TMNT – “Scroll of the Demodragon” Review
Here we are. The final season of Nick’s first foray into the TMNT. Last season’s finale saw our heroes facing down a new world. A world in which they had defeated Shredder, but at the terrible cost of losing Splinter. We knew that this season would focus on the rise of Kavaxas, as shown at last years New York Comic Con, but I had assumed the first episode of the season would focus on how life has changed for the Turtles. Both the comics and movies have given us a glimpse as to what the Turtles lives are like when the Foot Clan are gone or rebuilding. I was interested to see how these Turtles would react to their current situation. Unfortunately, “Scroll of the Demodragon” forgoes that and cuts right to the appearance of this new villain.
Let’s get the problems with the episode out of the way first. It is unclear how much time has passed since last seasons finale, “Owari.” It’s clear it’s not immediately following the defeat of the Shredder, because Tiger Claw has had enough time to discover the cultists that live underground, and begin the search for the titular Scroll of the Demodragon. Additionally, he already has the Mystic Seal of the Ancients, so obviously some time has been put in.
By just jumping into the next big villain arc, however, the episode feels too close to the events of last season, and it just feels off. What has everyone been up to? How long has it been? Have Raph and Casey just been on patrol, and no one is doing anything else? There’s no new project from Donatello? Has there been any challenge for Leo as head of the family? How long has he been communicating with the spirit of Splinter?
Which brings me to another issue. Don’t get me wrong. I love Splinter, and it’s great to have more work from Hoon Lee, who is a great Splinter in his own right. But since Splinter passed, Leo has spoken to his spirit in both episodes. He might as well not be dead. It’s a weird conflict.
I understand that Leo should be struggling as leader, since he’s never had to do it without Splinter. But so far, we’ve seen no conflict with his leadership. Sure, he waffled when the team looked to him for a plan to deal with Tiger Claw and the cultists, and again after they met Kavaxas, but the cultists are seemingly immortal, and Kavaxas might as well be a god. What plan could he possibly come up with in that situation? The team didn’t fail because he was a bad leader or couldn’t make a decision; they stood no chance no matter what he did.
Because of that, his moments with Splinter feel unearned. Splinter can seemingly do this whenever he wants. Plus he’s only appeared to Leo. Are his other sons not grieving? What about Karai? Why is Leo afraid to tell Donnie what he witnessed? I’m sure there is a plan going forward, and we’ll understand more soon, but in the meantime it just seems weird.
Now, on to the good stuff. “Scroll of the Demodragon” was in no way a bad episode. The cult angle is interesting, from both a story and art perspective. The cultists themselves are mysterious. We don’t know what they are, or why they are seemingly invulnerable, surviving falls from buildings, and catching our heroes’ weapons. Have they really just been living underground this whole time, worshipping the Shredder? Why would they make themselves known now, after Shredder has died? Do they really worship Shredder, or are they tricking Tiger Claw to help them in reviving Kavaxas? These are all interesting developments I hope play out. Add into that the visual of the underground altar, flanked by lava and the creepy, zombified cultists, and you have a recipe for intrigue.
Of course, the best moment of the episode is reserved for the arrival of Kavaxas, played wonderfully by Mark Hamill. Hamill sure knows how to bring gravitas to a villain and it’s going to be a pleasure to hear his voice every week this season. At first, I was convinced that the Mystic Seal was a ploy to release Kavaxas, and Tiger Claw would not be able to control him, but it seems like it works! Kavaxas begrudgingly follows Tiger Claw’s orders, first attempting to kill the Turtles, Casey, and April, and then, after their escape, standing down to answer Tiger Claw’s questions.
The final moment of the episode is where we get the conceit that Tiger Claw’s plan is to use this demon to resurrect the Shredder. I’m sure Kavaxas has his own plans, and of course the Turtles will want to stop both plots. With this being the last season, I think it’s safe to assume the creative team is going to pull out all the stops.
“Scroll of the Demodragon” is a satisfactory beginning to the final season of the CGI Turtles, but it just can’t stand up to last seasons stellar finale. Despite the cool start though, the episode sets up an interesting conflict moving forward. Can the Turtles stop the resurrection of Shredder? Will Leo open up to his brothers about speaking with Splinter? What is Kavaxas’ true plan and who can stand up to his scary power? There’s still the fallout of Splinter’s death to deal with as well. The creative team has set up a supernatural story filled with mystery and intrigue, and I can’t wait to see how it plays out!