Back in late 2012 I had the privilege to review ‘Rise of the Turtles’, the two part opener to Nickelodeon’s revived take on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The past year has seen the show enjoy great ratings and toy sales on both sides of the Atlantic. I’ve stuck by the show and although it’s been a great ride thus far it hasn’t been flawless. Season two looks set to address that.
‘The Mutation Situation’ picks up from the previous series finale where the heroes in a half shell thwarted the Kraang’s attempt to turn Earth into a new home. With the alien androids seemingly gone for good, the brothers have returned to a lifestyle of fun and good times…perhaps too much fun and good times. Ignoring a warning from Splinter, the four get a rude awakening when it becomes clear their supposedly defeated enemies aren’t quite gone yet.
‘Game changer’ is a common buzz phrase in the entertainment industry but it’s fair to say season 2 of TMNT starts off with one, riding the high the show left on before steadily shifting into a bittersweet ending before the credits.
I really enjoyed the first season but something that annoyed me was the writing of the turtles themselves. I get this is a intentionally whimsical show about talking, ninja fighting teenage turtles but quite a few times I was turned away by what a lack of concern or planning the brothers showed to the carnage they were involved in, to the point I sometimes wondered if the show was better titled Teenage Mutant Sociopath Turtles. It seems I wasn’t quite alone in this concern as the central focus of ‘The Mutation Situation’ is how their arrogance causes the new crisis for the season: mutagen canisters raining far and wide over New York City. Of course, there are baddies to be fought (one silly, one tragic), but the enemy here is arguably the turtles themselves. Consequence seemed to be an alien concept to the first season but here it hits and hits hard. If season one’s opener was about wanting to see the world and protect it, season two’s seems to be about what it really means to be a hero. If this and successive seasons make good on that I may very well drop my existing misgivings.
The voice cast have become quite comfortable in their roles by this point. Rob Paulsen, Greg Cipes, Sean Astin, and Jason Biggs all bounce each off one another in a way you can easily believe they’re brothers, and Mae Whitman gets to show off her acting chops for tense situations that will be familiar to fans of other Nick hit series Avatar. I do like Nolan North, but by this point the Kraang’s verbal tic has ceased to really be funny (it only really worked for me in season one when the script gave him snarky lines to run with). Indeed, the one called Grant of the site that is Toonzone does not approve of the tic that is applied to Kraang. Maybe it would balance out if it was similar to the battle droids in Clone Wars, whose antics and speech became the needed layer of comic relief in an increasingly darker show. Lastly, Hoon Lee’s Splinter might well have become my favourite version of the character.
Animation wise, the show continues to evolve. The CGI animation can look a bit naff in standard definition but viewed in HD it really stands out, allowing you to appreciate the depth, composition and lighting. Of course I can’t forget to mention the visual humour of the show which is as strong as ever. Nowadays my partial quota for a good cartoon series is ‘Does it make me wanna change the avatar on my TZ login?’ In that respect TMNT continues to get a firm tick. Dialogue driven humour also remains strong. I wanna know what voodoo the writers are using to give Mikey such consistent hilarity.
‘The Mutation Situation’ is a good opener for the second season. It eases viewers back in while showing lessons have been learned by the production team and that season one was a foundation to build on towards better things. The quest for the canisters has potential to be a brilliant arc for various reasons, including more freaky awesome mutants from the designers. Plus, to let my inner child speak fully, it’s really cool to see something I remember loving when I was a nipper being just as enthusiastically enjoyed by kids today. Now that’s turtle power.
New episodes of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles air every Saturday at 9:30am on Nicktoons UK.