The word requiem is defined as a religious ceremony for the dead, or a musical composition in honor of the dead. Needless to say, the title of this weeks episode, “Requiem,” let us know we wouldn’t be getting a happy ending. Really, the show has been preparing us for this moment all season, and where the fight in New York’s Undercity was emotional, it still somehow didn’t prepare you for the gut punch this episode was going to give; Splinter is really dead.
You’d think that Splinter’s near death experience in his last fight with Shredder would have cheapened the end of this episode, but the whole creative team, especially the voice actors, really elevated the whole experience. The set up was early, with Splinter (and by proxy, the audience) supernaturally aware of his coming demise. Hearing that he had been distant recently is heart breaking, and his moment with Leo was…well just sad. How do you prepare for death? How do you tell your children? How do you march forward fearlessly into a moment you know you won’t return from? These are all heavy themes for what is essentially a kids show, but you have to give props for the creative team for tackling them head on. Death touches us all, regardless of age, and if this show helps parents find a safe way to have that conversation with their children if and when it’s necessary, than I’m glad it’s here.
Just..wow…what a heavy episode. Shredder claimed he found his strength by cutting all ties to other people. He no longer had an emotional response to Karai. He watched her dying under the falling rubble of the building they fought in and felt nothing. There are many shows and movies that use this device for their villain; that the breaking of bonds will somehow make you stronger, but it is almost always shown inevitably as a weakness. For Shredder to succeed in his goal, so clearly and so brutally, it’s a twist of conventions that is kind of hard to believe. Don’t get me wrong, Splinter’s death was telegraphed the entire episode, but it’s rare to see a villain succeed in his vendetta, and in such a cut and dry way. It elevates Shredder. He is a far more dangerous foe now.
The writers even played up the convention in the beginning of the episode, with the season finale of Bradford’s TV show. They comment on and make fun of cartoon finales where the good guys easily beat the bad guy. The stakes were never real. The threat was never serious. They’re letting the audience know right away, “See this? You’re not getting this. So get ready.”
“Requiem” was a really good episode. It was all hands on deck, with Karai, Shinigami, and the Mighty Mutanimals all present and accounted for. Still, they were no match for Super Shredder, and not just in power. He outsmarted our heroes every step of the way. He attacked the Mutanimals unexpectedly. He set up the Turtles so they would have to split up. Bebop, Rocksteady, Fishface, and Rahzar distracted Leo, Mikey, Donnie, and Leatherhead, to keep them away from Shredder and Splinter and his team. Once again, this elevates Shredder as a villain.
The fight scenes were great, as usual. Fluid and dynamic, it was a good mix of creativity and call back. The missile-go-round was really inventive. Meanwhile, taking the final fight back to where the Turtles first fought Shredder was a nice touch. Also, side note; did Bradford die again?
The episode also included many references to the first Ninja Turtles movie. Without fail, I will tear up anytime I hear Splinter give his, “I won’t always be here” speech and I think there’s a rule that says Shredder must always appear out of the sky when fighting on a rooftop. The most clear homage was obviously at the end of the episode, where April knocks Shredder off the building into the garbage truck. Casey seals it by turning on the compactor, stating, “Oops.” I like the way he delivered the line here though. Whereas the movie version is comedic and non-chalant, a pun on literally taking out the trash, this Casey delivers it seriously, as if he is delivering justice. After killing Splinter, Casey believes Shredder truly deserves this, and probably worse. It’s a powerful moment, and one I’m sure all long time Turtles fans enjoyed.
Billed as the final fight, “Requiem” really delivered on it’s core mission. It’s hard to call the episode enjoyable, it’s emotional from start to finish, but it’s certainly a well made episode. The flashbacks each Turtle had, at the end of the episode, to important moments with Splinter were crushing. Through it’s dialogue and action it brought the whole conflict with Shredder full circle, just not in the way we wanted. Splinter’s death is going to have rippling repercussions from this moment forward. We still haven’t seen Karai’s reaction. We don’t yet know how this will embolden Shredder, a man who not only killed his nemesis, but also survived falling off a building and being crushed. What does this mean for the Turtles, April, and Casey? Hopefully we get the time to see these things unfold. All in all, you have to applaud the creative team for not being afraid to take the series in this direction.