Leo-centric episodes make me nervous. Leo is the Cyclops of the Turtles; he’s the worrywart that angsts over leadership and tries to keep his teammates in line (which sometimes means keeping them, and the viewers, from having fun). And when you have the option of seeing a story about Wolverine, Iceman, or Beast, why would you want to focus on “Lame-o-nardo?” Thankfully, “Follow the Leader” subverted the tired Cyclops/Wolverine and Leonardo/Raphael argument trope and instead focused on why Cyclops/Leonardo are ineffective (while also throwing in a lesson for the rest of the team).
Early in the episode, Leo tries to run a training session of King of the Mountain with his brothers. Leo wants them all to fight him in his preferred close quarter combat style, but instead each of them uses their preferred method (Donnie uses physics, Raph uses brute force, and Mikey flows to the beat of his tPod) to win. Leo complains about not following his rules to a t, which leads to frustration on both ends. While Leo is in the wrong, so is Raph. During battle, Raph disobeys Leo’s order to fall back, starting a chain-reaction that leads to Leo’s capture and imprisonment by Karai.
Thankfully the turtles have Splinter for sage advice. “A true leader doesn’t always impose his will, but helps followers flourish, grow.” That advice is extremely important since it not only leads to the turtles’ eventual success, but also a dynamic battle sequence. The monsters-of-the-week are robotic Foot Soldiers called “Foot Bots” (which were oddly named by Karai and not Mikey) that adapt to their opponent’s strategies. When the turtles all try to use Leo’s strategy, they fail until Leo tells them to do their own thing. By being themselves, the Foot Bots are repeatedly confused and bewildered by the unconventional strategy (who throws a sword?!).
Karai kidnapped Leo and the other turtles to lure out Splinter. When Leo defeats her by being unconventional, he warns her that Splinter and his brothers are off limits; her feud is only with him now. If there was any part of him after “New Girl in Town” that still had a crush on her, it’s been replaced by a stone cold badass. THAT’S the leader Leo needs to be; someone that can stare down his fears and past mistakes and not blink.
It’s important that Leo continues to grow as a leader because Karai is not going to stop. She still believes that Splinter killed her mother and as soon as Shredder left town (which based on a clip from NYCC should come in to play later) she disobeyed his orders and took the Krang-supplied Foot bots out to fight the turtles. The episode ends with Splinter sharing the truth with Leo; he is Karai’s father. It’s nowhere near Breaking Bad’s “Blood Money,” but it’s still a shock that it was revealed this soon. Karai’s becoming a more complex character and I’m excited to see how she’ll handle the eventual reveal.
I LOVE THE 80s: Mikey sings “Go Ninja, Go Ninja, Go!” and Raph tells Donnie that his mutagen scanner is “as useless as a trench coat on a turtle.”
Den of Geek Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars