ReviewsTV/Cartoon Series

TMNT: “Raphael: Mutant Apocalypse” Review

Well…That was a weird one. Honestly, it’s hard to give this one a review score. On the one hand, “Raphael: Mutant Apocalypse”, despite a small pacing issue, was a well told story. The conceit of this final season being “Tales of the TMNT” allows for strange scenarios. It’s admirable for the creators of the show to take a risk like this. After years of building up a mythology and many characters, they boiled it all down to the core foursome.

This didn’t feel like a “what if” episode though. The way this was told feels like this is really what happens to these Turtles in their timeline. A massive mutagen bomb detonates in New York. All humans are mutated and apparently die. Only mutants remain, in a world that is stripped of life. And when you watch the episode in that context, after getting to know these characters for many years….well it’s all kind of sad.

This was a story of the Turtles not as teenagers, but as adults in an impossible reality. The episode starts with Raphael and Donatello, the only two survivors of the characters we’ve grown to love over the course of the series. Raphael is old and weathered, a long beard dominating his face. He’s scarred and weary of the life he is forced to live. Donatello, on the other hand, is a cyborg. His body was destroyed by the mutagen bomb, but (much like his IDW counterpart) his mind was downloaded into the body of Metalhead. It looks like in many futures, Donnie is destined to become one with the technology he loves so much.

It’s not long before we meet our primary antagonist for the tale; Verminator Rex. He is the leader of a gang of mutated Honey Badgers, bandits who steal from other survivors. They target Raph and Donnie for their vehicle and supplies, but they are on a much greater mission. They need to track down a girl with a map.

Donnie and Raph eventually fight them off, blowing up a cliff face to create separation between them and their foes. They stop at an abandoned rest area to look for supplies, but Raph is ambushed by none other than the girl Rex was tracking. Her name is Mira (she’s a meerkat, so of course it is), and the map is actually a tattoo on her arm. Her whole village tattooed the map, so as not to lose it, because it supposedly leads to Oasis. Unfortunately, Meera is the only survivor of her village.

While she initially tries to steal our duo’s van, she eventually falls in with the team. That will happen after several attacks by Rex and his crew. From here on out, the road trip becomes a mission to find those who can help Meera make sense of the map (it’s encoded in what everyone calls gibberish) and eventually lead them to Oasis. The team faces new threats, as Rex teams up with a clan of mutated lizard people, and reunite with old family.

Mira seeks an old wise man, who her village called the “Holy Chalupa.” This of course turns out to be Mikey, who’s been holed up in a Mexican/Italian pizzeria with Ice Cream Kitty and Chompy. He’s a little crazy, having only Kitty, Chompy, and some robotic restaurant mascots to talk to. He’s also been subsisting off of canned pizzas and insects for years.

Verminator Rex, however, is backed by Maximus Kong, Warrior Chief of the Wasteland (among many other titles listed by Mira in what is an obvious nod to Game of Thrones). Kong is a massive mutant, head concealed by a metal helmet. He drives an impossibly large vehicle, centered by a giant creepy skull, and commands sentient oil mutants who have their own cute, miniature wasteland armor. He wants Mira and her map, because the Oasis is the only land he hasn’t conquered, and he’s been searching for it for years.

This, of course, turns out to be Leonardo, revealed in a fight with Raphael. Leo is in a constant state of rage, caused by his second mutation in the center of the mutagen bomb. Leo nearly kills Raph, but stops when Raph refuses to defend himself and tells Leo that he loves him. The reminder of his family, combined with a massive crash of his impossibly large vehicle into the side of a mountain, finally snaps Leo out of his rage. Memories start flooding back to him, and we finally see what happened so many years ago; Leo saved his brothers from the epicenter of the mutagen bomb, but was stuck in the middle of the blast.

As stated in the beginning, it’s really hard to put a rating on this episode. “Raphael: Mutant Apocalypse” is an obvious send up to Mad Max, and even borrows some plot points from Fury Road. The creative team have always done a great job with these tributes, and this episode is no exception. The style is spot on; even the camera work is reminiscent of George Miller.

It was a smart move for Nickelodeon to air this as an hour long special. None of the cliffhangers were particularly suspenseful. It was pretty obvious that Raph and Donnie would be reuniting with Michelangelo. Would anyone believe Leo was being called the “Holy Chalupa?” Similarly, it wasn’t surprising that everyone survived the restaurant getting blown up, or that Raph and Mira would escape the Pit. Because of this, it was nice that we didn’t have to wait 3 weeks to get the whole story. Instead, we got a full length featured tale.

That being said, the conclusion did seem to come out of nowhere. After Leo is finally wrestled to his senses, there’s a quick whiteout, and suddenly we’re in Oasis. The four brothers have arrived with Mira, without incident. It’s a weird cut. Was there absolutely no trouble following the rest of the map? Did the brothers not see what each had been up to this whole time? Is no one concerned that Leo became a Wasteland conquering murderer? Does he feel no guilt over this? Would a whole other episode solve this problem? Who knows? But it’s jarring to rush to “everything’s great now.”

Additionally, the whole episode is just bittersweet. The episode was initially planned as the series finale, complete with a “For Kevin and Peter” at the end before the credits roll. Could you imagine this being the last episode you saw of this TMNT? Where after all the trials and tribulations, the victories and losses, the growth of each character, and the death of Splinter, it all ends with pretty much everyone dead? There’s no mention of April, Karai, Shinigami, the Mutanimals, or Renet! Casey’s lone appearance is HIS SKULL USED AS A BOMB TO SELF DESTRUCT THE TURTLE VAN! It’s no wonder Nickelodeon changed the airtime to Friday evenings.

But it’s moments like these that you have to remind yourself that not every story has to have a truly happy ending. Bittersweet is a valid decision. These Turtles have gone on all kinds of journeys, and this is the way that Ciro Nieli and his team decided to end it. Ultimately, it ended with all four brothers together and a new home.

A couple shout outs: The story is reminiscent of Andrew Modeen and Jim Lawsons “TMNT Odyssey.” We covered Modeen’s successful crowdfunding effort to create the followup “TMNT Origin.” Both stories take place in the original TMNT Mirage continuity, although they’re not technically canon. Regardless, “Odyssey” sees the Turtles in their advanced years, traveling through time to stop an evil force that is wiping out timelines. Think “Raphael: Mutant Apocalypse” combined with “Turtles Forever” and you’ve got a pretty good idea. You can check it out here if you missed it: http://www.thegreenlanterncorps.com/tmnt/odyssey.pdf

As usual, there were some pretty good references in this episode. Verminator Rex is a nod to Verminator X, a character from the Archie Turtle comics. He was a half cat cyborg, much like Rex is a honey badger with cybernetic enhancements. The mask on Casey’s skull (really hard to get over that) in the turtle van is a reference to the mask he wore in Image Comics. The Space Heroes the Next Generation joke was also good. It’s nice for the crew (or at least Raph) to finally realize that the shows they watch parallel the adventures they have.

“Raphael: Mutant Apocalypse” showed us the future of the Nickelodeon Turtles and it looks like our heroes have a rough life ahead of them. The risky conceit gave us a cruel world where the Turtles are torn apart, some literally, and forced to forge on when all they care about is taken away. Did the risk pay off? It’s hard to judge. If you’re willing to be open to the story of the episode, it’s really well told. That being said, it’s fair to say it’s not what we were expecting to see for this series. It’s so far in the future, and we’re given so few details on how this world was created, that it’s hard to argue that it doesn’t fit. But because we’re given so few details (Who dropped the mutagen bomb? How was it created? Why?) it’s hard to argue that it does. Additionally, the ending is so bittersweet, the whole experience comes off as sad. But sad doesn’t equal bad.

Judged on it’s own merits, “Raphael: Mutant Apocalypse” is probably a solid 9. But taken as a whole with the rest of the series, it comes down to a 7. There’s a weird symmetry of seeing this episode follow “Lone Rat and Cubs.” We saw the Turtles at the beginning of their lives, a troubled existence made better through family. This episode achieves much the same, only at the opposite time of their lives. It’s brutal and unforgiving, but ultimately tells it’s tale well. It’s hard to dock it, but it’s so brutal in it’s honesty that it got in the way of enjoying it when compared to the rest of the series. The Turtles deserve a happy ending.

Maybe that’s why Nickelodeon chose not to air this as the series finale? I guess we’ll find out as the series begins to wrap up.

 

Editor's Rating

7.0
Judged on it's own merits, "Raphael: Mutant Apocalypse" is probably a solid 9. But taken as a whole with the rest of the series, it comes down to a 7. It's brutal and unforgiving, but ultimately tells it's tale well. It's hard to dock it, but it's so brutal in it's honesty that it got in the way of enjoying it when compared to the rest of the series. The Turtles deserve a happier ending.
7.0

The Author

Dan Spitaliere

Dan Spitaliere

Dan Spitaliere is a sound designer and engineer, voice over artist, and a lifelong shellhead. He grew up on a healthy diet of Turtles movies, comics, cartoons, and toys, and can recite the first movie in its entirety from memory. He is excited to be a part of such a great team in the middle of this current Turtle Renaissance!

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  • William Kerfoot

    Of course it’s not an end we expected but you’ve got to judge it on its own terms. I don’t think this is a story you can place in an alternate universe/dimension and if that’s the case I’m not blaming the creators for doing that. They did a bad job with the human characters the last two and a half seasons so you can’t blame them for focusing on the foursome only.
    Plus, it doesn’t matter who launched the mutagen bomb or how it was launched. “The Leftovers” didn’t focus on dealing with the Sudden Departure/Rapture and yet it’s recently gone down as a classic TV series. If this story did, the story would’ve focused on the search to reverse everything. They, in the end, did the smart thing by focusing on the themes that have defined the TMNT– at least since it first hit the TV airwaves all those years ago.
    Plus it was nice how Leo was portrayed as the villain. Like Shredder when he disowned Yoshii as his brother as well as his accidental murder of the woman he loved, Leo was driven to the same madness as him after losing everyone. Oasis came to represent both a physical paradise and the family that the TMNT had lost. Now, should the creators have told a Mad Max story to end the series? No. Do I blame them though? As far as this one goes, no.

    • Totaldrama Icequeen

      The meaning of Oasis is right! I felt like Mira was not only meant to find Oasis, but reunite all 4 brothers

      • Alan Wahl

        Mira- Mirage- Mirage Studios

        • Totaldrama Icequeen

          It’s support to be Mira as in meerkat but. *rimshot*

    • Sunny

      I don’t think that the themes are mutually exclusive from undoing the damage. They could have done both…

  • newsball

    well and actually this was 90 minutes and the next two epiodes air weds, and then i have no idea, as if you go to the wikpiedia page they have the next two episodes sept 27th, and we’ll likely have to wait until when they air when the next two air and where, as the wikpedia page has only 5 episodes, which was wasteland warrior, the imposible desert. carmageddon, the curse of savanti romero and the crypt of dracula on nicktoons, but the frankentein experiment and monters among us could air on nick, and then we know the final 3 wanted beebop and rockteady, the foot walks again and the big blowout air in another 90 minute special nov 12th

  • Derek Clay

    odds are a vengeful nihilistic baxter stockman teamed up with surviving remnants of the kraang(the turtles never really did get around to checking up on that underwater kraang base did they)??? KNOWING THE KRAANG THEY WOULD SOONER DESTROUY THE EARTH THENALLOW THE HUMANS TO LIVE THIER LIVES FREE AND UNMOLESTED AND NONMUTATED WHAT WITH THE KRAANG BEING SUCH SPITEFUL SOULLESS REVENGE OBSESSSED !@#$ARDS IN THIER WAY AND BAXTER DOES HAVE INTIMATE KNOWLEDGE OF THE MUTAGEN AND HOW TO WORK WITH IT CREATE AND AND ENHANCE IT OVER TIME AND WITH THE LATE SHREDDERS REAMINING FACILITIES FROM THE DEEP UDNER GROUND MUTAGEN LAYER IT ALL ADDS UP

    • Sunny

      Actually, the Kraang are relatively goal-oriented. They didn’t seem to do much out of sheer pettiness.

      And it’s poor writing to just go, “Well, a Kraang weapon happened… for some reason… you can fill in the blanks.”

  • Totaldrama Icequeen

    You’re crazy giving this a 7 out of 10! This episode was not only action packed, but a tear jerker as well! I really thought that Leo and Mikey were dead in the beginning! Seeing them alive and reuniting with Raph and Donnie brought tears to my eyes! Heck, I really felt like crying at the end! Not for it being the series finale, but because the turtles were reunited together after so long! The hidden moral of this arc, and maybe the series as a whole, is…as long as you’re with family, you are home. This deserves a 10 out of 10 because this was meant to be the finale and it crushed all other TMNT finales down the garbage disposal!

  • Mystery Cup of Joe

    This was a perfect ending to mirror the Mirage comic book series. The Mirage comics always foreshadowed a darker time for the Turtles. Even the fan made comic, TMNT Odyssey, did the same thing. The ending note “For Kevin and Peter” showed how this was a love letter to the original comics.

    Is it sad? Incredibly. However, I think it deserves a 10 for taking such a huge risk. Not a lot of shows will end this way due to fear that they are overstepping the bounds for kids. X-Men on Fox and Teen Titans on Cartoon Network are the only two shows that come to mind which show a not so happy wrap up. I would have been disappointed if they all just ate pizza and were like, “Thanks for joining us on this happy adventure kids!”

    This ending brought up some realistic ideas of how life has some dark twists and turns. It treats kids as mature enough viewers and respects them to give a more serious ending. The next incarnation might not have such an impacting ending as I hear it will be a bit more silly (hopefully there will be serious moments). Awesome job Nickelodeon!

    Now excuse me as I wipe the tears as I see that ending family reunion photo again.

    • Totaldrama Icequeen

      Got a favorite part?

      • Mystery Cup of Joe

        It is a tie between the flashback of Leonardo pushing his brothers away and there are tears in his eyes. He tried so hard to be a leader and he couldn’t protect them the way Splinter did (even though the situation was totally out of his hands).

        The second one was when Leonardo saw the younger image of Raph as he was beating him up. It reminded me of when the 3rd Hokage in Naruto saw the younger Orochimaru before dying.

        What is your favorite part?

        • Totaldrama Icequeen

          It’s a tie between Mikey and Chompy reuniting with Raph and Donnie, Raph discovering that Leo was Maximus Kong, Leo regaining his memories, and the ending

    • Alan Wahl

      Dinosaurs, 90s Jim Henson sitcom, ended with the Ice Age coming.

      • Mystery Cup of Joe

        Oh man! I never realized that show ended that way. I guess I was too young and couldn’t keep the shows in order. I thought it just was cancelled. That is super depressing, especially when I think of that baby dinosaur.

        I also wanted to add that some of the Transformers stuff ended on somber notes. These include: Beast Wars, Beast Machines, Transformers Animated, and Transformers Prime.

    • Sunny

      Except it wasn’t made this way because of the comics or as a risk. It was done as a “nobody else gets to touch my toys!” gesture by Nieli. Seriously, he said as much.

      • Mystery Cup of Joe

        I didn’t realize that. However, since the turtles are pretty much flexible with time travel due to Renet and Professor Honeycutt, the idea of infinite universes is not far off.

        I really feel bad for Mutagen Man. I don’t think he ever got a resolution. This is similar to that soldier that got turned into a mutant by Agent Bishop in the 2003 series.

      • NicoLe Osborne

        He fails to realize that people will make more of it regardless. Tmnt is way too alternate/parallel universe friendly for something like this to stop others from making more.

    • Totaldrama Icequeen

      I agree! I love the reuniting, the tears, the action, everything

  • Elisa

    I have to agree with your review. It was a well told story – the animation and music were great. I loved the symbolism of Oasis. However, it didn’t seem like an appropriate finale to this series because all these characters they spent so long cultivating were barely a mention. I prefer to take it as SAINW. A possible future for the 2012 timeline. It doesn’t mean that I need a finale that is entirely happy, but I’d like to at least have some closure to some story points and characters. I think the 2012 story really ended at Owari. And tales were just side stories really. I enjoyed MA, but it didn’t feel like an adequate send off – if that was really the purpose.

    • Sunny

      Agreed. I’d also like to feel like the Turtles accomplished something in their heroic exploits, especially since Renet said they were legendary heroes in the history books. Can’t do that if civilization is gone and there’s nothing really to save… and there are no future humans like Renet.

      Tales are side stories, all the way. It’s the only way this continuity mess makes sense.

  • danspitaliere

    Thank you for the comments everyone! Let’s keep the conversation going!

    • Totaldrama Icequeen

      The episode deserves a higher rating

    • Totaldrama Icequeen

      Favorite part of this special

      • danspitaliere

        The vehicle chase scenes were really good. I really enjoy this teams tribute episodes, and not only did they nail Mad Max as a concept but they did a great job of honoring George Miller’s style.

        • Totaldrama Icequeen

          Scenes when the turtles reunited with each other were my favorites. Specifically; the scene when Mikey reunites with Raph and Donnie, Raph realizing that Maximus Kong’s Leo, Leo gaining his memories back, and the ending

  • notsosmartguy

    I feel the same way you do. Its a well told story and in my opinion an interesting conclusion but on the other hand its really depressing and bitter which really turned off alot of fans.
    I think it would have been better if April and Karai were included in the finale cause their absence is a big complaint from the community.
    Personally I find it better to think of it as a possible future in the vain if stories like the Dark Knight returns or Old Man Logan even if this is probably what the creators intend to be the true ending.

    • Sunny

      According to Brandon Auman, story editor/writer, it’s legit to disregard it as a finale and just go with the last real cohesive arc.

      • William Kerfoot

        I don’t believe you “Sunny”. You’re going to tell me that WWC didn’t happen? You’re going to tell me that the Splinter episode didn’t happen? That the B&R arc didn’t happen? I don’t think so.

        • Sunny

          Don’t shoot the messenger. He said it, not me. You can find screencaps of his message on Tumblr. He said that the “tales”arcs are effectively fun side-stories that don’t have to adhere to continuity.

        • Sunny

          No need to shoot the messenger, dude. It doesn’t matter if you believe me or not; the screen caps of his words are up on Tumblr, but sadly I can’t post a link to them.

          He basically said that if people didn’t like this arc, the Kavaxas arc was the true ending of the story and that the “Tales” are effectively side-stories that don’t necessarily share continuity with the main story.

          • William Kerfoot

            I’m just saying that it’s not that simple. Surely you read my reasons for liking it (probably Icequeen’s too) and if it happened in an alternate universe then fine. If not, I’m still not going to blame the creators for making the episode.

          • Sunny

            If you like it, that’s cool. I just wanted people to be aware that, between Nickelodeon’s disavowals and Brandon, it’s also completely legitimate to see it as being not canon with the main series. If you enjoyed the ending and found it fitting, it can be canon with you or not, as long as you like it.

  • NUMBER ONE TMNT FAN

    THIS WAS CRAZY. Bittersweet is the perfect word. After having watched all the way since the beginning I wanted the finale to be something special and memorable, BUT I WASNT EXPECTING THIS!!!! Frankly, the outright gruesome end feels fitting in a way. But it is still quite jarring. I’m glad we still have the halloween episodes to look forward to as well as the 80″s crossover (which I’ll be watching tonight since i bought the dvd!!!!!)

    • Sunny

      It’s not actually the finale then…

      • NUMBER ONE TMNT FAN

        it is they just aired it out of order.

  • NUMBER ONE TMNT FAN

    Guess what, so I’m watching this episode on the Nick app, and right away I was confused. The first thing i saw was Raph fighting this huge beast. Then you see that it’s actually Leo and suddenly they’re all at this oasis with a meerkat I’ve never seen and before I realize what I’m watching, the credits start rolling……THE APP GLITCHED UP AND PLAYED THE ENDING BEFORE ANYTHING ELSE THEREBY COMPLETELY SPOILING THE ENTIRE THING!!!!!!!

  • KB

    Right?!?! This was so jarring and bittersweet. I have completely LOVED the series but there was just something so so so sad about this special. I have to say I’m glad it was NOT the series finale. That would have just been cruel. The episode itself was enjoyable and I’m glad I got to watch it but man, I’m here for those goofy teens, not gonna lie. I enjoy watching the alternate and older versions and I don’t expect things to be super happy bubbly but this was like– super depressing!! Casey’s appearance was as a SKULL!!!! They could have just kept it sad enough offing one or two of the turtles or just Casey and April, they offed the entire human race. I did like it but totally agree with the review. Hard to judge it, I’m just glad it won’t be the last episode of the show. So sad it’s ending though. I knew they had only planned for five but I was kind of hoping they’d go to seven anyway.

    • Alan Wahl

      Casey would approve. it’s metal!!!🤙🏻😎

  • Alan Wahl

    These apocalyptic episodes seem to take a lot of it’s information from the role-playing guide made in the 80s called road hogs teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles supplementary. It would’ve been so like them to have actually been playing a role playing game along,

  • Sunny

    Actually it has a lot of canon clash with the rest of the series, like with Renet and her predictions, and the destruction of the Kraang; this episode just acts like those things didn’t happen. So it really does work better as an AU.

    And I’d say it’s not bittersweet. Bittersweet was the loss of Splinter and his family struggling to move on. This is downright tragic – if you accept it as canon, it’s not just what the Turtles were turned into and all they lost, but the deaths of all their friends, the extinction of humanity, the loss of civilization, and the fact that every single world-saving thing they did throughout the series is effectively made meaningless. Nothing they did really matters.

    And I don’t think the “team” was particularly unified in what they saw this as, especially since Nieli basically did this whole hurtful thing as a “nobody gets to touch my toys but me!” gesture. Brandon Auman said said that “technically” the “true ending” was the ending of the Kavaxas arc, and therefore it was totally okay if people disregard this as a story that doesn’t follow the show’s continuity. So that seems like the best option…

    • William Kerfoot

      Why do we have to listen to Brandon Auman? It’s our opinion(s)!

      • Sunny

        Because it legitimizes the entire viewpoint of MA as a non-canon story, from official sources who worked on the show, for people who didn’t like this episode as an ending. Especially since fandom is never friendly to dissenting opinions.

  • Underwater-Astronaut

    I had a lot of conflicted feelings about this episode. As an AU episode, I think it was really solid. I don’t think I liked it as a finale episode though.
    The one thing I can say I was not on board with was the color scheme. The colors throughout this episode were just really ugly. Everything is stuck in these nasty brown tones. Backgrounds blended together with characters and nothing really seemed to pop – character and set designs felt confusing and cluttered. I understand that it is supposed to look ugly because it’s a apocalyptic world, but in my personal opinion they went too far with it.
    There was however one character design that I love without any complaint – Robot Donnie. He was gorgeous. I could have watched Robot Donnie all day. Mikey was sort of “meh”, I thought Raph’s wasn’t too bad (after he took off the beard), and Leo’s was flat out weird and I didn’t like it. But the moment I saw Donnie I was totally on board.
    I realize most of this was about the designs and not the actual content of the episode, but that’s really what stood out to me the most. Any other thoughts/opinions?