Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Wormquake review

Nickelodeon's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles marks the season’s halfway point with their strongest episodes this year.

“Wormquake,” the first two parter of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles  season 2, was dense. Really dense. The two episodes brought together multiple ongoing storylines (the relationship triangle, Karai and her two fathers, the Kraang and mutagen in New York, Shredder’s trip to Japan), furthered the show’s mythology (more information about dimensions and where Mutagen comes from), introduced a new character (Tiger Claw) and featured cameos from six radical dudes (and a dudette) from the 80s. In order to cover everything, this week’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles split up the heroes in to two groups for most of the story. Donnie, April and Casey focused on the Kraang (along with their relationships) while Leo, Raph, Mikey and Splinter dealt with The Foot Clan.

The episodes saw Donnie and Casey continue to be passive-aggressive to each other over April, but after everything they went through they’re finally starting to form a friendship (it’s funny how Rob Paulsen’s characters end up getting along with Casey). Donnie will probably be back to sniping at Casey next time he sees him, but at least they had their fist bump. Their storyline also covered where Mutagen comes from. The Kraang produce the ooze through “milking” giant space worms called Kraathatrogons. They’ve brought the gigantic creatures to New York for mass production because the Mutagen must flow. The Kraathatrogons have a lot of similarities to the sandworms in Dune. Along with producing the Kraang’s equivalent of spice, they use vibrations to track food, have similar three-pronged mouths, and April uses their antenna to ride them like she was Kyle MacLachlan.

There are also some revelations about the Kraang and the different dimensions. The turtles discover “Grand Central,” a massive corridor lined with triangular portals for easy access to different dimensions. There’s a floor and walls, but since they’re not visible, everything looks like it’s floating in a dark and cloudy sky (which made for a freaky looking fight scene). There’s a quick gag where the Turtles, April, and Casey look through one of the portals and see the 1987 cartoon version of them. The general reaction is disappointment, although Donnie digs the yellow jumpsuit. It’s a cute gag, but it could lead to some interesting ramifications. Because the two dimensions can be traversed (as we see in the final scene), the Dimension X in the 2012 show may be the same one from the 1987 series. 1987’s Krang may be a part of the Kraang species; perhaps they’re trying to colonize multiple Earths, but there are Turtles in each dimension stopping them. And perhaps those Turtles will have to team up and be amazing together.

While Casey was busy being eaten by a worm, Leo, Mikey, Raph, and Splinter were busy dealing with Shredder, Karai, and Tiger Claw. After referring to him and Shredder’s sojourn throughout the season (and at conventions), Tiger Claw is finally introduced…and then written off thirty minutes later. Although I was partially expecting him to be a Poochie parody (whenever he wasn’t on screen this season I kept asking, “Where’s Tiger Claw?”) he ended up being TMNT’s Boba Fett. The two-parter built up Tiger Claw as a great villain.

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He has a mysterious history; he’s somehow been a mutant for decades and is tracking down the being that cut off his tail. He was GIANT; the introductory shots were framed around Shredder’s other employees, so when Tiger Claw walked by, his head was cut out of each shot. When he was given a drink, it was miniscule compared to his massive paws. It’s very reminiscent of the way Box Brown draws Andre the Giant in his upcoming comic biography;* putting him near small things to show just how much of a giant he was. He had a variety of cool equipment he uses for bounty hunting; Claw had mix-and-match guns that fired trick shots (think Hawkguy); he could shoot ice, a red powdery thing, bolos AND he had a jetpack (that of course malfunctioned). Sounds cool, right? They built him up so that he could accidentally be launched in to a giant mouth coming out of the ground. I’d be disappointed if I didn’t end up laughing so hard at it. Plus, we know it would take more than a sarlacc to kill Boba Fett so this probably wasn’t the end of Tiger Claw.

*Credit to Chris Sims for bringing the Box Brown’s Andre hands to my attention.

Tiger Claw wasn’t the only member of the Foot Clan to get a substantial amount of time in “Wormquake.” Throughout Karai’s fights this episode the Turtles tried to convince her that Splinter was her father, but she shot it down as just a diversion. However, she started to doubt herself and question if it was true. When Shredder was about to kill Splinter, she argued that he should wait until Splinter was functional so it would be an honorable fight. There were multiple reasons why she might have done that; she could have said that because she honestly did think he looked pathetic, she wanted an honorable revenge for her mother, or it was her frustration with Shredder replacing her with Tiger Claw as second-in-command, but one of them had to have been that nagging bit of doubt.

By the end of the episode she’s fully accepted the doubt. While eavesdropping on her enemies, she heard April tell Splinter that she’s surprised Karai was his daughter; Splinter replied that Karai will have to decide to believe the truth on her own. Karai was shocked that they were sincere when telling her about Splinter; it’ll be interesting to see where he relationship with Shredder goes in the back-half of the season.

“Wormquake” is one of the strongest stories the show has told. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles usually focuses on working in small increments; it only focuses on one or two plot elements or characters at a time and maybe moves something slightly forward; but for one week, we got to see threads that would normally never be in the same episode intertwined together and forced forward.

Other Thoughts

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– The worms were clearly a reference to Dune, but I kept comparing it to Tremors because I wanted to will Michael Gross on to the show. Also, even though Casey and Burt Gummer are the only two people to survive being eaten by a sandworm (assuming we go with The Wildlife of Star Wars: A Field Guide’s depiction of sarlacci as plant-like creatures), Casey’s totally Val. Donnie’s got the tech to be Burt Gummer, and although it’d be easy to go with Heather for April (because of the hair and by the second movie/season there’s no chance of her getting with Donnie) she’s more of a Rhonda.

– Among the returning characters was Robert Forster’s Kolchak-inspired character, Jack Kurtzman. While at his apartment getting an infodump on riding the worm, April read a copy of Weekly Weird News with a cover story of “Bat Freak Found in Tunnel.” It’s a cute nod to both the cult tabloid and Wingnut’s resemblance to Bat Boy.

– It was great seeing all of Shredder’s lackeys with him. It’s been a long time since they were all together and having them all on screen WITH dialogue helped give the episode an even larger scope.

– Another Boba Fett/Tiger Claw moment – Tiger Claw tells Karai that she can’t kill the turtles; I guess Master Shredder already had the “no disintegration” talk with him.

I LOVE THE ’80s: I knew that the 80s turtles would show up this season with the original cast, but thought they would interact with the current cast (I really wanted to hear Rob Paulsen have a conversation between 1987 Raphael and 2012 Donatello), not be relegated to the closing scene. It’s probably my own fault for building it up; it was still a fun scene (even if it was mostly based around spouting as much ’80s/’90s slang as possible) and since Turtles Forever was unable to use the original cast, this was the first time the four of them worked together on the franchise since the ’90s. There’s still plenty more of this series and I wouldn’t count out the possibility of there being a team-up in the future.

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5 out of 5