When I took this role several years ago, all I knew was that Nickelodeon had plans for a new television show that would hit the air in 2012. We hadn’t even seen a trailer yet, but I was still very excited about the possibilities. Little did I know that I would come to regard this newest version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as the best iteration of the franchise we have ever seen. Now that the series is coming to an end, it’s time for a retrospective.
Clocking in at only five seasons in length, this won’t go down as the longest running animated series in the TMNT franchise. That being said, there were several elements which made this version of our heroes in a half shell particularly noteworthy. After going back to the fourth season recently, I noticed some very interesting themes on display which made me appreciate the series even more. With that in mind, let’s talk about a few moments from SSN 4 that prove the quality of this series. Prepare for some potential spoilers.
RESPECT FOR TMNT HISTORY
Although this series is literally chock full of references to past iterations of the TMNT, moments such as their visit to Zayfod’s Cantina show a profound respect for the history of this franchise. For those who may not have been aware, this was actually a moment taken right out of the comic books. Their reason for visiting might have been different, and the events may have changed, but the turtles visited a bar in space while fleeing the Triceratons – and that’s accurate to some of the first comic books that Kevin Eastman & Peter Laird ever created.
Another moment of comic book accuracy came when the turtles had to take on various enemies in gladiatorial combat in order to escape from the Triceratons. These are just two moments from the fourth season, but there are several other notable scenes and episodes from throughout Nickelodeon’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles which are taken directly from other iterations of the TMNT. Say what you will about the style of animation they chose, but at least the plot pays homage to all of the different versions of the turtles that came before.
Oh, and “Zayfod’s Cantina”? That has got to be a sly reference to Zaphod Beeblebrox, an important character from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
DEEP AND COMPLEX CHARACTERS
After taking the turtles on an adventure through the universe, Fugitoid makes an admission which shakes his newfound friends to their core. This is the very moment when the audience discovers that Professor Honeycutt is actually a flawed character. Learning about his true motivations not only reveals that he is an imperfect hero, it also sets up his brilliant moment of redemption. Eventually, he selfishly makes the kind of sacrifice that only he is capable of making.
Later on in the season, we see Super Shredder and Splinter fighting one another. Oroku Saki’s desire to see Hamato Yoshi’s destruction has lead him to make a brash decision which has, as Splinter rightfully points out, made him a monster “both inside and out.” Moments after making this statement, we see Shredder literally smash Splinter’s foot. This might just seem like a random act of violence, but remember that Shredder is actually the leader of the Foot Clan. There is an unmistakable symbolism behind seeing the leader of the ‘Foot’ literally smashing a foot.
No matter how you look at it, there was a lot of wonderful subtext just beneath the surface of Nickelodeon’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. These undertones not only provided much needed depth for notable characters, they also created a much more meaningful universe for the turtles.
NOSTALGIA AND CREATIVITY
Needless to say, nostalgia played a large factor in making Nickelodeon’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles successful. The reverence shown to past comics, cartoons, movies and games undoubtedly made this series even better. With that said, it took the creative minds of Ciro Nieli and Brandon Auman (among many others) to make this show a possibility. It was likely thanks to them that all of these subtle little details came together to produce such an excellent and largely cohesive story.
On November 12th, 2017, Nickelodeon will air the series finale of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Although it’s sad to see this version of our heroes in a half shell come to an end, it’s nice to know that we’ll be getting an entirely new TMNT series in 2018. We can only hope that this cartoon will live up to the standards that have been set over the past 5 years, but that remains to be seen. All we can do right now is show some love to all of the amazing people who made the 2k12 series possible.
As far as I’m concerned, you’ve all earned your rightful place in the history of this franchise.