TMNT (2012): “T.C.R.I.” (Spoilers)

I can’t decide if the people working on writing for this show are very, very cynical–rivaling the original toon in thinking that its audience won’t care about the substance of what they’re peddling*–or if they’re actually being more realistic than I am.  In any case, I’m left wishing for Peter Laird’s editorial involvement–the show needs a person to tell them “do better”.

This episode, for example, is meant to bring together all of the various disparate elements that have been planted throughout the season, putting them into clear focus.  And yet, it falls short at almost every point.  The introduction of the TCRI building is played as big reveal, as an achievement, when the turtles have never expressed interesting in finding Kraang central, have never done anything that could be construed as an attempt to find Kraang central, and when Kraang central is, in the end, a more elaborate version of the buildings they’ve been hiding out in all season.  It’d have been something if we’d seen the skyscraper in the Manhattan skyline in previous episodes, but even that is not the case.

Similarly, the reveal of April as the Kraang’s true target makes all the previous misdirection seem very, very clumsy, and makes already pretty stupid villains seem all the more so. I don’t recall if the idea that the Kraang had been kidnapping scientists before they’d taken Kirby was something the writers had actually established, or if it was something that sounded plausible and was taken as a given, but even so, the reveal raises far more questions than it answers–including some they can’t.

1) Just how is it that Kirby learned all he knows about the Kraang if he’s been kept a prisoner all this time, and has presumably not been allowed access to anything that would get him any information?  It suggests some very chatty prison guards, except that as we’ve seen in “The Gauntlet”, the Kraang don’t in fact keep guards outside Kirby’s door.

2) Why the heck have the Kraang only made one subsequent attempt to capture April?  They can obviously track her down, so what’s stopping them from creating a distraction to keep the turtles busy on one side of town, while another group sweeps in and kidnaps her?  And if kidnapping her isn’t an immediate priority, then why the heck was she kidnapped in the pilot aside from “writers needed a plot”?

3) Just why is Kirby being kept alive and imprisoned and mostly intact?  This one has several potential valid answers, but I’m still curious to what the show’s is.

I could go on, but I won’t .

My appreciation for this show tends to be vicarious–other people enjoy it, and I enjoy the fact that other people enjoy it.  I’ve found that fans can take moments that I’m not fond of–like the overuse of Space Heroes, or Mikey’s Mikeyness– and turn it into something fun.  What that means though is that plot-heavy episodes like this one and “The Gauntlet”  before it, where moving things along is more important than the character bits, are especially unfun.  It makes me pine for incarnations of the TMNT where the characters could be involved in adventures that didn’t necessarily involve the same few villains over and over again.  Unfortunately, this incarnation is not one of those.

—-

* This is not meant as dismissal of the importance of flash, or of the validity of enjoying the show based on that.

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7 Responses to TMNT (2012): “T.C.R.I.” (Spoilers)

  1. Scott says:

    I liked the episode. Not sure why the Kraang were kidnapping scientists but we’ll see whenever April’s father appears again.

    I’m glad the writers didn’t forget that normal humans work at TCRI, which is where Baxter got fired from. I was afraid they would have forgotten that. The Kraang wanting to transform the planet may make sense if their home world is gone.

    On a side note, disappointed that General Traag didn’t talk. For such a notable character I hope they don’t just treat him like a stone golem. Hopefully in his next appearance he talks and commands Rock soldiers.

  2. Ian says:

    Man, I totally need to pay more attention: I’d completely forgotten that Baxter used to be a T.C.R.I. employee, if indeed I’d ever made a note of it. I do feel, however, that the writers did indeed forget about those humans, or at least ignored it when it became inconvenient to the plot: just where are all those people when the turtles entered T.C.R.I., the Kraang started shooting their space-age weapons, and a mutant crocodile with serious self-control issues was let loose? The last one, in particular, makes the turtles seem particularly callous: just how were they planning to assure that any innocent humans who happened to be passing by the lobby would be left unharmed? And if they didn’t think about that, then its still the sort of thing that should have at least been mentioned; given episodes like “Never Say Xever”, it makes the turtles come off a bit like hypocrites.

  3. Olivia says:

    The Kraang kidnapping scientists was established in the pilot, when the turtles capture and interrogate Snake. And it’s further confirmed (well, guessed, more like) by Leo in “The Gauntlet”, during the brief conversation with Kirby, that the reason they needed scientists, was to force them to modify the mutagen. So it’s not really a misdirection, but I have to wonder, how does April play into all this? Someone on Tumblr hypothesized that maybe they’ll reveal that, much like her Mirage counterpart, she wasn’t born naturally and that this is of interest to the Kraang. But even so, how am I supposed to believe that she’s the Kraang’s #1 priority when the few times they came close to capturing her, they didn’t seem to care much and never ran after her? And if they have no use for Kirby, then the only conclusion I can get to is that they are going to use him as bait, but again, if April is their goal, why haven’t they done so yet?

    You brought up an interesting point a few times, in your previous reviews, and that would be that the turtles can’t seem to take anything seriously. I have to say that it hadn’t bothered me all that much, until TCRI. Actually, this episode just pissed me off all around, for various reasons.

    I get that the writers really want to emphasize the “teenage” in this show, and that is one aspect that I really appreciate about the Nick toon, but joking in a room full of poison gas, where a capsule is the only thing keeping them alive, doesn’t really help setting a dramatic mood. I want to be able to worry for them, but it’s hard if they’re joking around, because it makes me think that they’ve got the situation under control. And there wasn’t any dramatic build up, so even Leatherhead’s sacrifice felt “meh”, because the show didn’t allow me to warm up to the character at all. All I could think when he disappeared was “he’ll be just fine”.

    I’m REALLY not a fan of mutant turtles retracting inside their shells and like to think they have lost that ability with the mutation (I really appreciated this about the 4Kids show). Just their heads doesn’t bother me as much and I can accept it as occasional visual gag, but their limbs too? That’s a little too much slapstick. I don’t find it funny, and now it’s canon.

    They also squeezed in too many cultural references, for my taste. “We’re not in Kansas anymore” is followed by “why don’t you marry it” and it literlly happens in under a minute. And if that wasn’t enough Leo’s “we’ll be back” is a direct reference to Terminator (plus of course the Kraang being so much like facehuggers, but this was an ongoing gag since the beginning and I’ve gotten used to it). Even the way he says the line seemed to be a direct reference. Maybe I’m the only one who feels this way, and that’s totally fine, but I think they really went overboard with the jokes, in this one. It feels…lazy.

    Mrs. Campbell is back, yay! But she raises many questions: was that the same robot who hunted April in the school hallways? I don’t think the Kraang left the destroyed model in the school for a janitor to find, that would have ended all over the news. Was she repaired? Or is it another model? If it’s the same, then how comes she didn’t recognize April? Why didn’t April get at least a little bit uncomfortable, regardless of whether it’s the same or not? Questions!

    There’s more, but I think I have spoken enough, especially for a first time commenter! ^^
    Oh, question! Does html work in the comments?

  4. Olivia says:

    *of interest TO the Kraang.

    Gee, I revised my comment twice and still managed to miss that one.

  5. Ian says:

    Yay, Olivia!’ 😀 Yes, HTML works–and since I wasn’t entirely sure you’d be able to edit your comments once I cleared you for posting, I amended yours to reflect your correction.

    It’s late, and I’m going to bed, but I definitively have thoughts about your thoughts and will write about them tomorrow.

  6. Ian says:

    Thank you for the clarification, Olivia–between your and Scott‘s helpful gap-filling-ins, I’ve sorta kinda realized that I’m missing quite a bit. ^_^ Then again, I don’t feel the show incentivizes careful viewing, so…

    I’m going to disagree with you: whatever the details, I do think the series was, in making us think that the Kraang wanted Kirby when they’ve apparently always wanted April, engaging in misdirection. And that’d be fine if the show had been at all interested in playing fair, or had been leading towards the reveal in a logical manner; instead, it hides cards that should have been in play since the beginning, such as the fact that Kirby is a psychologist, and expects us to treat it as a pieces-come-together moment.

    As for April’s origins, the idea that she’s not human is one I’ve also come across, and…eh, I don’t know… While I actually quite liked the original story, I don’t have enough confidence in the show to feel that it’d have anything interesting to say about it. Being a teenager is already about finding out who one really is, so adding an element would strike me as redundant.

    While it didn’t bother me much this episode–I think I might be growing numb to the show’s annoying bits–yes, the lack of seriousness. The worst moment, for me, would have to be the absence of any sort of reaction to the fact that Michelangelo was directly responsible for the failure of the turtles’ attempt to rescue Kirby. There should have been fallout!

    I feel really strongly about this. 😛

    As for Leatherhead, I was mostly focused on trying to figure out how the sequence of events was meant to be a solution. I mean, this might once again be me not paying enough attention, but as I saw things, the Transmat is undamaged, and Leatherhead was at best, holding his own with Traag. Just what exactly did changing the battlefield change? Wouldn’t the Kraang just dispatch Leatherhead, and proceed with their plans uninterrupted?

    And like I wrote to you via Tumblr, my thinking is that “Ms. Campbell” is merely the standard model for Kraang robots, much like they have one single skin model for all their passing-as-human needs. What I’m particularly curious about is why they would need robots at all.

  7. Loudo says:

    I’m surprised I never hear anyone mention that, but didn’t we learn in the episode with the psychic monkey that April has in fact psychic powers? I think I recall Splinter make a comment about that at the end of the episode, but I’m too lazy to check right now. 😄

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