TMNT – “Darkest Plight” Review
The writers were not kidding when they called this episode “Darkest Plight.” While they did decide to resolve the mystery around the survival of Splinter and Shredder from last week, the episode made it extremely painful to watch. It wasn’t bad enough that Splinter fell down that hole, just as he had envisioned. No, he had to hit several support beams on his way done, before finally hitting bottom. What he found down there was no more merciful than the fall itself.
Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised that more time wasn’t dedicated to the Turtles and company mourning the loss of Splinter. This is a kids show, after all. That’s not to say they brushed over the emotion. There were poignant scenes near the chasm and in the lair where we got to see everyone’s reaction. Donatello’s skepticism. Karai’s vengeance. April and Michelangelo’s optimism, and Leonardo and Raphael’s determination. While it would have been interesting to see this stretched past more than one episode, the story told this week made up for it through tough battles of body and mind for all of our heroes.
It’s great how this show still manages to keep Bebop and Rocksteady seem threatening, despite how generally dumb they are. The terrible two are at their best where their power advantage over the Turtles is taken to it’s limit, and the heroes have to outsmart them. Raphael and Casey got the opportunity this time, and the fight was fantastic. The animation in the show is always solid, but the 3D rendering this time was head and shoulders above the rest. The part where Raph was riding Rocksteady was so well done, it looked like they were riding out of my television screen.
Meanwhile, Leo, April, and Karai got to hold off Tiger Claw and Super Shredder, and they got their butts kicked as thanks. Tiger Claw continues to be one of the best additions to the Turtle universe. He’s skilled and dangerous, and the stakes are always raised when he enters a fight. This episode also continued the strong development of Super Shredder. His brute force is still new compared to his ninja finesse, and watching him try to crush Leo was hard to watch. He’s truly a monster, not only surviving the initial fall from last episode, but also an 18-wheeler crashing into and exploding on him.
Special props go to the trucker for actually doing what I think anyone would do in that situation. Without hesitation he sacrificed his livelihood to ram a monster off the road. Give that guy a medal.
Back to Shredder, his transformation is not only evident in the physical. He is unhinged, violently shifting emotionally between revenge and malice, to love. The show as a whole has done a great job pitting Shredder and Splinter as mirror images of each other, with Karai as the lynchpin. Their love of family is what dooms Shredder to becoming a monster, while simultaneously saving Splinter from becoming one. The juxtaposition is extremely well done. And let’s not miss the symbolism at the end of the episode, where Karai literally punches Saki in the heart.
But Splinter’s journey was the emotional core of the episode. His battle was the toughest. While he initially had determination to get up and try to find a way out of the Undercity, his devastating injuries quickly led to despair. That despair only intensified with the unexpected arrival of none other than the Rat King. “Darkest Plight” did not pull any punches. The way in which the Rat King physically and psychologically tortured Splinter was hard to watch, and that rat monster was disturbing. The writers have touched on this topic before (namely in the original Rat King episode), but they do such a good job showing us Splinter’s literal fight to maintain his humanity. It was brought back to great effect here, and his mental flash back to celebrating Mutation Day with his sons, and a glimpse of Tang Shen, poignantly brought him back from the edge. It was a really well done moment.
Also, I literally shouted out loud when they revealed the Rat King’s skeleton, revealing to Splinter and the audience that this battle was always with himself.
“Darkest Plight” proved that the writers of this show are not afraid to punish their heroes and make them earn their happy ending. While not as strong as “The Super Shredder,” this episode was still full of great fight scenes and emotional depth, not the least of which includes the rescue of Splinter by Donatello and Michelangelo. With the episode ending on Shredder giving in to mutagen once more, and Splinter and Leo sidelined, who knows where the show will go from here.
Finally, one quick thing to point out. Did everybody catch the changes in the opening? There’s the obvious change of Shredder’s spot showing his as Super Shredder now, but also little changes, like April flipping through her comic book using telekinesis. The big thing I saw though was towards the end. All four turtles are shown in black bandanas and gear reminiscent of Leo’s time helping Karai and Shinigami. I can’t wait to see what they do with that!