We’re getting down to the bottom of season 5 and there’s actually a lot to look forward to. Some shit, too, yeah; but this is the Fred Wolf Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon. Shit is to be expected.
While the best episodes are going to be in the NEXT review, there are still some recurring characters to get us through this mostly listless chunk. Casey Jones makes his long overdue return, Rex-1 makes his second and final appearance, and we’re all introduced to Mad Dog McMutt and I guess even HE has his fans.
“The Ice Creature Cometh” (written by David Wise)
When Bebop and Rocksteady dump a vat of mutagen out of the Technodrome, it creates a hundred-foot ice monster named Frosty. Shredder sends Frosty to steal thermal detonators from a military base so that they can free the Technodrome and the Turtles try to stop it.
Funny thing about this episode is that it’s full of formulaic clichés and isn’t very good, BUT David Wise seemed perfectly aware of that reality while typing the script. Throughout the first act, from the moment the mutagen enters the story, Bebop and Rocksteady bemoan the fact that that this is going to be “another mutant episode” and constantly whine about how dull and boring those are getting. Even by the end of the third act, Raphael is remarking that he’s sick and tired of “this whole dumb episode” and is ready for the thing to end.
Although David Wise was no stranger to phoning in a script for a quick paycheck it’s still refreshing when he blatantly cops to doing that in the dialogue. On the other hand, the head writer and story editor of the series is confessing to fatigue and a lack of ideas… and we’ve still got five seasons to go after this one. That… uh… doesn’t inspire confidence.
The plot is generic and dumb and hardly worth talking about: Just as the characters describe it. There’s a subplot where the Turtles struggle with their malfunctioning freezer that’s over-frosting, which of course segues into the larger predicament (and provides a convenient excuse for Donatello to have a heat ray handy). The whole thing is EXTREMELY by the numbers, right down to a shoehorned sequence in the second act where the Turtles have to rescue a subdued April from falling icicles. How many more seasons until feminism catches up with this series and April becomes a Strong Independent Woman That Don’t Need No Man? Three more? I can’t wait, because this “rescue April from stupid bullshit” stuff stretched thin 50 episodes ago.
The episode also ends with the Technodrome getting free, only to be immediately reburied by a melting (and re-solidifying) Frosty. It’s sort of a retread of “The Dimension X Story”, where a blunder makes the already trapped Technodrome trapped even further. The weightlifting criminal Wally Airhead kidnaps the Turtles and plans to transfer their ninja skills into his army of muscle-bound goons. Leonardo, the only Turtle left standing, has no choice but to team up with the ultra-violent Casey Jones to rescue his friends and stop Airhead’s scheme.
“Leonardo Cuts Loose” (written by David Wise)
The episode also ends with the Technodrome getting free, only to be immediately reburied by a melting (and re-solidifying) Frosty. It’s sort of a retread of “The Dimension X Story”, where a blunder makes the already trapped Technodrome trapped even further.
The weightlifting criminal Wally Airhead kidnaps the Turtles and plans to transfer their ninja skills into his army of muscle-bound goons. Leonardo, the only Turtle left standing, has no choice but to team up with the ultra-violent Casey Jones to rescue his friends and stop Airhead’s scheme.
Alright! Casey Jones! I’ve gone on record expressing how much I love the Fred Wolf incarnation of Casey Jones, who is absolutely insane. He didn’t make nearly enough appearances in the show, but when he did it was usually a solid episode.
Casey is probably the only thing good about “Leonardo Cuts Loose”, though. Wise retreads a lot of ground with this script and most of it is sort of assembled from bits and pieces of older episodes.
The villain, Wally Airhead, employs a duo of Austrian bodybuilding stooges named Hans and Feets, who are parodies of Hans and Franz from Saturday Night Live. If that whole setup sounds familiar, we already got that exact same joke in the episode “Planet of the Turtles”, when the Shredder employed a pair of Austrian bodybuilding alien Turtles named Hans and Feets.
As great as Casey is in this episode, Wise recycles some of his shtick from “Corporate Raiders from Dimension X”. In that episode, the Turtles had to employ Casey to infiltrate the enemy’s lair which was disguised as a business. They do the exact same thing in this episode, as Leo hires Casey to infiltrate Airhead’s gym and rescue the other Turtles.
You’ll be having flashbacks with this one, is what I’m getting at.
All that being said, Casey steals the show as usual and his loony outbursts and Clint Eastwood-isms are great. There’s a running gag in the episode where Casey perpetually menaces a petty “criminal” who commits such acts as jaywalking and littering. It’s just Casey chasing the same poor shmuck around while brandishing a baseball bat over and over again. It’s great.
While there’s a lot of recycling going on in this one, “Leonardo Cuts Loose” is a situation where an amusing character really comes to the script’s rescue.
“Pirate Radio” (written by Misty Taggart)
The Shredder and Krang take over a popular radio station, W.O.O.F., and use hypnotic waves to send the populace marching toward a dimensional limbo called Krang’s Chasm. When Michelangelo and Irma fall victim to the hypnosis, the Turtles have to save them and everybody else.
Taggart writes a focused story, which is more than can be said for most of the scripts we’ve been getting for a while. There are a few odd moments of mischaracterization dotted along the way, such as the Shredder being intimidated by Krang (who proposes a cruel punishment when he fails at the end) and begs, “Can’t we discuss this?” like a sniveling lackey. That didn’t really gel with their established dynamic, but most everything else was right on the money.
While we’ve had hypnosis schemes before, I mean, what scheme HAVEN’T we had in the show by this juncture? I’m just relieved that it isn’t a “steal energy” or whatever plot, but something a bit more ambitious. There’s a funny subplot in the last act, as the Shredder gets into being a DJ and starts to ham it up, though they probably could’ve done more with that angle.
Dating the Hell out of this episode is the character of the Woofman, the radio DJ for W.O.O.F. whom the Shredder usurps. He’s a caricature of popular radio personality Wolfman Jack and if you don’t know who that is I don’t blame you. Wolfman Jack has been dead for a REALLY long time.
There isn’t much else to say about this episode; it’s solid but not especially memorable. Incidentally, the Turtle Van’s rarely seen aquatic hovercraft mode makes an appearance. And when I say “rarely seen”, I mean I can’t believe they even remembered it could do that, since it hasn’t been seen since “20,000 Leaks Under the City” which was two seasons ago.
“Raphael, Turtle of a Thousand Faces” (written by Dennis O’Flaherty)
While practicing his disguise technique, Raphael inadvertently trades place with wanted crime boss Mad Dog McMutt. Raphael has no choice but to play along, as McMutt and his gang apparently have a big heist in store.
Well, we’ve got yet another generic crime boss for a recurring villain, though I wouldn’t say Mad Dog McMutt is the worst of them. He has a dog theme going on, if you couldn’t guess, and it can get pretty tacky. A secret headquarters in a giant fire hydrant, dog-shaped cars and helicopters, bone-shaped laser pistols… that sort of shit.
Be that as it may, I’m just grateful he isn’t another Italian mobster or dead celebrity homage like all the other recurring crime boss characters we’ve gotten. McMutt sucks, but at least he injects a little variety into the ranks of this cartoon’s crappy criminal underworld.
What’s weird about McMutt is that he only has four fingers on each hand. I’m not sure if that was done intentionally as part of his weird dog-man likeness, or if the character designer wasn’t sure how “cartoony” this show was supposed to be and went with the four-fingered design reserved for, uh, less realistic cartoon shows? Okay, so “less realistic” isn’t really the term I should be going for, but I’m just saying that when the humans in this show have been consistently designed with five fingers, a guy with four fingers sort of sticks out.
The plot to this one is kind of annoying, as Raph leads the henchman around, trying to play the situation by ear and it’s mostly a lot of time-wasting to delay the big heist for the third act. Likewise, the real McMutt gets amnesia and thinks he’s Raphael, but only for a couple of minutes as a means to, again, delay the runtime.
And anyway, didn’t we already kind of go through the “Raphael identity crisis/misunderstanding” a season ago with “Raphael Drives ‘em Wild”? This all seems very familiar.
“Leonardo, the Renaissance Turtle” (written by Dennis O’Flaherty)
Inventor Professor Mindbender introduces a new law enforcement robot named LEX, but the robot goes haywire and begins arresting everyone in the city for minor infractions. This couldn’t happen at a worse time, as all the Turtles are away except for Leonardo. Left alone, Leo must try to match the skills of his missing comrades.
This was a pretty good episode for cameos.
There’s Pinky McFingers:
The Punk Frogs (or two of em, anyway):
I do love it when the show dredges up its supporting cast, even for small roles. It’s a nice reminder of how diverse the roster is beyond the star personalities.
Other than that, “Leonardo, the Renaissance Turtle” isn’t so great. The big problem with the episode is that the majority of it involves buildup… Buildup which goes absolutely nowhere.
Leo spends much of the episode trying to get REX-1 operational again so that he can oppose LEX. First they have to find him and turn him back on. Then they have to restore his memory circuits. Then, after LEX overrides REX-1, they have to override the override and get REX back on their side. By the time all this is over and done with and REX-1 is ready to go… he promptly gets clobbered by LEX and its Professor Mindbender who has to shut down the rogue robot. All that buildup amounts to nothing, though the Turtles all celebrate and thank REX-1 like he actually contributed something (he didn’t).
Then there are the other Turtles. Donatello is off repairing a Turtlecom relay antennae (in case you were wondering how the Turtlecoms got a signal in a time before cell towers existed) while Michelangelo and Raphael go to Florida to visit the Punk Frogs. Leonardo spends much of the episode trying to contact them and call them back to the city to help. They eventually DO get his message and make it home, but only AFTER LEX has been disabled and the conflict resolved. So that’s two subplots that amount to jack and shit.
The real meat of the episode is Leonardo having to match the skills of his teammates in order to save the day alone. He channels Michelangelo’s boarding skills on the Cheapskate (and some of his lingo), Donatello’s technical knowhow and Raphael’s, uh, sense of humor. The end lesson is that when left to his own devices, Leonardo is as good as all the other Turtles so who needs those assholes?
There’s also this non sequitor ending where in the last few seconds Donatello randomly introduces REX-1 to a female robot cop named REX-ANNE and the two hit it off. It is completely random; like O’Flaherty couldn’t think of a way to end the fucking episode so we just got… that.
So whew, not a great stretch of episodes despite a goodly portion of recurring faces. The next batch of episodes will finish off the season and they’ll be a bit better. Well, some of them. Wingnut and Screwloose will make their one and only appearance in this show, Frip the Polarisoid makes an unnecessary comeback and then there’s the epic two-parter, “Planet of the Turtleoids”, which I’ve been looking forward to ever since I started this season.