Metal Gear Solid 2 in a Ship: “Rogue in the House” Part One

“Sirs! Trooper Zog! Serial number XJ4! Reporting *koff* *koff* duty, sirs!” — Zog

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Written by: Eric Luke

Original Air Date: April 17, 2004

Teaser / Recap Narrator: Leonardo

Characters and Concepts Introduced: Zog

Gargoyles episodes I could make comparisons to: “The Edge”

The Beats:

  • Inside a Foot freighter, the Shredder has finished his convalescence, and surveys the state of his crime empire. Notable things: The Foot is still quite depleted due to the events of “City at War”. Baxter Stockman has been recaptured, and has been further tortured, this time being reduced to a brain in a jar.  Thanks to Stockman’s prowess and some scavenged Utrom tech, production is well underway on a series of nine battle robots, including five designed for combat, two designed to look identical to the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of the U.K., and one designed to look like Splinter.  It is this last robot which most interests Shredder, and he insists that they use it immediately.
  • Inside the sewers, the turtles are killing time on their new sewer jet-ski things when they run into an unexpected something: a triceraton.  Said triceraton is somewhat very brain-addled from having to spend months breathing poisonous Earth air, and does not recognize the turtles as his former enemies, and instead perceives them as his compatriots, especially after Donny cobbles together a breathing apparatus for him.
  • Zog the triceraton is not the only surprising thing in those sewers that night, and the second of those is an injured Splinter, who informs the turtles that enemies have broken into the lair, and that it is essential that his sons return there to reclaim it.
  • As the turtles race back home, they run into their third surprise encounter, with–huh!–Splinter. Again. This Splinter, who is uninjured, demands that the turtles stay away from the injured Splinter.
  • The Foot Clan, wisely realizing that they’ve lost any opportunity they had to maintain the ruse, order their Splinter-bot to attack.  Much faster and stronger than the turtles or Splinter, it is only thanks to Zog’s interference that it is defeated.
  • Incensed at the use of his likeness to attack his family, Splinter demands immediate retaliation for the attack. Using the remains of the robot, Donnie is able to determine the source of the remote control signal as coming from the docks, and so the turtles, Splinter, and Zog head there.
  • At the docks, Leo is dismayed to find that their attackers are indeed the Foot, and that Karai’s ceasefire appears to be worth absolutely bupkis.  Leo decides that he, Raph, and Splinter will infiltrate the ship to see what’s what, while Michelangelo and Donatello will remain behind with Zog.
  • Tactical Espionage Action (TM) occurs. The turtles discover that not only is the Shredder still alive, again, but that he has other robots on the production line.
  • The turtles decide to sink the ship. They ask Donatello to head to the engine room so that he may rig the ship to explode, while Michelangelo and Zog work to unmoor the ship. The others, meanwhile, will head to the bridge so that they can move the ship away from land.
  • Karai, noticing that some of the ship’s guards have been knocked unconscious, places the ship on alert.  Team bridge is soon discovered by Hun and the Foot Elite, while Michelangelo and Zog are quickly surrounded by ninja.

Continuity and Mythology Notes:

—-

With “City at War” done, 4Kids’ TMNT finds itself in an interesting position. Its primary story, as originally told in the Mirage comics, is over. Despite the show’s general faithfulness to the source material, the adaptation has nevertheless ended up in the opposite place as its source, and where the comic books used the story of the gang war to effect permanent change, the cartoon used it to put things right where they began, except not really. For one, the utroms are gone, meaning the Shredder is left without his overriding motivation, at least when it comes to matters not relating to the turtles. Most of the mysteries relating to the character have been solved; unlike in season 1, he and the Foot are known entities, and what’s more, they are a known entity which the turtles have now defeated multiple times.  All of which leaves the series with very little in the way of momentum or direction.

“Rogue in the House”, then, is crucial for the series in a way past episodes haven’t been. It’s the first real chance Lloyd Goldfine and 4Kids had to prove that they could take the ongoing story forward without the benefit of the source material as their blueprint.  And fortunately, they do quite well: after a troubled second season, this two-parter represents a return to form, and a much better story than the previous Foot Clan story.

Now, most of the magic occurs in the second part of the story, but there are still some things worth mentioning about this episode, and the first is just how competent the Foot ends up feeling throughout, in a way that effectively mitigates whatever villain decay Saki and company have undergone. Even thought they finish the two-parter having lost–and having lost big–their actions here, like Xanatos’ in Gargoyles‘ “The Edge”, still end up painting them in a positive light, as a group that is still a force to be reckoned with.

Sure, the Foot Clan is not doing great after the events of “Return to New York”, “Secret Origins” and “City at War”: as awkwardly mentioned this episode, they’ve lost a lot of people, not to mention a base of operations and their reputation.  Still, they have assessed their situation and have come up with a short-term strategy, and it’s a darn good one, one that displays both initiative and resourcefulness. What’s more, their idea to use a Splinter robot speaks to their willingness to learn and adapt. After realizing that direct confrontation is as likely as not to result in disaster, the Foot is changing the way it deals with the turtles, and has doubled down on the subterfuge that worked in “City at War”. What’s more, they relied on trickery until precisely the moment when it stopped being effective, after which they changed tactics and moved on to force. It didn’t work, but it’s not because they made bad decisions, and that makes all the difference when it comes to perception.  It is this what allows the Shredder to work as an antagonist moving forward, once “he can kick the turtles’ asses” stops becoming a lever the writers can pull.

On another note, there’s Zog.

Although “Rogue in the House” is largely an original story, Zog and his role here are taken from the comic book, and specifically the comic book version of “Return to New York”.  With “Turtles in Space” and Zog’s introduction moved back until after “Return”, there was really no way to adapt his appearance there and then, and really, until “Secret Origins”, there was no reason to believe they ever would. Sure, his appearance in the books was memorable, but it was also one of those Mirage things that occur solely because the creators thought it’d be a cool idea at the time, sense be damned. Given that, excising the character from the adaptation entirely would have been a perfectly sensible choice.

And yet, here Zog is, and his presence means several things. First and most immediately, it means that he is now in a story that can more properly be about him, rather than being shoehorned into a story bigger than him. More importantly, though, it takes the series into actual new storytelling territory.

So far, many of the changes made to the TMNT story have been in order to make it more palatable for younger audiences. The turtles don’t fight to kill. The Shredder was radically changed in order to accommodate his decapitation. The romantic relationship between Casey and April has been dealt with none of the complexity one would expect when dealing with people in their mid-twenties.   Zog is different: just as he was in the original book, he is a mentally disabled sentient who the turtles take with them to fight the Foot without a second thought. What to do about him is a question with no easy answers, and one the turtles are freed from grappling with by the fact that he dies the very night they meet him.  That they’re attempting to tell this story, when there was no reason for them to do so, speaks to the way the series is evolving: it is growing up.

Random Thoughts:

  • While Baxter Stockman’s continued mutilation, which reaches its climax this episode, would seem to be an exception to the argument that these episodes represent a shift into darker stories, it’s important to note that Stockman’s fate has often been played for comedy.  These two episodes in particular, which reveal that the Shredder has taken all it could possibly take from Stockman without actually killing him, never really allows the viewer to process that fact, and instead just has almost everyone, even the Shredder, make jokes at his expense.
  • The Shredder gets new armor this episode, and the best thing I can really say about it is that it’s not offensive. Really, though, his original armor was always the best.
  • A lot has happened off-screen since “City at War”, most notably the return of Hun to the Foot’s ranks. This presumably happened after Karai told him that the Shredder was in hiding and behind her actions, and I wonder what that conversation was like.
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2 Responses to Metal Gear Solid 2 in a Ship: “Rogue in the House” Part One

  1. Caleb Boulware says:

    Do you plan on reviewing the entire 2003 series? What are your thoughts on Turtles Forever? Some fans says it screwed the 1987 turtles over while others say “did you ever watch the ’87 show?” as they say it portrayed them perfectly. Regardless I enjoyed it and was a good finale and demise for the Shredder.

  2. Ian says:

    It’ll take a while, given the amount of episodes and my penchant to set this project aside for months at a time, but yeah, the plan is to eventually review all the episodes, including Turtles Forever.

    As for that, I enjoy it. I feel some of the criticism is valid–the ’87 laugh too much at their own jokes, and their version of Leonardo might as well not be there–but I don’t think it harms the movie as much as its critics think it does. I smiled all the way through when I first watched at, and still think it’s one of the best TMNT things ever.

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