TMNT – “Mazes and Mutants” Review
“Hear ye, hear ye. We have seen the future, and it is LARP.” – Michelangelo
Enjoying their recent victories, the turtles are taking a break to play a tabletop RPGcalled Mazes and Mutants. However, Master Splinteris skeptical of their attitude, and senses that something is amiss. All the while, a mysterious figure watches the boys from the shadows. To make the game more exciting, Michelangeloand Leonardosuggest finishing their quest through LARP (live-action role play) in the sewer system. The course will be complete with traps and clues that will lead to victory.
With victory over the “troll” they encounter, the boys find their first clue. But it’s not the one that Leo set up. Someone has tampered with their game, and right on cue, a mysterious fog rolls in, transforming the sewers into a real dungeon – with real traps. The new game master – a mutant sparrow name Sir Malachi – reveals the nature of the new quest to the heroes, and if they want to save April, they will play his game. The turtles easily overcome monkey goblins and a fire pit, but when Raphaelgets angry at their mutant host, the sparrow man uses his magic to change the hot-headed turtle into a turkey.
Angrier than ever, the boys stumble across a secret passage that leads right to April, who is being guarded by a dragon that looks like Leatherhead. The turtles take on their crocodile friend, but slowly the truth of the whole game dawns on Leonardo. Everything they see is being created in their minds, and taking control of their own thoughts will break them free. By believing that none of it’s real, the turtles escape Malachi’s game and find themselves safe and sound in the sewer again. There, the game master reveals his unfortunate mutation story (a gamer feeding the sparrows when mutagen fell from the sky), and that he just wanted someone to play a game with. Having reconciled, Sir Malachi disappears back into the shadows, now a friend to the mutant brothers.
Despite the growing mainstream acceptance of geek and nerd culture, there are still some aspects that are looked down on by society. LARP is one of those, unfortunately. It’s really just another way to have lots of fun, living out fantasies that nearly all boys and girls had at one point or another in their lives. So to see the story in this episode not only revolve around it, but treat it with respect and dignity (yet still lighthearted fun) was refreshing and enjoyable. The humor allowed TMNT fans that aren’t into role-playing to stay engaged, while the proper treatment of the subject matter invited those who do enjoy a good quest to come along for the adventure.
Sir Malachi raises a very interesting question about the mutations that the audience has seen so far, and those yet to come. Because of Kraangexperimentation, April has some psychic abilities. Similarly, accident has given the Rat Kingmental control over rats. But for the most part, mutation has only caused physical changes and abilities. There have been no signs of mental prowess beyond that of more fully developed cerebral cortexes in animals. So how was Sir Malachi able to enter and influence the turtles’ minds? Do some (or maybe all) mutants actually possess psychic abilities on top of their enhanced physical features? Could there be other mutants in the future that are able to psychically harm the heroes? And will actual magic ever come into play in this incarnation, as it has in those past? Only time will tell if these elements are worth exploring to the writers. Fortunately, there are at least two more seasons to do just that.
It was great to see that after the fantastic “Wormquake”two-parter that the series is back, stronger than ever. Even though these hiatuses are really killing any momentum for shows, fun episodes like this make sure that it can pick right back up, in full swing from minute one. Hopefully more quirky and enjoyable episodes like this make up the second half of Season Two.