I Thought This Was Supposed to Be About School?: TMNT (2012): The Alien Agenda (Spoilers)

(Gosh, these things are just taking over the blog, aren’t they?)

You know, as creatively bankrupt as the concept “the turtles in high school” can sound, I was kinda hyped for this episode as described. I was especially curious about how it was going to be done, since featuring a school would have almost certainly required far more character models than the show has proved capable of creating, and the show has generally been reluctant to show sides of April that don’t involve the turtles. Which makes the actual episode funny—of course the high school bit would be tangential, and of course the school would be completely empty save the main players. Still, it gave us a couple of funny moments, and the first episode that passes the Bechdel test—and considerably earlier than the 4Kids cartoon did, too–so that part of the episode wasn’t a total loss.

(The scenario makes no sense at all, though.)

In a way, the limitations the show operates under have become the most interesting thing about it. Granted, there was never any chance that the show’s version of New York would be as lush as something like Brave, but I never would have expected it to feel like an actual play, with everything having to take place in the same space. I mean, just what in-universe justification could there be for the Shredder’s personal throne room to also be the place where Bradford goes to relax, and where Baxter Stockman does his engineering work on Xever? Or for no one to notice that hey, there’s a robot fighting giant turtles inside a high school in what I assume is meant to be daytime?

I liked Karai last episode, and I like her still. Granted, she still doesn’t feel a whole lot like Karai, but she’s fun and by far the most competent antagonist we’ve seen so far (at least, if you ignore the whole “pushing a button despite having no idea what it does” bit). I even like that she calls out Leo for being stupid when it comes to her, even as I’d prefer that Leo not be stupid about her at all.

(I do like that the whole “Raph is the only other turtle actually aware of her” thing was followed up upon this episode.)

(In fact, I found Raph quite likeable this episode.)

On the other hand, I’m far less sanguine about the Shredder, whose setup, like much of the series, also seems wholly artificial. Still unexplained is why this ruthless, allegedly-accept-no-failure ninja cares about the mutated Xever at all, and the combination of his lack of curiosity about the world he inhabits and his weird reluctance to take care of the turtles himself, even after the turtles have proven a) ridiculously easy to find and b) unable to take him on make him feel…well, kind of stupid. The show is stalling, and it shows. It makes a certain sort of sense, I suppose—antagonists whose sole motivation is narratively impossible to accomplish are particularly prone to villain decay, so it’s logical for the writers to want to delay that for the show’s Big Bad—but still, I really wish that Saki’s badass moments weren’t limited to occasions in which he is actually fighting the turtles.

As for The Kraang, I’m just not sure what to think about them anymore. They feel a lot like Snakeweed did last episode, as catalysts for plots that aren’t strictly about them rather than as agents in and of themselves. As much potential as they showed in the pilot, they now seem kinda blah—not threatening or smart enough to be effective, not comedic enough to be funny, not weird enough to be memorable—not a particularly good place to be, if one is meant to be the show’s second Big Bad.

Now, if there was one particular loser in this episode, it was April. For all the hullabaloo about high school, she felt mostly extraneous. Plus, I was saddened by the part where she expresses disappointment in high school—while it’s a throwaway line that, without context, could indicate a whole host of different things, I feel that it takes away one of my very favorite things about the character (or at least her 4Kids incarnation) which his her expressed and explicit love of learning.

One final note: I know that these mini-reviews have come to be known a bit for their mostly caustic nature, and that it sometimes seems like there’s nothing I like about the show. I just want to say that while I do focus almost solely on the negative, it’s not because of a lack of affection for the turtles, or because I don’t get anything from the episodes, but more because I feel the Internet generally does a more than good job of covering the fun parts and doesn’t need me to also play along. Also, just because I may not like the episodes doesn’t mean that y’all aren’t free to gush about the things you liked in the comments. I might push back against some of the stuff if I don’t agree with, but that doesn’t mean you’re not free to like ’em.


6 Responses to I Thought This Was Supposed to Be About School?: TMNT (2012): The Alien Agenda (Spoilers)

  1. Scott says:

    Since they now created the, “set” for April’s school in CG, there’s probably going to be future eps that take place here. They wouldn’t go through the trouble of creating it for CG and not re-use it, so we’ll probably see more of April in school in the future. Hopefully with other kids around.

    As for the Kraang plot, I get the feeling they’re only going to be the villains for Season 1. The mutagen will stick around, of course, but either the Kraang will return home, (similar to the Utroms), or Shredder will somehow get them under his control.

    I do think Shredder is underdeveloped so far, but I’m willing to wait till the season ends overall. There’s a lot of missing story I feel they’re holding back, particularly with Splinter/Shredder when they were younger.

  2. Ian says:

    Hello, Scott.

    Here’s hoping you’re right about the school. While the concept of “turtles” and “school” together still bring up rather horrifying ideas of fan fiction which should probably remain as such, I still really want to see April in a “normal” context.

    Personally, I’m not sure that additional backstory will help The Shredder. My problem is less that and more the fact that his sole motivation–killing the turtles and Splinter–isn’t one he can actually ever succeed in, which makes it hard to make him a long-term viable threat. Contrast with the 4Kids Shredder, who had various different goals and aspirations he could succeed in, even if The Foot proved incapable of killing the turtles.

    Of course, this is assuming that killing Splinter is his actual goal. Now, if he were searching for him for some other reason, one that could serve a catalyst for some other motivation, that would be something different.

  3. Pterobat says:

    Ah, this episode was okay.

    The Karai/Leo thing still didn’t have enough buildup to make the conflict compelling. It all seemed to come out of nowhere.

    Still, I’m glad it’s being treated as a mistake on Leo’s part, and I really, really hope the relationship doesn’t get redeemed.

    I’m confused as to how “Justin” was formed. Was dumping all the DNA into a vat of Mutagen enough to do it? Uh…I guess.

    Both Shredder and the Kraang are just so slow-moving in whatever they do. I understand keeping the Shredder to the sidelines to make him look badass, but at this point, he just looks lazy. And we can add incuriosity to his list of faults.

    We still have no idea what the Kraang are even doing.

    Also, I know it’s odd for me to say this given I like White Baxter so much, but Nicktoons Baxter is looking a little too pathetic. Whatever other failures other Baxters have been, at least their inventions usually worked.

  4. Ian says:

    Yeah, I was kinda hoping that Baxter would remain competent after “Mousers”, and that the sudden shift would be something with an actual story-based reason, but that no longer seems likely. Consistency just doesn’t appear to be a terribly big priority for the writers, which isn’t something that instills a whole lot of confidence, especially when it comes to stuff like the mutagen: it can’t be scary if we’re not sure what it does.

  5. Loudo says:

    You mention April’s lack of love of learning, but what really killed me in this episode was the Shredder’s! He is reported there are some mysterious robots who are enemies of his enemies, and instead of thinking “Interesting, I should learn more about them” (like any Oroku Saki would have thought, even the Fred Wolf one!), he just says “All I care is killing Splinter!”
    I’m not even sure at this point, what does the Foot Clan exist for? XD

  6. Ian says:

    That’s the 64,000-dollar question, isn’t it? I mean, even the old cartoon made it more or less clear that the Foot under Saki had turned into a criminal organization, and we actually got to see them doing that on-screen (at least until the writers forgot all about it). Here, the most we get is a throwaway comment about how Bradford has helped the Foot absorb the Purple Dragons–all three members of it–into the larger organization.

    I can actually get Saki not being interested in spending resources on the Kraang if The Foot is, say, “just” a group of assassins for hire. I can get him spending what appears to be most of his focus and some of his best people if the organization is set up well enough that it basically runs itself (which was the opposite of what the 2k3 Shredder did and seems equally out of character for this version). But without the barest amount of information, it’s impossible to accept the developments we’ve gotten without having to conclude that hey, the Shredder’s incompetent at anything that’s not martial arts. And heck, even that could actually work, if it were done intentionally. As is? Eh.

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