Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Season 1, Episode 2
Enter the Shredder
Air Date: December 15th, 1987
The second episode in the series see our very own Heroes in a Half-Shell on the hunt for the mysterious Technodrome that was all too briefly mentioned in the previous episode. As the Turtles, Splinter and April move ever closer to their goals, Oroku Saki, AKA the Shredder, is desperate and on the run as he is not sure who his new adversaries are or even if he can beat them.
While this may sound a bit out of character for everyone’s favorite bucket-headed villain, keep in mind that this was 1987, before any of us knew who the Shredder was and how conniving and devious he could be, including the creators.
While it may seem a little weird that the Shredder has decided to turn tail, that is quickly remedied by actor James Avery. This New Jersey-born actor consistently turned in a powerhouse performance on this weird show about mutant turtles, and playing off gangbusters against another of the series’ mainstay villains, Krang. The bulbous brainiac Krang is voiced by iconic voice actor Pat Fraley. Pat would stay with this series for the entirety of it’s run and provide over thirty five different voices for the show, including Burne Thompson and Casey Jones. While it has been many, many years since this series first aired on television, these two performances still resonate with me to this day.
While Shredder is arguing with Krang we get a small glimpse into the history between these two that implies a lot. Krang seemingly found Shredder and gave him power in the form of a vast, technologically superior arsenal. In exchange, Shredder would help Krang develop a robotic body to…I don’t know, make sandwiches or something. There’s a great exchange between the Shredder and Krang that kind of encapsulates their relationship over the series as a whole. For whatever reason, Krang needs Shredder to build him a body to make him powerful enough to take over our world (or any world for that matter), but Shredder keeps delaying the construction because he knows that Krang will become powerful enough to not need him around. Both villains need each other for resources, but neither want each other around because of the power said resources will provide the other. It’s a great exchange between the two that shows just how precarious the balance of power in this show is, at least between the villains.
And the bad guys don’t stop there, as the Turtles close their grip around the Shredder’s whereabouts, Krang gives the Shredder one last power play against their enemies: Mutagen. Yes friends, it’s the very same unstable compound that turned ordinary pet shop turtles into the green skinned heroes we know today. Shredder quickly gets busy stealing animals from a zoo above ground and goes to work on a couple of hapless thugs in his employ, creating a truly dynamic duo with Bebop and Rocksteady. All of this, including Splinter being kidnapped and the Turtles storming the Technodrome are all packed in a twenty two minute episode, and somehow, it all works. While there are many, many characters introduced and re-introduced as well as settings and themes that will be examined in greater detail later on in the series, it never feels bogged down or overcrowded, while also never moving so fast that you feel like you’ve missed something.
While it may seem like this episode was little more than a vehicle to introduce more characters (and toys) to young kids, there is also a hefty amount of action to behold here. While the Turtles never face the Shredder directly in a fight, they make quick work of a series of robotic drones that have apparently been switched from “stun” to “kill”, as well as two standoffs with Bebop and Rocksteady.
This episode gives us a brief peek behind the curtain of one of the most iconic, if no the most iconic, villains in the Turtles vast rogue’s gallery. Perhaps I’m looking way too deeply into this series, but it seems implied that the Shredder kind of crapped the bed when he was the leader of the Foot Clan and Krang basically gave him a lifeline when he needed one most. This is a great development into the series two main villains that is played out amazingly over the next ten seasons. While there have been many different Shredder performances over the years, in both live action and animation, James Avery made the character his own and gave a performance that may just be too good for the show that he’s in. In just a few more episodes, Shredder and the situations he’s in became more and more comical, but Mr. Avery never played the Shredder as a joke, or at least it never seemed like he did.
James Avery’s contribution to the show cannot be understated and it such a shame that we’ve been without him for the last six year as of the time of this review.
We’ll miss you sir.
James Avery, November 27, 1945 – December 31st, 2013