Sunday, April 28, 2013

10 Best Episodes of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

I am 21 years old, so I was too young to grow up with the 1987 Ninja Turtles series that a lot of my friends remember.  Which means that I am also too old to have grown up with the current Nickelodeon CG series.  The Ninja Turtles I am the most familiar with are the ones featured in the 2003 4Kids series.  The show was a perfect blend of tightly plotted stories, character development, humor and nods to fans.  In a YouTube video I named it the third greatest superhero cartoon of all time, which is a ranking that surprisingly no one has seemed to have a problem with.

I really love this series, it is one of my favorites, mainly because the characters are so strong.  You don't think of Ninja Turtles being a family story, but it really is one.  There are a lot of great episodes: Grudge Match, Same as it Never Was, Nobody's Fool, Rogue in the House and many others are worth noting.  Here are the episodes I consider to be the best.

10. Tale of Master Yoshi
Despite never being seen Hamato Yoshi is one of the Ninja Turtles' most important supporting characters.  In the series' 100th episode the writers expand the origin of young Hamato Yoshi and Oroku Saki.  This ties in directly to elements such as the Utroms, the Foot, the Guardians and the Ancient One.  Hamato Yoshi is a terrific story about honor and true love, it also demonstrates how despicable the Shredder has always been and how much respect Splinter has for his fallen master.

9. Hun on the Run
This series introduced a number of new characters, such as the villainous Agent Bishop.  But the most prolific and fan favorite is definitely the Shredder's right hand man, Hun.  TMNT creator Peter Laird had once admitted that he did not originally like the character but he grew to be one of his favorites.

This episode gives puts the original villain in the spotlight.  Hun who has fallen out of The Shredder's favor is instructed to save the captured Karai.  Hun is desperate to please his master single-mindedly struggles to complete this task facing down defeating from the turtles to Agent Bishop.  The main trait that makes Hun a great lackey is that he is willing to do anything without coming across as pathetic.  He is sincerely a second hand man.

8 Touch and Go
This is the episode after the Space Invaders and When Worlds Collide story arcs.  It deals with the fallout of the alien invasion and a new status for the turtles: mutants in a city that is hunting down aliens.  This episode has the fun combination of Mikey and Splinter on the run from the hired guns Mr. Touch and Mr. Go.  Get to see Mikey being resourceful and earning Splinter's respect for a change.  The B-plot is the one that makes this episode one of the series' best.  Raph is on the run from New Yorkers and ends up hiding out with an old blind cat lady.  Seeing Raphael soften up and being touched by kindness works great with his hardened character.  The episode ends with Raph donating money to the old lady so she can keep her house, touching stuff.

7. City at War Part 1-3
It is great seeing consequences for the turtles' meddling.  They defeat the Shredder (for what seemed permanently at the time).  The absence of the Shredder left a gap in NYC's power between The Foot, Purple Dragons and The Mob.  These episodes introduce Karai and her friendship with Leonardo.  The conflicted relationship between the two warriors drive much of the conflict of future episodes.  This three parter is one of the series' best story arcs.

6. Meet Casey Jones
Unlike the 1987 series this adaptation featured a major role for vigilante Casey Jones.  He was a connection to the human world for the turtles and represented a harder edge than the four brothers (especially Raph) had.  This episode introduced him and the motive behind the character: Hun burned down his father's store (implying that he killed him, but could not be expressly stated due to Standards & Practices) while Casey watched.  Casey's single-minded pursuit of vengeance helped to calm down Raph and the Turtles' interference saved his character.  Casey is my favorite turtle.

5. Shredder Strikes Back Part 1 and 2/Return to New York Part 1-3/Search for Splinter Part 1 and 
2/Secret Origins Part 1 and 2
This ranking really is cheating as it involves nine episodes and you can make the argument for it to include more.  This series excelled in two and three part episodes with overarching stories.  These episodes start with The Shredder almost destroying the turtles: beating Leo close to death and forcing the turtles and their allies to flee New York.  Once the turtles return to New York they fight through the Shredder's stronghold and Leo manages to cut off his head (at the end of the episode the villain stands up and somehow survives, a really eerie image for Saturday mornings).

They continues with the turtles searching for Splinter who went missing after the battle with the Shredder.  Once they find him (after a five parter on the Triceratons homeworld) they learn the Shredder's true origins.  The real identity of Oroku Saki was shocking to fans of this series, the 1987 series and the comics.  These episodes and the resilience of the turtles' arch-nemesis was a major driving force for the series.

4. The King
Donatello rarely got any focus.  He was the most difficult brother to get a handle on.  But when the series knew what to do with him they had a great take on him.  This is based on Donatello's one shot where he has an adventure with an artist named Kirby (based on Jack "King" Kirby).  This is a really sweet episode with a lot of imagination.  It is definitely one of the series' best.

3. I, Monster
This is the sole appearance of the villain The Rat King (sans a cameo in the final episode of Back to the Sewers).  This Rat King was a superior fighter to the Turtles and had origins with the overarching Agent Bishop storyline.  The setting and choreography in this episode is top-notch, some of the series' best design work.  The eeriness of the Rat King certainly leaves an impact.

2. Exodus Part 1 and 2
This is the finale of the main series' version of The Shredder (not counting his return in the fun movie Turtles Forever).  The Shredder works to return home and the turtles and their allies (Splinter, April, Casey, April, Leatherhead and the Fugitoid) try to stop it.  Great villains Hun, Agent Bishop, Karai and Baxter Stockman raise the stakes.  This is an exciting end to the main villain of the show.  This two-parter helped set up the series for a fourth season (final season before it jumped the shark).  It properly set up a new direction for Bishop and Karai and hardened Leo, a move that forced Raph to become more rational and level headed.

1. Good Genes Part 1 and 2
I mentioned earlier that Donatello was a tough character to get a grasp on.  This two-parter is the one that really defined the character for me.  A mutant outbreak broke out in New York and Donny caught it.  In an opening monologue Leo admits that while he leads, the team only works because Donny perfects the dynamic.  Donatello is not self centered and does everything for the sake of others.

These episodes are so touching because the uncertainty of Donatello's survival affects everybody.  Mikey can't accept that his brother is a monster and Splinter is clearly affected by the tragedy of his son.  Sure, everything turns out alright but the character moments have never been stronger.  Definitely my favorite episode.

1 comment:

  1. What's really sad about the Good Genes episodes is that they were pretty much the de-facto ending of TMNT 2003.