Season 1, Episode 5
Shredded and Splintered
Air Date: December 18th, 1987
The final episode of the first season pays off pretty much every plot point brought up in the series so far. Shredder and Krang make one final play in their campaign against the Turtles, openly challenging them from their television of all places, an image that has become something of an icon within the realms of the TMNT.
Shredder raises the stakes by introducing the Turtles to his newest invention/weapon, the Retro-Mutagen Ray(!), a pistol-like weapon that can reverse the mutating effects of the very Mutagen that turned a few ordinary [pet shop turtles in the the Heroes in a Half-Shell. While the Turtles want the weapon so they can turn the master and father, Splinter, back to his human form, Splinter disagrees, not wanting his sons reverted back to innocent pets. So, Splinter sets off to take down the Shredder on his own, while the Turtles have to stop Krang from amassing his army of Stone Warriors and invading our planet.
This is an episode filled to the brim with action and suspense that shows the Turtles facing off with perhaps their most classic and iconic enemies for what could have been the final time back in ‘87. While this is happening, April is prepared to tell the world about the Turtles existence and they are surprisingly okay with this. Throughout the season, the Turtles have lamented that humans would only reject them and look at them as freaks and monsters. And while April has been helpful and caring for the Turtles in every episode, she has always maintained that she is going to get her story, something the Turtles have refused up to this point. But with the possibility of Splinter being turned back to his human form, and an impending alien invasion, the Turtles accept what might happen in the future, for the sake of their being a future at all.
Also, after four episodes of whining, Krang finally got his new body from the Shredder, teaching kids everywhere that you can get what you want if you just badger people long enough. Krang’s Android Body is brought to life in a hilariously over the top reference to the 1931 Frankenstein film. Looking at this scene as an adult makes me wonder what all the theatrics are for, considering that Krang’s new body is basically a mech that he pilot’s from within the androids stomach. But, again, it’s too charming to judge that harshly.
The Turtles and Splinter invade the Technodrome while Donatello once again raids Baxter Stockman’s lab to make weapons and creates…the Turtle Blimp(?). Wow, this show was all about their toys.
Anyway, mid-way through the episode is arguably the best part of the entire first season as Splinter and Shredder go one-on-one for the first time in the show. I really love how this fight begins as Shredder demonstrates a very old ninja technique called the Bunshin No Jutsu. This is a “cloning” technique designed to trick your opponent into thinking there are both many individuals in a single room or area, while also looking identical, thus making it next to impossible to identify who or how many are attacking. But at the end of the day, Splinter is still a master compared to Shredder. While Shredder is physically much stronger than Splinter, Splinter is able to manipulate Shredder’s hatred and take him down. The Turtles on the other hand, have their hands full with Krang, who has finally gone on the offensive, thanks to his new body that can actually manipulate matter and create various bladed weapons and machinery from his hands. He can also change his size by expanding and contracting the molecules within his own body, meaning he can stay at his usual eight feet tall, or grow up to eight stories tall.
This cartoon is just crazy.
So to make a long story short, the Turtles eventually get the upper hand on the Shredder and Krang resulting in Shredder playing his last card, the Retro-Mutagen Ray. As he takes aim at the Turtles, the Shredder delivers possibly his most iconic line ever…
“Tonight I dine on turtle soup.”
Fortunately for our heroes, Splinter is able to destroy the ray before a single shot is fired. That’s not all though, as the Turtles still have to contend with a looming alien threat, but I won’t spoil it for you now, you should watch the episode for yourself.
You know what, if you’re reading this, you already know that the Turtles send the entire Technodrome to Dimension X, including Shredder and Krang. We have one hundred and eighty eight episodes left, let’s not worry about spoilers now. What’s great about this show is that Splinter is the one that destroys the very thing that could’ve have been his salvation. Destroying the Retro-Mutagen Ray was his only way of being human again…for now. But he is more that fine with this choice, valuing his sons lives more than his own.
Eventually, April gets her story and tells the world about the Turtles existence. Something everyone involved with seems okay about. Public opinion is decidedly split over the TMNT, but the Turtle no longer have to fear being found out. This was a ballsy move on the creators part to go against the grain as it were when you consider every other media featuring the Turtles is all about them sticking to the shadows and constantly reminding you about them. This first animated series showed the Turtles walking through their fear of being discovered and being hated and fought the good fight anyway.
Season one is a blast and possibly the best season of this entire series thanks to its brevity and focused storytelling. As we’ll see later on, this show jumped so many sharks and veered off so many rails that it became a joke to many fans, both today and back then, but I’ll always remember this show as the single greatest superhero cartoon out there. I know others may have their favorites, but this one will always be there for me.