Sweet Sixteen: “The Big Brawl” Part One

“And so it came to pass that this place was born, a nexus where beings from a multitude of different worlds could pit themselves against worthy challengers.” — D’Jinn

Written by: Mike Ryan

Original Air Date: May 15, 2004

Teaser Narrator: Splinter

Characters and Concepts Introduced: The Battle Nexus, D’Jinn, Drako, Miyamoto Usagi

Gargoyles episodes I could make comparisons to: “Avalon”, Part 2

The Beats:

  • At the lair, Splinter is training. The turtles watch, impressed.
  • Later, Splinter prepares for an outing and leaves the lair without explanation, telling the turtles that he will return in a few days.
  • The turtles, recalling a similar departure three years ago, decide to follow him.  They track Splinter to an alleyway, where they watch as he draws a sigil on a wall, chants, creates a portal, and disappears.
  • Using Donnie’s UV lamp, the turtles are able to replicate Splinter’s sigils. Leo, who remembers the chant, repeats it. The portal forms again.
  • The turtles arrive on a different world, which Donatello surmises is an interdimensional nexus.
  • Another portal appears, and from it emerge a quartet of stick-like warriors materializes.  They draw weapons and attack.
  • Leo’s swords are broken during the fight but these are the only casualties; the turtles are eventually victorious.
  • The Gyoji from “The Ultimate Ninja” appears and explains the situation, more or less.  It turns out that the turtles were victims of a case of mistaken identity, and that their opponents were meant to battle a different foursome.
  • The turtles explore their new surroundings and soon find Splinter, who is fighting a four-armed being.  Before they can intervene, the Gyoji appears again and traps the turtle in a force bubble.
  • The turtles watch as Splinter defeats his opponent.  Once this occurs, the force bubble trapping the turtles blinks out of existence, and the turtles are free to reunite with their father.
  • Splinter’s opponent it turns out, is a friend of his, and he tells the turtles of the Battle Nexus, The Big Brawl, and Splinter’s—and Hamato Yoshi’s—stints as greatest warriors in the multiverse. He also tells them of how Splinter became champion by defeating his opponent, Drako, despite a broken leg, and how Drako attempted to later kill Splinter, and would have succeeded if not for the intervention of a rabbit bystander and the Daimyō.
  • The Daimyō appears to greet Splinter and the turtles.  Despite the turtles’ accidental involvement, he agrees to allow them to enter the tournament. He also has his son, The Ultimate Ninja, apologize to Splinter and Leonardo, and agrees to have Leo’s swords repaired.
  • The Daimyō takes the turtles and Splinter to the Battle Nexus arena, where they watch as he announces the beginning of the next stage of the tournament. From their vantage point above the arena, the turtles spot a familiar face, Traximus.
  • The Ultimate Ninja escorts the turtles through the Pavilion of Past Champions, which includes statues of Splinter and Hamato Yoshi.  Leonardo decides to stay behind for a while.  As Leonardo reflects, shadow ninjas like the ones Drako used to attack Splinter three years earlier sneak behind him, and prepare to attack.

Continuity and Mythology Notes

—-

As occurred with the season that preceded it, the rhythms of Ninja Turtles‘ second season were set by the comic book series that inspired it.  While it had its share of original material, they existed within the orbit of the original book.  This, then, represents something new for the series: an all-original Big Story, featuring a supporting cast composed entirely of–with two exceptions I’ll get to in a future post–characters created for the show.  How does the show fare?

Well, so far, so good.

There’s lots of comparisons one could make between this story and “Avalon” and its own attempts at world-building. However, while that story was anchored by a plot and the need to explain how all the players got to their positions, “The Big Brawl”, thanks in part to its longer running time, is considerably more leisurely. While the first part of “Avalon” had to go through a coup, a flight, and a slew of introductions and reintroductions in twenty-two minutes, here, only the latter is the focus, as most of the time is spent reminding us about the events and characters of “The Ultimate Ninja”, and introducing us to their world.

Another reason for the lack of urgency this episode is, well, a lack of urgency. While Goliath and Elisa traveled to Avalon in a mission of the utmost importance, the turtles travel to the Battle Nexus out of curiosity about Splinter, which is satisfied midway through. While there is intrigue and two potential villains, the stakes are, as of yet, undefined–and I quite like that. While the world of the Battle Nexus feels less immediately compelling than I remember it being–although I still quite like the designs for its core characters–I like that the series is confident enough about its world-building to bring it to the fore, and trusts its audience enough to request that they be patient.

Random Thoughts:

  • The episode begins with a paraphrase of the L.P. Hartley line “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there,” from his novel The Go-Between—a more erudite reference than the series’ usual fare.
  • We see glimpses of several warriors from the multiverse, and only one of the lot features a physique consistent with mainstream depictions of women. While this shouldn’t have to mean anything, I don’t believe we’re meant to consider than any of the warriors of more masculine build to be anything other than male, which is dismaying. It’d have been cool to see a greater variety of physiques represented.
  • In fact, it’s this lack of diversity which makes the two quartets we see when the turtles first arrive at the Battle Nexus especially cool. I especially like the idea of fighters who look like twigs but are nevertheless badasses.
  • A big revelation this episode is that not only was Splinter a past Battle Nexus champion, so was Hamato Yoshi.  We haven’t learned a whole lot of Splinter’s owner, but every new piece of information positions him as this TMNT-verse’s version of Forrest Gump.
  • We also learn this episode that Traximus is not only alive and well, but that he’s also made his way to the Battle Nexus.  It’s a nice detail,  not only helping tie up past bits of continuity and reminding us that stuff happens even if the turtles aren’t around to witness it, but also making the Battle Nexus–which is, after all supposed to be a multiversal venue–feel less Earth-centric than it otherwise might have felt.
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