TMNT – “Mutant Gangland” Review
This week, “Mutant Gangland” continued with this volume’s focus on maturity, although not in the same way previous weeks did. Instead of focusing on how the Turtles have matured, they instead explored how easy it is to fall back into old ways. Yes, Raph once again left the team, something even the shows writers made fun of. Despite this familiar territory however, the episode proved to be intense, with a New York gang aiming to use newly developed Mutant Hunter weapons to hunt down all the city’s mutants.
In a way, having Raph get angry and leave the team again was a little disappointing. The Nick TMNT series has been doing a good job as of late showing the Turtles growing up, but this definitely feels like a step back. I understand it’s important to have the Turtles face problems and to create real stakes for each episode. But the stakes were already raised with Don Vizioso’s gang aiming to experiment and kill our heroes and their friends the Mighty Mutanimals. Did we really need another instance of Leo and Raph arguing that leads to Raph walking out on his family? While it was a fun parallel to the 1990 movie (Raph gets angry because they’re playing it safe/Raph gets beat up on a rooftop), just two episodes ago Raph was scolding Leo for going out on his own, poking fun at himself for wanting to be the Nightwatcher. That was a huge moment of growth for Raph, and it feels like we lost it only two weeks later.
Despite all that, this really was a strong episode. The danger against the Mutanimals and Turtles was palpable and having a new foe only enhanced that. Building out the power vacuum in the city was a good move from the writers and begins to fulfill the promise of the first episode “City at War.” Don Vizioso, his top enforcer The Hammer (brought to life with a fun Razor Ramon schtick), and his two henchmen Vic and Vinnie were the perfect Godfather send up. Obviously Vizioso was played for laughs, but there was still a real serious line cut through each of these characters. Isn’t it weird, though, how only the criminal element are aware of the mutants, even though the city has seen two alien invasions? How blissfully unaware is the normal citizen?
The Mutanimals also deserve a shout out. It was great to see them grow as a team. In fact, their team dynamic was a good contrast to the Turtles in this episode. Whereas the Turtles nearly lost a brother, and had to relearn (yet again) how to embrace each others individual characteristics, the core three members of the Mutanimals were thriving as partners, and welcoming in Mondo Gecko, personality quirks and all. That being said, what did happen to Pigeon Pete, and why won’t they talk about it? What an interesting seed to plant.
Ooh! Speaking of planting seeds, who is Dr. Feral? I like the writer’s dropping hints like this and building out the conflicts of this volume.
All in all, “Mutant Gangland” was a solid episode. A new foe brought a real challenge to our heroes and their Mutanimal friends, and it’s always fun to see the two teams fight together. We took a little step back in terms of individual character development, ending the episode where we started off, but in exchange got some good team dynamics. It’s hard not to get a little scared for Splinter. He’s getting pretty heavy handed with his “I might not always be here” speeches. Combine this with the fact that we know Super Shredder is on his way and it’s easy to think the writer’s may be preparing us for his second death. As it stands, “Mutant Gangland” showed us that the threats in the city are rising, and in order to overcome them our heroes are going to have to come together, keep up their training, and grow up. As Splinter said, “Everything is impermanent.” Maybe we’re on the cusp of seeing the Mutant Ninja Turtles.