TMNT – “Follow the Leader” Review
“Found it! How many does that bring us up to?”
The boys are hunting for mutagen, and manage to track down their first container. Unfortunately, Karai is hunting them, and letting them lead her right to the alien ooze. With the search going nowhere, the turtles take a break for some training. Leonardo will defend a nearby building, and the others must make it past him. One by one, the boys use their own unique fighting styles to easily skirt past Leo, and win the exercise. Feeling undermined by his brothers, Leonardo consults Master Splinter, who reminds his son that he must believe in himself as a leader, but must also help his brothers flourish in their own ways.
Meanwhile, Karai is deep in thought when she’s attacked by Foot Soldiers. Shredder’s partnership with the Kraang has led to the creation of robotic warriors, deadlier than their flesh and blood counterparts. But Shredder has business to attend to in Japan, and orders Karai to stay away from the turtles. She doesn’t listen, and sets an ambush using a can of mutagen. The turtles fight her new robo-Foot, but are forced to retreat, and Leonardo is captured in the escape.
While the boys locate their brother, Leonardo is forced to fight off the Foot bots on Karai’s whim. The others locate their enemies, but walk right into Karai’s trap for Splinter. Fortunately, their skills allow them to hold off the robots long enough to escape into the city, but the Foot are hot on their trail. But Leonardo realizes that the best way to beat them is to be unpredictable, and fight with their own unique styles. With that in mind, the turtles are able to destroy the robots, and Leonardo goes toe-to-toe with Karai. He uses what his brothers taught him to defeat her, and make her think twice about Splinter as the bad guy Shredder claims, before all four turtles retreat to the lair. Still confused, though, Leo asks his master, and Splinter reveals the truth to him – Karai is his daughter.
The story presented here was timed perfectly. One major question leading into the second season was how to keep the stories from going stale. While this was a rehashed “Leonardo doubts himself as leader” plot, it was done in a unique way, and also furthered other elements that could have easily been saved for much later in the season. Now that the turtles know who Karai really is, the resolution of Shredder’s lie can become a driving force behind future encounters with the girl and her new robo-Foot. If other instances of this story are done as well as this, then surely even the most tired of plots will stay fresh and enjoyable for the remainder of the show’s run.
There were several fun character elements presented in this episode that showed growth and potential for the future. First was showcasing each turtle’s individual fighting style. Their personalities have always dictated so much about their development, but in past incarnations, that has never been true of their fighting. Despite Michelangelo’s wackiness, he’s always fought with the same disciplined martial arts as his brother. Seeing “crazy become normal” and each one creating a new way to get the job done gave true individuality that can be used forever.
Second was real growth for Leonardo as a leader. Last time he was the focus like this, the episode became more aboutRaphael. Now, Leo actually learned something about what it means to be an effective leader, and adapting to the skills of your comrades, rather than imposing a certain will on them. He showed potential, trust, and confidence in battle that will undoubtedly serve him well. There was real growth here for him, and certainly he will showcase that in the battles to come.
While the plot of this episode was a repeat, it was done in an interesting new way that showcased real growth for all turtles, especially Leonardo. Now that all parties are aware of the bigger issues facing their family dynamic with the enemy, everyone can move forward searching for an answer – whatever the best answer truly is.