is stopping Shredder from pulling off this exact same plan later on, and why don’t the turtles worry about that?–and I haven’t been able to get to a place where I can take on its own terms like the original or something like Teen Titans or Scooby Doo: Mystery Incorporated. What’s more, its approach feels deliberate enough that I don’t have confidence that it will improve; as far as I can tell, the show is absolutely confident about its approach.  While this incarnation of the turtles can be fun, there’s little to recommend it except for rather great aesthetics.

Random thoughts:

  • Okay, so the first thing the Purple Dragons will do with the bugged pizza box April gave them is set it on a flat surface and notice that it has a large device taped to its underside.  How April did not realize this very obvious thing is left as an excercise for the viewer.
  • While Bradford’s reaction to be mutated isn’t one of those things that need to be dealt with immediately, I do wish some concession had been made  to the fact that this huge life-changing thing had just recently happened to him.
  • The fact that April had braces sometime in the near past is adorable.
  • I also liked the hints at a larger role for the Purple Dragons, and hope the series continues to try to flesh them out, both collectively and individually.
  • The turtles are patrolling now?  More context, please.
  • On a more substantive note, it’s interesting how this Splinter’s approach for the “Saki is coming for them” problem is markedly different from his 4Kids counterpart.  Neither is necessarily better or worse than the other, from a character standpoint, it seems like a major point of divergence and something worth thinking about.
  • I am more than ready for Michelangelo’s “quirkiness” to be toned down.  Heck, all of the turtles’ tics could stand to be taken down a notch, particularly during battle.
  • Don’s crush on April did not annoy me this episode.  Hooray!
  • Oh, and ten episodes in, and April is still the only woman in New York.  For the sake of context, note that the far-from-progressive-and-occasionally-racist original cartoon at this point had two women in its regular cast, one female guest-star (Kala), and numerous female extras.  Also, yes, I am perfectly aware that, by this point in its lifespan, the 4Kids toon was also doing worse than the original in this regard.

TMNT (2012): “The Gauntlet” (Spoilers)

(Content Note: Swearing)

What the fuck was that?

It couldn’t last.  Despite a promising start, I think it didn´t take long for me to realize that the new TMNT wasn’t for me.  While the series definitively delivers on giving us a looser, funnier take on the characters that doesn’t feel beholden to past incarnations, which I was totally ready for, there were plenty of bits which I didn’t care for, which I feared would eventually overtake the parts I did like.  Mikey’s overwhelming stupidity.  The various sloppy bits of plotting, which give me the impression that characters and concepts don’t exist when they’re offscreen, and that the plot would have been resolved already if we’d had smarter characters.    Anything pertaining to Donatello’s Nice Guy crush on April.  And now, in what is meant to be the series’ mid-season climax, it’s finally happened.

“The Gauntlet”  is easily the most packed episode in the series.  Not only do the turtles find Kirby O’Neal and attempt to rescue it, they also get to defuse a Kraang mutagenic bomb and fight both Bradford and Xever and The Shredder.  There’s also a mutant pigeon who stalks April.  It would almost work, if the various parts managed to be individually satisfying.

Mikey’s antics have ceased to be amusing and have now made him into that person at the bus who strikes up a conversation even though you really want to read your book, goddammit.  I could name several examples, but the one that most comes to mind is when he presses the button that opens the door to Kirby O’Neal’s cell door—the door Leo has spent minutes trying to pick open—activating the alarm.  It’s something that can be directly linked to the turtles’ lack of success, and yet he is never called out on it, and he never feels remorse for doing so.  It pisses me off both in principle, and because I really disliked that Kirby wasn’t rescued.

This is also the episode where Shredder flunkies Chris Bradford and Xever are mutated, which would have been somewhat surprising if the online TMNT community wasn’t violently averse to spoiler tags.  It´s a shame, because while I was already invested in the characters as humans, it wasn’t to the degree that I’d feel bad for them to be changed; instead, I just cringe at the lost potential—I really don’t see how their transformations are an improvement, dramatically speaking.  Not only that, it only comes about because of dramatic cheating: the mutagen, we have been led to believe, works by mutating its victim using the last animal or plant they touched as a base.  Here, Bradford and Xever mutate after fighting the turtles, and yet they turn into the dog and fish that they had respectively touched earlier in the episode.

You can see where the problem lies.  Either we’re meant to believe that they never touched the turtles during hand to hand combat, or that the mutagen works in whatever way the writers want it to.  Neither is an example of good writing.  What’s more, the way the mutations come about is baffling, in that I can’t understand how things turned out the way they did without invoking author override.  I don’t get the physics and I don’t get the motivations, and I get the impression that the writers don’t, either.

The fights, as usual, were a series highlight, but as far as introductions to the Shredder go, this one carries less weight than it should have, and feels like a pale imitation of the intro in the 2k3 series.  Part of it is almost undoubtedly due to age–I was far younger when the earlier episode aired, and had different standards*–but it also has to do with the way he’s been dealt with so far:  the appearances of the Foot so far have themselves been weightless.   The situation at the end of “New Friends, Old Enemies” is more or less identical to the way it was before it, and the same can be said of “Never Say Xever”; the story’s world remains unchanged despite their presence.  The previous cartoon, on the other hand, imbued the Foot with the capacity to change things, which made them vital in that first season’s cosmology, and made the turtles’ first fight with Saki feel like an actual culmination.  One could connect the dots from that episode all the way back to the pilot and get a nice drawing, while with this show we doing so would only give us lines.

And because it always bears mentioning, we’re nine episodes in, and April is the only female character to have any lines or to appear outside of flashback cameos.  Don is also still a creeper, now with “my April” Freudian slips.

I probably won’t stop watching the series—like it or not, TMNT is in my blood, and the completist in me won’t allow the part who likes good shows to simply skip it.  Still, my hopes that the show would get better as it goes along are starting to seem a mite unjustified.

Edited to add: Several people at the Technodrome have noted how several of the shots in the turtles’ fight with the Shredder are homages to panels from the original fight all the way back in the first issue of the Mirage comic.  Poster Ninja Donnie has a nice collection of them here.  It doesn’t change my overall opinion of the episode–my problem was never with the flash, but with the substance, which this has no bearing on–but still, pretty damn cool, Nick storyboarders.

* The bolded font indicates stuff which has been added after the fact.

Things Come Together: “High Noon”

“Even shadows must remain true to their shade.–The Weird Sisters

Written by: Brynne Chandler Reaves  (Teleplay)
Original Air Date: September 25, 1995
Introduces: N/A
Timeline placement:  November 13 – November 14, 1995
TMNT episode I could make a forced comparison to: N/A

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Prelude to The Shredder Wars — Snippet 2

April 9, 2009, 7:40 p.m

Raquel Silva loved Shakepeare like you wouldn’t believe.  Loved him since college, where the drama students who would put radically different versions of Othello every year taught her the power of stories.  Had that really been almost thirty years ago?

In any case, when she first begun making waves in the competitive fighting circuit and was told that she literally needed to make a name for herself, there was no question what that name would be.  Granted, it had initially been a pain in the ass to continuously have to explain that her alias didn’t actually refer to the character who actually went by that name but to her husband, but the king’s name on its own just didn’t sound dramatic enough for the venue.  Eventually though, people started getting it–Lady Macbeth: No man of woman born could beat her.

Then came The Society.  While she didn’t much care for its endgame—whatever that was—she was extremely grateful for the perks that came with associating with them.  Not only had their health plan allowed her to stay in the game for far longer than she would have been able to otherwise, it allowed her to send both of her kids to college even after she was no longer making money in the circuit.  Now she made the most out of semi-retirement in Brazil, where she lived with, and took care of, her parents.

The Hotel Cabal was not Brazil, nor was it the sort of hotel she would frequent, given a choice.  It was owned by The Illuminati, and served as part hideaway, part torture chamber.  Care was advised when traversing the hotel; legend was it that one of its administrators, Mace Malone, once lost his way and was never seen again.  This was on Raquel’s mind as she led Takeshi Yoshihama—Master Khan—through the building’s beige halls of drabness.

“You know, there’s no need for you to be so tense,” she told her prisoner. “We seriously don’t plan on killing you.”

“You are Illuminati.  Killing me is among the least you could do to me.”

“Yeah, you’re right.  Still, why make yourself miserable beforehand?”  This got no answer, which wasn’t particularly unexpected.  From everything she’d heard about the Foot’s ninja, they tended to be annoyingly disciplined.  Khan, in particular, seemed like the kind of person who would hide in a closet when not on a mission.  Not at all the kind of person she liked working with, although that didn’t mean she wouldn’t—she too could be disciplined.

After three minutes of some very circuitous walking, the two martial artists arrived at their destination, a door marked 532, a designation that might have been helpful if it hadn’t been preceded by a dozen doors also marked 532.  At the other side was David Xanatos, the man tasked with selling Khan on the idea of betraying the people he had dedicated his life to.


Guardians and Pigeon Puppets: “The Search for Splinter” Part One

” Give me toaster or give me death!–Casey Jones

Written by: Greg Johnson
Original Air Date: October 25, 2003
Teaser Narrator: Leonardo
Characters Introduced: Mr. Mortu (Referenced)
Gargoyles episode I could make a forced comparison to: N/A

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