TMNT – “Of Rats and Men” Review
“You already belong to me. You just don’t know it yet.”
Casey and April are enjoying an afternoon out … chaperoned by Irma. However, when they leave her to help a stray cat, she is attacked by an unknown entity. Meanwhile, Splinter uses blind training with Leonardo, but he starts having visions of his nemesis, the Rat King. Training is over, so Donatello gets back to work on a retro-mutagen, and April and Casey arrive with the stray cat. Unfortunately, the cat licks some mutagen that’s been mixed with ice cream, becoming an ice cream kitty.
Master Splinter tries to clear his mind, but the Rat King is still present. When the rat master goes to find food, Michelangelo tries to hide his mistake, setting off the Rat King’s control, and Splinter goes crazy. The Rat King has returned, and now has an army of giant mutant rats at his disposal. With Splinter sitting this battle out, the heroes head to the surface to fight the horde. However, the fight doesn’t go as planned, and several humans are taken back to the Rat King’s lair.
The Rat King wants to create a new army of rat people, but the brothers and April, however, are ready to attack, and Mikey even brings along ice cream kitty for support. They arrive just as the Rat King prepares another test, and Master Splinter finally decides to join the battle. The turtles ready to attack, but the Rat King finally takes Splinter’s mind completely. But Mikey unleashes his secret weapon, sending the villain into retreat.
Splinter gives chase, the turtles fight off the rat mutants, and April frees all the captured people. As the rat master catches up to the Rat King, he battles for control of his mind again. Understanding where the human’s sight comes from, Splinter forces him to battle without the aid of a rat’s eyes. Besting the human, Splinter sends him plummeting to what is hopefully his doom.
The first season of this TMNT incarnation was all about setting up the rotating cast of characters. Now in season two, each one is being developed a little bit more. Metalhead had the next part of his story told last week. This time, it was the Rat King. This is all excellent for this particular TV show, because it does something different than the 1987 version, and even the 2003 version. Shows like Ninja Turtles are, at their core, giant commercials for the toys being made. Nowhere was that more obvious than with the 1987 series. Every week seemed to feature a new mutant, a new weapon, or a new ally/enemy that needed promotion. Here, while the same general theory is true, not all of the characters/weapons have a toy form, so it’s all about creating new and interesting aspects of the show, first and foremost. Additionally, the same characters continue to show up time and again, meaning that there aren’t months at a time when the Kraang or Casey Jones are just absent. It’s a noticeable shift in the way this show plays out, and one that certainly benefits the overall quality.
The Rat King’s return (and alleged demise) also raises an interesting question for the show. Where are all these villains/mutants going when they are “defeated”? Others have also disappeared into the shadows, but are they staying in NYC? There’s an entire world out there, so why are the Kraang continually focusing their efforts on this city? Would the Rat King be better served if he started his goal in Romania, and then returned to NYC later? What’s the draw of this city? Intentions with time and place are often unexplained in superhero and children’s shows, but since this TMNT version is so much better, maybe that will be an issue addressed at a later date.
It was good to see the Rat King return for Round Two, and there’s no doubt that Round Three will happen sooner or later. Whether or not Splinter can maintain control remains to be seen. With any luck, he will figure out once and for all how to defeat this particular nemesis.