Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles tends to ignore that Splinter is a giant rat. Sure, the show portrays him as a mutant unable to leave the sewers, but the majority of the time he’s perceived through his human sensei background. Casey’s fear of Splinter is funny because Splinter is radically different from the concept of rats; they’re filthy and hostile when interacting with others while Splinter is one of the more altogether characters on television. The show rarely focuses on what being part-rat means, so the Rat King’s return gives the series the opportunity to show Splinter’s animalistic side.
Rat King has the ability to control rats which allows the show to remove Splinter’s humanity and see what happens when his rat nature takes over. He repeatedly uses his ability to try to control Splinter; three times Splinter narrowly avoids hurting a pupil due to the mind control. Another one of the attempts though is done while Splinter is meditating; during the confrontation, Splinter realizes that Rat King has returned. When Splinter breaks free, he’s staring at a photo of his wife and daughter; he realizes it’s not just a fight to keep the Rat out, but also to keep the human in.
It’s a difficult fight. Every mutated human has given in to their mutation. Splinter has mostly been able to keep it in check, but the Rat King has taken it away from him before (see season one’s “I, Monster”) and is attempting to take it away again. Rat King’s plan involves sending out a swarm of massive rats to kidnap humans; he plans to experiment on them (quite fitting given that Rat King is voiced by Jeffrey Combs of Re-Animator fame) and replace Earth’s population with his rat-human hybrids. In the animal/humanity axis, he’s firmly on the side of animals; his fight with Splinter is a fight for control over the dominance of humanity or animalistic nature.
During the fight, Splinter tells Rat King that “control is an illusion.” Splinter’s appearance and body is informed by his rat DNA and although Casey may see a rat, it does not mean Splinter is just a rat. Perception is more than just seeing. Because Rat King’s perception relies solely on seeing through the eyes of rats, he has lost once Splinter puts on a blindfold. Splinter’s training as a human allowed him to fight without using his eyes, which meant that humanity won out.
Or it would have if it weren’t for his whiskers. There’s an irony to their fight; Splinter the rat is fighting for humanity while Rat King the human is fighting for animalistic nature. Even though they prefer one to the other, both parts are necessary in defining who Splinter is.
- The promos for this episode have heavily played up Ice Cream Kitty, a cat that ate mutated ice cream because of course Mikey dropped ice cream in the mutagen. Mikey keeps his new pet in the freezer and when they need to fight, carries it around in an ice-chest. Ice Cream Kitty is adorable and (at least to Mikey) so delicious!
- Ice Cream Kitty was voiced by Kevin Eastman. It’s a cute cameo for the co-creator of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but I wish that it was Vanilla Ice. At least there’s this SpaghettiO’s commercial to haunt your dream.
- I misheard “Rat King” as “Red King” and thought, “Now a TV show needs to introduce a Blue King and then we’ll have all the Primary Color Kings.”
- Casey is really taking the “kid Batman” concept to heart. He has a tricked out bicycle that includes toy balls as caltrops, a spray paint and lighter flame thrower, and bottle rocket missile launchers. When he’s trapped in a cage with Irma, he tries to do a Christian Bale voice to hide his identity.
- Casey hiding in the kitchen like he’s hiding from a velociraptor plays nicely with Rat King’s limited perception.