Depending on how you look at it, the latest episode of Nickelodeon’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, “Metalhead Rewired” is either an ending or a reboot for Metalhead, the Turtle’s robotic assistant. The episode ends with Metalhead sacrificing itself to save the Turtles and other mutants. This could easily work as his farewell episode, but there’s also evidence that Metalhead will return. Donnie contemplates rebuilding him in the future and since Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles season three was announced almost a year ago, he’ll likely have the chance.
Also suggesting a new Metalhead are the Terminator 2 references. The obvious allusion is the thumbs up exchanged between Metalhead and Donnie at the end (and like Simon Pegg in Spaced, the ending made me emotional). The less obvious reference though, is that Metalhead basically became Skynet. At the end of the episode, Donnie remarks, “I programmed him to be intelligent, but I didn’t realize how much he had evolved.” Either through Donnie’s programming or the shock caused during the vending machine explosion, Metalhead became self-aware. The Turtles (other than Donnie) are all suspicious of Metalhead. He/it is diabolically smart in their training session and Donnie gives it more responsibilities than they’re willing to trust with a character that’s already sided with the Kraang once. It’s a really smart swerve that the story takes. Between the malfunctioning, Donnie asking what could possibly go wrong, and the show’s tendency to have allies turn in to villains of the week, the show sets it up that Metalhead will become the villain. Instead, Metalhead uses his self-awareness to save other sentient beings from a Kraang mutant prison.
Among those mutants is a slew of returning villains, including several of their voice actors. Spider Bytez (yes, that’s the real spelling and yes, I hate myself for typing it) appears multiple times, both in a comedic chase sequence and again in the climactic battle. The character’s fine (him constantly calling the Turtles frogs is amusing), but the main selling point is that when the Kraang use a mind control device on Spider, voice actor Lewis Black gets to talk like the one known as the Kraang. Here’s hoping that Spider Bytez meets Kraang Prime so that Lewis Black and Rosanne Barr can have a shouting match. The other guest voice actor is Corey Feldman, reprising his role as Slash/Spike, Raph’s pet turtle and best friend turned giant monster. Although their last encounter ended on a sour note, Slash saves Raph from the Kraang and the two have a moment of understanding. The chemistry between the two characters is wonderful and hopefully Slash will appear again this season. There’s also an appearance by Kirby O’Neil/Wingnut; after disappearing early on in the season, it appears that he was imprisoned by the Kraang.
Metalhead’s fate was sealed the moment it got another episode focused on it. By upgrading Metalhead so much, Donnie made it fall in to the (meta-)trap of being too powerful for its own good; if it were faultier the writers wouldn’t have had to destroy it.
– Along with the Terminator references, the episode was filled with references to 80s robots. The episode opens with a pov shot from Metalhead as its waking up with turtles looking at it, which is similar to Robocop’s experiences during his creation (although at least the turtles didn’t have a Christmas party with a reanimated corpse in the room). There’s also some R2-D2 references; The two make the same squeal when shocked, they both like showing off all their accessories at once, and the two have the same scomp link (or computer interface arm-thingy for those of you who didn’t obsessively reread Star Wars technical manuals as a kid).
– The vending machine that Mikey tries to get his pizza burrito out of included some interesting flavors for potato chips, including menthol, scab n’ sausage, salt n’ sweat, and mucous & chives. Anyone want to submit those to Lay’s Do Us A Flavor contest?
– “LTD – Like a turtle do!”